Ask the Author: Trace Kerr

Book blurb: 

Stay hidden, stay alert, stay alive. 

Never leave someone behind: it’s a promise easier made than kept, especially when seventeen-year-old Pip takes headstrong twelve-year-old Iris under her protection in the wake of an earth-shattering plague. When they’re captured by a violent gang, Pip and Iris meet Fly, a stubborn and courageous older girl. 

While grappling with secrets that threaten to break them apart, Pip, Iris, and Fly struggle to survive amid the nearly unrecognizable remains of Spokane, Washington. Pip’s vow to never leave someone behind seems impossible, but it might be the key to finding love and acceptance in the ashes of what came before. 


What would you like readers to know about you? 

I’m a giant science nerd who reads all the scifi and fantasy I can get my hands on. I also have a podcast called Brain Junk where my buddy Amy and I fact binge on everything you never knew you wanted to know. I’m a latchkey kid who grew up in the Pacific Northwest and nothing makes me happier than taking a ferry boat ride to downtown Seattle to spend the day prowling around Pike Place Market. 

When it comes to writing, I love talking about queer teens because even though I didn’t know it then, I was one myself. As my youngest child got older and they began to understand who they might be, I saw there were many conversations in our future—ones where we would be talking about the LGBTQ+ community and their and my place in it. I started The Names We Take as an entry to that conversation and found a whole world I didn’t know how much I needed to explore. As a bi cis woman, I am fascinated by the discovery of identity and how we figure out who we are. 


What is your book about for those who haven’t read it? 

The Names We Take is about identity, impossible choices and found families. It’s built upon a world ravaged by a pandemic and explores how someone might do more than just survive when they’ve come out on the other side. TNWT picks up one year after One Mile Cough has devastated Spokane, WA and follows 17yo Pip’s journey to finding a place where she feels safe enough to belong. She accidentally rescues a much younger girl named Iris and together they find Fly—a tough woman with the grit to hold their fragile threesome together. TNWT is a story of how when things are at their worst, there is still the possibility of hope. 


What is your inspiration for TNWT and favorite scene? 

I mashed these two questions together because they go hand in hand. I already mentioned my wanting to open a conversation with my youngest about being queer. I wanted to show them how I felt about love and the power of women. 

I was drawn to writing about these themes in a post-apocalyptic world because I’ve always wondered what would life be like in the apocalyptic after? At it’s essence, I’m trying to answer the question, who are you when everyone you’ve ever known is gone? 

It was fascinating to explore a reality where people would survive by sharing skills like farming, midwifery, animal husbandry, and a knack for fixing things. All those so-called blue collar jobs that a lot of upper class society trivializes would become of utmost importance.  

To that end, my favorite scene in the book isn’t the most actiony—which is surprising really, because I love fast-paced and action filled writing. Instead the scene takes place in a barn with Pip, Iris, and Fly working together with a woman who is helping a pregnant goat. It’s a funny scene and a little gross, but I adore how the strength of their found family grows in a series of tiny moments that ends with Pip and Fly realizing they have feelings for each other. 


What books or authors inspired you to become a writer? 

The urge to write didn’t take me until I read the entire book of The Raven Boys by Maggie Steifvater in one five hour gulp. The relationships between Blue and her Aglionby boys, the magic, the darkness…OMG I could go one about that book forever. What drew me most, was the family of women at the center of the novel. Blue’s house of aunts is goals for me. When I read The Raven Boys a second time a few weeks later, I still felt that same breathless excitement I’d experienced the first time. I was so inspired, I started writing TNWT not long after that. 

I’ve since been drawn to all things found family; like Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, The Engelsfors Trilogy by Sara B. Elfgren and Mats Standberg, Seven Blades in Black by Sam Sykes, Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse, and Howl’s Moving Castle by  Diana Wynn Jones—to name a few. 


What advice would you give to aspiring authors who want to write a book?  

Two things. One is read, read, read. Read books that are like what you’d like to write. Read books that are new (five years or less). Read classics. Read books outside your genre. Hey! Did I mention you should read? *throws book at your head* 

Second, find a crew that critiques your work without regard for your feelings. You need people who aren’t your mom or your friends (unless that friend is willing to make your manuscript bleed—I have one of those and she is a gem). Your early readers don’t even need to be writers per se. My first three readers are my youngest child; who is a teen right in my YA demographic who is merciless. My second is a professor of education who only looks at themes and continuity. Her skill is in telling me if my story is clear and honest. My third is that friend I mentioned before: she kills the story. Murders it. I swear, there’s an actual crime scene when she’s done.  

Find your writing people. We pound out thousands of words all by our lonesome, but every writer needs a team to shape that messy first draft into the story it needs to become. 

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