Interview: KAYTI NIKA RAET

I’m excited to have Kayti Nika Raet stop by my blog today and answer a few questions about her novel, Nikothe first installment of the Outsider Chronicles! 

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Originally from Brooklyn, New York, Kayti Nika Raet moved down South when she was 11, where she was bitten by the writing bug, as well as other, less friendly insects.

She is the author of the Outsider Chronicles, a five book series starting with NIKO and set in a world where the rain burns like acid and flesh eating monsters roam.

She’s also a reviewer for Readers’ Favorite and has her own Youtube Channel: Kayti Edition.

When she is not hard at work on her fourth book she has fun reading, listening to K-pop, and photography.

Kayti lives in Milledgeville, Georgia.


The worldbuilding in NIKO is meticulous, and the fact that it’s the first in a series suggest that what’s been revealed about the Slithers, Amaryllis city, the Circles, the acid rain, etc, is only the tip of the iceberg. Did you plan the arc of the entire series before you wrote NIKO, or did you figure out it was a series as you wrote the first book?

Thank you! 🙂 I started Niko wanting it to be a series. It was actually one of my writing goals since I sucked at sequels, and what’s a series if not multiple sequels? But I’m a total pantser who hates outlines (hisssss), so the first draft was written without any concrete ideas for a series arc. I was just writing a story and having loads of fun.

It wasn’t until I started doing the second and third draft that I hashed out a vague arc (seriously, it’s about five words) that I wouldn’t feel constricted by. Each book has it’s own individual arc that helps keep me on course. Mostly.
It’s been a learning experience. I’m not only finding out new things about my characters with each book, but I’m also discovering things about myself as a writer.

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Where did the initial idea for NIKO come from? How did you get the idea for the series?

There’s no one, concrete, idea that got Niko going, it was a lot of little things coming together. A doodle with the word Harmony Nickle on it. A love of squicky, gory, weird you out horror. A dislike for the slew of YA that seemed to encourage girls to belittle themselves, and be ‘likable’ and ‘relatable’. My twisted sense of humor. Manga and action movie fangirling. Random song lyrics… and science facts… and randomness… But at the core of it all was the desire for a story that I would want to read. Hopefully it’s something that lots of other people like reading too.

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I haven’t had a chance to pick up the rest of the book yet but PLEASE tell me we haven’t seen the last of Norm and Lo!

They’re great aren’t they?

Did you know, Lola Pon is named after the amazing authors Malinda Lo and Cindy Pon?

*mild fan girl moment*

Unfortunately, I haven’t had a chance to properly reintroduce them yet, but I plan to.

I love them.

~

What are you working on right now? What should readers look for from you next?

Right now, I’m taking a little break to relax and recharge before diving into the big finale that is book 5. I have a slight idea how I want things to go and I can’t wait to get started.

There have been a few other stories buzzing around in my head as well, but they’ve been a little evasive when it comes to the getting word on paper part.

~

How can readers stay in the loop and get news about your projects and releases?

I’m everywhere (okay, that’s a lie. But I’m ALMOST everywhere. Close enough.)

You can follow me on

Twitter: https://twitter.com/knrwrites

Facebook: https://m.facebook.com/kaytinikaraetbooks

My blog that I really need to update more often: http://kaytinikaraet.com

My second blog with the two lovely authors Madhuri Blaylock and L. J. K. Oliva #WriteBitch4Life
http://writebitches.com

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Anything else you want us to know? Shout-outs? Words of wisdom?

Oh my god, shout outs! I’ll curb my enthusiasm and keep it to three authors you definitely should read.

Madhuri Blaylock made the dedication of one of my books and if you read any of her works you’ll see why. She’s the author of The Sanctum Trilogy and the upcoming Keepers Series with the first book, DUTCH about to set the world on fire.

Kendall Bailey really came through with some awesome editing and helped beef up some of the sci-fi elements in NIKO. He wrote a great crime thriller called The Dead Don’t Speak.

Suanne Laqueur is someone I bumped into recently, and her book The Man I Love is all kinds of awesome. I don’t usually read contemporary romances, but that book… asdfghjkl!

And for the words of wisdom bit, I’m going to crib from one of the greats.

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Book Review: NIKO

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Amazon | Goodreads

Notes on Diversity:
This book is packed with diversity. It is Diverse with a capital D. The main character is a take-no-shit suffer-no-fools Black teenager, and most of the people around her are other people of color, too: brown folks, East Asian people, South Asian people, they run the gamut. There are kickass queer characters. There are characters with disabilities. Class issues are on display. Diversity is truly firing on all cylinders in Niko.

Honestly, the author’s attention to issues of diversity in both the characters and the worldbuilding is what moved this from a 3 star to a 4 star rating. It wasn’t only that diversity was present, but how it was woven into the overall book: there is great nuance present here that shows that Kayti Nika Raet thought long and hard about how diversity in fiction ought to be represented. The racial and gender diversity, for example, was presented without comment. The issues of disability became plot threads, things to dissect. Very well done.


Review:
FTC disclosure: I received a free digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

Harmony Niko is seventeen years old and trapped in a nightmarish post-apocalyptic wasteland full of pseudo-human monsters called Slithers that want to eat her and acidic rain that will kill her if she does not find shelter from it. She is responsible for keeping herself and her two younger brothers alive. But while out on a foraging run everything falls apart–she comes back to find her dilapidated house in flames, her youngest brother dead, and her remaining brother missing. She wakes up in Amaryllis city, now part of a circle of Slither killers.

Once in Amaryllis city, Niko’s world falls apart. Things she took for granted–that Slithers can be easily killed with the right weaponry and good luck, that clean water is precious and must be hoarded–are suddenly called into question. Niko struggles to find her place in the Rose Circle, the group of Slither killers who have adopted her, while trying to process all the new information thrown at her. At the same time, she forms a plan to get back outside Amaryllis and find her lost brother.

Kayti Nika Raet anchors the plot on Niko. As an author, she places all her eggs in one basket. Niko as a character is fully realized, possessing a broad range of emotionality and a strong, driving voice that carries the narrative forward. Niko is intense, observant and suspicious. She is shaken and vulnerable and ferocious. She is a lone wolf and a caretaker. Raet writes Niko with lovely subtlety, letting her grow and stretch over the course of the book. Niko at the end of the book is very different than she was at the beginning. She is still very much herself, but the course of events has marked her, and she is changed.

It is probably obvious that I connected to Niko’s character. Every beat of Niko’s character felt true for me because I was so much like Niko at eighteen: lost, full of bravado, failing an even more lost younger sibling, coping with unnamed and unrecognized PTSD. Raet’s writing captured a resiliency and a woundedness that is utterly complex, at once strong enough to keep going and also weak enough to be self-destructive. And, at the same time, the book is full of science fiction conceits that are intriguing. The hints dropped about the weird, haunting, body-horror Slither monsters are not resolved in this book, and are definitely interesting enough to keep me hooked. I’ll be picking up the next installment, Harm.

Most of the other characters lacked Niko’s complexity, which was one weak spot in the book. Malik, one leg of a very light love triangle, shows some depth, and as a set Norm and Lo were definitely interesting, but most of the other characters blended together. Perhaps as an extension, there are scenes where the action is somewhat unclear. Raet’s writing is typically very crisp, but sometimes I had to reread sentences to glean what happened when several characters were interacting around Niko. A less dedicated reader may have skimmed or skipped those sections altogether. One section where this happened actually turned out to be important plot-wise, but I initially missed who had upset who.

Bottom line, though, I really, really enjoyed this book. It was a fast and brutal and brilliant read, just like Niko herself. When I found out there were three other books in the series already I wanted to clear my schedule and read them all back to back.

4 stars





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