Exclusive Cover Reveal + Interview: The Keeper of Night, An OwnVoices Biracial YA Historical Fantasy Set in 1890’s Japan, by Kylie Lee Baker

Guess what, friends? We at The Quiet Pond are delighted to be sharing with you all the exclusive cover reveal for The Keeper of Night by Kylie Lee Baker, a YA historical fantasy about a girl who is part-Reaper and part-Shinigami soul collector who seeks to find her destiny and prove her worth to the Goddess of Death. Does that sound awesome and like you need the book right now? Then you are going to love its gorgeous cover.

Give me all the historical fantasies, friends. I love the blend of a rich historical setting with fantastical elements that imbue place with magic and mystery. When I first learned about The Keeper of Night and read its compelling and heartaching blurb – about a powerful girl who serves death and yet seeks belonging and respect, an experience that biracial and diaspora readers may be all too familiar with – I knew that I wanted this book. And I think, after you see this cover, you are going to want this book as well.

Listen, I see a lot of book covers, but I genuinely don’t think I’ve seen a cover like The Keeper of Night. When you see it, you will understand me when I say this: there’s something so compelling and intriguing about it. The style! The colours! The threads! So, I’m absolutely thrilled that I get to help Kylie share her debut’s book cover with you all today.

Here is the book’s summary:

A girl of two worlds, accepted by none… A half Reaper, half Shinigami soul collector seeks her destiny in this haunting and compulsively readable dark fantasy set in 1890s Japan.

Death is her destiny.

Half British Reaper, half Japanese Shinigami, Ren Scarborough has been collecting souls in the London streets for centuries. Expected to obey the harsh hierarchy of the Reapers who despise her, Ren conceals her emotions and avoids her tormentors as best she can.

When her failure to control her Shinigami abilities drives Ren out of London, she flees to Japan to seek the acceptance she’s never gotten from her fellow Reapers. Accompanied by her younger brother, the only being on earth to care for her, Ren enters the Japanese underworld to serve the Goddess of Death…only to learn that here, too, she must prove herself worthy. Determined to earn respect, Ren accepts an impossible task—find and eliminate three dangerous Yokai demons—and learns how far she’ll go to claim her place at Death’s side.

Cover Reveal: The Keeper of Night by Kylie Lee Baker
The Keeper of Night by Kylie Lee Baker. The image in the cover depicts a woman with long flowing dark hair holding a katana, with red robes flowing behind her as she looks over her shoulder. Her face is illuminated by

Cover illustration: Jessica Coppet | Cover art direction: Kathleen Oudit


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Author Interview with Kylie Lee Baker

CW: Congratulations on your beautiful cover reveal, Kylie! Both Jessica Coppet and Kathleen Oudit did a phenomenal job. Can you tell us a little bit of the design process, and what is your favourite part of the cover?

Kylie: Thank you so much! I agree, they did a wonderful job. Light and darkness are important themes in my book because Shinigami like Ren can control light to navigate Japan’s pitch-black underworld, so I really wanted some interplay of light and shadows on the cover. All of Jessica’s art plays with light in very subtle yet powerful ways, which was what drew me to her work. I sent my editor a picture of the city from Spirited Away to show how I pictured Japan’s underworld, so I suspect that’s what inspired the beautiful lanterns. The overall layout of the cover remained the same from Jessica’s first concept sketch, which I loved from the start. My favorite part is the lantern light reflected on Ren’s face, and the way her kimono tapers off into thinner lines, like she’s disappearing into the darkness.

CW: The Keeper of Night releases October this year, and I could not be more excited! What was the inspiration behind your book’s story? And how has it evolved since its conception?

Kylie: There are a lot of fantasy stories where someone is half human and half god, or half fairy, half monster, etc. As a biracial person, being torn between two worlds isn’t just a fantasy trope to me, but something I’ve dealt with my whole life. I wanted to create a character who was part of two different “species” (Reaper and Shinigami) but also two different races, in order to really intensely examine what it’s like to not belong anywhere. I wanted a protagonist who was powerful because of her mixed background, even if she doesn’t always realize it. So the idea for Ren Scarborough came first, and the rest of the book grew around her from my morbid love of stories about death and the afterlife, as well as the Reapers in Black Butler, one of my favorite shows.

Ren was a lot angrier and colder in my early drafts (which you might find hard to believe, when you read about her!) because she embodied a lot of my anger about how mixed race people are treated. I love characters who walk the line between likeable and unlikeable, but I needed some help from my amazing agent and beta readers to get the balance right.

CW: What I love about The Keeper of Night’s pitch is that it’s an inherently biracial story. Moreover, it’s an OwnVoices biracial fantasy, and I’m really excited to dive into this world that you have created. How did you approach creating and crafting the worldbuilding for The Keeper of Night? What is something you are really proud of?

Kylie: The world of The Keeper of Night is based strongly on Shinto mythology and Japanese folklore (with some creative liberties taken). Much of the story takes place in Yomi, the underworld known as the Land of Darkness in Japanese mythology, and much of the plot revolves around the creation myth of Izanagi and Izanami. I did a lot of research on Shinto legends and Japanese folklore and tried to incorporate as much as I realistically could into the story. But in terms of worldbuilding, I only had to “build” half a world from scratch, because a lot of the book takes place in Japan in the 1890s. There’s a surprising amount of photos and even videos available from that time period that I used for reference. In terms of setting, I’m most proud of how I made Yomi come to life. The logistics of building a society in an underworld that eats up any source of light are challenging, but I think I created something eerie and beautiful.

CW: What real life experiences did you draw when writing The Keeper of Night? How did it feel to write a story that was personal to you? What did you find unexpectedly challenging in the writing process?

Kylie: What real life experiences did you draw when writing The Keeper of Night? How did it feel to write a story that was personal to you? What did you find unexpectedly challenging in the writing process?

Kylie: Like Ren, I was one of the only Asian kids in my classes while growing up, so for a long time, I felt much more Asian than white. It was pretty devastating to me when I went to college and realized that my new friends from China assumed I was completely white. I spent hours every day studying Chinese (I am both Chinese and Japanese), volunteered at a Chinese school, joined a Buddhist club, and tried so hard to be seen as Asian, but none of it ever felt like enough. Ren also has to figure out just how much she’s willing to give to be accepted in Japan, but for her, the stakes are much higher, and she’s asked to do some terrible things in order to belong.

Writing such a personal story felt kind of like being emotionally steamrolled, to be honest! Parts of it were very draining to write. But I also think that’s why I believed in this story more than anything I’ve ever written before. I felt a desperate need to not just tell people but show them how much gatekeeping hurt.

But despite all the heavy emotions, the most challenging part of the process for me was probably writing the romance. I’m not a very romantic person. My editor very politely told me that romance usually doesn’t feel natural if it’s just two people becoming platonic friends and then suddenly kissing one day, which was initially very confusing for me and made me deeply re-examine some of my life choices. Don’t worry, it’s much more convincing now.

CW: Tease us! Can you describe to us your favourite moment in your book – but in the vaguest way possible?

Kylie: My favorite moment has to do with a secret that I keep from the reader until the penultimate chapter. It’s something Ren knows the whole time, but never says out loud until the very end, when it’s a life-or-death situation. I start planting seeds for it in chapter one, so read carefully!

About the Author

Kylie Lee Baker grew up in Boston and has since lived in Atlanta, Salamanca, and Seoul. Her work is informed by her heritage (Japanese, Chinese, & Irish) as well as her experiences living abroad as both a student and teacher. She has a BA in creative writing and Spanish from Emory University and is pursuing a master of library and information science degree at Simmons University. In her free time, she plays the cello, watches horror movies, and bakes too many cookies. The Keeper of Night is her debut novel.

Find Kylie on: Website | Twitter | Instagram

9 thoughts on “Exclusive Cover Reveal + Interview: The Keeper of Night, An OwnVoices Biracial YA Historical Fantasy Set in 1890’s Japan, by Kylie Lee Baker

  1. WOW that cover really is beautiful. I look forwards to this book, just added it to my tbr.
    Also, can I just say that I love your blog so much especially because it inspires me to keep writing…every time I see more debut authors being interviewed or having cover reveals or even just getting book deals it reminds me that that could be me one day but I just need to actually write first. So thank you for that!

    Liked by 1 person

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