Ruby Release Spotlight: The Marked Son by Shea Berkley

Mark my words, Ruby-Slippered Shea Berkley is going to win a legion of fans. And what’s not to love? Shea is a three-time Golden Heart® finalist, a writing mentor, and she can kickbox her way out of any kind of trouble. Between you and me, though, her kryptonite is Vegemite, that salty, yeasty Aussie sandwich spread she sampled when living in the UK. She tells me she hates the stuff, but the lady doth protest too much! :p)

SHEA: Just thinking about Vegemite causes little episodes of dry heaving. (shiver)

VANESSA: Heh! Next time I see you, I’ll show you the right way to eat Vegemite.

Today, we’re celebrating the release of Shea’s YA, THE MARKED SON from Entangled Publishing. (Whoo!) It’s the first in a trilogy.

Seventeen-year-old Dylan Kennedy always knew something was different about him, but until his mother abandoned him in the middle of Oregon with grandparents he’s never met, he had no idea what.

When Dylan sees a girl in white in the woods behind his grandparents’ farm, he knows he’s seen her before…in his dreams. He’s felt her fear. Heard her insistence that only he can save her world from an evil lord who uses magic and fear to feed his greed for power.

Unable to shake the unearthly pull to Kera, Dylan takes her hand. Either he’s completely insane or he’s about to have the adventure of his life, because where they’re going is full of creatures he’s only read about in horror stories. Worse, the human blood in his veins has Dylan marked for death…

Does that sound awesome or what? Read an excerpt here. You’ll be hooked — don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Shea, in addition to your three-book deal with Entangled, November will see the release of your epic fantasy TORREIN through Variance Publishing. You must feel like all your Christmases have come at once. Tell us about your journey to publication.

Christmas might have landed all at once, but it’s been building up for years. Many, many, many years.

I started out writing nonfiction for magazines and newspapers forever ago, and then got the bug to write fiction. My first foray was in historical romantic fiction. I lived in England at the time and was just soaking in the history so it seemed like a no brainer. Over 200,000 words later and a sweetly worded rejection from Avon, “You’ve got to be kidding me this is seriously way, way, way too long,” I moved on and switched to contemporary romantic fiction and finaled for the first time in the Golden Heart contest. It was fun, but I realized I was not romantically inclined enough to write straight romance, so I then turned to writing Fiction with Romantic Elements and finaled in my second Golden Heart® contest. Fun again. Then I decided, because I read so many Young Adult stories (yeah, I’ve got a Peter Pan complex) I’d try my hand at writing YA, and I finaled for the third time in the Golden Heart® contest. Super fun!

Between all that, I wrote a story called TORREIN: AGE OF FEAR, an epic coming of age fantasy, a genre I love, and a story I absolutely adore. Super fabulous fun!!!

Ooh, I can’t wait to read it! What made you fall in love with writing YA?

Other than the fact that I’m a big child? (Peter Pan complex, remember?) I don’t want to be that person who’s forgot what it’s like to have fun. I’m all about the simple pleasures. Teens, even for as grown up as they sometimes act, are still kids. They live in the moment. They get a kick out of exploring, and I love that about them.

I’m intrigued by the newness of feelings they experience. YA characters are young and impressionable and will think outrageous things, say outrageous things and do outrageous things because they don’t know any better yet. They jump in and wallow around in the junk pool a while until they figure out that what they’re doing isn’t the brightest idea. They’re just starting that journey of bad ideas. It’s sort of like watching Ninja Warrior to see who will make it through the course and who will wipe out, and always being surprised at who takes up the challenge.

Even though I love to play on teen inexperience as a whole, it doesn’t mean I think teens are stupid. Far from it. They can surprise you with their wisdom, their understanding and their optimism that things will get better.

Do you have any advice for those wanting to try their hand at writing YA?

Writing YA isn’t about reliving your past. I think a lot of adults think it’s really easy to write for teens. I mean, we were all teenagers once, right? How hard can it be to write about teenagers if you’ve been there, done that? Let me tell you right now. It’s hard. They’re very savvy to what rings true and what doesn’t. I’m surrounded by teens nearly every day. I talk to them all the time. Their experiences can be heartbreaking or just plain ridiculous. When you write for teens, you have to put yourself in their place and live life through their eyes, not your adult ones. It’s about writing stuff that’s relevant to teens today, without writing down to them or lecturing them. Just give them a great story and they’ll love you for it.

I can vouch for just how difficult it is to write YA! Shea, THE MARKED SON is written in a (hawt) male’s POV. How did this challenge you as a writer?

Oh, so you’ve noticed I’m not a guy? I am the size of a twelve-year-old boy, so it can get confusing.

I love guys. Most of my best friends growing up were guys. Even though I love being a girl, I’ve never been much of a girlie girl. I just got my first pedicure and she painted flowers on my nail.

See? Makes me smile looking at them. ~ Shea

Growing up, my friends and I would hang out and do crazy stuff and not think about the consequences. I was always the girl all the guys cornered to talk about their love lives, (not that I had a rockin’ one myself, but I have always been “approachable” and guys are total weenies when it comes to talking to girls) so I was able to get inside their heads and see what they thought about girls.

In return, the guys taught me to be aggressive and go after what I want and play hard. I’m also physically demonstrative. I don’t mean anything by it, but because of that, I’m sometimes seen as inappropriately forward as my mom would say. Over the years, I’ve become more sensitive to the fact that other people don’t like hugs as much as I do. (weird, huh?) I’m also a very open person. I’ll ask anyone anything, so if I ever wanted to know something, I’d go to one of my guy friends and bug him until he either ran away or answered me. Unfortunately, I got into trouble more than once relying on them to answer me truthfully. Guys do not play fair.

So, I guess I’ve had an advantage in being able to write in a guy’s POV. Dylan isn’t molded after any particular guy I’ve known, he’s a combination of many guys. He’s the guy all girls wish we could find.

My seventeen-year-old self totally envies you for getting boys to confide in you! Now, Dylan is seventeen and about to plunge into an unknown world. If you could give your seventeen-year-old self advice about life, what would you say?

No pressure here, huh?

Be honest. Live with integrity and don’t worry about what people say about you. There are always hateful people who only live to pull you down. Ignore them. They’re not worth your time.

There’s nothing in life that’s risk free. Just don’t be stupid. If you might hurt someone re-evaluate your options. If you’ll help someone, always opt to help. You won’t like yourself if you don’t stop and help.

Remember, no one likes a fickle person, so find out who you are and be that person no matter what you’re doing or where you’re at. Don’t change to fit in. The “in” crowd isn’t that awesome. Really.

People will let you down. You will let others down. That’s called being human. Learn to forgive and move on. That said, love freely, love often and love forever because the only thing worth living for is love for your fellow man.

“Find out who you are” — I love that. Well, Shea Berkley, you are now a published author! Humungous squeezy hugs to you on the release of THE MARKED SON.

So, readers, it’s your turn — what advice would you give your seventeen-year-old self? (No pressure!)

(VANESSA SINGING) # Isn't Shea lovely? #

Connect with Shea: Facebook / / Goodreads


103 responses to “Ruby Release Spotlight: The Marked Son by Shea Berkley”

  1. Hi Shea! Hi Vanessa! Actually I’m with Shea on Vegemite. Bleuch! ‘orrible muck. Shea, congratulations on your book coming out. It sounds great!

  2. Hi Vanessa and Shea!
    Terrific interview! And congratulations to both of you on your Golden Heart successes – being a finalist once is so prestigious but you talented ladies have done it more than that! And Shea, three times is awesome.

    Good luck with your book – it sounds like an excellent tale! I’m off to read the excerpt now.

    As for advice to my seventeen year old self… I think it would be not to take myself so seriously. I tried to be responsible for everything – and no-one has shoulders broad enough for that sort of nonsense!

    Sharon (vegemite lover! LOL)

    • Aha! I knew I’d find a kindred spirit sooner or later, Sharon! I’m raising a virtual slice of Vegemite toast at you. Thanks for saying such lovely things.

      Great advice for your younger self. I wish I was a bit more chilled-out at seventeen, too, but it’s such an intense time.

    • Shea Berkley says:

      Thank you for the well wishes, Sharon.

      An intense seventeen-year-old is like saying the sun is bright. With all it’s ups and downs, it’s a great age.

  3. Annie West says:

    Hi Shea and Vanessa and thanks for the interview.

    Congratulations on your book, Shea. It sounds intriguing. What a great summary!

    As for the vegemite, I have to say there’s nothing quite like vegemite on toast if you’ve been unwell. Fantastic.
    By the way – I love the pedicure pic. I had my first ever last year and it was such fun. I took pics too.

    Advice for me at 17? Don’t worry about what others think about you. Just get on with your life – easy to say when you’re no longer a teen!


    • Thank you, Annie! Always lovely to see you here. Mmm, I think Vegemite is a good healing tonic. Must be all that vitamin B.

      I love your advice. It is difficult to not worry about the opinions of others at that age. At any age, really! But it can be crippling if you let those thoughts get to you.

    • Shea Berkley says:

      Thanks for dropping by, Annie.

      I wish all teens could just relax and not worry about what others think of them. Their lives would be so much more fun.

  4. Gabrielle says:

    Yay, Shea!! The Marked Son will be on my Kindle pronto. Happy release day, and I’m with you on Vegemite 🙂

  5. Laurie Kellogg says:

    Congrats on your release, Shea! You’ve worked hard for it. Advice on my 17-year-old self, hmmm?

    I think mine would be not to let self-doubt determine your future. I always wanted to be psychologist, but I didn’t have the self-confidence to go after what I wanted. I’d also say don’t worry about the existing job market and what professions are overcrowded or dying. Choose a major in college you LOVE. My second choice of career was to be an elementary school teacher and work with kids. But all of the college grads I knew who had teaching degrees were running cash registers. Hence, I didn’t go either route and have been sorry ever since.

    So later on in life, I chucked it all and began writing. Now I could be anything I want through my heroines.

    • Vanessa Barneveld says:

      Hey, Laurie! That’s one reason why I love being a writer! You can drive yourself crazy with the coulda, shoulda, wouldas, but it’s better to live in the now…and make up new realities in our stories. 🙂

  6. Shea Berkley says:

    Hey Laurie,

    Oh, but I’m glad you’re a writer. I would never have known you otherwise. (grin)

    Teens seem to fall into two categories, the self-doubters and the over-confident ones. They live in a very intense world. Teens just need to take a deep breath somtimes.

  7. Shea, I am so happy for you — and I can’t wait to read The Marked Son! I hope you enjoy every minute of your book birthday. (MISS YOU!!!)

    • Shea Berkley says:

      Miss you too, Erica, and thank you. I’m reading TORN right now and getting frustrated ’cause I have so much to do and I can’t just sit a read it like I want to. It’s great. You did a wonderful job, chica.

  8. Hi Vanessa and Shea

    What an interesting interview, I love to read about a writer’s pathway to publication. Shea, I was particularly interested in your thoughts on writing male point of view. Best of luck with the launch of THE MARKED SON.

    My advice to my 17-year-old self? Enjoy that lovely first boyfriend, but don’t marry him!

    PS, I love Vegemite and your proposed snack sounds wonderful Vanessa!

    • Shea Berkley says:

      Hey Kandy! Oh, that first love. It is wonderful, but I agree. Don’t jump into marriage. I’m glad I didn’t.

      • Liz Selvig says:

        I didn’t marry my first boyfriend, but I did marry at 19. Very fortunately, I beat the odds and am still married to the wonderful man mumble-mumble-cover-the-mouth years later. My daughter, when she turned 19, asked if I really did marry at that age and proceeded to tell me unequivocally that I was nuts. 🙂

    • Lol – excellent advice, Kandy!

      And may I suggest, for something different, substituting the avocadoes for mushrooms sauteed in butter, balsamic vinegar and a pinch of rosemary? Yummo!

  9. Just dropping by to say HAPPY RELEASE DAY!!!!! 🙂 Wishing you all the best and many, many sales!

  10. Vivi Andrews says:

    Happy release day, Shea! I love reading YA and I love fantasy, so it’s only natural that I should love you and your books. 🙂 Wishing you loads of success!

  11. kelly fitzpatrick says:

    Happy happy day, Shea!

    I’m getting my first pedicure today since DC two years ago. Can’t wait. We should all pamper ourselves.

  12. Hurray for Shea!!!! The book sounds enthralling. I’m sure it will do you proud.

    My advice for my seventeen-year-old self? I was pretty old at seventeen, so I’d back it up a couple of years and say, Dream big, but don’t expect the dreams to be enough. They can come true, but it’ll take more than Bibblety-Bobbity Boo! If you can dream it, you can have it—but you’ll have to work for it.

  13. Hope Ramsay says:

    Many happy sales, Shea. Sounds like a realy great read.

    I got my first pedicure two years ago — warning those things are addictive…

  14. From one un-girly girl to another, LOL, HAPPY RELEASE DAY! 🙂

    The Marked Son sounds awesome and I can’t wait to read it!

  15. Liz Selvig says:

    Hi Shea!
    What a great interview! I’ve learned so many things about you I can relate to. I was the only girl in a family of four kids, I was the only girl allowed into the neighborhood all boys club, and the biggest compliment I ever got was from my baseball-playing brother who told me I didn’t throw “like a girl” (which, at the 50+ mark, may no longer be true, but it was nice at the time).

    My advice to my teen-age self would be the popular ‘don’t worry so much what others think.’ That uber-people-pleaser syndrome has followed me into adulthood and it’s the kiss of death for a writer.

    Congratulations on your book, my Unsinkable sister, and I wish you so much success with it. If I could see you I’d hug you big time, because I’m another who had to learn that not everyone likes hugs (yes, weird 🙂 ).

    Love Liz, who tried Vegemite when visiting Australia and didn’t find it disgusting just extremely salty. Do they have a sugary version? Better yet, chocolate?

    • Terrific advice, Liz!

      Vegemite is super salty. You shouldn’t eat it by the spoonful unless you’re a contestant on Fear Factor. We do have a cheese-infused variety called…Cheesymite. I haven’t tried it yet, but I know the combo really works.

      Thanks so much for celebrating Shea and the Marked Son with us!

    • Shea Berkley says:

      Ah, yes. A writers, we have to stop thinking what others want in our books and write the story only we can tell. That’s when magic happens. (just my opinion)

  16. C.J. Chase says:

    Super congrats, Shea!

    My advice to myself?

    – learn Spanish–it will be way more useful to you than all those years of French

    – find a violin teacher and dump piano because you’ve always loved the sound of strings better than a piano

    – you won’t always have your grandparents, so give them an extra hug

    – watch out for guys named, well, just avoid dating for another 5 years

    – greasy pizza and middle-aged digestive tracks don’t miss, so enjoy it while you can

    – wear sunscreen–always

    – someday you will be glad you had braces in high school

    – Mrs. Kantner is right, you really should try writing a novel

  17. Rita Henuber says:

    Super Congrats and wishing you many, many sales.
    Advice to my seventeen-year-old self is difficult. Times have changed. If I was seventeen now I would not be facing the same set of problems. Ewww! The thought of being seventeen now is scary.
    It is what it is. I yam what I yam !

  18. Addison Fox says:


    Happy release day!!!!!!!!!!! I have SO been waiting for this one!!!!


  19. Aubrie says:

    Lovely toenails, Shea! I’ve never had a pedicure. Maybe I needs one?

  20. Tamara Hogan says:

    Happy release day, Shea!

    Advice to my 17-year-old self?

    – Take that typing class. Really.
    – Sunscreen. Always.
    – It gets better.

  21. Tammy Baumann says:

    Hi Vanessa and Shea! Great interview you two!

    Happy Release Day, Shea! Since I’ve already read your wonderful story, I opted to wait for the hard copy to come in the mail. Then after you write something EXTREMELY NICE ABOUT YOUR FAVORITE CRIT PARTNER in the front, you may reside with all my other signed books. I’m thinking of slipping it between Nora and Susan Elizabeth Phillips, just to keep your little rowdy self in line! (And no kick-boxing your neighbors for a better position)

    And Vanessa, if you bring some of that Yucky, I mean Yummy, vegemite to LA, I will promise to try it your way. But I may bring along some poi or something equally scary to see if I can make you gag! :0)

  22. Kim Law says:

    Congratulations on you debut, Shea! So excited for you!!!! I pre-ordered this book yesterday for my Kindle, and lo-and-behold, it downloaded almost immediately. Woohoo!!! I always like sneaking things in 😉

    Can’t wait to read it. Hope you’re having a great release day!

  23. Your toes are too cute, Shea!!!

    And while I’ve gotten some doozies, I’ve never had a letter that began with, “You’ve got to be kidding me….” I feel your pain, sister. But look at you now!

    Super congrats!!! I’m just so darned excited for you!

  24. liz talley says:

    Congrats, Shea! So exciting, and I can’t wait to read it!

    Hmmm…my advice to myself – to not study so much, not worry so much about what I don’t have and appreciate what I do, and to not obsess about how I look.

    That would be my best advice to myself, though I probably wouldn’t take it. I’m bad about not taking my own advice.

  25. Shea, Congrats on your debute. I can’t wait to read this story. Kudos to you for not ever throw in the dish rag. You’re a shining example for all writers. (((HUGS)))

  26. Congratulations on your release day, Shea! I love your book cover and that’s one smokin’ excerpt. Simply amazing. You’ve got heaps of talent.

  27. Tina Joyce says:

    Mega-congrats on your release, Shea! The book sounds fantastic and I can’t wait to read it.

    Advice for my 17 year old self? Hand in there baby, High School’s almost over! My other piece of advice would be to enjoy every single second of your life.

  28. Congratulations, Shea!!! So happy for you. 🙂

  29. Elisa Beatty says:

    Woo-hoo! I get to be commenter #100!!!

    Congrats on your FIRST release, Shea…with so many more to come!

    Can’t wait to read THE MARKED SON. I’ll get it on my Kindle, but I’ll also get a paper copy to show my students…I hope to find you many new readers!


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