An interview with new writer Kelsey Rae Barthel and her inspiration behind her fantasy debut

Growing up in a small town with an active imagination can lead to many wonderful creations, especially when it comes to writers developing new stories. In the small town of Alberta, Canada, within its population of about 500 residents, one writer imagined and dreamed and created a story that has was published earlier this year. Kelsey Rae Barthel is that writer and her fantasy debut Beyond the Code is now available to read and enjoy. “Living in such a small, quiet town with not much to do gave me plenty of time to retreat into my imagination. Inspired by the comic books and anime I loved, I started the hobby of writing short stories of epic journeys and brave heroes,” Barthel said. “Once I grew up and moved into the city, I really came out of my shell, allowing my creativity to blossom. That’s when I started working out the initial ideas that grew into Beyond the Code and, after finding out about through social media, I was able to realize my dream of being a published author.” 

Beyond the Code focuses on a secret Order that has survived for centuries: an Order where Knights with godlike powers keep the world safe while chosen Masters keep the Knights hidden from humans and their normal realities. In modern day society, Luna, one of the most powerful Knights of this Order, and her Master, Cole Iver, are working together to take down Damon Lexus, a Master who has acquired many powerful Knights in a way that goes against the Code of what all Knights and Masters should stand for. When Damon orders the assassination of Cole and Luna is unable to save him, Luna finds herself in a dark place, seeking only the revenge of the one responsible for her Master’s horrific death. When she is brought back to the light by a Hunter sent to kill her, both will form an unlikely alliance to bring Damon to justice and restore the Knight’s Code before it is utterly broken.

Barthel’s story is a cross between anime and the superhero genre, for these types of stories are the ones she loves and the ones she grew up with. Yet while these genres helped her to shape her story, the first idea for it came to her from a piece of jewelry. “The very first spark of inspiration for Beyond the Code came from a crescent moon necklace I bought a long time ago. That made me start thinking about the main character, Luna, and the world she came from. After that, I had some of my closest friends chose a superpower and fighting style and those ideas grew into some of the characters that made it into the book,” Barthel said. Of course, one would be curious what superpowers Barthel would have if she could and when asked, she said it would either be invulnerability, so she could stand in front of people and protect them, or teleportation, for the convenience.

“It took me about four years to write the first book, mostly because I worked hard plotting out where the entire series was going to go before I started actually writing it. I have a huge fear of accidently writing in plot holes so I try and plan out as much as possible,” Barthel said. This is a wonderful statement to hear from any writer for any sort of loophole found by readers in a story can break the magic the writer was trying to create, especially when it comes to the fantasy genre. It is very noticeable in Barthel’s writing that she took great care of her story and her characters. Of course, writers always become attached to or have fun writing at least one of their characters. For Barthel, it was two of her main characters, Luna and Ranger. “Aurora [Luna] was a good one to write because she’s a lot of what I want to be, but Ranger was also interesting because of his personality and way of fighting smart. He has a little Batman in him and I love it,” Barthel said.

One of the most noticeable elements of Barthel’s carefully crafted storytelling is her attention to detail when it comes to fight scenes. In a story full of Knights and superpowers, readers will expect fights and Barthel most definitely delivers. She has been one of few fantasy writers that can write an amazing fight scene and she has received many compliments about them already. They were really fun to write because of my love for action and martial arts movies, but they were super difficult,” Barthel said. “You have to meticulously plot out every move and reaction down to the smallest step and you also have to make it interesting by continuously changing it up. It’s probably the hardest part of my writing, but considering the fantastic feedback I’ve been getting, it was well worth it.”

Barthel published her book through the online publisher Inkshares and first learned about them from her sister. Her sister sent her a link to the Inkshares website when they were holding their Nerdist writing contest for fantasy and science fiction books, and while Barthel’s story was not ready for the contest at the time, she was able to start a funding campaign and it turned into a wonderful success. “The experience with Inkshares was actually pretty good considering it was my first experience publishing anything,” Barthel said. “Considering it was my first book and I only received a light publishing, my expectations weren’t that high. The campaign was a real ride, but the publishing process went pretty smooth and I am very grateful for that.”

A successful publishing campaign is nothing without support and Barthel received a large amount of it from friends and loved ones. “I have a lot of very supportive people in my life. My husband was crazy supportive while writing the first book and has continued to be great in my endeavors to work up my author profile. And my sisters have been amazing with telling everyone they know about my book and coming to all my signings,” Barthel said. This support will carry on as she continues to write future books in her new series. While she will not spoil anything for intrigued readers, she did say the working title of the sequel is Beyond the Masquerade.

To read a tale of knights following a Code of chivalry that not only takes place in modern-day times, but also incorporates superpowers like those found in X-Men makes for a unique and enjoyable read. Barthel is a wonderful new writer who has made an impression within the fantasy genre and encourages others through her well-developed story. When readers are done with her story, Barthel hopes they get the feel of a small time rebellion and the feeling within themselves to stand up for what they believe in. “The message I want the readers to take away from Beyond the Code is to stand up for what you know is right,” Barthel said. “Even when it seems impossible and everyone says you should forget about it, you have to stand strong and true to your convictions.”


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