Decision making was never easy for Kaiya. Choosing between breakfast cereals was a difficult choice – how was she supposed to choose a career path after college? With the end of term approaching decisions needed to be made and the forest was her favourite place to think. Going to the forest after college on a Thursday afternoon was a choice she made all the time – how was she to know this time the consequences would be life changing?
When the forest stirs Kaiya is plunged into a world of questions with no easy answers. As a dark force spreads through Tynewood Kaiya is forced to confront the future and her role in shaping it.
The time is now.
Targeted Age Group:: 13-30
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
This book was inspired by my experience of finishing college without a plan when everyone around me seemed to know what they wanted to do. I'm 27 now and only just figuring it out. I wrote this book because when I was eighteen and staring the future in the face all I wanted was for something fantastic to happen and save me from deciding on a mundane career. Nothing fantastic happened, but escaping into books can be just as good.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
I tried to create a range of characters with unique goals that balanced well against each other. Where Kaiya doesn't know what she wants to do after college her friends Taylor and Ashley are already decided. A theme of the book is differences in opinion, and as the story unfolds Kaiya and her friends are given conflicting advice from several people. It was important to me that the characters don't all agree with each other or see the problem in the same light, and this impacted a lot on how I created them.
There were few things more terrifying than people excited at nine in the morning. Unfortunately, the sports hall was crawling with them, all hoping to lure innocent victims to their stall and assault them with a sales pitch and free pens.
"Hi!" called one girl. "Do you want to be part of the future?"
The girl smiled, waving a gift bag like a dog treat. Kaiya recoiled, staying firmly in the centre of the aisle as the girl moved her smile to another target.
Ashley snorted beside her. "You realise they're not going to kidnap you, right?"
"We don't know that. Have you seen Taylor once since we got here?"
"No, but she lives for this kind of thing. She will have shaken a hundred hands and filled two bags with freebies by now."
Kaiya groaned. Ashley was right – Taylor would be taking full advantage of the careers fair despite already having a plan in place for when they finished college in a few months. Even Ashley had a plan.
"Come on, at least put your name badge on," said Ashley, holding out the offending item.
Ashley had written the sticker for her, claiming Kaiya's hastily scrawled name did not constitute a whole-hearted attempt. Unlike her effort that merely read 'Kaiya' this sticker said 'Hi, I'm Kaiya Parks' and dared to include a smiley face. Kaiya attached the sticker to her hoodie, drawing in a deep breath. She could get through this. Students filled every inch of the hall and she was just one of the crowd.
They wandered around the stalls though Kaiya shied away from approaching any. If any of the reps did attempt to make contact their attention was usually on Ashley, particularly the university reps. It never ceased to amaze her how the people running these stalls looked like they came straight from a reality show; perfect hair, the latest fashion and smiling as if they were happy to see you. Unlike Kaiya, Ashley fit right in with these people. Where she was short Ashley was tall – and fortunate to be effortlessly good-looking. With her bright blue eyes, curly blond hair and cheerful personality she drew attention everywhere they went. Some people might have been jealous to have such a friend but to Kaiya it was a relief. No one ever looked twice at her and Ashley handled all forms of socialising.
“Any ideas where you want to start?” asked Ashley.
“There’s plenty to look at,” said Ashley. She glanced around the hall and the stalls crammed into every corner of the room. “This is busier than the last one.”
Since Christmas student life had become an endless cycle of career fairs and decision making. Teachers were drilling them for their post-college plans and lessons were a minefield of exam preparation and interview techniques. It was no surprise to anyone that Taylor had her life organised but when Ashley announced her university plans Kaiya knew she could put it off no longer. If her friend who flitted from one thing to another like a bee pollinating flowers could commit to a course of action then she should be able to find something in this hall that interested her.
"Miss Parks, it's good of you to join us."
Kaiya winced, reluctantly turning to face the careers advisor she'd evaded for most of the year. A subtle glance around her confirmed the worst; a university stall had drawn Ashley in, leaving Kaiya at the mercy of Mrs Dakon. Most of the teachers at Tynewood College were relaxed. Called by their first names rather than the 'miss' or 'sir' used in high school they generally left students to get on with their work. Mrs Dakon was the exception. A sharp bob of grey hair framed her face, and she wore the standard blouse and skirt combination favoured by all teachers of a certain age. Mrs Dakon had served as the careers advisor at Tynewood College for over thirty years, though legend said she'd been here much longer.
"In all my years I haven’t met a student who's gone to such great lengths to avoid me."
"I've not been avoiding you, miss."
"Really? It must be a coincidence you haven't attended either of your scheduled meetings with me."
Kaiya shifted from foot to foot. "Just bad timing I think."
Mrs Dakon lifted her clipboard, placing her glasses on the end of her nose. "Hmm, bad timing you say? Interesting, given you haven't attended any of the five careers fairs this year, or the CV writing workshops and interview prepping sessions."
"I'm sure I've been to some of them," said Kaiya, heat creeping into her face.
"My records are quite accurate," said Mrs Dakon. She peered over the rim of her glasses, her sharp eyes cutting through Kaiya. "The only career planning you've engaged in this year has been during your scheduled lessons and I suspect 'bad timing' might have afflicted you then if you'd known in advance"
"Well…I'm here now."
"Quite so. Though you don't appear to have picked up many leaflets."
Upon reflection, it might have been better to grab a few leaflets. Not to read, but to use as a shield against well-meaning teachers and Mrs Dakon. The only evidence she had of actually attending the event was her name badge. Before she could present the meagre evidence to Mrs Dakon another voice caught her attention.
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