Looking for a new middle grade series? Look no further than Carter Roy’s The Blood Guard (out now). The first in a planned trilogy, The Blood Guard follows 13-year-old Evelyn Ronan Truelove. After Ronan’s father is abducted, he learns that his mother is a member of an ancient order of knights, the Blood Guard, a secret society sworn to protect the Pure—36 special people whose purity of soul redeems the rest of humanity. Roy’s novel is a fast-paced adventure tale, that middle grade and YA readers alike will enjoy. Read on for our chat with Roy and an excerpt from The Blood Guard.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Talk about your inspiration for The Blood Guard. I know the book is fiction, but you were inspired by a real concept, right?
CARTER ROY: The seed idea for The Blood Guard was suggested by a line of dialogue in a novel I read back in the ’90s…. At one point, a character referred to another as a tzadik, one of the hidden righteous ones. And though I am a terrible scholar—the worst researcher—I did some reading and learned about something called the tzadikim nistarim, 36 holy people the Talmud says are living among us here on Earth. It is thanks to them that God doesn’t wipe the earth clean with “the fire next time” that Ralph Stanley’s spiritual promised. Now, that’s a nifty idea. Clearly, I thought, these special folks would need protection, to make sure they didn’t get run over while crossing the street or get knifed in an alley. And these protectors would have to do their work anonymously, because part of what makes these 36 people holy is that they are oblivious, completely unaware of their own holiness. I wondered what sorts of people would sign on for such a thankless job? And how would they go about it? And what if some more-or-less functionally insane people wanted to kill the 36, to bring about the end of the world? I took some notes, tucked the idea into a mental back pocket, and figured I’d get around to it someday.
At what point did you realize you wanted to turn this idea into a book?
That day arrived after I left my corporate publishing job in 2008. Maybe it was the sudden freedom from all-day meetings, but I was suddenly doing a whole lot more writing. A few years later, I took out this idea I’d been tinkering with for years and started putting it together. At that point, there were a lot of dark teen novels being published—still are—and, nothing against them, but I wanted an antidote to those books. The kind of story that might be called “rollicking,” with enough action and humor to keep the 11-year-old reader I used to be happy.
Why did you decide to write a middle grade series?
Really, the story as it was coming together in my head just felt right for this readership. In my experience, stories as they develop seem to know who they are for.
I think the book has some crossover potential for older readers. Did you make a conscious effort to do that? Or is it just a happy coincidence?
This is a happy coincidence, absolutely. Certainly I didn’t want older readers who picked it up to be bored out of their skull. Or, for that matter, for me to be bored. That’s why the character of Jack Dawkins came along. And it’s he, I think, who broadens the appeal of the story.
What can you tell readers about the next book? Does it have a name?
As I’ve worked, I’ve tried several working titles on it—The Purloined Soul, The Spangled Globe, and The Damascene ‘Scope—but it will likely be none of these things. Something will suggest itself in revision. And the editor [Melanie Kroupa] will have an opinion about it too, I’m sure. She always does! She’s great, actually, and deserves to be mentioned!
The second novel, like the first, has an action-packed plot, though it also I hope advances both the story of these two secret societies and of the people within them. There is a repulsive new villain, a blind and deaf man who has surrogates whose senses he hijacks. There is a struggle to obtain a long-lost device called the Damascene ‘Scope, which—in theory, at least—is supposed to burn the sin right out of a person, leaving her a near-saint. Except, of course, it doesn’t work as advertised. There is a quartet of slavering hounds almost named after the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse—War, Famine, Pestilence, and Brenda. And there is a death, which I for one found very moving. But I am the easiest mark.
I love that Ronan’s real name is Evelyn Ronan Truelove. Why did you choose the name Evelyn?
Evelyn Waugh. I love Evelyn Waugh. His comic novels are bitingly funny, and his more serious novels are also funny, but with bigger concerns and hearts. I thought he was a woman writer until, probably, my first year of college, and then I thought, “Wow, that must have been rough.”
Of course, it probably was just fine in that time and place (early 20th Century Britain), and it helped shape the writer he became. But Evelyn always struck me as a name that any modern boy would resent, a more dignified version of the sorts of names kids get saddled with now. You know, names like Truck and Gunn and Stick or what-have-you.