An Interview with Erika Lewis

Lewis’ newest book about misfits and magic is perfect for kindling kids’ imaginations.

Erika Lewis grew up in Virginia but now resides in the sunshine state of California. A graduate of Vanderbilt University, her list of credits straddles the comics and novel space, including Game of Shadows from Macmillan’s Tor Books, Firebrand and Acursian from Legendary Comics, and The Color of Dragons, which was her debut YA in 2021. Kelcie Murphy and The Academy for the Unbreakable Arts is her middle-grade debut (March, 2022). 


Konstantin Rega: How was it growing up in Northern Virginia?

Erika Lewis: I grew up in Alexandria. And as a kid, I remember I used to ride my bike through Fort Ward and tons of old Civil War graveyards, reading the gravestones. My friend used to bring a metal detector. It was just fascinating to find a relic.

So did this inspire you to start writing?

Well, I was a latch-key kid, and I sort of retreated into my imagination. I’ve kept journals throughout my life. I wasn’t a very good reader, though. Not quite dyslexic, but I had a hard time with reading comprehension. As an adult working in television, I was constantly reading stories for possible production. Later, I went back to school to study at Stony Brook and started writing my own stuff. Several books in a drawer later, I got picked up by an agent.

Your newest book, Kelcie Murphy and the Academy for the Unbreakable Arts, is listed in the Middle-Grade category. What made you want to write for that audience?

My first book, Game of Shadows, was actually written as a Middle-Grade novel as well, but my publisher decided to put it out as an adult book. Crossovers were popular at the time. However, I’ve always been in the YA space, I think. 

I like that period in your life where you’re just trying to figure out relationships with other people. Having the ability to escape and disappear for a while is so important for kids, too. Being able to let younger readers see something different, to fall into a fantasy world. For me, that’s so rewarding.

The book also features a lot of Celtic Mythology. Where did that interest originate?

While at university, I spent a year abroad in London, and I traveled a lot in Ireland. It’s since become a home away from home. And my family vacations there almost every summer. I have such a passion for graveyards and ruins. So there are a lot of little legends that I fell in love with and put in here. I like to see and touch before I start writing.

Can you talk a bit about your protagonist, Kelcie?

She’s almost the antithesis of the perfect kid. She’s a foster child, tough and can take care of herself, and has a hard time trusting others. She doesn’t have any memories of her past. And when the opportunity presents itself for her to discover where she came from, she’s happy to jump through a mysterious portal to get to this magical school. 

I’m hoping that all the kids can see themselves in the different characters. All of them have just as big of arcs as Kelcie throughout the whole series.

When will the next installment come out?

I’ve finished book two, editing it now. It should come out next year, but they haven’t put out a release date yet. Its hard to write a book and not know if there’s a second book in there. But the publishing team has been really supportive through this journey.

Adding to the pot of magical children’s books doesn’t phase me. Though we find out about the school in this first book, the next books open the story up. More about the war between the two lands in this “other” world. It becomes much more about a much bigger conflict, rather than just a “school story” like Harry Potter.

The story, really, is about these kids ushering in hope. Combating evil. About these two communities and how they have to come back together.


Monday, March 7 at 5 pm: Book Signing with Erika Lewis — Hooray for Books (hooray4books.com)

Buy a copy at The Bookshop.

Konstantin Rega
A graduate of East Anglia’s renowned Creative Writing MA, Konstantin’s been published by the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Poetry Salzburg Review, www.jonimitchell.com, the Republic of Consciousness Prize (etc.). He contributes to Publisher Weekly and Treblezine.
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