Cosy Chat with fantasy author Sandra Hurst: Yketa

Martha Dunlop Book Chat, Fiction Leave a Comment


A mythmaker at heart, Sandra Hurst has been writing poetry, fantasy and science fiction since her school days in England. Hurst moved to Canada in 1980 and was deeply influenced by the wild lands and the indigenous cultures that surrounded her. Y’keta, her first full length novel, is set in a mythical land reminiscent of pre-historic earth. An ancient world where legends walk and the Sky Road offers a way to the stars.

A member of the Alexandra Writers Centre Society, the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association, and The Mythopoeic

Society, Hurst works to build fantasy worlds that allow her readers to join her in exploring the depths of human interaction in a mythical game of ‘what if.’

Her first novel, Y’keta is long-listed for the prestigious Aurora Award, for best Canadian fantasy novel (Young Adult) and the American based RONE award for break out fantasy novel.

She now lives in Calgary, Alberta with her husband and son, both of whom she loves dearly, and has put up for sale on e-bay when their behaviour demanded it.

Welcome, Sandra, it’s lovely to have you in the Story Cave.  Congratulations on your first book-birthday with Yketa!

Y’Keta is based on the Native American Thunderbird legend. Can you tell us a bit about the legend?

The native peoples of the Americas have legends of these half bird,  half human creatures that are lords of the storms and lightning. I was fascinated by one legend that I found where the thunderbird (under many different names and guises) had the ability to take off their feathers and live unnoticed among the people, even marrying and having half human children.

Belonging seems to be a strong theme.  Can you explain a bit about the concept of Kit’na, and the significance of belonging in the story?


During the dark ages in Europe it was common for children of the nobility to be raised away from home. They would leave around seven or eight years old and return, if at all, only when they were full grown. The concept of the Kit’na developed from this custom, but on a more humane, voluntary basis. A young person, between sixteen and eighteen in Y’keta’s world, can make the difficult decision to walk away from everything they had known and attempt to join their destiny with another village. This also echoes the concept of ‘roads’ and ‘walking’ that underlies the series. Each person must choose the road that they are going to walk and take the dangers and joys go with that choice.

For Y’keta this is all new. His people didn’t have the custom of Kit’na, he was forced out. He arrived at Esquialt with no skills, no knowledge, nothing to help him fit in.

In many ways, Y’keta has never belonged anywhere. He is struggling to find his destiny and to escape the one forced on him by his heritage. Esquialt can be a haven for him, if he can learn to belong there.

Siann is the one person to stand up for Y’Keta when he arrives in the village, but he insults her and is consistently confrontational towards her.  What does he see in her that makes him so defensive?

Y’keta’s sister was very much like Siann, born to leadership and determined to be the responsible, grown-up person.  When Netta died, Y’keta knew it was his fault, his flighty nature had put her in danger and he’d lost her. Every time Siann starts talking about being an adult and acting responsibly he feels the shame for Netta’s loss again.


In Y’keta, the Shamans ‘walk the lightning’.  What is the significance of this, and how far does it reflect native American traditions?

The people of Esquialt hold great reverence for the Sky Road, the road that they believe passes between their world and the afterlife where the Elder Stars live. They believe that the Northern Lights and the Milky Way are signs in the sky showing the way to the Road. These Elder Stars speak to the Shamans in the lightning, their voices can be heard in the power coursing through and around the Shaman’s magic.

The magical system in Y’keta is one of my own making, and although it may reflect parts of the Indigenous people’s beliefs, it does so unconsciously. I would never assume to say I know enough about their beliefs to base a world system on them.

What inspired you to write Y’Keta?

The inspiration for Y’keta came out of two unconnected events about four years ago, the first was a casual comment made by a relative on the reactions she dealt with when she came out as LGBTQ in the early 80’s, the other was a long night sitting beside a campfire in Grande Cache, Alberta, watching the Northern Lights dance over the horizon and wondering about the cost of being who you really are.

Are you able to give us any hints about what is coming next in the series?

In the next book the question of belonging goes a step further as Y’keta learns how to deal with the responsibility that comes with having chosen to stay with the People. What happens when the war with the Utlaak comes to their forest? Y’keta ran away from the responsibility in his own village, can he be become a leader in Esquialt during a time of crisis.

What are you working on at the moment?

Right now, I’m working on the edits for a romance novella that will be coming out in May 2018.  This is a huge departure from anything I’ve ever written before and I’ve found it a wonderful challenge.  The novella is called Peace Out and will be a part of the Peace Novella Series available on Amazon and Kindle Unlimited.

Where can people find you online?

Buy Yketa on Amazon here.         

Coming soon to Kobo and B/N.

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