Interview with Katelyn Detweiler, author of Transcendent

Transcendent by Katelyn Detweiler

Published on October 4, 2016
by Viking BFYR

Synopsis from Goodreads: When terrorists bomb Disney World, seventeen-year-old Iris Spero is as horrified as anyone else. 

Then a stranger shows up on her stoop in Brooklyn, revealing a secret about the mysterious circumstances surrounding Iris’s birth, and throwing her entire identity into question. Everything she thought she knew about her parents, and about herself, is a lie. 

Suddenly, the press is confronting Iris with the wild notion that she might be “special.” More than just special: she could be the miracle the world now so desperately needs. 

Families all across the grieving nation are pinning their hopes on Iris like she is some kind of saint or savior. She’s no longer sure whom she can trust—except for Zane, a homeless boy who long ago abandoned any kind of hope. 

She knows she can’t possibly be the glorified person everyone wants her to be… but she also can’t go back to being safe and anonymous. When nobody knows her but they all want a piece of her, who is Iris Spero now? And how can she—one teenage girl—possibly heal a broken world?

Today, I'm welcoming author Katelyn Detweiler to the blog to answer a few questions about her  brand new book and its companion book.


IMMACULATE, your first book, was set years before TRANSCENDENT and features some of the same characters. Was it always your plan to write this second book? How would you describe the connection between these two stories?


I think I decided about halfway through my first draft of IMMACULATE that I wanted to write a second book—that I wanted to tell the story of the baby born at the end, set in the future during her own teenage years. That there should be more (much more!) to the story than any one book could do on its own. 

At the same time, I wanted each story to be complete and standalone. You can read the books in either order; chronologically, IMMACULATE takes place before TRANSCENDENT, but one could also read TRANSCENDENT first and then turn to IMMACULATE as a prequel. (I happen to love prequels!)


I agree! I haven't (yet) read IMMACULATE but I never felt confused -- you did a great job catching the reader up on the backstory. 

Next question: I love books with religious themes, but each time I review one I’m reminded that some readers are wary of them.  What drew you to write this type of story and how did you decide how to approach it as a writer?


Yes, it’s true—there are definitely some wary readers out there! They assume that, because of these themes, the book is “religious.” That there’s a message I’m trying to preach. 

But I don’t see it as being this kind of book, not at all, especially because I personally don’t consider myself to be a “religious” person. Spiritual, definitely. I like to think that there’s something more, something bigger than our everyday existence, even if I don’t necessarily follow any one organized path. 

And that’s why I was drawn to this story—this big “what if” that asks readers to step outside the black and white facts of science to embrace something that maybe can’t be explained, but still exists nonetheless. I mean… I personally love the idea of a miracle being possible. (Who wouldn’t want that?!)


I didn't find your book preachy at all, and I love the idea that miracles are possible! I have one last question for you. 

Many YA characters learn they have special powers or a magical backstory, but it’s rare to see that type of character in a book that isn’t fantasy, paranormal or sci-fi. And I think many writers feel that everything in their story world must be logical and fully explained. 

Can you talk a little bit about the interplay of the real vs. the inexplicable in your work?


This is such a great question. I love reading stories that are contemporary with just a slight twist of magic or impossibility, something that forces a suspension of disbelief. I knew from the beginning that this wouldn’t be a story with demons and angels and hellfire. 

This would be a story in a world exactly like ours, with a protagonist exactly like you, or your best friend—someone you know, someone you can connect with, believe in, root for. I ultimately leave it up to readers to decide: is there or isn’t there something extraordinary going on? 
Besides the mysterious circumstances surrounding Iris’s birth, are there other touches of magic happening? I love as a writer to leave certain things up in the air. Too much explanation can get in the way of our imaginations!

Jen: Thanks so much for answering my questions! I look forward to reading IMMACULATE!


  1. That was a fun post! I want to read both books!

  2. Great interview. I am with you Jen, I love when an author is good at providing enough backstory to give the reader the chance to feel caught up and not confused.


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