Today I am interviewing Brandi Elise Szeker, author of the new novel, The Pawn and The Puppet, first book in The Pawn and The Puppet series!
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DJ: Hey Brandi! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview!
For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?
Brand Elise Szeker: Thanks for having me, DJ. I’m 27, for the last five years I’ve worked as a social media marketing specialist, but have been writing The Pawn and The Puppet for the last ten years (on and off, of course.) And I have four rescue dogs that are my babies, Louis, Stella, Cali, and Nova.
DJ: What is The Pawn and The Puppet about?
Brandi: The Pawn and The Puppet is a New Adult Dystopian Romance set in a problematic, tortuous asylum. We follow our main character, Skylenna, as she tries to change the ways of the asylum treatments (simulated drownings, chair binding, electroconvulsive therapy.) and tries to understand the patients and their traumatic pasts. But she’s given the ultimate challenge, the thirteenth room. The most dangerous patient in the asylum, with a split personality, genius mind, and a master manipulator.
During her time getting to know him, she learns of the mystery of his sinister past, and realizes he might know more about her than she does.
This book has extensive trigger warnings. Please take them seriously as they are not suitable for anyone under the age of eighteen.
DJ: What were some of your influences for The Pawn and The Puppet and the series?
Brandi: The show Criminal Minds played a big part in the complexity of each case. I did thorough research for asylum cases that would match the extremity of the asylum, but I was originally drawn to the idea by the cases in Criminal Minds.
I also loved the dystopian world of The Hunger Games and Divergent, hence, why I pictured Theo James when I wrote Patient Thirteen. LOL
DJ: Could you briefly tell us a little about your main characters? Do they have any cool quirks or habits, or any reason why readers with sympathize with them?
Brandi: Skylenna is a nineteen year old girl who is new to the corrupt city and asylum. She has a special layer of compassion that gives her a different perspective to the patients due to her own childhood full of trauma and abuse. This gives her an edge with connecting to each patient and the infamous Patient Thirteen.
Dessin (Patient Thirteen) is portrayed as a morally grey, highly dangerous, unstable villain at first. But as we get to know him, we understand that he puts up a vindictive, vicious front as a way to survive the asylum and the outside forces that wish to control him. He is by no means a one trick pony. This man has a soft spot for Skylenna, is protective, and completely fascinated with her and her past. His secrets dating back to his childhood will shed light on why he is the way he is.
DJ: Aside from the main characters in the story, who is a favorite side character or a character with a smaller role in the story? Why?
Brandi: Chekiss was my favorite to write. He is a father figure to our main character, and his backstory, trauma, and fierce strength when enduring each treatment (simulated drowning) is absolutely heartbreaking but made me love him so much more. His role in the series is one that readers will fall in love with.
DJ: What is the world and setting of the The Pawn and The Puppet series like?
Brandi: This is an eerily corrupt society. The government controls what a woman eats, how she looks, her vanity, and how she cares for herself. It’s a strict, dictating censorship. So much so, that if a woman slightly strays from her dietary restrictions, she is admitted to the female ward of the asylum.
DJ: What was your favorite part about writing The Pawn and The Puppet?
Brandi: The love story. Finding that soul-shattering, deep, unbreakable connection in a dark, hopeless place. Skylenna and Dessin have a story full of plot twists, mystery, and “burn down the world for them” themes that will keep the readers desperate to find out how it ends. I’ve had to plan every detail and layer them in the first book so when you finally discover the truth, you’ll find easter eggs in each book hinting to it.
DJ: What do you think readers will be talking about most once they finish it?
Brandi: The cliffhanger. Haha! I originally was going to go the traditional route, and end the book on a peaceful note. But I love cliffhangers, and each book has so many plot twists and jaw dropping moments, that cliff hangers seemed like the only way to go.
DJ: Did you have a particular goal when you began the The Pawn and The Puppet series? The Pawn and The Puppet is only the first book, but is there a particular message or meaning you are hoping to get across when readers finish it? Or is there perhaps a certain theme to the story?
Brandi: There were a couple important themes that I laced in there. First, it was the vanity that controlled the society. It’s symbolic to how we live in our modern world today. Women are very much ruled by our need to look the way that is trending on social media, with celebrities or models. Extreme diets, plastic surgery, makeup, fashion, etc. Now, there’s nothing wrong with having control over our own bodies and looking the way we want to look, but these unrealistic expectations give women a horrible self-image. We obsess over our weight, photoshopping our pictures, looking at instagram models and feeling bad that we don’t have that flat stomach to show off like they do.
The next theme is how the asylum and the society misunderstand anyone that is different or those who suffer from great trauma and have to be locked away. Instead of using compassion and love to try and understand them, they torture them, shun them, and hide them away like an ugly truth.
This is very symbolic also for our modern society and how many people view mental health. If more people chose to understand anxiety and depression, they wouldn’t jump to judge and cyber bully content creators. Cancel culture is increases depression to a dangerous suicidal rate. It’s easy for people to attack, form a mob, and tear people to pieces online rather than choose to understand, and acknowledge… We should NEVER judge someone because you don’t know what trauma’s they’ve faced or are currently facing.
DJ: When I read, I love to collect quotes – whether it be because they’re funny, foodie, or have a personal meaning to me. Do you have any favorite quotes from The Pawn and The Puppet that you can share with us?
Brandi: Here are a couple of my favorites;
“I wouldn’t have let you burn alone.”
Soulmates. “Because once you find them; there is no life without them.”
“I couldn’t save her, but I could save you.”
DJ: Now that The Pawn and The Puppet is released, what is next for you?
Brandi: I’m currently working on the third book in the series full-time. I left my 9-5 job to dedicate all my time to this career.
DJ: Where can readers find out more about you?
DJ: Before we go, what is that one thing you’d like readers to know about The Pawn and The Puppet and The Pawn and The Puppet series that we haven’t talked about yet?
Brandi: This book is incredibly dark and problematic. It in no way reflects my personal beliefs. And please know, each patient case and trauma backstory is inspired by many asylum cases throughout history. If that is troubling or upsetting, do not read. I am currently working to continue educating myself on proper representation for the rest of the series. There is now a revised edition of The Pawn and The Puppet available on all platforms.
DJ: Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to answer my questions!
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***The Pawn and The Puppet is available TODAY!!!***
Buy the Book:
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About the Book:
The Emerald Lake Asylum is not a place most desire to go. Nineteen year old, Skylenna, however, made a promise that she must keep. Once hired, she only has one purpose—prove to the council that barbaric treatments, such as waterboarding, scalding baths, and beatings, are no longer the answer. But that all takes pause when she meets the source of terror in the asylum. A patient with a split personality—on one side, he’s the bloodthirsty genius, Dessin. On the other, a hidden persona that is buried deep in his subconscious.
When Dessin is caught in an attempted cell break, he faces execution if Skylenna can’t bring out his core personality and reveal his humanity. She has ninety days to save his life, and the only way to do that is to let him consume her into his world of moves, counter-moves, and master puppeteering.
With each passing day, their bond deepens, a forbidden attraction forming against her best judgments. Little by little, Skylenna uncovers the sinister secrets of his past that turned him into the monster everyone else fears. And Dessin proves to have one weakness despite the terrifying, indestructible persona he presents to the world: her.
About the Author:
Brandi Elise Szeker is the debut author of The Pawn and The Puppet, a new adult dystopian romance set in an asylum.
Though most know Brandi as a content creator on BookTok, her heart and soul have always been with the stories that live inside her mind. It all started in her backyard, the place she would dream up new worlds. And one day, she’d write about them, filling their lands with epic characters and wondrous plots.
When she’s not writing about soul-shattering love or reading about it, you can find her binge-watching TV shows with her mom; her first inspiration that started it all