Giveaways Inspirations and Influences

BREATH Blog Tour (& Giveaway): Jackie Morse Kessler on Inspirations & Influences

“Inspirations and Influences” is a series of articles in which we invite authors to write guest posts talking about their…well, Inspirations and Influences. The cool thing is that the writers are given free rein so they can go wild and write about anything they want. It can be about their new book, series or about their career as a whole.

Today, we are thrilled to once again welcome Jackie Morse Kessler as part of the Blog Tour for her new release Breath, the fourth, and final, book in the Riders of the Apocalypse series.


Please give it up for Jackie!

Understanding Death

By Jackie Morse Kessler

BREATH is the fourth and final book in the Riders of the Apocalypse series. It’s the dual tale of a teenager named Xander Atwood, who has a secret that’s preying on him, and Death, who is suicidal. When the two meet, what happens next will change the world. (Cue music!) Even though the first three books (HUNGER; RAGE; LOSS) can be read as standalone novels, that doesn’t work as well with BREATH–mostly because part of the challenge of this book was answering the major questions raised in the first three stories. (But if you’re the sort of rebellious reader who has to go straight to the last page before page one, maybe you’d enjoy reading this first. Knock yourself out!)

Before I sat down to write the book, I started writing out all the questions the story needed to answer – one Post-It Note per question – and putting them on my external monitor (which is now, sadly, a paperweight). That monitor was littered with notes. Oy, the notes. As I wrote, once I answered a question, I crumpled up that note (and pitched it on the floor; I am not an Aim For The Basket sort of author). The two biggest questions BREATH needed to answer were: How did the Riders of the Apocalypse come about (and really: why should teenagers wield Phenomenal Cosmic Power)? And, along with that: Who, or what, is Death?

The answers to both are intertwined in Death’s tale.

When I first created the character for HUNGER, Death sort of pulled an Athena — he sprang fully formed right out of my head. I had no idea why Death was a dead ringer (ha!) for a certain dead rock star, but I ran with it. Since then, I’ve come up with the reason, as well as where Death comes from and what his purpose truly is.

Discovering the origin of Death was a long process, but it kicked off with a song. Specifically, with Slipknot’s Snuff. There’s one line in the lyrics that hit me hard: “Angels lie to keep control.”

I heard that, and I was like OMG THAT’S ABOUT DEATH. I had no idea **how** it was about Death, but that’s the fun part of creating stuff: figuring it all out. Other songs wound up influencing Death’s origin — quite a bit of Nirvana (which, if you’ve read the first three books, should be no surprise), especially “Oh Me” from the Unplugged In New York album, plus Breaking Benjamin’s “I Will Not Bow.” To this day, whenever I hear Nirvana on the radio, I’m like, “Hey, it’s my Muse!”

Death’s story had many other influences — and some readers might notice when I give those sources a hat tip. There was a big one in LOSS, which some folks got: When Billy, that book’s protagonist, is about to take a ride with Death, the pale steed (Death’s horse) shifts its form into a yellow car, with the license plate MORTIS PRIME. Even though Billy says, “Your horse is a Transformer” (and Death corrects him and says it’s a transmogrifier), that was actually a nod to Piers Anthony’s Incarnations of Immortality series — specifically, On A Pale Horse, in which Death has a horse that’s also a car, and its name is Mortis. Other influences include Good Omens (yeah, shock, I’m a Neil Gaiman fan), The Truman Show, and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.

On a Pale Horse Good Omens

A huge influence for Death’s story, and for much of BREATH itself, is depression. Each of the Riders books takes a look at one (or more) issues that teens (and others) go through; some of those issues are more personal to me than others. When I wrote BREATH, I was battling depression at the time. And not “I’m so blue, woe is me, where’s the chocolate?” sort of sadness, but rocking-on-the-floor, having-trouble-getting-out-of-bed, what’s-the-point depression. I’d hit the wall in early 2012, and it took the better part of the year for me to get back on my feet. I’m grateful to my Loving Husband and my close friends and family who all were right there, not only helping pull me out of the hole I was in but then filling up that hole so that I couldn’t fall back into it. I don’t think I could have done it on my own. I’m lucky that I had such an amazing support system. A portion of proceeds of the Riders books goes to charity; for BREATH, as with RAGE, that charity is To Write Love On Her Arms. If you or someone you know is suffering from depression and suicidal thoughts, TWLOHA can help you find the support you need. You don’t have to do it alone. (And hey, if you wind up buying BREATH or the other Riders books, thank you for your part in giving to charity!)

And there’s another pop culture influence for BREATH that I can’t name because it’s a spoiler. Sorry! If you want to know what it is, email me. 🙂


Thank you, Jackie.

And now, for the giveaway.


Hunger Breath

One lucky commenter below will win a set of The Riders of the Apocalypse series with HUNGER, RAGE, LOSS and BREATH. The contest is open to addresses in the US and Canada only, and will run until Saturday, April 27 at 12:01am EST. To enter, use the form below. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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  • Allison
    April 19, 2013 at 4:08 am

    I have not had the pleasure of reading these books–in fact, I’d never even heard of them before! they look great, though

  • Kaethe
    April 19, 2013 at 8:52 am

    Wow, it seems like only a week ago I put Hunger on my list to read, and already Breath is out. I haven’t read any of these yet, but I’m looking forward to all of them enormously.

  • erinf1
    April 19, 2013 at 9:06 am

    Don’t have one b/c I haven’t read this series yet 🙁 But it’s on the top of my “want” list!!! Thanks for sharing!

  • Courtney
    April 19, 2013 at 9:24 am

    I’ve been waiting to read all four at month because I’m a huge fan of Jackie, and all things Horsemen of the Apocalypse. …too strange? Hope not!

  • Courtney
    April 19, 2013 at 9:25 am

    *at once this month

    I can’t even type or think correctly this morning. :-/

  • April
    April 19, 2013 at 9:47 am

    I haven’t read any of them but I have read Death on a Pale Horse as well as Good Omens which makes me believe I’d enjoy the series.

  • Elizabeth
    April 19, 2013 at 9:55 am

    How can you say no to an author who’s a Good Omens fan?

    I haven’t read any of the books, but I put Hunger on my TBR list after I read a review for Breath. Can’t wait to dive into this serious.

  • Linda W
    April 19, 2013 at 10:01 am

    Unfortunately, I haven’t yet read this series, but HUNGER is on my list. The whole series sounds phenomenal.

  • Matthew
    April 19, 2013 at 10:34 am

    I’ve been wanting to read this series — Hunger showed up on the Sequoyah List last year and many of the YA books on the list are excellent.

  • Kate K.F.
    April 19, 2013 at 10:35 am

    I just finished a reread of Good Omens and as a youth librarian, the idea of these books sounds fascinating. Thanks for the chance to read them.

  • Superbwg
    April 19, 2013 at 11:17 am

    I’m excited to read all of them

  • Vanessa
    April 19, 2013 at 11:45 am

    I haven’t started the series because I can’t stand to read a series that isn’t done and have to wait for the next book to come out. I’m a book-a-day kind of a girl. I need my series to be complete. But I can’t wait to start it.

  • Heidi
    April 19, 2013 at 11:51 am

    I haven’t yet started this series as I often wait till they’re complete to start, but I’m very excited for it to finish up. I’m a huge fan of Death as a protagonist, so I’m most looking forward to Breathe (love both On a Pale Horse and Good Omens!), and I’m intrigued by the premise of this series as a whole.

  • Layla Messner
    April 19, 2013 at 12:46 pm

    I love these books, and I’m really excited for BREATH. To Write Love On Her Arms is a great org.

  • Layla Messner
    April 19, 2013 at 12:47 pm

    Oh, I didn’t answer the question. My favorite so far was RAGE. But I suspect I’m going to like BREATH even more.

  • Ellie
    April 19, 2013 at 1:02 pm

    I haven’t read this series yet, but I’ve wanted to for a long time. The concept is such a good idea!

  • Justine
    April 19, 2013 at 2:40 pm

    I haven’t read any of the books so far.

  • Anna
    April 19, 2013 at 3:16 pm

    I read Hunger ages ago and loved it, but the other books have been on my TBR. Now that the series is finishing up though I’ll have to grab the last three!

  • sarac
    April 19, 2013 at 4:21 pm

    Haven’t read any of them yet.

  • Megan S.
    April 19, 2013 at 4:53 pm

    Hunger is my favorite.

  • Kate
    April 19, 2013 at 5:09 pm

    I haven’t heard of this series, but it looks interesting.

  • britbc
    April 19, 2013 at 5:24 pm

    Hunger, the food obsession was spot-on

  • Marie-Claude
    April 19, 2013 at 7:08 pm

    Hunger is still me favorite one!!!

  • Bethany C.
    April 19, 2013 at 7:13 pm

    I’ve only read Hunger so far, so…Hunger? I’m sure the rest are just as good.

  • bn100
    April 19, 2013 at 8:13 pm

    haven’t read the series yet

  • HollyB
    April 19, 2013 at 10:13 pm

    Ahh, what a question… sadly, as I’ve stated on several of Jackie’s other tour stops (yes, I’ve been stalking her and these books), I (cough)haven’t read any of the books yet(cough). I know, I know!! I want to so badly, though, believe me. See, I’m pretty well beyond the standard target age group for YA books, but I got really into reading them at the beginning of last year. I’d pretty well skipped over YA when I actually WAS in the target age range, mostly because we did NOT have books like THESE way back then!! (Okay, and to some degree also because I wanted to grow up way too quickly :)) But at least I’ve discovered a love for YA now, right? And in the past year I’ve heard great things about this series, but hadn’t been able to start it yet. I’m very excited to do so, though, and I’m pretty sure I’ll read the 4 books back to back because that’s just how I am!

    Anyway, this was another great guest post, Jackie! Thanks to out and the publisher for the chance to win a set! And thanks to the Book Smugglers for hosting. I’ve enjoyed following the tour!

  • Margay
    April 19, 2013 at 10:48 pm

    I haven’t read any yet.

  • Raina
    April 20, 2013 at 12:49 am

    I haven’t read any yet, but I’ve been meaning to because it’s such an interesting premise and I’m a sucker for the pretty covers 🙂

  • donnas
    April 20, 2013 at 12:50 am

    I havent had the chance to start it yet, so favorite is still TBD.

  • Texas Book Lover
    April 20, 2013 at 9:55 am

    Honestly I have not read this series yet…so I do not have an answer to this question…YET!

  • Linda Townsend
    April 20, 2013 at 5:13 pm

    I’ve not had the pleasure of reading any of these books… so I don’t know which one would be my fav. Thanks for the contest!

  • JackieBCentralTexas (JackieBurris)
    April 20, 2013 at 5:37 pm

    I am so behind and really enjoyed this informative post and thanks to BS and author fir this fabulous giveaway if a wonderful series! 🙂

  • Victoria Zumbrum
    April 20, 2013 at 8:29 pm

    I havent read the series yet but I have wanted to. Thanks for the awesome giveaway.

  • Anonymous
    April 20, 2013 at 11:05 pm

    My favorite is probably Hunger, because I read it just coming from a rather harrowing health class unit on anorexia. I understood the effects all too well, but none of the videos and photos gave an idea of why. Hunger, along with telling a good story, helped give me that.

  • Hannah H
    April 20, 2013 at 11:05 pm

    Sorry- that anon’s me

  • Lexi
    April 21, 2013 at 9:16 am

    I have not read any yet, but they look interesting.

  • Tessa
    April 21, 2013 at 12:00 pm

    i havent read them yet but they are my my to read list…i just have waaaay to many books on said list 😐

  • Betty McBroom
    April 21, 2013 at 6:44 pm

    A full set!! Drool drool drool! Jackie Morse Kessler has a creative mind and writing hand!

  • Anita Yancey
    April 22, 2013 at 10:45 am

    I haven’t read any of this series yet. But I would love to read them. Thanks for having the giveaway.

  • Anonymous
    April 22, 2013 at 11:10 am

    Yes, I am also in the “I haven’t read them yet” camp, but with Nirvana as a muse, and Neil Gaiman as an influence, they have jumped to the top of my TBR list!

  • Andrea
    April 22, 2013 at 11:46 am

    I actually haven’t read these yet, either! Shame on me. They are at the top of my want list, especially now that the series is finished and I’ve seen the excellent list of influences!

  • Emma
    April 22, 2013 at 3:15 pm

    I haven’t read these yet, but they look great!

  • Darith L.
    April 23, 2013 at 9:13 pm

    I haven’t read any, but I hope to read it. This story has Death as a character? That’s new.

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