Author Archives: Chris Eboch

About Chris Eboch

My Haunted series follows kids who travel with their parents' ghost hunter TV show and try to help the ghosts.

Interview with Louise Spiegler

Today I’m chatting with Louise Spiegler, author of two great speculative books that aren’t traditional fantasy or science fiction. They’re—well, I’ll let her explain.

CE: Tell us about your books.

The Amethyst Road is a fantasy set in an alternative Pacific Northwest where Serena, a mixed-race girl, must fight hardship and racial hatred to find and reunite her scattered family. In this world, the Gorgios, a settled people, control the power and money. The Yulang are travellers who are regarded with contempt by the Gorgios. Within the Yulang, there are tribal divisions and strict rules and expectations. Serena is cast out of both groups when her sister Willow has a child out of wedlock. She ultimately succeeds in reuniting her family and discovering her own path in life, but not without a lot of struggle and heartbreak. The book was a Junior Library Book Club selection, and a finalist for the Andre Norton Award (Hugo-Nebula award scheme).

The Jewel and the Key (due out August 29) is set in the present day, as the U.S. is embarking on yet another war in the Middle East. Addie, a stage-struck girl, frustrated in her dream of becoming an actress, becomes deeply involved in saving a derelict theater called The Jewel from demolition. Her best friend Whaley has just been expelled from school and is obsessed with fighting in the war. An earthquake and the discovery of an antique mirror unleash forces that jolt Addie out of her time and into 1917 Seattle, just as America enters World War I. Here she finds a world in as much turmoil as her own. However, in this past era she finds fulfillment working at the Jewel in its hey-day, and in her relationship with its owner’s son, Reg, who in his own way is as much a trouble-magnet as Whaley. As she unravels the connection between the two times she discovers that in both, the Jewel is under threat, war is looming and someone she cares about is determined to fight. In the end, only Addie holds the key to saving the Jewel and her friends’ lives.

CE: Your first book, The Amethyst Road, was set in an alternate reality in the Pacific Northwest. Your new book, The Jewel and The Key, involves time travel between two realistic eras. What draws you to this type of almost-realistic speculative fiction?

I’m drawn to the imaginative and the fantastic—there’s nothing I love better than a good ghost story—but am also deeply involved with the world around me. When I was about seven or eight, I believed there was always something magical just out of reach, around the corner, in the other room, in the old house up the hill. You had to creep up on it and surprise it. I still can have that feeling, especially in places which are old and have a lot of history. So that’s the psychological, ‘it all goes back to my childhood’ explanation.

Nonetheless, I find the struggles of the real world completely compelling. I’m fascinated by the nitty-gritty of how people live, what they have in their pockets to pay for their food, what they do when they can’t pay, what stories they tell about themselves, what they dream about, what they do when the world they live in is dangerous or unjust. For me, fantasy needs to engage all of this. In fact, I think it’s the true substance of good fantasy, no matter how much it bends the rules of time and space.

The Jewel and the Key

CE: What inspires you? Do you start with character, plot, situation, or an issue you want to explore?

In The Amethyst Road, character came first. Serena was so real to me from the very start that I could almost feel her tapping me on the shoulder.

With The Jewel and the Key, I had a vague idea of a time travel novel set in a theater, but it never came together until the day the U.S. started bombing Iraq: “Shock and Awe”. I’d gone to demonstrations, talked to people, emailed my Congressional representatives, because I saw us hurtling towards this conflict I was sure could be avoided. I was convinced from the get-go that there were no weapons of mass destruction. And then, to see the bombs falling!

I’ve mentioned that I teach history. If you teach, you’re also learning all the time. So I’d been studying World War I—inspired by Pat Barker’s amazing novel Regeneration—and had developed a real empathy for the generation who fought in the First World War, a war with such horrifying casualties. The appalling sacrifice just didn’t seem justified by the reasons given for fighting. I saw my own students going off to fight. And then, later, I started having students in my class who were veterans, returning with PTSD—what my World War I characters would have called “shell shock”. Not to mention the effect on Iraqi civilians. I felt there was a powerful mirror between World War I and Iraq and I wanted to explore this in fiction.

I wanted the place that was the conduit between the two times to be a theater, because theaters are so magical in and of themselves, and because of the transformative power of the stage. And Seattle has gorgeous old theaters, many of which have been ‘brought back to life’ as the Jewel is in the story. I saw this theme of rebirth as a strong and positive counterweight to the theme of war.

From these starting points, the characters just started leaping out at me: Addie with her intense imagination and intoxication with the theater, her best pal Whaley, so troubled but so good-hearted, wanting to go off to war for all those idealistic reasons. And then the inhabitants of the Jewel in 1917: Reg, that intense and talented boy, who Addie falls for almost at once, Meg, the director, and the fugitive Wobbly, Gustav Peterson, on the run from the law after the Everett Massacre. I knew there would be a connection between two boys, Reg and Whaley, trying to go off and fight two different wars for their own reasons and there would be others seeing the war quite differently, and passionately trying to stop it.

CE:  You started writing The Jewel and the Key shortly after the US invasion of Iraq, but because of publishing delays it’s just now coming out. Did you have to change the story because of the delays? Do you still feel this is a timely story?

As far as I know, we’re still at war. And even if the wars had ended, I would still feel that story was timely. We are a country which has enormous military might, many strategic and economic interests. War is endemic in our history. We need to think about it more, not just accept it as a natural part of our national life. I’d love to see people question if it has to be this way and be willing to stand up and be counted if they think we’re embarking on a war of aggression.

Another plot thread in the book has to with the Wobblies—the raucous, rip-roaring union whose real name was the Industrial Workers of the World. Part of the backdrop of the events at the Jewel in 1917 involve the conflicts between workers in the timber industry here in the Pacific Northwest who wanted to gain bargaining and free speech rights and the corporations and politicians tried their best to stop them. I.W.W. members were demonized, incarcerated and (if foreign-born) deported, in the Red Scares following the war. If you look at what’s happening right now in Wisconsin and other states, where the governors are attempting to strip unions of bargaining rights, the book couldn’t be more timely.

CE: Do you outline? How clearly do you know where your book is going before you start? Do you surprise yourself along the way?

I never outline! Or at least, not until I’m half-way through the book. At that point I might jot some notes for myself about where I’m going. The story is generated on the page. That’s why I end up with so many storylines and have to be ruthless about cutting. My process is messy. But you have to use what works for you. I love it. It’s like rummaging around in an attic full of boxes full of strange and wonderful objects.

CE: The Amethyst Road—your first bookwas a finalist for The Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy. How did that feel?

Amazing! Exciting. I felt incredibly honored.

CE: If you could live in a sci-fi or fantasy world, which would it be? Why?

One in which time travel is possible. Need you ask!?

CE: What would readers find surprising or interesting about you?

I’ve seen a ghost, attended a Korean shaman’s funeral and been arrested for civil disobedience. Even more astonishing, I don’t own a functioning television!

Thanks for visiting The Spectacle! The Jewel and the Key is due out from Clarion Books on August 29 . You can pre-order it now.  Louise is currently constructing a new website. Until it’s functional, you can visit the Amethyst Road site, which will soon have a link on it to the new site.

Leave a comment to be entered in the ARC give-away for The Jewel and the Key. (U.S. and Canada only, please.)

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More on Networking

My brother just mentioned that he covered networking on his blog for screenwriters. My brother (the original writer for Sweet Home Alabama) is a pretty smart guy, so check it out.

How Not to Network.

How to Network.

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Networking

One of the big concerns for authors is networking (often a bigger concern than writing well, which is bad but another topic, covered bluntly in this post).  Networking is important whether you’re trying to find a publisher for your work or readers for a published work, whether you’re publishing traditionally or self-publishing. And today social networking reigns.

Some people love it, some people hate it, many people debate what, if anything, is really successful. Obviously it’s hard to track. How many people have bought one of my books because of seeing my posts here? Any? But that’s not always the point. Social networking is more like real-life making friends. It takes time, it works better with some people than others, and you’re never sure quite where that friendship is going to lead.

I met Joni Sensel through our roles as SCBWI Regional Advisors and she later invited me to join The Spectacle, where we got to know each other better. Since then we’ve shared self-publishing information and exchanged a manuscript critique for proofreading. I’d call that a success, not because I can track hundreds of books sold due to the relationship, but because it’s been fun and interesting and educational.

Then there’s the woman I “met” through the Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Chat Board. I mentioned that my Haunted series had been dropped by the publisher, so I was thinking of self-publishing the fourth book, The Ghost Miner’s Treasure. I was just asking for a bit of feedback on how middle grade e-books were selling, but I got a message from the editor of a small press who is interested in publishing the book. We haven’t signed a contract yet, but we are discussing specifics (and they’re even offering a small advance!). So there is a networking connection that may put money in my bank account.

But did you notice, that wasn’t my goal? Those of you who are long-time followers of this blog are probably here because you enjoy reading about and discussing speculative fiction, not because you want to hear sales pitches. Cynthia Leitich Smith’s blog has thousands of followers not because she occasionally talks about her new books, awards, etc., but because she covers all kinds of children’s book publishing news and features many other authors talking about their new books. It’s like a big, informative cocktail party.

So don’t be afraid of social networking, and don’t network just because authors are supposed to or because it’s the key to riches and fame. And if you’re not a writer — if you’re a librarian or a reader who loves to talk books — we love hearing your voice too.

So get out there and make some friends.

Chris Eboch with the Haunted series

Chris Eboch is writing an article on “How to Use, Not Abuse, Your Social Networks.” Any advice?

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Interview with Sara Grant, part 2

Today we continue the chat with Sara Grant, whose YA dystopian novel DARK PARTIES comes out later this year.

Tell us about your writing journey. How have publishers reacted to your work?

DARK PARTIES started as a short story, which I submitted to the SCBWI British Isles (www.britishscbwi.org) UNDISCOVERED VOICES anthology (www.undiscoveredvoices.com). I let a writer friend and my niece read a very early draft. They both wanted to know what happened next and encouraged me to write the rest of Neva’s story. I told myself that if my story was selected, then I would write the novel. And, luckily it was included in the anthology.

The anthology was sent to UK-based editors and agents who focused on children’s fiction. I received calls and emails from editors and agents who were interested in what they’d read. I signed with an agent from Andrew Nurnberg Associates because we hit it off immediately and within moments I knew she understood my work and would be an amazing partner in the crazy world of publishing. And I was right. We worked together for about a year before she submitted my novel and about five months later I accepted an offer from Little, Brown in the US.

Another benefit of writing dystopian fiction is the ease with which it can cross borders and appeal to readers around the world. I intentionally didn’t identify the country in DARK PARTIES. In my mind, it’s a mixture of my two homelands – the US and UK, but it could also easily represent other countries. DARK PARTIES has sold to the US, UK, Germany, Poland and China.

How about readers? Have you found any special challenges reaching people with this genre?

My book isn’t released in the US until August in the US and October in the UK but I have started to be approached by book bloggers who have read advanced copies of DARK PARTIES. Because DARK PARTIES is my first novel, I must admit it’s a very strange experience to have something you’ve written out in the world. What I’m most fascinated by is watching this story take on a life of its own. It’s very gratifying to have people read something you’ve written and even more exciting to learn what they’ve discovered in the pages of your novel.

DARK PARTIES was published in March in Germany under the title NEVA. I was lucky enough to visit Germany for the launch and attended the Leipzig Bookfair where I got to meet my very first readers. It was an overwhelming experience for this small town girl to be signing copies of her book in a country she had never before visited and being so graciously welcomed by enthusiastic readers.

What are some of your favorite speculative fiction books for young people?

I love The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. The first book in her trilogy is a master class in deftly creating a world but not letting the world take over. She blends a compelling love triangle with page-turning action.

I’ve also recently discovered China Mieville. I’ve heard him speak and read a few of his short stories but he’s definitely an author I intend to read more of and study.

If you could live in a sci-fi or fantasy world, which would it be? Why?

Oh, this is a difficult one. I will have to go with my earliest influences in TV and film – Star Wars and Star Trek: the Next Generation. I suppose I couldn’t resist a trip on NCC 1701-D. I love the idea of being able to be beamed anywhere. I would also spend endless hours on the holodeck. Oh, and of course work with Jean Luc to bring peace, love and justice to the universe!

What would readers find surprising or interesting about you?

If I thought the last question was difficult….hmmmm…I find personal questions like this even more tricky to answer. Am I honest and tell you that I think the most perfect food in the universe is mashed potatoes and I will eat them for any meal? Does that make me sound too bland? It’s true but is it interesting? Maybe I should mention that I can say my alphabet as quickly backwards as forwards. Surprising but is it too trivial?

A relevant fact: I remember writing my first story at eight years old. It was written on notebook paper and tied together with three pieces of string. It was dedicated to Farrah Fawcett Majors. (Um, yeah, I was writing under the influence of an extreme obsession with the TV show Charlie’s Angels at the time.) Too weird?

What if I shared that I quit my job as director of communications for one of the biggest foundation in the US and moved to the UK to be with a British man I met standing in line for a ride at Universal Studios in Florida?

Maybe that’s interesting but it certainly isn’t the whole story. So maybe I’ll just say that I wrote my first story for children when my niece Megan was born and I got my first book deal the year she turned seventeen. Oh, I don’t know. I think I should just stick with something simple so how about I just say: orange is my favorite color.

Thanks, Sara! Best wishes for the success of Dark Matter.

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Interview with Sara Grant

Today I’m chatting with Sara Grant, whose debut novel comes out later this year.

Sara, please tell us about your book.

DARK PARTIES is a dystopian novel for young adults.

Sixteen-year-old Neva was born and raised in an isolated nation ruled by fear, lies and xenophobia. Hundreds of years ago, her country constructed an electrified dome to protect itself from the outside world. What once might have protected now imprisons. Her country is decaying and its citizens are dying. Neva and her friends dream of freedom. A forbidden party leads to complications. Suddenly Neva’s falling for her best friend’s boyfriend, uncovering secrets that threaten to destroy her friends, her family and her country – and discovering the horrifying truth about what happens to The Missing…

DARK PARTIES will be published this year by Little, Brown in the US on August 3, Orion in the UK in on October 20.

Why did you choose to write in this genre? What inspires you?

It may sound strange but I didn’t choose the genre. I found an issue and characters that interested me and I let the story evolve. I’d just moved to London, England, from Indianapolis, Indiana. I was immersed in the paperwork of immigration and uncovering news stories on both side of the Atlantic about who and how many should be allowed to enter a country. That got me thinking….what if a country closed its borders to people and ideas?

This question led to more questions of national and personal identity. The citizens in my fictitious country grew more and more alike. Their population dwindled. How would a teenager rebel in this closed and homogeneous society?

DARK PARTIES started as a short story about Neva and her best friend Sanna who host a party for their friends in the pitch black and secretly plot a rebellion. I was intrigued – some might say obsessed – by this idea. I spent the next three years writing and revising DARK PARTIES.

What inspired you to tell the story of a society cut off from the rest of the world?

As I mentioned above, I had just moved from the US to the UK and wanted to explore issues of national and personal identity. You don’t have to look far to see countries, cities and individuals questioning how to maintain their cultural identity in a global society. What does it mean to be American or British when the cultural make up of your country is changing? I definitely believe that diversity of cultures and ideas makes a country stronger. DARK PARTIES was my way to explore all these issues.

I also think DARK PARTIES was influenced by growing up in a small town where it often felt as if I was living in a fish bowl. Everyone knew everyone else – which has many benefits but if you are a teenager, it makes it next to impossible to rebel.

Are there special challenges in writing speculative fiction? How do you deal with them?

I love the freedom of writing speculative fiction – not only the freedom to imagine the future and make the rules, but also the freedom that I can afford my teen protagonist. In contemporary novels, teens are confined by so many rules, and the adventure is limited when the protagonist can pick up a cell phone, search the internet or turn to a responsible adult to solve problems. In speculative fiction, you can break all the rules, raise the stakes, and allow your teens a greater sense of action and adventure.

But the challenge of writing speculative fiction is also the freedom. You create a world and make the rules, but changing one thing can have a nearly endless rippled effect. For example, closing the borders influences how my characters think, speak and act. It’s exhilarating to have that kind of freedom but also daunting. All you can do is think and analyze and ask questions about this world you’ve created and construct it in a way that’s believable to your readers.

I believe less is better. I have to know more about the world than I share with my readers. It’s tempting to write a lot of ‘look at me’ passages where you share with your readers all the weird and wonderful things you’ve imagined, but I believe the world you’ve created must serve the story. You must give your readers enough detail to navigate the world, but not so much that it detracts from the story.

Great advice! We’ll continue the interview tomorrow, so stop back to learn more about Sara’s writing journey, along with some fun facts about her.

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Chris Eboch Talks With Linda Joy Singleton

Our interviews with each other continue–today Chris Eboch talks with Linda Joy Singleton, author of over 35 books, including THE SEER series, DEAD GIRL trilogy and the March 2012 BURIED from Flux Books. She has a continuing contest on her website plus free short stories: www.LindaJoySingleton.com.

Chris Eboch: The 6th THE SEER came out last year. Is this the end of your psychic series?

Linda Joy Singleton: While THE SEER ends with the 6th book, a favorite character from THE SEER, a Goth girl named Thorn, continues with supernatural mystery in her own book next March. BURIED, A Goth Girl Mystery, follows Thorn to Nevada with her family where she meets a mysterious masked guy and follows psychic vibes from a locket to a killer secret that’s been buried for a long time.

CE: In January your book, DON’T DIE DRAGONFLY, was a free download from Amazon. How did that work out?

LJS: It was a great experiment. It worked well for my books because there are 6 books in THE SEER series, so
offering one of them for free led to the other books gaining more sales. In fact, my publisher is going to do it again with DEAD GIRL WALKING, the first book in my paranormal trilogy. Beginning May 1st, DEAD GIRL WALKING will be free for one month from Amazon, B&N, Kobo and (perhaps) Sony. This will be a one month only offer, and I’m really excited for this opportunity to find new readers. DEAD GIRL WALKING is about a girl who wakes up in the wrong body then tries to find her way back to being herself, making new friendships and gaining insight into others along the way.

CE: What are you working on now?

LJS: I’m writing a futuristic book which is nothing like anything I’ve ever written before. Over 2 years ago I wrote the first 4 pages to this book and continued to think about it until I finally had the time to work on it. Some people will call it dystopian only it’s not a dark look at the future, but more of a question of a girl’s identity and a murder mystery, too. When I finish this book, I’m hoping to write another Thorn book…but that will be up to my publisher. I also have a picture book and middle-grade being submitted. Every day I wake up hoping something wonderful will happen.

Thanks, Linda. Our interview series continues next week!

Chris Eboch with Haunted booksChris Eboch

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Janet Lee Carey givaway winner!

Judy Bodmer won a copy of Janet Lee Carey’s The Dragons of Noor for posting after the interview. Judy, Janet will be in touch.

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Happy Earth Day with Janet Lee Carey

Happy Earth Day! And welcome to day three of Janet Lee Carey’s interview. Yesterday we promised to look into how world building can bring about change on our own planet earth.

CE: What is your process for world-building?

JLC: The fictional world has to be put to the real-world “sludge and roses” test. It should be as wild, beautiful, dangerous and messy as our own world.

Building from the ground up, I use what I know from the natural world, from natural history and human history to create a believable world and complex society. The setting usually plays a large role, challenging the characters in some way. For Stealing Death, I created a country, Zolya, decimated by ongoing drought. I studied drought-ridden Africa where I saw how arid farmlands, thirst, and lack of clean drinking water can shape a whole society. By page one the drought has already pushed my main character, Kipp, to the very edge of existence. We sense the Death Catcher is not far away.

World-building for The Dragons of Noor began with book one The Beast of Noor, but creation/recreation is ongoing. In the second book, Noor is threatened by the loss of the ancient forest and by the storms brought on by the splitting worlds.

CE: For Earth Day you promised to share how world-building for fantasy worlds can lead to change in our own world.

JLC: The Dragons of Noor have an environmental disaster on their hands. The ancient Waytrees retain deep history in their roots and bind the two worlds of Noor and Oth together. The dragons have been guarding the last Waytree forest for generations:

When the Waytree bridges fall,

Roots die binding all to all. ~ Dragons’ Song

When men come to cut down the trees, the two worlds split farther apart. The splitting worlds unleash quakes and horrendous storms, and the old magic sends a wild wind out that steals young children. Miles and Hanna join with the dragons to try and stop the devastation before the two worlds completely split apart.

I did a lot of research about the state of old growth forests to write the tale and was appalled at what I learned. According to Eco Evaluator “Almost 80% of the world’s old-growth forests have been exploited or completely destroyed. . . Each year, about 25 million acres of ancient and endangered forests in the world are being cleared.”

I usually do some kind of charitable outreach with each book release so I already knew I had to link myself and my readers up to some solution. I chose the Nature Conservancy’s Plant A Billion Trees Campaign.

Plant a Billion Trees goal: to restore one billion native trees to Brazil’s highly endangered Atlantic Forest over the next 7 years. “Tropical forests are the lungs of the earth, filtering out ten million tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere every year. Every day these valuable trees help reduce global warming.”

Growing up under towering redwoods, I’ve always been close to trees. I believe trees are vital. Our bodies, hearts, and brains need their silent majesty, green boughs, and shade. Trees are rooted in humankind’s childhood. When we cut them down we sever ourselves from our wild past and chop down our most ancient playground.

I’ve been celebrating Earth Day, educating readers about Plant A Billion Trees on school visits, and donating 10% of my school visit fees to PABT since the launch of The Dragons of Noor in Oct. 2010. Together with readers we’ve planted 250 trees in the Brazilian Atlantic Forest! We’ll continue our efforts through next school year after the paperback comes out Oct 2011.

Blog readers here who want to help restore the forest can swing by the website page or go directly to Plant a Billion Trees campaign.

Janet under a Banyan tree

~Feel the ground beneath your feet as you walk. Heart to root; remember the ones who hold you up.~ Evver the tree spirit of Noor

Thanks, Janet! Readers, post a comment to be entered in a drawing for The Dragons of Noor, the sequel to The Beasts of Noor.

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Janet Lee Carey interview: part 2

Welcome to day two of Janet Lee Carey’s interview. Remember to post a comment tomorrow to be entered in a drawing for The Dragons of Noor, the sequel to The Beasts of Noor.

CE: What are your writing days like?

JLC: I start my writing day as if I’m going on a climb and I need to bring provisions with me: a thermos of hot tea on cold days, plenty of water on warm ones. I daydream and write in my journal a while to get the ideas flowing. Soon I light the candle in my Aladdin’s lamp, switch on the computer, and journey into the story world. I’m lost in there until lunch time when I emerge ready for a bite to eat and a walk. After the walk, I’m back to the writing. Of course this is my “ideal” day; I also spend a lot of time with the busyness of the business, all writers do, but I begin to feel story-starved if I stay away from writing for too long.

Janet Lee Carey

CE: Tell us how you create and develop your characters.

JLC: I create the character’s past before they step into the story so I know his/her loves, losses, longings and secrets. I highly recommend stealing acting exercise and treasure from other art forms to help with character creation. Movement can really help you get into character.

I loved reading The Creative Habit: Learn it and use it for Life by the famous choreographer, Twyla Tharp. She got me to move into character. I began to do what I call Positions. Simply put, this is moving about until I find three body positions for my character: a First Position for the opening of the story, Second Position for the middle, and Third for the end.

For example I ask, “What body position expresses Hanna at the beginning of The Dragons of Noor?” I dance until I find it. Hanna stands with her right foot forward, left foot back, right arm extended forward with an open hand, left arm extended back with an open hand (something close to warrior pose in yoga).

Hanna is pulled in two directions; by the need to stay home and protect her younger brother (left foot and left arm back), and the need to rescue the Wind-taken children (right foot and right hand forward). Once her little brother is Wind-taken, she is launched forward into the heart of the story. Getting out of my writing chair and moving to discover the Three Positions helps me to get inside the character’s body and emotion.

Come back tomorrow for the Earth Day interview. What do the azure trees of Noor and the endangered rainforest of Brazil have in common? Tomorrow we look at how world building can bring about change on our own planet earth.

CE: And don’t forget the book giveaway! Comment on tomorrow’s post to enter.

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Janet Lee Carey Interview

Today I’m chatting with Janet Lee Carey, the author of a seven fabulous middle grade and young adult novels, including Dragon’s Keep (starred reviews in Booklist and School Library Journal) Stealing Death, and the Beasts of Noor series. Janet writes contemporary and historical fiction, but has most recently received critical acclaim for her fantasy novels. School Library Journal said, “Verdict: This is quite simply fantasy at its best–original, beautiful, amazing, and deeply moving.”

Janet will be visiting The Spectacle for three days, culminating in a special Earth Day post on Friday. We are also doing a book giveaway, so stop by every day, but most of all be sure to post a comment on Friday to be entered in a drawing for The Dragons of Noor, the sequel to The Beasts of Noor.

CE: Tell us about your book.

JLC: The Dragons of Noor is based on brokenness—two worlds breaking apart, the breaking of a dragon treaty that protected the Waytree forest, the breaking of a family when the youngest child is stolen by the wind . . . It’s my seventh novel for young readers, and the second Noor book. In this tale Miles and Hanna try to “bind what’s broken”. They join the dragons’ fight to save the Waytree forest—the ancient trees that bind the two worlds. If they fail and the last Waytrees fall, the worlds will split in two. All magic will go out of Noor, and their little brother will be forever lost.

The Dragons of Noor Teens Read Too Gold Star Award Winner

CE: Why did you choose to write in this genre? What inspires you?

JLC: People say my fantasy reads like novelized fairytales, though the tales are my own. I feel as if the genre chose me. When I’m lucky, a story idea hits me like cupid’s arrow. I’m shot with love and wonder and go into what my family calls a “Janet trance.” This happened with The Dragons of Noor. The idea started with a daydream of a Wild Wind blowing children up into the sky and over the sea like windblown leaves. I thought I’d write a fairytale about it, but, as usual, the story became a full-length novel.

Inspiration to write fantasy came early. As a child I climbed my “reading tree” with favorite books. In the branches I was swept into Narnia, Middle-earth, and other magical lands. I loved going on these journeys and wanted to grow up booking passage to faraway places for other young readers. I’m continually inspired by Ursula K. LeGuin, Juliet Marillier, Patricia A. McKillip, Kristin Cashore, Robin McKinley, Franny Billingsley…. I could go on and on.

CE: Are there special challenges in writing speculative fiction? How do you deal with them?

JLC: The most difficult challenge is to make the story fresh. A poet faces the challenge to write an original love poem. Fantasy writers are challenged to do something new with archetypal beings like dragons.

I enjoy the challenge to make my dragons fresh. Dragons are like nature unleashed. If a hurricane were an animal, it would be a dragon. Their age and size, their very otherness puts me in awe. Knowing they are both keenly intelligent and wild animals, I spend as much time and care on the dragons’ personalities as I do on my human characters.

CE: How have publishers reacted to your work?

JLC: After writing realistic fiction, I had a hard time breaking into fantasy, but I’m bullheaded, I kept persisting. I fought through rejection like the prince cuts through the brambles in Sleeping Beauty, writing and resending until my first fantasy novel was accepted. I still feel exhilarated about it as if I’ve stormed the castle to awaken my childhood dreams!

CE: How about readers? Have you found any special challenges reaching people with this genre?

JLC: I meet readers on school visits, on Facebook and through the contact email on my website. I try to answer all my reader fan mail and email. Last year a teen boy wrote me saying: “I want to thank you for changing the way I look at my life. After I read Dragon’s Keep, I thought about myself in a different way. . . . Dragon’s Keep inspired me to make a difference in my life.”

CE: If you could live in a sci-fi or fantasy world not of your own making, which would it be? Why?

JLC: Middle-earth hands down, but Middle-earth before the ring is found, or after Sauron of Mordor is vanquished. Why? Because Tolkien’s world is richly imagined, deeply green, both magical and practical, and humans are but a part of a wild tapestry of folk.

CE: What would readers find surprising or interesting about you?

JLC: I’m terrified of spiders. I used to make my older brothers suck them up with the vacuum. Then I started to fear the vacuum. What if the spiders were all in there planning a counterattack?

CE: Sounds like a writer’s imagination! Readers, stop by tomorrow for part 2. If you have questions for Janet, please post them in the comments.

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