Chris Astor is a man in his early forties who is going through the toughest stretch of his life.
Becky is Chris’s fourteen-year-old daughter, a girl who has overcome enormous challenges to become a vibrant, vital young woman – and now faces her greatest obstacle yet.
Miea is the young queen of a fantasy land that Becky and Chris created when Becky was little, a fantasy land that has developed a life of its own and now finds itself in terrible, maybe fatal trouble.
Together, Chris, Becky, and Miea need to uncover a secret. The secret to why their worlds have joined at this moment. The secret to their purpose. The secret to the future. It is a secret that, when discovered, will redefine imagination for all of them.
Blue is a novel of trial and hope, invention and rediscovery. It might very well take you someplace you never knew existed.
This is the premise behind Lou Aronica’s new young adult fantasy novel, Blue (The Fiction Studio).
Aronica is the author of a number of works of fiction and nonfiction including the New York Times bestseller, The Element (written with Ken Robinson) and the national bestseller, The Culture Code. Former Publisher of Avon Books and Deputy Publisher of Bantam Books, he has been associated with book publishing for more than three decades. In addition to his writing, he is currently Publisher of two small independent publishing imprints, The Story Plant and The Fiction Studio.
We are honored to interview him today to find out more about his focus, his doubts and the publishing business.
Thank you for this interview, Lou. Can you tell us a little about yourself and how long you’ve been writing?
I published my first book, the novel The Forever Year, in 2003. However, by that point, I’d been hanging around professional writers for a very long time. It had always been my ambition to be a writer, so I took a job in book publishing because I thought it would help me understand the industry better. I wound up falling in love with that side of the business, so much so that I set aside my writing ambitions for a couple of decades. Over this time, I got to work with an enormous range of huge creative talents and this made me more inspired to write, even though I shied away from doing so for the longest time.
Can you tell us briefly what your book is about?
Blue is a contemporary fantasy novel about three people facing life-changing challenges. Chris Astor is a man in his early forties who is going through the toughest stretch of his life, feeling disconnected from both his home and work life. Becky is Chris’s fourteen-year-old daughter, a girl who overcame enormous obstacles to become a vibrant, vital young woman but now faces her greatest obstacle yet. Miea is the young queen of a fantasy land that Becky and Chris created when Becky was little, a fantasy land that has developed a life of its own and now finds itself in terrible, and maybe fatal trouble. Together, Chris, Becky, and Miea need to uncover the secret to why their worlds have joined at this moment. The answer will reshape their worlds.
Who is your intended audience? Have you been able to crossover into other audiences as well?
I think Blue is first and foremost a novel of character, so the intended audience is the general fiction audience, people who might read writers like Alice Hoffman or Jodi Picoult. Clearly, though, there’s a significant fantasy component, so readers who like writers like Ray Bradbury and Neil Gaiman might respond to it. Then there’s the matter of one of the three main characters being a teenager, which I think opens the novel to teen fantasy readers as well.
Why did you choose your particular genre?
My first two novels were straight-up relationship novels. The Forever Year was a father-son story, and Flash and Dazzle was about male friendship. Blue is much more ambitious than either of them and I felt I needed a larger landscape to work with. By employing fantasy, I was able to use much bigger metaphors. By having Chris and Becky imagine a fantasy world that comes to life, I was able to illustrate the possibilities of imagination and the power of the love between a father and daughter. By giving Miea the challenges she faces in the fantasy world, I was able to symbolize some of the enormous hurdles people face in their lives. The reason I most wanted to use fantasy in this novel, though, was that I wanted a sense of wonder to suffuse the work. Fantasy allows the wondrous to feel real.
Do you ever experience self-doubts with your work?
Regularly. Often daily. I’ve come to accept that I’m rarely satisfied with what I’m writing at a given moment. What still vexes me is when I go back to polish something and see massive flaws in it. At that part, I start imagining that the fixes I’m making are just adding more flaws and then I start wondering if a single person will ever like a word I’ve written. I do get over this eventually; Blue is my sixteenth published book.
Where do you write? Do you have a favorite place?
I have an office that I’ve set up with all the writing comforts I need: books lining two walls, pictures of my wife and kids, meaningful trinkets, a couch for lying down when I need to wrestle with an idea, and a fireplace that I never light but still enjoy having.
What kind of research did you have to do during the writing process?
The most intensive research went into plant blights. There’s a blight in Tamarisk (the fantasy world) that puts the entire land at risk. I needed to research how these things work and then adapt them for the conditions in Tamarisk. The other significant area of research was in plant names. I decided that I wanted each character’s name to be based on a plant that represented that character. For example, Chris is named after Helichrysum bracteatum, which is both everlasting and very brittle. Becky is named after Rudbeckia, which is beautiful, hardy, and tolerates most drought conditions. And Miea is named after Tolmiea menziesii whose common name is “Youth on Age.”
Who is your publisher and how did you get accepted by them? Did you pitch your book yourself or go through an agent?
Blue was a very special book to me and I also knew that it wasn’t going to be an easy novel for publishers to categorize. Therefore, after publishing fifteen books with other houses (and continuing to publish nonfiction with major publishers), I decided to publish Blue myself. Given my background in the industry, though, I knew that I needed a real infrastructure if I was going to do this correctly. Therefore, I set up a book publishing extension of my nine-year-old company The Fiction Studio. I’m going to be publishing eight books under the imprint in the first half of 2011 by some extremely talented writers, but Blue is the first.
How are you promoting your book thus far?
My focus so far has been on guest blogging and getting as much review attention for Blue as possible. As I’m writing this, the book is just going on sale, so I don’t have a clear sense of how this is going to work out just yet.
If you could give one book promotion tip to new authors, what would that be?
I think the key for all writers going forward is to get as many people talking about your book as possible. The industry is undergoing an enormous shift. Browsing for books doesn’t mean the same thing it once did. It is more important than ever that readers be looking for your book specifically. I’ve decided to throw all of my marketing effort into online promotion because I think the transaction has changed; you need to have people talking about your book in venues where they can immediately buy that book if they are interested.
What’s next for you?
I have two nonfiction books under contract with deadlines in the first half of this year, so I’m going to be extremely busy with those. I’m also putting together an anthology of Tamarisk stories that includes submissions from readers. I plan to have that out before the end of 2011. I’ve started to plan out my next novel, but that probably won’t be ready until mid-2012.
Thank you for this interview, Lou. Can you tell us where we can find you on the web?
The Fiction Studio site is www.fictionstudio.com, and readers can reach me at [email protected]
You can pick up your copy of Blue at Amazon or order direct through any of your local Virginia Beach bookstores.