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Thursday, November 4, 2010

Christy Raedeke Interview

 I told you it was coming and here it is!   Christy Raedeke is another author I admire.  Thanks to the wonders of Facebook, she's also my 'friend'.  Let me tell you, not only is she a talented writer, but she's really nice too.  

I couldn't wait to read her young adult novel, PROPHECY OF DAYS.  It was another book that I desperately wanted to finish in one sitting but couldn't because it was after midnight and I have small children.  Having never been a morning person, I highly value sleep.  So I stayed up too late two nights in a row to finish this book.  "Wow" is about the first thing that came to mind after reading it.  There are so many fascinating characters, many who aren't what they seem to be.  It's set in Scotland, what's not to love about that?  There's a hot Scottish guy for the protagonist to fall for.  Yummy.  There's conspiracy...good, good.  There's the intrigue of the ancient Mayan calender and the year 2012...exciting and intelligent.  And thrown into the mix, for good measure, is hope.  After reading this book, I felt like I could make a difference and that there is still a reason to have faith in humanity.   (After the recent elections that have left many feeling hopeless and without any faith in humanity...I highly recommend picking up this book.)  It was fast paced, exciting, intelligent and fun.  Book 2 is due in May 2011.  I can't wait!  
So, without further ado, Christy Raedeke!

RW (Restless Writer):  I truly believe Mr. Papers is one of the greatest literary characters of all time. How did you come up with the idea for an origami folding monkey and name him Mr. Papers? It's brilliant!

CR (Christy Raedeke): First of all, I have to tell you that I printed this out, cut out the part about Mr. Papers being one of the greatest literary characters, and taped it to the top of my monitor so I can look at it all the time. For a librarian and writer to say that means so much to me!
I have always thought it would be amazing to have a helper monkey - the origami part was folly at first and then it made some sense! I wanted an animal that could communicate and with what Capuchins are trained to do, Origami is not that far out of the realm of possibility.

RW:  PROPHECY OF DAYS draws heavily on the ancient Mayan calendar. Your characters speak of it very intelligently. Had you previously studied the Mayan calendar or did you just start researching it for this book?
CR:  I read about the Mayan calendar back in 1999 and was instantly enchanted by it. The knowledge the Maya had about astronomy and math was unbelievable! The more I looked into it, the more captivated I was by it. The book took a lot of research but since I am so interested in the subject it was fun, not work.
RW:  For an adventure story of this magnitude, you could have chosen anywhere in the world for the setting. What made you chose to set it in Scotland?
CR:  Because I love Scotland! It just feels so old, so softened by time and weather. Also I wanted the setting to be very far culturally and physically from the Mayalands and Scotland fit that bill.
RW:  You have traveled extensively. Have you visited all the places mentioned in the book?
CR:  I have been to many of the places that I use in both the two books, and a couple still remain dream trips I hope to take (like the Dunhuang Caves in China). Travel is my absolute favorite thing, so even writing about travel is fun.

RW:  Your book packs adventure, travel, conspiracy, romance and ancient wisdom into one fast-paced and enjoyable package. You make it seem easy. How long did it take to write and how much research did you have to do?
CR:  I can’t believe it seems easy! What a great compliment. No, the book took a few years, but I also had a very young child when I started and had another child a year into writing it, so time I could spend writing was spotty. The most enjoyable and yet most time consuming part was the research. But like I said, when it’s a subject you love it doesn’t feel like work, it feels like following a super interesting trail you’ve never been on.

RW:  Your book is the first in a trilogy. How did you approach agents/publishers as a debut author with a proposed trilogy? The book is incredible but did you encounter any resistance from the industry?
CR:  It’s actually just a two-book series, a “Duology”. My agent signed me after reading the first one and a one-page synopsis of the second one. We talked about breaking it into three books but right about that time the market really changed and all of a sudden publishers felt like it was a risk to take on a series – they wanted books that could stand alone but had series potential – so we scaled it back to two books. My book deal was based on a finished manuscript and a three-page synopsis of book two.
In terms of resistance, I did get some at first. When it first went out on sub, many of the New York editors had not heard of the Mayan Calendar or 2012 (this was 2008). Then last year at a writer’s conference one of the editors who gently passed on it made an open plea for anyone who had a 2012 book to please send it to her!
RW:  Unlike the more mainstream perceptions of 2012, which focuses on destruction, your book offers hope. Did you make the decision to inject the story with hope or did you find evidence for a less destructive interpretation in your research. (doomsday vs. a new beginning)
CR:  In all of my research I never came across one piece of information that said the world was ending, or that said what was coming was cataclysmic. It’s all about transformation, about the end of an era and the beginning of another.
I really detest fear mongering, and that’s what most of the media focuses on so naturally they’d twist this into an apocalyptic thing. Everyone is always looking for the next apocalypse!
RW:  On your website, you list an app. for the Mayan Calendar. Do you, like Caity, use the Mayan calendar in your daily life? Have you found that readers are using it now?
CR:  I use it all the time. There’s a great iPhone app called Tzolkin Explorer that’s easy and fun to use. It’s very helpful in setting an intention for the day and looking at each day as a unique and special piece of a never-ending spiral, not just another day on a linear yard stick.

RW:  What do you hope teens will take away from your books?
CR:  I really hope they get inspired by the adventure, the mystery, and the travel. There is so much wonder in this world, so many things to see and ways to live. I’d like teens to get a sense that they can change the world – never before have so many people under 20 been on the planet at once. They have the numbers, now they just need to get organized! Change the paradigm, please!
RW:  Do you have any favorite books that you keep coming back to?
As a kid I liked to re-read books (obsessions included Herman Hesse’s Demian, Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead, and Steinbeck’s East of Eden) but as an adult there are very few I enjoy re-reading. I am currently in love with Meg Rosoff’s What I Was (I actually adore all her books, but this one really got me) and Jennifer Eagan’s The Keep.
RW:  Book 2 is coming out in May 2011 (YAY!) have you completed writing it? Can you give us a teaser?
CR:  I’ve done the majority of the work on it, and have been through one round of revisions. I still have some more to do, but at least it’s close I actually like it better than Book One, which is surprising since it was so much more difficult to write.
In Book Two you get to see more of Mr. Papers, including some previously hidden ninja skills! The stakes are higher, Justine is with Caity the whole time, and some very interesting places are involved. Let me pull out a little teaser (this is from page 173):
Silently, we walk back down the way we came up and then over a small bridge from El Palacio to a group of three temples that face each other. I was drawn to the smaller one today, the Temple of the Foliated Cross, because it was tiny and wonky and a little overgrown with weeds. But it’s the more spectacular one across from it that we climb.
In the back corner of one of the chambers at the top there’s a small chink in the rock. I cannot bring myself to sick my finger in it, so I use the end of one of the long candles I bought in the gift shop. When Justine sees it crumble, she pushes me away. “I’ll do it,” she says, sticking two fingers down in the dark hole. After feeling around for longer than I ever would, she manages to move something. One of the thick stone panels that I thought was a wall, rotates just enough to reveal a very skinny, very dark  staircase.
“Mr. Papers?” I say, handing him a flashlight. “Would you?”
He looks at me and rolls his eyes. Instead of taking the cheap tourist flashlight I was offering, he reaches for my big metal flashlight and shines it down. No snakes, no critters—so far so good. 
Since Justine bravely stuck her fingers in the hole, and Papers is going first, I suck it up and follow. I have to turn sideways to even fit, and once I get a few feet down I can no longer see my feet because the staircase is so narrow and steep. I just feel for each step. Justine has her hand on my shoulder and is feeling her way behind me. After about twenty stairs, we reach the ground. We are under the Templo del Sol, the Temple of the Sun.
The space widens just a bit, enough for Justine and me to walk side by side. I had memorized the map and know we have to follow this tunnel almost the whole distance of the base of the pyramid to reach the hidden room.
Neither of us is talking, we’re both just breathing heavily and walking as quickly as we can. The farther we get, the more panicked I’m feeling about getting stuck down here. Just as I fear I might start hyperventilating, the tunnel turns. Right after the turn is a stone door. Mr. Papers gives it a push and it rotates open, this time to reveal another door covered in silver and decorated with glyphs.
 I pull on the handle, shocked to find the room behind it already glowing with light.

Great cover art.  It even looks thrilling, doesn't it?