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Flight of the Wren by Atthys J. Gage
Published by Feckless Muse on August 8th 2015
Genres: Young Adult
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Â“The Arcane Order of Carpet Flyers! The Sublime Society of Scudders! DidnÂ’t you read the contract I sent you, Miss Drake?Â”Sure, Renny had read it. Obviously it was some kind of joke. And this guy with the flakes of pie crust in his beard, he is obviously some kind of whacko. But no. Parnell Florian is no whacko Â– and Maysa, the ancient silk-brocade carpet now rolled up under her bed, is no joke. It really can fly, and RennyÂ’s life just got a whole lot more interesting. And when she meets the other members of the Order Â– her flock Â– life gets more interesting still. Most interesting of all is the boy called Stonechat, who seems to find her pretty interesting as well. But when a vengeful rug-rider called Mistral kidnaps Parnell and steals the all-important Orb of Descrying, Renny and the ragtag flock of misfits must ride to the rescue Â– or else face an adversary who can control their very dreams. One by one, all the people Renny has come to care about fall into MistralÂ’s hands, and she must find courage and ingenuity she never knew she had.A modern day fantasy that PublisherÂ’s Weekly called: Â“A great combination of fantasy, adventure, and romance...an engaging and enjoyable read,Â” The Flight of the Wren is, at its core, a story of family. Estranged from her mentally-ill mother, bounced from one foster home to another, Renny feels no connection to anyone in her life. In her darkest moments she fears that she will never really care about anyone...only to find out that having someone you really care about can be the scariest thing of all.And that sometimes the hardest part about flying is just learning to hang on.
Tell us about your book
Flight of the Wren is the story of a seventeen-year-old girl who is given a flying carpet. Yeah, thatÂ’s the nutshell version. My formal pitch is a lot more exciting than that, but ultimately I think I lose a lot of readers with the words Â‘flying carpet.Â’ Probably they are expecting something like a Magic Treehouse adventure and a lot of mucking around with Aladdin and his monkey, but of course, it isn’t any such thing. The protagonist is painfully ordinaryÂ—disaffected, disconnected, utterly disinterested in school, family, even friends. She is, in short, a typical teenage mess. She has no special powers, no special insights, not even a belief in herself. Because I am a benevolent (if inscrutable) god, I toss her a lifeline: a gift. An impossible giftÂ—a flying carpet. But there are strings attached. With it comes both a community (other members of her flock) and a purpose, a mission.
Love, of course, also waits in the wind. Love is what drives everything that happens in the second half of the book. A flying carpet, once you get past the absurdity, really is a heck of a gift. It represents two extremely valuable things for a young person: freedom and independence. For Renny, it also comes to represent two things she thought she didnÂ’t want but which turn out to be a lot more important than flying: connection and responsibility. In other words, people she cares about.
Was this book inspired by something in particular?
A few years ago, a writer friend of mine sent me a sort of middle-grade magazine article she was working on called “Your Flying Carpet: An Owner’s Guide.” I liked it, and suggested she should write a novel about kids on flying carpets. She had no interest, but I sure did! I couldn’t let it go. I started in on it immediately.
How long did this book take you to write?
I probably finished the first draft in about three months, but the revisions were endless. It began as a third person/past tense narrative. Only much later did I go back and change the whole thing to first person/present, which I think better reflects the sort of nihilistic, no-future attitude Renny brings to the book when we first meet her. I probably wrote five distinctly different first chapters before I found the keeper.
Tell us how you write.
I usually try to do a thorough outlineÂ—not so much motivations and character profiles or any thing like that, but I block out each chapter or scene so I know exactly what happens next. Then I write the whole rough draft out longhand in ordinary old spiral bound notebooks, which I buy for cheap when I see them on sale. I definitely don’t fetishize the writing process. If I’m in the groove, I can write anywhere, anytime. If I’m not, then it doesn’t really matter. After the rough is done, I transcribe the whole thing into the word processor, editing as I go. That draft can take a while, but it’s usually pretty solid.
What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?
Well, it’s going to sound horribly geeky but my favorite bit is where Parnell, the carpet steward, explains flying carpet lore and history to Renny. It probably comes across as pointless exposition to some readers, but it’s such fascinating stuff. The details all come from actual ancient flying carpet loreÂ—Solomon and Sheba, the great library at Alexandria. Plus the details about silkworms is real, too. I don’t necessarily expect readers to love that part the best, but for me it’s delightful. Sometimes when you’re researching, which is often a fairly random process, you stumble on something that is so perfect, such a great fit, it seems like kismet. There’s a character in the book, an Irish woman named Maude Byrne, who’s flock nickname is Raven. I didn’t even know it at the time but the name Byrne means ‘raven’ in Irish. That was entirely unintentional.
How much research do you do?
Way, way too much. I love scouting out locations on the web or digging about in history. Problem is, it’s way too much fun, and usually degenerates into plain old web surfing, everybody’s favorite form of procrastination.
Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
I’m sure everybody says this, but there are far too many to single out just one. A lot of the old-timers of courseÂ—Melville, Nabokov, BorgesÂ—but they can come from any time period: Samuel Delany, Markus Zusak, Ann Patchett, Barbara Kingsolver. What all of these diverse writers share is an ability to play with words, and I use that word very specifically. Story and character are important, of course, but I want the words themselves to delight me, surprise me, chill meÂ—sometimes for reasons that have very little to do with what’s happening on the surface. That requires an inventive, playful mindÂ—and the precise eye of a diamond cutter.
What book are you reading now?
Strangely enough, after that highbrow build-up, I’m currently reading I am the Cheese by Robert Cormier, who also wrote the better-known The Chocolate War. I became interested in his work when I was researching the history of young adult literature for an essay I recently posted on Amazon. (Why YA? And What is it Anyway?) Cormier was one of the earliest writers of serious fiction for teen-aged readers, and one of the darkest. Way back in the seventies, he was writing books about terrorists holding a busload of schoolchildren hostage, or a hospital where experimental drugs are tested on kids with terminal illnesses. It’s pretty grim stuff, but his style is understated and easy to read. So naturally, I had to go out a buy a bunch of his books.
For what it’s worth I don’t really think of my books as Young Adult, but because they have young protagonists, the label is unavoidable. I don’t object. I have some younger fans, but I wasn’t writing specifically for teenagers. However I might have conceptualized the books at first, the process of writing determines what they become, and I didn’t have any particular audience in mind. I never do.
Did you learn anything from writing this book and what was it?
I think the things we learn from books or art in general are indescribable, and it’s probably better that way. It’s like trying to explain why music or an abstract painting can move usÂ—it isn’t really possible. There’s no literal meaning to a work of music, but since writers use words, people assume there must be some literal message or meaning embedded in the textÂ—some underlying ‘truth’ that we can tease out and put into other words. But when you really hunker down and peer through the text trying to find that truth, we often find that it seems to be less than the sum of its parts. Better to leave it as it itÂ—a coherent (if ineffable), elusive, allusive whole.
10. How can readers discover more about you and you work?
I’m always blogging at my own website, Speak More Light. And I’m on Facebook. I try to keep a presence on Twitter but I can go weeks without remembering it’s there. Also, I’m one of the bloggers at a new site called the Writer’s Co-op. We converse on many writerly topics, but our central focus is on book marketing and promotion, trying to learn what works and what doesn’t. I urge other writers to check it out. Together, we may just figure out this odd business of writing.
Writer’s Co-op:Â www.writersco-op.com
Amazon.com Author Page:Â www.amazon.com/Atthys-J.-Gage/e/B00RYJWHGK/ref=dp_byline_cont_pop_ebooks_1
Goodreads :Â www.goodreads.com/author/show/11035265.Atthys_J_Gage
Flight of the Wren:Â www.amazon.com/Flight-Wren-Atthys-J-Gage-ebook/dp/B013NRFSLW?ie=UTF8&ref_=asap_bc
Why YA? (And What Is It, Anyway?)Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â www.amazon.com/Why-YA-Anyway-Atthys-Gage-ebook/dp/B01F8BN1M4?ie=UTF8&ref_=zg_bs_7588822011_5