Today we have the absolute pleasure of welcoming Chris Howard to Cuddlebuggery! He was recently listed as one of Publisher Weekly’s “Flying Starts” for his debut novel Rootless. So we were really excited to metaphorically sit down and chat about his inspirations, publishing process and pirates (of course!). Check out the interview and enter for a chance to win Rootlesss!
Rootless is a novel set in a future in which there are no trees. Chris, dude, tell us. Are you a psychic? Time traveller? Tell us this isn’t based on our real future! How did you come up with the idea?
I will confess that I have NOT seen the future! I actually came up with the idea when I was hiking in the Colorado mountains and found myself surrounded by trees devastated by the Mountain Pine Beetle (insects that are destroying a lot of pine trees throughout the Rockies).
I started imagining a world where all the trees, grasses, plants and animals were wiped out by a plague of locusts, following an apocalyptic event. Right away, I pictured a type of genetically engineered corn as the only thing left growing, and I imagined a young man building trees out of scrap-metal on the dusty plains. He sort of looked like this:
The book’s about people trying to change the world around them, and find something important that’s been lost… so I wanted to create a setting as grim as the story was hopeful. I loved the idea of trees being a symbol of hope in a world where no nature survives.
There are pirates in this book. PIRATES! Does this mean Rootless has a lot of action and adventure?
Yes. By which I mean, hell yes! These punk-rock girl pirates cruise about in their badass trucks and blast their music and guns… this sorta style:
I mean, they’re not “ahoy there, matey” eye-patch-wearing pirates – though that can also be awesome 🙂 ROOTLESS is also full of Rasta warriors, flesh-eating locusts, human slavers, filthy poachers, and the agents of the all-powerful GenTech Corporation. So, yeah – things blow up, vehicles get chased, punches get thrown, and locusts attack… sometimes all on the same page!
Do you have much in common with Banyan? Did you channel your inner-Chris when you wrote him?
I guess so! Though I felt more like I was channeling my inner-Banyan when I wrote the book… He narrates the story, and I very much felt like he was telling me the story as I was writing it down. I think we do have some important things in common. I probably have something in common with all my characters. But Banyan and I both like to create things that “lift people up and give them something to believe in”. That’s why he builds scrap-metal trees, and ultimately it’s why he sets off in search of the last living trees. And that’s why I write stories, too 🙂
Rootless is your first novel, what’s the publishing process been like for you?
I spent years working on my first book and endlessly re-writing it. Then I met my agent and she said I should write something new. Best advice I ever got! Ever since I wrote ROOTLESS, the whole process has been really exciting and totally educational. My agent and editor have been awesome to work with, and everyone at Scholastic is in the business for all the right reasons. To be honest, I came into the whole thing knowing nothing about publishing or book blogs or goodreads or any of that stuff. I’ve always loved reading and certain stories have been a really important part of my life… so when I started coming up with stories of my one, I started writing them down. And here I am 🙂
Alpha, a ruthless pirate who helps Banyan, sounds like my kind of lady! What was your inspiration for her?
In her first scene, Alpha showed up and shot Banyan in the arm with his own nail gun, and I just really enjoyed her character right away! The more time they spent together, the more I loved their dynamic. And like I said, it was almost as if Banyan was telling me the story most of the time – so I guess he sort of said: “Alpha is awesome, disregarding the whole shooting me thing. She’s coming on the adventure!” Banyan’s a tough young dude, but I really liked the idea of this girl being way tougher than him, more experienced and more cynical. At heart, Banyan’s an artist, and Alpha’s much more of a warrior, so each of them finds the other intriguing. In a way, she toughens him up, and he gets her to show her more sensitive side 🙂
What would you really like audiences to take away from Rootless?
As I mentioned, the book’s really about people who will stop at nothing to try to make their world a better place. I think that’s a hopeful message, but the different ways different characters are trying to make their world better… well, hopefully that raises questions in the reader. A lot of people have emailed me and said the first thing they did after reading the book was go outside and hug a tree. That’s awesome. I love the idea that I might make people think about the environment or value it more. But I really wanted the book to be entertaining AND moving AND thought-provoking – you know, raising questions rather than trying to answer them. A lot of the time, what people think a book is saying really says more about them than the story itself. That’s one of the great things about fiction!
What was your experience like writing Rootless?
It was some of the most fun I’ve ever had. I think that feeling of “reading it while you’re writing it” doesn’t come along all that often, and I just held on and enjoyed the ride. I had a blast editing it with my agent and then with my editor at Scholastic. That was a long and really rewarding experience. But that initial first draft… I’ll never forget it. A lot of days I wouldn’t stop to eat or sleep. I just felt like I was surfing a wave.
Thanks so much for the interview, Chris. I believe we have a few trees to hug/cuddle now!
Don’t forget to check out Rootless, available now!
17-year-old Banyan is a tree builder. Using salvaged scrap metal, he creates forests for rich patrons who seek a reprieve from the desolate landscape. Although Banyan’s never seen a real tree–they were destroyed more than a century ago–his missing father used to tell him stories about the Old World.
Everything changes when Banyan meets a mysterious woman with a strange tattoo, a map to the last living trees on earth, and he sets off across a wasteland from which few return. Those who make it past the pirates and poachers can’t escape the locusts . . . the locusts that now feed on human flesh.
But Banyan isn’t the only one looking for the trees, and he’s running out of time. Unsure of whom to trust, he’s forced to make an alliance with Alpha, an alluring, dangerous pirate with an agenda of her own. As they race towards a promised land that might only be a myth, Banyan makes shocking discoveries about his family, his past, and how far people will go to bring back the trees.
[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://cuddlebuggery.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Chris-Howard-small-e1357307043474.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Chris Howard was born not far from London but currently lives in Denver, CO. Before he wrote stories, he wrote songs, studied natural resources management, worked for the National Park Service, and spent eight years leading wilderness adventure trips for teenagers. He was awarded a Publishers Weekly “Flying Start” in Fall 2012, following the release of his debut novel, ROOTLESS (Scholastic Press), and Chris is currently working on the next book in this gritty sci-fi series that’s recommended for both teens and adults. Visit him online for exclusive ROOTLESS content and lots more at http://www.chrishowardbooks.com.
Chris is giving away a signed hardcover, custom ROOTLESS shirt, bookmarks for 3 winners!
Check out these cool T-shirts, guys! Snazzy! (Hipster shades not included.)
To enter, please fill out the Raffelcopter form below.
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