Who would play the voice of Oki—and other questions answered for The Next Big Thing

My friend Jeremy Tankard tagged me for THE NEXT BIG THING. It’s a bit of a game of tag, in which one author (or as Jeremy likes to call himself, “authorstrator”) poses questions to another. I’m going to tag three of my author friends, kc dyer, Tanya Lloyd Kai, and Rachelle Delaney.

Here it goes! In some ways I wish I could talk about the idea I’m planning to write about after my Kendra Kandlestar series, but it’s just too premature to do so. That world is still under construction, so I just don’t think we should peek upon it yet. So, even though I post a lot about Kendra Kandlestar on this blog, I’m going to keep these questions all about her. Still, there are probably a few nuggets in my answers that I’ve never mentioned before.

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trolls_&_elves1) What is the working title of your next book?

Kendra Kandlestar and the Search for Arazeen . . . though, for the longest time it was just Kendra 5. There was a time when I was sure I would just call it The Battle for Een. But as I developed the plot, I realized that this book was about so much more than simply a cataclysmic confrontation between an army of monsters and Eens. My goddaughter delights in telling me that she does not like books about “trolls and elves going on an adventure.” When she asked to pre-read the book, I made a special cover for her, called just that.

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2) Where did the idea come from for the book?

Since this is a series, I did everything in my power with the first four books to paint myself into a corner. This book is about wriggling out of that corner. The Search for Arazeen is going to be the final Kendra book, so it’s really about the last step of her journey, and the precious thing she is going to lose during this final stage.

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3) What genre does your book fall under?

Until I can successfully lobby for a category called “Trolls and Elves Going On An Adventure” (see answer 1), I guess we’ll just stick with children’s literature/fantasy and adventure.

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honest_oki_eek4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

If there was ever a movie made of Kendra Kandlestar (and I did receive one strange early-morning call from a Hollywood studio a couple years ago), then I it would pretty much have to be animated in some fashion.

In that case, we’re talking about casting strong voice-over actors. I have SO many personalities in the series, so here’s just a few of my ideas.

I’m not sure about Kendra herself, but as for her best friend, Honest Oki the mouse, I think he could be done quite well by my wife, Marcie Nestman. Though, I’m also convinced Marcie would do a fantastic job of capturing the impish and wise Winter Woodsong.

Morgan Freeman might make a good Uncle Griffinskitch, Seth Rogan would make a good Ratchet Ringtail, and Wallace Shawn, who played Vizzini in The Princess Bride, would make a fantastic Pugglemud.

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trolls_&_elves25) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Trolls and elves go on an . . . no, just kidding. The truth is, I find it agonizingly painful to write a synopsis. But here’s a crack at it. As an army of monsters marches upon the Land of Een, young Kendra Kandlestar suffers a devastating loss that leaves her unable to continue her training as a wizard—or save her people from destruction.

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6) Who is publishing your book?

Simply Read Books.

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7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

I don’t really write in a conventional way, but I suppose I finished the first full draft in about eighteen months.

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8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I’ve started thinking about Kendra Kandlestar as The Hobbit meets The Wizard of Oz. It’s got some classical sensibilities, with some pretty gentle humour. But the characters, especially Kendra, Uncle Griffinskitch, Winter Woodsong, and Trooogul, are very three-dimensional and each complete very specific story arcs.

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9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?

This entire series originally came from a painting, which I have talked about in a previous post. For this specific book, I was struck by something exchanged between Joseph Cambell and Bill Moyers in their famous series, The Power of Myth. Here’s a transcript (I actually wrote it down when I heard it, because I knew there was something in these words for me):

Moyers: In all of these journeys of mythology, there’s a place everyone wishes to find. What is it? The Buddhist talk of Nirvana. Jesus talks of peace. There’s a place of rest and repose. What is it?

Campell: Nirvana is a psychological state of mind. It’s not a place like ‘heaven.’ It’s not something that’s not here. It is here, in the middle of the turmoil . . . the whirlpool of life conditions. Nirvana is what? It’s the condition that comes when you are not compelled by desire, or by fear. Or by social commitments. When you hold your center, and act out of there.”

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10) What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

A new hairdo for Kendra, a gadget that records and plays smells, an escape from a stomach, a game of riddles with a sphinx, and a dance of Ungers . . . just a few of the things to be discovered in Kendra Kandlestar and the Search for Arazeen.

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