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Thursday, April 26, 2012

SBT12: Guest Post & Giveaway with Antony John


Southern Book Tour 2012

I am pleased to introduce y’all to Antony John, author of the coming release of Elemental.  Asheley at Into the Hall of Books sent me an email relating to the SBT12 where she said this:
“Well, back in November he did an interview on another blog and mentioned that despite being a writer of contemporary YA, he was doing a fantasy series and setting it on NC's Outer Banks. I nearly flipped out. Seriously. My backyard!”
So, she contacted Antony, and he agreed to write a post and provide an ARC of Elemental for giveaway!  Check out the post, read the book’s blurb, and enter to win!
And now, here’s Antony:
In 1996, I moved to the States for grad school; specifically, Durham, NC, where I did a Ph.D. at Duke. School may have been the lure, but I quickly discovered that North Carolina was the most beautiful place I’d ever been. I lived there until 2002, then spent 2003 teaching at the University of South Carolina in Columbia. By the time I moved to Seattle in 2003, I had developed a fascination with the Carolinas that will never go away.

In particular, I wanted to set a book there—one in which the awesome beauty of the land and the dramatic weather patterns would be thematic, not just illustrative. Several years later, I got my chance when my editor at Dial expressed interest in a fantasy trilogy I’d proposed, called ELEMENTAL. The first novel is set on the Outer Banks. Here’s why I chose that setting . . .
One of the hardest—if not the hardest—element of writing a fantasy novel is worldbuilding. And to me, an integral part of that is setting. These are my earliest brainstorming notes for ELEMENTAL:
  • Elements: Teens can control elements - must make this dynamic and cool. 
  • Setting: OBX - Roanoke / Hatteras. Nautical history; shipwrecks; lighthouses; Lost Colony; hurricanes etc etc

Notice which of those lines is longer? Yup, the one about setting.
See, to me, the Outer Banks are a somewhat mystical place. On most coasts, you stare out at a (presumably) wide expanse of ocean. But on Hatteras Island, you stare out at the Atlantic (to the east) and the Roanoke Sound (to the west). On cloudy days, the sound itself can appear almost like an ocean, so that you feel as though you're standing on the last strip of earth on an otherwise watery planet. (Okay, so that's a little whimsical, but if you've been there, you'll know what I mean.)

Ocean to the east, Sound to the west
But there's more to it than that. For all their popularity as a tourist destination, the Outer Banks are just remote enough to have withstood some of the horrific overdevelopment suffered by other coastal areas. Go off-season, and it's not impossible to imagine the area as it must have appeared to John White and his colonists when they established their ill-fated colony in 1587. It is, in other words, a timeless place.

Hurricane Irene hammered NC's Outer Banks on August 27, 2011
It's also a place where kayaks can seemingly disappear into maze-like waterways, and land becomes marsh in a single step. The region has its own ecosystem. Because the terrain is constantly in flux (hurricanes, in particular, can invalidate maps overnight), the area is perfect for a fantasy novel. Need to adjust the landscape? No problem. Need to recreate the look of the island? Again, no problem. Nature does it all the time.
Every fantasy novel has a hook, or some aspect that drives our imagination. On the surface, my hook is that the teens can manipulate the elements—earth, water, wind, and fire. But in deciding how they control the elements, and to what end, I thought very hard about the Outer Banks, and what it would be like to grow up in a tiny, remote colony, untouched by the rest of human kind. I realized that someone with the element of water would have less use for creating a tsunami than for reading the shifting tides, and the predicting the impact of storm swells. Those who grow up on small islands have a unique relationship with land and water, I believe, and this book gave me the chance to incorporate fantastical elements within a setting that is both striking, and yet recognizably real world.
Of course, I take some creative license. You won’t find mention of Pamlico Sound, just Roanoke Sound, because I didn’t want to confuse readers. I’ve tried to simplify geography a little, so that readers aren’t forced to consistently refer to a map. But my hope is that as people read the book, they’ll be transported to a place that feels both awe-inspiring and familiar . . . and maybe even be inspired to visit!

About the author:

Antony John was born in England and raised on a balanced diet of fish and chips, obscure British comedies, and ABBA's Greatest Hits. In a fit of teenage rebellion, he decided to pursue a career in classical music, culminating in a BA from Oxford University and a PhD from Duke University. Along the way, he worked as an ice cream seller on a freezing English beach, a tour guide in the Netherlands, a chauffeur in Switzerland, a barista in Seattle, and a university professor. Writing by night, he spends his days as a stay-at-home dad—the only job that allows him to wear his favorite pair of sweatpants all the time. He lives in St. Louis with his family.


A lost colony is reborn in this heart-pounding fantasy adventure set in the near future . . .

Sixteen-year-old Thomas has always been an outsider. The first child born without the power of an Element—earth, water, wind or fire—he has little to offer his tiny, remote Outer Banks colony. Or so the Guardians would have him believe.

In the wake of an unforeseen storm, desperate pirates kidnap the Guardians, intent on claiming the island as their own. Caught between the plague-ridden mainland and the advancing pirates, Thomas and his friends fight for survival in the battered remains of a mysterious abandoned settlement. But the secrets they unearth will turn Thomas’ world upside-down, and bring to light not only a treacherous past but also a future more dangerous than he can possibly imagine

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  1. That is one awesome guest post! YES! i totally can see how the world-building is one of the hardest, most painstaking elements of creating a new story. it's the base, and without it nothing could be done right! I had no idea about most of the things I've read here, and feel so much smarter and THAT much more excited for Elemental! Thank you for sharing, Richard!!!

    1. The OBX are a fascinating and complex place, Evie, so you're not alone in feeling like you had a lot to learn - I did tons of research, even though I'd visited many times!

      Hope you enjoy the book!

  2. I'm so ridiculously excited for this book! I can't believe a fantasy adventure book is gonna be set on the OBX. Thank you for sharing Antony's post, Richard!

    1. I'm excited too, Asheley (although I suppose I OUGHT to be, right?). Thanks for connecting me with Richard!

  3. Okay, I'm totally ready to go visit the Carolinas now, preferably not when a hurricane's a-comin', though! Very excited for this series!

    1. Thanks, C! You MUST visit the OBX, and as long as you avoid the first half of September (which is around the time the book is set, coincidentally), the odds are that you won't have your holiday wrecked by a hurricane.

  4. Thanks for inviting me along to the blog, Richard - and great job finding those cool photos. They illustrated my points brilliantly!

  5. Thanks for stopping by y'all! Thanks Antony for participating!

  6. I'm a huge fan of Antony's and I remember him talking about this book on my blog. At that time it seemed like eternity until the book would ever be out so it's AMAZING that it's in ARC form now! I absolutely cannot WAIT to read this!
    I've been to NC and thought it was very beautiful and my best friend lives there so hopefully I can visit again because last time I didn't get to see much cause I was 15 and had to be attacked to lame adults who didn't seem to care about scenery.
    Thanks Antony for the awesome post and giveaway and Richard for hosting!

  7. Great post! I loved the photos:)

  8. Wonderful guest post! I really enjoyed it, thank you so much for sharing and for the giveaway opportunity!

    Lucy D.

  9. Thanks so so much for this AMAZING giveaway! Elemental seems awesome!! :)

    -New follower

    Feel free to check out my blog & follow too!!

    -Riya (The Teen Book Guru)

  10. Amazing Guest post!!! I totally want to read this now. Even though I know I wont win, I still entered;)

  11. I agree! Awesome guest post. I want to read the book and visit all the wonderful places mentioned. WTH! Even if I don't win I'll buy. It's been on my TBR list since it was announced as a 2012 read.

    Thank you!

    Mirely @ Rumor Has It


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