Welcome to my stop on the Return to Exile Blog Tour! I’ve got a fun interview with the author, E.J. Patten, for you and a giveaway! There are over 30 blogs on this tour so be sure to check out the schedule to see the other great extras and giveaways!
E.J.: Sky, a boy with a dark past, teams up with other misfits to find his uncle, hunt epic monsters, and stay alive using gear made of garbage.
Me: Ha ha! That made me laugh. Well done getting all that in 140 characters! So, what books inspired or influenced your writing of Return to Exile?
E.J.: Harry Potter and Percy Jackson have both been major sources of inspiration for me—Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows in particular. It wasn’t my favorite Harry Potter book (Prisoner of Azkaban was my favorite), but it affected my writing the most. I love the way Rowlings forced Harry, Ron, and Hermione to wander, confused and lost, depending only on each other, with no clear way through until they chose it. She gave them lots of options, muddied the waters, and wove a tale that more closely resembles the complex world we all face. It’s a much harder and far less common way to tell a story, especially in speculative fiction where characters are often given a quest with a difficult yet obvious path to the end.
I also channeled a bit a Tolkien—mainly in the complexity of the world and the back-story—and H.P. Lovecraft, with his original monsters and mythos. Return to Exile is set in the modern world, but it taps into a secret history, a silent war waged between the Hunters of Legend and the creatures they hunt—creatures that are entirely of my own invention. Things like the giant tree-like Echo whose roots go deep, deep beneath the earth where they join together in a haunting sort of collective dreaming, and the shape-shifting child-eating Wargarous with their tusked, mammoth-sized bodies of shadow and whips of flame that writhe like worms.
Me: I love it when authors invent new creatures! They are so fun to read about. How did you get the idea for Return to Exile?
I stared into the void and, shrieking, stumbled back. Also, I have no idea. Magic, maybe?
Originally, the story started out as something completely different. It was a light-hearted adventure about a group of friends that get the powers of their Halloween costumes and save Halloween. Return to Exile is NOTHING like that. It went from a light-hearted adventure to an epic story with complex characters, tragic monsters, and a deep history of an unknown world within our own. The only thing that remains from that early version—which I actually wrote as a screenplay, not a book—is the name Sky Weathers.
Between the first draft of the book, which helped me get an agent, and second draft of the book, which we sold to Simon & Schuster, I rewrote Return to Exile in its entirety. I kept the first paragraph and a few character names. I figured out a better way to write, a character-driven approach to plot development.
To help me build out the characters, I drew from a number of fairytales so that I could work in specific themes. Sky’s story was based on Hansel and Gretel, on the trail of breadcrumbs. Crystal was Pinocchio, a broken girl full of lies. Andrew was based on Cinderella. In fact, his step-sisters (step-cousins, really) are named after Cinderella’s step-sisters, Jasmine and Ermine, and they speak like characters from a Jane Austen novel. Hands’s story came from Little Red Riding Hood. He has issues with his parents who sent his grandfather to a nursing home, a place “run by wolves.” Finally, T-Bone, the last of the monster hunters, is based on the nursery rhyme There Was An Old Woman Who Lived In A Shoe. He comes from a huge family (both in number and size) and seldom gets any attention.
As I developed the characters, and the story, these fairytale beginnings disappeared into the background. They’re hardly there at all anymore, though a few vestiges remain if you look closely. The fairytales helped me get a sense of the characters, and once I had that sense, I made them into something more.
Return to Exile is a modern-day epic fantasy adventure like nothing you’ve ever read before. The story is designed like a trap. I wrote it in such a way that you won’t realize how much you missed until you’re snared at the end, and then you’ll say “now wait a minute…” and you’ll want to go back and read it again—and you should. I wrote it that way on purpose. The first time through, you’ll go on a wild ride. The second time through, you’ll understand the journey. Because there isn’t a single idea behind Return to Exile; there are hundreds of ideas.
I loved that you took fairy tale characters and made them your own! I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but I’m really excited to get to know these characters and get hooked by the ending. Aren’t you? And be sure to check out the awesome book trailer.
And did you know that the cover artwork and illustrations in the book are from Caldacott honoree artist John Rocco, who is also the illustrator for the Percy Jackson series?
I’m giving away a Mother-Daughter Hunter’s Bracelet.
This isn’t just any bracelet. In Return to Exile, Crystal—the leader of the monster hunters—wears a bracelet that resembles a strand of DNA. The bracelet is a twin to one worn by her mother, who disappeared years earlier. While striving to stay alive within the terrible creature known as the Jack, Crystal recovers her mother’s bracelet and links the two strands together into a single band—a memento of the mother she lost.
Isn’t that cool? Read this blog post to learn more about this bracelet.
If you are reading this post through RSS or email, head over to my blog to enter the giveaway.