the Little Red Reviewer

Interview with John Adcox, author of Raven Wakes the World

Posted on: October 3, 2020

Hey, so my WordPress Editor just an hour ago spontaniously switched to the Block Editor. which means I have NO IDEA how this post is going to turn out, because everything is super weird.

I met John on Twitter a while back, and we’ve chatted back and forth a few times. He’s a fellow science fiction and fantasy fan, a writer who loves mythology, a writer who seeks out wonder.

What started off as a project between friends, for their family, has turned into something much, much more. Several years ago, John and his wife Carol started a tradition of creating a Christmas book for their friends and family, with John writing the prose, and Carol doing the illustrations. These stories are now ready to shared with everyone, and every year, starting in 2020, Story Plant will publish one of John and Carol’s books. The first one, Raven Wakes the World, hits bookstore shelves next week. (Indiebound ordering link)

A tale of an artist rediscovering her own strength, Raven Wakes the World is a magical realism with a touch of romance, and the unforgiving environs of Alaska. If you are looking for a unique holiday gift for someone who loves modern mythology, this could be it! Click here to read a free preview.

You can learn more about John and his work at his website, JohnAdcox.com, and by following him on twitter, where he is @JohnAdcox.

ok, so funny story – when I emailed John these questions, I knew the illustrator’s name was Carol, I didn’t know that was THE Carol, John’s wife! That’s what I get for not doing my research, that’s for sure!

Little Red Reviewer: Congrats on your new novella, Raven Wakes the World! What inspired you to write this book?

John Adcox: That’s hard to answer. I’ve always had a fascination with mythology, and I love stories where myth bleeds out to enchant and maybe even heal our own more mundane world. I truly do believe that stories have the power to change and heal us. Sometimes, story might be the only thing that does. Not too long ago, I heard a pastor friend define religion as communal response to a story. Why not? After all, the language of God is parable and story. I think other people’s stories might have a power to reach us in a way that our own, more familiar ones can’t. And it’s telling, I think, that so many of our most sacred stories have echoes in cultures all around the world. The inspiration, I think, was to look at Christmas, and healing or rebirth, through a different cultural lens.

LRR: Tell about this story – what’s the elevator pitch?

JA: Katie Mason is an artist wounded in the soul after the end of a broken relationship. She’s fled all the way to Alaska to heal and to make art, but she hasn’t been able to do either. She’s cocooned herself, like the world in winter. But in the town of Aurora, Alaska, she meets a mysterious stranger who wakes her passions, and who has secrets. Soon she finds herself caught in an Inuit myth made real, and in a world where winter seems to last forever. If you’d like to know more, the opening chapters are online at http://ravenwakestheworld.com/.

 

What was your favorite scene to write in Raven Wakes the World? Where there any scenes that were unexpectedly difficult to write?

J.A.:Wow, that’s also really hard to answer! I think my favorite scene is the one where Katie first hears the story about how Raven stole the sun, the moon, and the stars and brought light to the dark world. It’s also the scene that inspired my favorite of the illustrations. The hardest to write, I think, was the end, when Katie faces her pain and starts to make hard choices. It’s always hard to write about pain and heartbreak. Sacrifice isn’t especially easy either, especially when it is for love.

LRR: I read on your blog that you and your wife have a family tradition of creating original Christmas stories. How did the tradition get started? Has it changed over the years? What are the elements that all Christmas stories must have, to be a good holiday story?

J.A.:My friend Carol Bales — she wasn’t my beloved wife yet; we weren’t even dating back then — and I had the idea to collaborate on a book to give our friends as a Christmas gift. I’d write a story and she’d draw the illustrations. We bound those first books by hand. People seemed to really like them. Raven Wakes the World was the first of them … although this version is extensively revised and expanded. Over the following years, we tried a number of different genres, including drama, an urban legend/ghost story, action/adventure, and even screwball romantic comedy. If there’s a connection between these books (aside from the fact that they take place in winter, which is absolutely my favorite season to write) it’s has to do with people who are somehow isolated and hurting, and who find their way back to home, family, community, and joy. Christmas is about birth and rebirth, and homecoming, and that seems almost universal in so many cultures. I think all of these stories have to do with people who are broken finding a way to be less broken, sometimes through a miracle. I’m not sure that’s true of all Christmas or holiday tales, but it’s certainly true of a lot of them, from A Christmas Carol to Rudolf the Red-nosed Reindeer and How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

John and Carol

LRR: The story takes place in Alaska, and involves Inuit legends. Did you do any specialized research for this book? What was the impetus to place the story in Alaska?

J.A.:The idea of setting the story in Alaska came when Carol told me stories about a friend of hers who’d moved away to live on a tiny island off the coast of Alaska. I’m afraid my Katie and her island are nothing at all like Carol’s friend, or any other island in the real world. I wanted to create a place of myth, and since I’ve never (yet!) been there, Alaska is pretty much Narnia through the wardrobe to me. It just feels exotic and wonderful to me, like the North Pole region from Rudolf the Red-nosed Reindeer — which was one of the first stories I ever fell in love with. I could make my island and the town of Aurora anything I needed them to be. I did, however, do a lot reading about Inuit and other northern native peoples’s mythologies, especially the tales of that wonderful creative trickster, Raven. As a life-long fan of the masters, J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis, I’ve learned the power of mythopoeia, of myth-making, so I felt free to combine and rearrange elements and even add a few touches of my own. In other words, I made a lot of it up. I also learned from writers like Charles de Lint that mythic stories in the modern world can change things. Stories heal us.

LRR: The novella is illustrated by Carol Bales. How did you and Carol work together to ensure her artwork reflected the story you wanted to tell? How does working with an illustrator change the writing and publishing process (if at all)?

J.A.: Carol and I had been friends for years, long before we’d even realized we were falling in love. We both share an interest in mythology, art, and so many other things, so collaboration seemed natural. Funny story: once we tried having Carol do the illustrations first, and I had to come up with a story to match them. Because, you know, just getting the books done in time for the holiday wasn’t hard enough. Anyway. Raven Wakes the World was partly inspired by an art print Carol had done, and that image was my idea of Katie, the main character in Raven Wakes the World. That image first brought to mind this haunted, broken artist. I actually still have that print in my office. Carol, however, was adamant that that image was absolutely not Katie. Her final illustration wasn’t even a little bit like the Katie I’d imagined, but I loved it all the same. I think the beauty of a real collaboration is that different ideas and points of view meld, like the ingredients in a potion, to create something magical.

Illustration from the book

LRR: Congrats on the special edition hardcover, to be ready in time for the holidays! What can people expect, in the special edition?

J.A.: It’s a lovely, gift-sized hardback. It’s only 5 x 7, and it’s just adorable. I originally pitched doing four of the stories as a collection, but my editor Lou Aronica (who not only acquired more Hugo and Nebula winners than I can remember, but also launched the Star Wars extended universe) thought that many people like shorter reads at the holiday, and that a small book with illustrations would make a terrific and inexpensive gift. So with his guidance I expanded the original story while still, I hope, keeping the feel of a myth or folktale, which are sketched more than painted. That gave me chance to get to know Katie and her hurt a little more, and to better explore the mysterious relationship that starts to wake her world. Also, I’m way beyond thrilled with the cover. Carol was able to capture elements from the original papers we’d used on our first, homemade edition, while still crafting something new and wonderful.

LRR: You have a link on your website to your company, Gramarye Media. There was a lot on the company’s website that is outside my wheelhouse, but the phrase “ebook 2.0” caught my eye. What’s an ebook 2.0?

J.A.: Gramarye Media is a a next-generation book publisher and movie studio of the future, and we have an idea to disrupt the Hollywood studio system. It’s led by A-list industry veterans from both publishing and film.

Our model involves building an audience community first, before shooting a single frame of film, and then listening to them and to the author so that we can adapt with integrity. So we start with books, and spend a full year working with the author to raise the quality of that manuscript, while at the same time preparing it for adaptation across media channels. At the end of that year, we publish them both as hardcover books, and as what we call eBook 2.0. These are sold through the app stores for tablets and smart phones (although our plan is that if you buy the hardcover, you can also download the eBook 2.0 version for free). They are meant to feel like a book from the library at Hogwarts … they’re beautifully designed, and they feel, well, magical. The illustrations come alive and move. There’s music and sound effects timed to your reading speed.

We’ll be adding story-relevant games that make you feel like a part of the story. You can switch back and forth between the text and the audio book. We’re even including forums where you can interact with other readers or share fan art, films, and stories. And a whole lot more. They’re designed to create a more immersive reading experience. Every one of these is a sort of test. If a fan community forms around a story, we’ll make the movie. We’re building our own stages, and we’ll have our own distribution, both to theaters and to streaming. But it’s all centered around the author and the fan community.

LRR: Thank you so much John!

4 Responses to "Interview with John Adcox, author of Raven Wakes the World"

You can always use a „classic“ block and stay in the old mode! That’s what I do currently.

Liked by 3 people

This is a fascinating interview (as always), and I think I’m going to have to buy this book for a couple of friends of mine … and *ahem* myself. 😊

Liked by 3 people

[…] As most of you know, my novel Raven Wakes the World is going to be released tomorrow, and should be available wherever fine books are sold. While most of the marketing and such won’t hit until November (it’s a holiday gift book after all), my first interview has just been published. […]

Liked by 2 people

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.
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