This week, Edmonton author and artist Alexis Marie Chute celebrates the launch of Inside the Sun, the third instalment of her young-adult fantasy 8th Island Trilogy series. The series takes readers both young and old on a vivid, visceral voyage into other worlds, while at the same time showing how family bonds can span across galaxies.
Unfortunately, COVID-19 means that a planned promotional tour has been scrubbed, and she’s looking for new ways to get the word out about her books. Chute and Avenue editor Steven Sandor chatted via Skype about Inside the Sun.
SS: Tell us more about the new book …
AMC: The 8th Island Trilogy comes to an exciting conclusion this April with the publication of Inside the Sun. The whole trilogy is really a story about a somewhat dysfunctional, quirky family. The crux of the story is how far they’ll go to protect each other, even to other worlds. That is what is really put to the test, because Grandpa Archie, being the funny old guy that he is, he accidentally transports his family to a different dimension. There, they have encounters with danger and different races of creatures. And, yet, they find out that one of the members of their family is pivotal in the survival of not only Earth, but all the worlds.
SS: I read the first instalment, and I recall how vivid you are in your descriptions, which is unusual for young-adult authors. We’re usually told to not be as descriptive, to keep it moving. But it really works for you, for these books. You take people into fantasy world that’s so vividly described …
AMC: I think part of that is that I’m a really visual person. I’m a visual artist as well as a writer. As I’m writing the story, I am seeing it, I am experiencing it like a personal alternate writer dimension as I’m going through this journey. I’ve had a lot of people say to me that they feel like they’re in this other place, which is kind of a cool thing now that we’re all stuck at home. If you want to have an adventure, if you’re feeling bored, it’s nice to have a book that can transport you to somewhere else.
SS: You talk about being stuck at home. What kind of challenge is it to launch a book at this time? I know the kind of work that goes into putting together one novel, let alone a trilogy. I’ve seen you not just in Edmonton, but at book events in other places where we’ve crossed paths. I know you are tireless when it comes to getting the word out about your work. What kind of challenge is that for you right now?
AMC: It is causing me to think more creatively about my marketing than I ever have before. I’m a people person, someone who loves to interact with readers in person. But every single stop on my book tour has been cancelled, obviously. So, I’m launching a virtual book tour for Inside the Sun, so that’s going to go at the end of April and all the way through May and most of June, as well. I am putting out more YouTube videos. I’m really just trying to connect with people virtually and do that in meaningful ways. I’m hoping people will still be eager and excited to read, especially now. I don’t know about you, but I am really plugging through the Netflix series and the HBO series. So, cuddling up with a good book is a lovely change of scenery, without getting out of the house.
SS: A lot of people think when you work with words for a living, that you inhale books. What people don’t realize is you spend so much time writing and editing, you don’t have as much time to read as you’d want to. For myself, this time has given me a chance to catch up a little bit on a big ‘to-read’ pile.
AMC: Totally! I’m working through my own big pile right now. It’s really fun. And that’s true for even my kids. My 10-year-old got into our Kindle and now she’s like, ‘oh my gosh! Ebooks!’ When we ask her to go to sleep, she’s reading till the end. It’s making home-schooling interesting in the morning, but, I think this is a great time to be a reader.
SS: Going back to the book, the series, one thing I really like is that your lead character, your hero, has a lot of vulnerabilities. She battles cancer. To have a character that is dealing with an extremely serious ailment, what was that like in the writing process? What inspired that?
AMC: Ella, who has cancer at the back of her neck, was really inspired by my experience losing my child, Zachary. He had a really large tumour around his heart. I didn’t set out to write this story as a fictionalized version of things that I’ve gone through, obviously in my life I don’t go to fantasy worlds. But I feel that we all have some kind of challenges in our lives. To create a character who was real, that was something I understood in a really tangible way. A character that would have a physical ailment, but just suck it up and live. In some ways, Ella, at 14 years old, is more mature than her mom, who has got her own issues. She is so industrious and brave. She’s got so much going on within herself yet she cares about other people. She is always trying to help and to save and to protect those in her life who she cares about. I think she’s the hero of this story who I needed. I wanted to believe in her and to root for her.