Today I'm talking with Edward Eaton, author of Rosi's Castle, the first in a YA contemporary fantasy series set in New England.
1) Tell us about your book.
Rosi's Castle is a novel about Rosi Carol, a teenager who is sent to live with an eccentric uncle in a small town in coastal New Hampshire after her father disappears. The Castle she moves into appears to be haunted. The locals think the town is haunted--by her. When Rosi goes to her uncle and asks to explain why everyone is treating her oddly, he simply tells her to figure it out on her own.
Rosi's Castle is part fantasy, part science fiction, with a bit supernatural thrown in for good measure. It is probably more fantasy than science fiction. There is a certain physics to Rosi's new world, but much of it has been tweaked to fit the physics of my imagination. I do not want to give too many spoilers, so I cannot explain too much. Over the course of the series, Rosi's Doors, the physics will be explained. It is certainly consistent throughout the books. However, it plays a greater role in some than in others. There is also an element of historical fiction to the series. That is an aspect I will talk about when the second book comes out.
The whole series is Rosi Carol's journey to maturity. She learns about responsibility. She also learns about sacrifice. What sacrifices is she willing to make to keep the power that she is being offered? What sacrifices is she willing to make to do what she has to do?
2) What inspired this book?
I have a process for writing. I have an idea. I play with the idea, running it back and forth in my mind. If the idea continues to follow me around after a few days, I talk about it with my wife or my reader, Brian. Not all of the ideas are stories. I come up with games. I have even play tested a few of them, which is fun. I come up with scholarly works. If, after I talk with Silviya and Brian, the idea still follows me around, I take action. What that means is that I write it down someplace. Computers are great because the notes do not take up any space. There is a folder with a document in it. Some ideas, ones I particularly like, get a small notebook (I am partial to the Moleskin notebooks). Poetry always gets a notebook. I always write that by hand.
I work for a living. I teach, and I direct plays and stage fights for the theatre. So I do not carry around lots of notebooks at a time. I do not have the time. I simply choose one work to focus on and make sure that notebook is on hand. At a certain point, I start outlining. Then I start writing. The hard part is making myself focus. I could be one of those writers who has fifteen or twenty works at various stages and never finishes any of them. I do find it kind of fun to pull out a notebook in the middle of a meeting or social function. If I whipped out a book or my cell phone, everyone would think it terribly rude. Start taking notes on my next book and everyone is very solicitous. Of course, then they practically expect me to write the book in front of them. It reminds me of the Monty Python Novel-Writing sketch.
I love deadlines. In the theatre, you know that the show will open in three and a half weeks. This is not a debatable issue. The sets have to be built. The actors have to know their lines. Tickets are sold. The doors open. An audience comes in. Of course writing a novel is somewhat different, but if I go through the whole process thinking that it needs to be finished vaguely 'someday,' I will find all sorts of reasons not to do it. Indeed, that is what has happened to quite a few 'brilliant works of literature' that are sitting on my hard drive.
My writing got a big boost when a play I had written, Orpheus and Eurydice, was published. About the same time as I was polishing the play, one of the actresses in the original production, a young woman who is in her teens, read an early draft of Rosi's Doors. She loved it and encouraged me to continue working on it. Then I found Dragonfly Publishing and the ball really started rolling.
So, to answer your question: I did not really get inspired to write this book. I came up with an idea that I liked. I played with it. I did other projects. I returned to it. Encouraged by some friends and readers, I finished it. Then, given publication dates and an editor by a publisher, I polished, reworked, rewrote, and got it ready.
3) The United States is a large country with many regions that have both geographical and historical backgrounds that lend themselves well to supernatural stories. Why did you choose New England?
Short answer: taxes. One of the conflicts found in the series (it will be more pronounced in later books) is between the local families, mostly shop owners and fishermen, and the wealthy newcomers from Boston. The reason the Boston families moved just across the border from Massachusetts was because New Hampshire has no state income tax.
I chose New England for other reasons as well. There is the relationship between New England and early American history, which will be an important part of Books 2 and 3. Another reason was that there is this tradition of the supernatural in the area. There is Puritanism, witchcraft, the devil. New England is full of haunted houses
Another reason is that I live in New England. I have been here for some time. I have lived in the Boston area for longer than I have lived in any other place. There is a rhythm to New England that lends itself to the story I want to tell.
Different regions in the States have different personalities. Generally speaking, most people whose families have been in the States for more than just a couple of generations have a history that includes some time in the Eastern United States. Most of them will trace roots back to the Northeast: New York, Boston, Philadelphia. These are cities with which all Americans are familiar. These are the cities that founded America. We collectively, unconsciously, identify with them. Because of this, they, and the Northeast take on a more universal quality when used settings for books or movies. That is not to say that there is not universality in regional literature. But, it is regional literature. It is hard to understand Faulkner without understanding the South, Reconstruction, and the Civil War. Readers do not face quite the same obstacles when reading Hawthorne.
4) What went into creating your protagonist, Rosi?
Rosi was a process that took several years. My image of her changed a lot while I was outlining and drafting Rosi's Castle. Early on, I was having a lot of trouble coming up with her character. I had the basic idea for the story. I even had the name of the town. I knew the history of the town. The first thing I wrote on this story was a draft of the the British landing with the first Carol. I did not have a handle on my protagonist. One day I was at my in-laws' house with a friend of my wife's. He repeatedly mispronounced my niece's name. It is Rosi, with a soft 's'. In Bulgarian: Роси, short for Росица. 'Rosi' is a simple transliteration of the word. It was not just that he saw the name and said it wrong. He was told the name several times. He just could not get it. A running gag in the book is that almost everyone says it incorrectly. Not everyone, of course. That is a clue.
I cast all of my characters. You probably would not recognize my actors. It is not like I imagine Michael Caine as Uncle Richard (though I can see that) or Walton Goggins as Jessie (a reviewer suggested that; my initial thought was : “YES!”). Rather, I find people, or combinations of people, who have some sort of physical characteristics or personality traits that help me identify and individualize the characters in my mind. Angie's physical model is a friend I knew years ago in West Virginia. Andy looks a lot like her husband and like a friend from prep school. In fact, Andy and Kirk are both 'based' on those same two people. There is a thin line between bully and victim. If Kirk did not have a popular brother and a wealthy family, he might well have turned out just like Andy. Once I can see a character walk or hear him or her talk in my mind, a lot of my job is done. And the image changes, depending on where I am in the story and what purpose the character serves, or because that image has served its purpose and I have to move on.
Rosi was the easiest and the hardest. Rosi is the character I spent the most time with. She is the focal character, so I put myself in her head a lot. Sometimes, I put myself in Rosi's personality. Her taste in books and films is mine. Her taste in video games is mine, though she is better at them than I am. Naturally, her taste in boys is not mine--not that there's anything wrong with that. I teach college students and read their essays and listen to their discussions. They are not that far from fifteen--especially a fairly mature and well-read fifteen year old. When I was growing up, I read girls' books as well as boys' books (Nancy Drew and the like). I am a fan of Buffy (the television show). I hope I have created a believable fifteen-year-old heroine. Some of my earliest readers were women, including the teenaged daughter of a colleague of mine. The responses I got from them and from readers of the published book have been positive in that respect.
Physically, Rosi has changed a lot. Her age has changed several times. There was no one physical model for her. Several young women I have worked over the past few years in the theatre could probably find themselves in Rosi is they looked hard enough.
5) Why do you think there's such an enduring appeal for supernatural stories?
Perhaps we like to believe in the supernatural because science is gradually finding answers to so many questions. Science is leaving us with a fairly dull world. I want my little boy to believe in Santa Claus forever. Not just because I want him to stay young and innocent, but because I want him (and me) to live in a world where there is magic and mystery and the unknown. I think we all want to live in that world. Wouldn't it be really cool if the Wizarding World really did exist? What if there was a magic wardrobe somewhere that could take us to a land of adventure? What if Santa Claus was a magical being who rewarded good boys and girls and punished bad ones and not simply harried, overworked, underpaid parents scratching together enough bits to let the kiddies smile at least one day out of the year. What if the Force really was some mystic force that runs within and between all things rather than a chemical imbalance?
What if there are ghosts and vampires and zombies and devils and demons? Sure, they are scary and dangerous, but they are also exciting and vital and remind us that we are alive. And they allow for angels. They are worth the price paid, the nights huddled under the pillows (if we can't see them, then they can't see us. That is the rule all monsters--save Weeping Angels from Dr. Who--inherently follow.).
We love paranormal stories because we want to live in that sort of world. The evil is easy to define, and the quest to destroy it is glorious. Of course, times have changed. Paranormal creatures used to invoke terror. Now they are being domesticated. Dracula kept me up for weeks. Edward Cullen may be dreamy, but he glitters and is a vegetarian--what's scary about that?
Perhaps the supernatural appeals to us because it is real. Erich von Däniken posited that the gods were aliens. Other ufologists have suggested that devils and demons were as well. What if they were not aliens, but Guardians like Richard and Rosi Carol? The Old Man in “Young Goodman Brown,” could easily be Uncle Richard. Legendary figures who never age, like St. Germain, Merlin, or The Wandering Jew, could well be Guardians. So could vampires, ghosts, even jiang shi and draug.
6) The ending of the first book opens the door (no pun intended) to potential sequels. How many do you have planned?
At the moment, I am contracted to write two sequels to Rosi's Castle. The three books that are scheduled will bring the story arc pretty much to a close. There will, however be some unanswered questions. In my mind, there are two further books. I know what happens in them. I am, though spending my time working on the Books 2 and 3 and getting them ready for publication. They are scheduled to come out this year. We can worry about Books 4 and 5 later.
In fact, the Rosi's Doors trilogy was originally written as one book. Dragonfly [the publisher] decided that it should be divided into three books. This is not as easy as it sounds. The original Rosi's Doors would have been six or seven hundred pages long. We talked about publishing it simply as one book in three volumes (like The Lord of the Rings). That would have been fairly easy. However, in the end, my editor, publisher, and I decided that it should be a series instead. That meant that each book had to have something resembling an end rather than simply a transition. A lot of copy-and-pasting went on. Important events disappeared. Characters were deleted and created. The entire last third of the book was rewritten by hand last summer in a café in the south of France. The mystery that had been spread out over the entire manuscript was now focused on Book 1. Part I had been mostly set up and exposition. Of course, this is how many books are structured. In The Lord of the Rings, for example, the Hobbits do not meet Strider until Chapter 10 (page 175 in my paperback edition); Frodo awakens in Rivendell on page 231; then there are two chapters, 50+ pages of sitting around talking before the Fellowship actually starts on their quest. That is almost 300 pages, most of which is exposition.
Now, Rosi's Doors is structured more like the original Star Wars trilogy (I am in my forties, so I like to pretend Episodes I, II, and III did not really happen--or get made). Book 2 will be the most open ended of the three. The characters will have reached a spot in the action at the end where they are not in active conflict with the antagonists, but a lot of the questions that are raised in Book 2 will not be answered until Book 3.
In terms of chronology, which can be very confusing in this series, Book 2 begins about a month and a half after the end of Book 1. Book 3 starts about one week after Book 2. Book 4 will begin a few months after Book 3 and will be immediately followed by Book 5
If you want to see more from Edward, you can find him and his work at www.edwardeaton.com and www.rosisdoors.com.
Rosi's Castle is a release of Dragonfly Publishing and is available in ebook, paperback, and hardback from a variety of vendors including Amazon and Barnes and Noble.