I just finished reading one of the most wonderful fantasy novels that I have ever read! Seriously! It’s called Wyndano’s Cloak and it is written by A.R. Silverberry. My raving 5 star review is here.I enjoyed it so much so that I contacted the author and asked if he wouldn’t mind doing an interview. And he agreed. Yippee! Also, it just so happens that he is on a blog tour for the re-release of his novel. So please help me welcome the author of WYNDANO’S CLOAK, A.R. Silverberry!
Hello Mr. Silverberry, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I’ve been a licensed psychologist since 1991. I work mostly with children and teens, but also adults. I love my work, but the job of a psychologist is to help others actualize themselves. This means I have to look elsewhere for a creative outlet. I’ve played piano since I was ten and later played in bands and composed music, including a choral cantata about Paul Robeson, based on a poem by the Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda. My fingers started feeling the strain of banging the ivories. I had to seek another channel for my creativity, so in 1998 I turned to writing.
What do you do when you are not writing?
I still play piano ten to fifteen minutes, daily if I can squeeze it in. I do a lot of reading. I’ve got a seventy-five minute commute, which I fill with audio books, but I read a lot off my Kindle. I don’t watch TV, other than my favorite show, Iron Chef America, and movies. I love cats, pesto, homemade pasta, marinara sauce (are you seeing an Italian trend here?!), Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Chopin, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Jane Eyre, and the Lord of the Rings, not necessarily in that order.
Awesome! When did you finish your first book?
2003. It was the prequel to Wydnano’s Cloak. It’s sitting in my dresser, waiting for revisions. I really would like to get to it, but other stories are demanding to be written first.
Oh my goodness, I can’t wait for that one! So, where do you get your ideas?
Everywhere. The more I get away from my desk and out into the world, the more my imagination is stimulated. Julia Cameron, who wrote The Writer’s Way, recommends that writers have artist dates. You go out solo and explore something new and interesting. She compares the wellspring of creativity to a pond where new ideas are the fish. To keep the pond stocked, go out on an artist data. She’s right. Whenever things start to grow stagnant or stop flowing, I get myself pronto into a new environment. It works every time. Even a walk outside will do it.
I’ve always been a big people watcher. I did it all through school, and observing human behavior is my stock-in-trade as a psychologist. But I hone in on different things when I’m watching as a writer. I ask myself, why does that woman wear that color scarf? Why is that child playing with a plastic bat? I keep a notebook in my pocket and I’m constantly recording what I see. I’ve been known to do that when I’m driving, which can be quite hairy!
What a great way to come up with ideas! Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?
I sent that prequel I mentioned above to five top New York agents. Two asked for the whole manuscript, which is a coup in itself. Both wrote gracious letters back, and one actually provided some concrete feedback, which I paid close attention to. After that, I attended writers’ workshops and classes, and read a number of excellent books on the craft. Armed with a clear idea how to improve my writing, I wrote Wyndano’s Cloak.
Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?
A snapshot popped into my head depicting exactly what the heroine would have to do in the story’s climax. The Rose Castle—made from a single piece of translucent stone, where safety or danger can be seen in the flickering and shimmering colors inside it—came straight from my imagination. Most of my settings come from real places that I visited or found photo references for. I love working this way. I get ideas I would never think of. For example, when Jen’s friend, Bit, goes into the Royal Stable, I reference sounds and sites she’s hearing “off camera”:
“The sharp ring of metal roused her from a blanket of melancholy. Outside, Hom the Smith had begun hammering. He had a long shed behind the stable, where, in addition to hot coals and bellows, a flotsam of old wheels, hubs, spokes, discarded wagon cushions, and rusty tools crowded his stall. Fifteen shoes of various sizes were nailed on a beam above his open-air window. A deep, soulful tenor sang from his hammer, and Bit guessed he was beating on number ten, a shoe for a heavy draft horse.”
That level of detail establishes a powerful feeling of place. What’s more, as the scene progressed, the pounding on the shoe, and later, the hissing steam as the red-hot iron is doused in water, mirrors Bit’s growing apprehension at leaving the safety of the Rose Castle and traveling to a strange place with dangers all around her. I never would have gotten that subtext without visiting a stable and carriage house built in the mid-nineteenth century!
What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?
I loved writing Chapter Ten. It poured out pretty much as you see it, with few revisions. It tells the story about the heroine Jen’s life growing up in the Plain World—a gray, dreary, magicless world—before coming to Aerdem and being reunited with her family. What I love about the chapter is how it characterizes Jen, showing she’s an outsider, so different from the children around her. I think it beautifully establishes why Jen doesn’t want to lose her family, now that she’s reunited with them; it establishes why she yearns to rise above her circumstances, yearns to master Wyndano’s Cloak: It may be the only protection she has against the darkness about to descend on their lives.
That was one of my favorite to read as well! How did you come up with the title?
The title was hard to nail down. It refers to a cloak in the story that lends shapeshifting powers to the wearer. It’s vitally important to the plot, the main character, and the book’s theme. It symbolizes the yearning of the human spirit to soar above adversity. Such a symbol can’t be overused, and I didn’t. Think of To Kill a Mockingbird. Said bird is only mentioned a few times in Lee’s classic. Same with For Whom the Bell Tolls. You have to wait for the end to understand what Hemingway is saying. It’s not a book about church bells! So it goes with Wyndano’s Cloak.
What project are you working on now?
I’m working on a dystopian science fiction novel set in the not too distant future. I’m anticipating this one will be a trilogy. In very broad strokes, I know what will happen in books two and three. Book one has been hard to write. Orson Scott Card said that it could take years for a story to ripen. I think that’s what’s happened here. The world building and the backstory are just taking their own sweet time. After three false starts, I decided to skip the set up and started writing the middle. That went well for a few chapters. Then I wasn’t sure which direction to take things so I skipped to the end and wrote that. Now I’m back at the beginning, which is finally going well. I’m still not sure about the middle, but I have faith it will come, even if I have to set the whole thing aside and work on something else! Not to compare myself to them in any way, but I remind myself that Beethoven took nine years to write the overture to Fidelio. Brahms took twenty years for his first symphony, as did Neil Gaiman to complete The Graveyard Book. My philosophy: Give yourself permission to take time; they’re ready when they’re ready.
I’ve also got a completed science fiction fantasy, which will be coming out in the late spring or early summer. I’m not ready to release too much info about it, but will say this: It’s part coming-of-age tale, part adventure, part spiritual journey. Set in a unique, highly visual and palpable world, it cuts across several genres and will appeal to teens, adults, and fans of speculative fiction. I’ll keep you posted about it!
Jade, thanks so much for having me today!
It was a pleasure, Mr. Silverberry! Thank you for agreeing to stop here on your tour and good luck with all of your current and future projects!
About Wyndano’s Cloak:
Jen has settled into a peaceful life when a terrifying event awakens old fears—of being homeless and alone, of a danger horrible enough to destroy her family and shatter her world forever.
She is certain that Naryfel, a shadowy figure from her past, has returned and is concentrating the full force of her hate on Jen’s family. But how will she strike? A knife in the dark? An attack from her legions? Or with the dark arts and twisted creatures she commands with sinister cunning.
Wyndano’s Cloak may be Jen’s only hope. If she’s got what it takes to use it . . .
About the Author:
A. R. Silverberry has won a dozen awards, including Gold Medal Winner in the 2011 Benjamin Franklin Awards for Juvenile/Young Adult Fiction; Gold Medal Winner in the 2010 Readers Favorite Awards for Preteen Fiction; and Silver Medal Winner 2011 in the Bill Fisher Award for Best First Book, Children’s/Young Adult. He lives in California, where the majestic coastline, trees, and mountains inspire his writing. Wyndano’s Cloak is his first novel. Follow him at the links below!