Monday, July 14, 2008

Kaimira Blog Tour: Interview with Chris Rettstatt

Today, I'm interviewing Chris Rettstatt as part of the blog tour for his new book, Sky Village, book one of the Kaimira series. (Chris writes the series under the pseudonym Monk Ashland; his co-author uses the pen name Nigel Ashland).

You can read my review of Sky Village here.

Sheila: I was fascinated by the technologies in The Sky Village - the meks, the demons, the Tree Book, the kaimira gene - but some of them are so advanced as to seem like magic (to paraphrase Arthur C. Clarke’s third law). Will we learn more about the basis for these technologies, either in future volumes or in supplemental materials on the web site?

Chris: That’s one of the reasons nanotech and biotech are so interesting. To the average non-scientist, the possibilities in those fields seem a lot like magic.

The second book in the series, The Terrible Everything, will shed light on the science behind the Tree Books, the demons, and the Kaimira gene, which are all related. Readers will also learn a bit about the evolution of the meks and why they act the way they do.
Sheila: The Sky Village itself, that large, floating balloon city, is such a compelling image. How did this idea come about? Was it inspired by a real experience?

Chris: In the earliest chapters for The Sky Village, when I was just starting to figure out what sort of story it was going to be, the book wasn’t even called The Sky Village, there was no Sky Village. (Or Demon Caves, for that matter.) Mei was traveling by horse-and-buggy. So I just imagined myself on the trip, traveling through this futuristic landscape that was still forming in my head, trying to imagine what strange and wonderful things Mei might see. I looked up (I was sitting outside at the time) and saw the clouds, and the image just came to me, a village made of hot air balloons. Initially it was something she saw on her journey, but the more I thought about it, the more I liked it, and eventually it took over the entire book.  

Sheila: The culture of the Sky Village seems to be based on Chinese culture. Have you lived in China?

Chris: I lived there for exactly one year, to the day, teaching English to students ages four to forty. While a lot of foreign teachers in China live in “western housing” of some sort, I was happy to live in the same apartment complex as many of my students. And I traveled a lot, from the Great Wall to tiny farm villages to the monasteries in Tibet, striking up conversations with strangers and trying to learn as much as I could and improve my Chinese at the same time.
Sheila: Did you write the cloudwatching notes at the end of the book in Chinese? Will there be a translation somewhere?

Chris: No, my written Chinese is terrible. I wrote the cloudwatching notes in English and my wife helped me translate them into Chinese, then she wrote the characters. First she tried cursive, but that didn’t look right, so next she tried the more formal style practiced by grade school kids, and that’s what made it into the book.

Sheila: According to your bio, you have an interest in “kids, technology, and story telling.” Can you tell me more about that?

Chris: When I moved back to the US from China almost a decade ago, one of my first jobs in Chicago was as a chat room monitor for a children’s online community. I was called CJ_Chris (CJ stands for Chat Jockey). I loved the job, and so I made a career in the field of youth-focused virtual community, which put me at the intersection of kids, technology and story telling. And now, as a writer, I find myself still at that intersection.

Sheila: How many books are planned in the Kaimira series?

Chris: The series is five books, which seems like a lot, but I know I’m going to have so many more stories to tell after that. And I’ll find a way to tell them.

Sheila: Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions!

Be sure to check out the rest of the tour stops throughout the week:

Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Shelf Elf

Wednesday, July 16, 2008
A Wrung Sponge

Thursday, July 17, 2008
Jan Dohner, Library Media Specialist

Friday, July 18, 2008
Association of Online Community Moderators

Saturday, July 19, 2008
Bri Meets Books
Blogged with the Flock Browser


Andromeda Jazmon said...

Great interview! I was wondering how he came up with that balloon city myself. It is so amazing to think of a whole community of people walking on ropes strung across the clouds, and acting like that's normal.

Unknown said...

Thanks! I love the balloon city. It's such a vivid image and an integral part of the story that it's amazing to find out that it wasn't even originally planned as part of the story.

Anonymous said...

I wasn't sure if I should admit that, how the idea for a hot air balloon village came about. But it was pretty interesting to me, how a tiny detail can grow to take over the whole story.

Unknown said...

I'm glad you did admit it. It's fascinating to read these kinds of details about how a story comes to be. Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions!