Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Kaimira Blog Tour: Chris Rettstatt speaks

In a future world where beasts, humans and machines are at war with each other two teens find they have hidden talents for balancing the unique attributes of all three species. As they face each life-threatening challenge they begin to understand their powers and learn to harness their strengths.I found this tension and development particularly interesting in reading Kaimira: Sky Village last spring. When the opportunity came for me to interview the author, Chris Rettstatt (pen name Monk Ashland) for the blog the main thing I wanted to hear him talk about is how this schema connects with real life for him and his readers. Here's what he had to say:

Cloudscome: The thing I love about reading fantasy is the connections I can make to my own internal struggles. As a parent I am always on the roller coaster of affection, admiration, amazement and heights of joy alternating with plunging into terror, despair, frustration and rage. And that's not the toddler's tantrums, that's mine. I connected right away to Rom's struggle to balance the triangle of Mek strength with Beast passion. I'd love to hear you talk about how you feel that in your life and how you managed to split it off and write it into a story.

Chris: As a very young child, I was terrified of the TV show The Incredible Hulk. According to my mother, I’d line up all my action figures (mostly Star Wars and G.I. Joe) in a protective circle around my bed when I went to sleep. That was how I dealt with my fear, and I think my fear had something to do with the character’s battle with his own rage, and particularly how that battle was dramatized on the screen. Either that or the scary green skin.

My teenage years were full of wild mood swings. In my early teen years, I was nervous and introverted. I was awkward and poor. I was one of millions of kids who came from broken homes, and I could go from being depressed to being angry in a matter of seconds.

This wasn’t mental illness. This was the normal experience of a teenager. And I had no idea how to manage those feelings.

By the time I hit high school, I was still a high introvert, and I was anxious by default, but I’d taught myself a few tricks to use whenever an Incredible Hulk moment hit me and my feelings threatened to get the best of me.

These experiences have certainly found their way into my writing. What I love about writing fantasy is that it allows me to take very personal, internal dramas and come up with crazy ways to externalize them. Mei and Rom are torn from their worlds and hurled into an adventure, and while they struggle with what’s going on inside, the challenges they face around them – demonsmithing, learning the ropes – take that struggle to the next level.

The recent Incredible Hulk movie starts with Edward Norton meditating in a favela in Brazil. I found this particularly interesting. First, because learning to wrangle the most intense of our emotion seems like something straight out of Buddhism. And second, because whenever I start thinking I had it hard as a teen, favelas and comparable communities around the world remind me what it really means to have it hard, where keeping one’s cool, so to speak, can be a life-and-death matter.

Cloudscome: That is fascinating! I've already said in my review that I sometimes imagine myself as Rom with a little triangle in my head showing how my temper/passion is balancing with cool reason when I am about to lose my cool in a frustrating situation. Your story has given me an image to employ.

I also am intrigued by the way you're inviting fan participation in gaming and through your interactive website. How do you see readers/fans contributing to growing the Kaimira world? I wonder how it feels to let go of control. I imagine it's a powerful rush and also a bit disconcerting to see it take off.

Chris: Fan participation is something I’ve been particularly excited about since I first created Kaimira. I’m curious to see what readers will do with the world and characters I’ve created. Of course, it’s never easy for a writer to let go of his babies. Like anyone else, I struggle with the desire to control the things I create. But I also know that a story belongs to the readers at least as much as to the storyteller. And the intersection of those perspectives – the author’s and the readers’ – is where the real magic happens.

Cloudscome: You are so right Chris! I know this is going to keep building as the rest of the books come out and I am looking forward to seeing how the growing Kaimira community evolves. And I'm going to be so proud to tell my library patrons, when they are begging me to hold the book for them, "Oh, yeah, I know the author. We chat online."

Chris has more interviews up on blogs this week. Check out Wands and Worlds and Shelf Elf for the posts from Monday and Tuesday. Thursday he'll be at Brighton Book Bloggers, Friday the Association of Online Community Monitors, and Saturday he visits Bri Meets Books.

Thanks for visiting Chris!


Sheila said...

Good questions, Cloudscome, especially the one about connecting it to our own internal struggles. Thanks for posting a great interview.

Colleen said...

Wow. I learned things about Chris from your interview, and I've worked with him for three years. Thanks, Cloudcome, for an insightful review of a magical book from a fascinating author.

rettstatt said...

I hope that wasn't TMI. I certainly enjoyed the questions, evidenced by the fact that I went on and on :)

Cloudscome said...

Chris it is fabulous! i love how you discovered how to use the comic book/movie figures to battle your own fear and rage in youth. It's just what we want to hear about how important story is to our real life. It just proves again the dynamic between inner/outer, heart/mind, reader/writer. Thank you!