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Author Showcase

Summer 2008 Featured Author Thora Gabriel

RT: I'm not sure where to start, so let's open with: Congratulations! Your debut novel Chessie Bligh and the Scroll of Andelthor (an-DEL-thor) was just released and it is already collecting awards.

Thora: Woo hoo! Yes, awards are the highlight of anyone’s career. They are life’s achievements and an awesome way to start my career as an author! Both the Midwest Book Review and Mom’s Choice came in as emails. When I got them, I was afraid of what they might say: “We’re sorry, but you just couldn’t’ cut the mustard" or “The Grand Canyon, a dog, an elf? What were you thinking!" So, being the big fat chicken that I am, I asked my husband to read them. I sat on the floor with my dog and buried my head in a pillow in case I needed to cry or scream. Well, I did need that pillow — for screams of happiness!

RT: Most of Chessie Bligh's story takes place in a universe that parallels the Grand Canyon. The setting is familiar to you, as you also hike the canyons near your home in California. But you grew up on a farm, and elves lived there, too. Do you ever see yourself telling us the story of the elves in the meadow?

Thora: First, I'd like to introduce Chessie. She is an elf hero raised by human parents. Her parents look at her as an accessory, so they aren't really her caregivers. When her mother sends her off to yet one more boarding school, Chessie meets a young girl, they trade places, and Chessie ends up in the Grand Canyon, where she enters Die Sterntaler, another dimension, discovers her magical powers, and her haunted past collides with her wondrous future.

As to the meadow, funny you should ask. I just finished writing a chapter for Book II — Journey to Antélantiësse. Chessie and a group of elves are traveling from their earth bound human world to the elf world, Antélantiësse. Upon exploring Antélantiësse, they discover an "enchanted place, an endless meadow … [where] the sweet scent of timothy mixes with clover." Click here for a map and a preview.

RT: When you first discovered Chessie in the canyons, did you know that there would be a second book?

Thora: I always knew Chessie’s story was worth telling. She has the free spirit that drives every adventurer: to discover the unknown around the bend. Chessie doesn’t believe in rulers and people in power. If you ask her, she will tell you that those in power decide what is history, and that's the wrong point of view. She hopes to reveal the true history of the world — the history of the people who built the pyramids, left a homeland in search of freedom and unfettered governance, and who gave her blood, sweat, tears and life for their homeland. She wants the reader to look beyond what was or is to see what could be. It's quite a journey, so it will take a few volumes.

RT: Can you tell us more about the language origins for the story? Andelthor, Antélantiësse, Sterntaler, Sitnalta all have a Germanic/Nordic sound to them. Then there is oro grande and Petrovna, with their Spanish and Russian and Russian origins. Do you speak many languages?

Thora: I wish I spoke many languages, but I don’t. In my day job, I am fortunate to work in a global community. My department has 167 associates and my colleagues speak 28 languages. Chessie's DNA comes from my ancestors. She has a white complexion, blond hair, and uniquely shaped hears. The Nordic languages and things of that nature come from tales from Norway.

As I think of it, other elements in the story draw on my personal history, too. My great-great grandfather robbed the cookie jar of money back in the mid-1800s, stowed away on a ship, and came to America. He nearly died during the crossing. He was discovered hiding in the hold and had to work his way across the ocean. After arriving at New Orleans, he worked on the levy and then the boss refused to pay him and the other boys for a year's work. So they threw the boss in a gunpowder shed and threatened to blow him up. The boss relented and paid everyone. My grandfather took his money and used it for his down payment on the farm in Northern Illinois where I grew up.

RT: Chessie's journey is quite intricate. There are more than a few key figures and plenty of plot twists. Kids tend to want to offer suggestions for what should come next. Have they given you ideas that would realistically work?

Thora: Yes, a couple of readers have asked for a futuristic story. That was my original plan, so it is nice to know I'm going in the right direction. In book II, Chessie and her fellow elves will be tourists. They will use the same modes of transportation we use around the world today: mass transit, foot, or horse. But Chessie's horse is a Hoovanesian — Hoover for short, a flying horse. Why a Hoover? As a child I grew up with the Golden Book of Elves. I loved the story about a little boy who finds buried treasure when a flying horse leads him to a hidden cave. I must have read this story a thousand times.

RT: Have you ever had a situation where you realized that the plot might be a bit too complicated? For example, someone suggested something that couldn't happen, but the missed the event that would have precluded it. For example, they want a character to become an eagle to collect information, but he can't because there was a spell that took away his ability to fly.

Thora: Yes, one reader wants Wuggbert (the dog) to become a spy. I may have him do that, but right now, his size makes him dependent on Chessie to get around. Since he is sitting in her backpack, he can't go off and be a spy.

I’m quickly learning how complicated Chessie is. I have plot outlines, character outlines, ancestral outlines, and map outlines. Trying to keep all this straight is mind-boggling, and it is going to get harder, because I am about to straddle two worlds. Some of the Die Sterntaler group will remain on human earth, while Chessie's group head for Antélantiësse. My biggest struggle is presenting Antélantiësse to the reader without getting them lost in the characters, setting, and historical intrigue.

RT: In an interview on BlogTalkRadio, you suggested that kids use calendars as a way of keeping a journal, or at least as a place to jot down events in their life. Is this something you started doing independently, or was it something suggested to you as a tool for writing?

Thora: Have you ever met a WuzGunna? This is someone who was gunna do that, but forgot. He was gunna help, but decided to watch TV instead. You get the idea. WuzGunna have lots of excuses for never getting anything done. When I made the determination I was going to write my book, I used a strategy to place events on a calendar. Because I created the event, it triggered forward movement of my book. I set goals — attainable goals. Such as, I am going to write two chapters by August 1. I can't sit around waiting for some one else to “make something happen.” I have to initiate what will. You can't imagine how bloodied I am when I miss one of my goals. I really beat myself up. For me, the calendar works. It lets me keep other people's events, too. I put the who, what, when, where and why on my calendar. All my information is in one place….it saves time. Putting things on my calendar forces me to act. It gives me results.

RT: Let's talk book trailers. Your book trailer is a unique item on at least 20 different sites. Have you found any one site has given you more boost than another? Because it seems everyone is using book trailers, have you found that you are competing harder for viewers' attention than when you first launched it?

Thora: YouTube has given me the biggest boost. It seems to be the major video site that shares my book with its members. It is awesome to see my book in over 30 countries.

RT: You also spend a lot of time with more traditional promotion (e.g., signings, participating in shows). Has the book trailer has affected your tour schedule? [For example, more demand for your time, more interest on your part to be selective, etc.]

Thora: My tour schedule is picking up. The book trailer has really helped. You know the cliché a picture is worth a 1,000 words? Well, a book video is worth a billion words. People get a feel for my book in 3 minutes. Once they see Chessie finding the magical staff next to the skeletal remains, and watch her use it to thwart the evil wizard, they’re hooked. I have also made a book video. With the book video, I can email a link of one of the hosting sites and share my book.

This fall I will visit a number of schools and libraries to talk about the book and some of the awesome places I have explored. In my presentation I also talk about some of the awesome places I have explored. Schools and libraries in Southern California can contact me if they are interested. On September 12, I'm hosting a big event. The actress who plays Chessie in the trailer will be on hand to talk about how she got the part, how she got into the book trailer business, and how she likes being Chessie. A Hollywood make-up artist will be on hand to transform her and another lucky reader into an elf. You can enter for your chance to become an elf on my website.

RT: If you could only select one category, how would you characterize Chessie Bligh and the Scroll of Andelthor? Is it a middle-grade reader, young adult novel, crossover fantasy? Please tell us why you think it fits that label?

Thora: Hmmm…..that’s a hard question. Chessie Bligh has a complex plot that has stymied any categorization. It's like describing Harry Potter. I was first in line to get my copy of Harry. I’m not middle grade, nor young adult, but that is the audience they promoted the books to. The same is true for Chessie. A 12-year-old boy in an advanced school in Boston read it; an 80-year-old man loved it so much he bought copies for all his kids and grandchildren; and a school librarian loved it so much she is working to have the school use it in their reading program. So I guess I would call it — a FUN READ! A book with lots of MAGIC, FANTASY, SPELLS, and FUTURISTIC IDEAS — good for all ages!

RT: Is there anything else you'd like to add?
Thora: I hope my readers enjoy reading about Chessie. I think we need more novels with a young girl as its main character. Girls need to read and appreciate that they can do whatever they set their mind to do. Everyone needs a Wuggbert — a pet who gives its undying love and asks for nothing in return. When we care for animals, we learn to appreciate that we humans need to take care of all earth’s creatures.

Look upon life in a new direction. Make a difference. Help preserve this precious planet, its water, animals, plants, nature...of all the planets in our solar systems, this is the crown jewel.

Website: http://www.chessiebligh.com


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