Interview with John Paul Tucker

Can you tell us a little bit about the characters in Shelter Island?

Cary, Clarisse and Gregory are latchkey siblings who have been pretty much left to manage themselves by a pair of professional parents who are buried deep in examining artifacts from a recent dig, which concern the continent’s history on which they live, the Fragile Lands. The siblings have issues. Cary has withdrawn and argues with just about everybody and has slowly built up a resentment towards his younger brother. Gregory is feeling pretty lost for a reason you’ll read more about in the second book of the series, The Rooster and the Raven King. Their parents tend to dote on Gregory more than they ever did on Cary and Clarisse – when the anthropologists are around. Clarisse has been caught in the middle and plays referee to her two brothers. But their blur of problems is about to come into sharp focus when, bickering over the contents of a small embroidered pouch, they accidentally summon three birds of prey, who whisk them away to a secret island inhabited by a civilization of intelligent birds mired in troubles of their own. The remainder of the characters, which I will keep under wraps for now, inhabit Shelter Island.

Can you tell us a little bit about your next books or what you have planned for the future?

Happy you asked. Inspired by Lilith and Phantastes, George MacDonald’s classic fairytales for adults, my latest work is a Heroic Fantasy for ages 12 and up. Will Flint’s longing for his missing father ignites a dramatic and fateful quest into a mythical country in which the unseen things of the world have transformed into creatures of elemental power, a land in which one impulsive request transforms one realm and shatters another. The novel is a little darker than my first middle grade books, but who doesn’t like to feel their heart thumping once in a while? You can watch the book trailer at my author website:

How long would you say it takes you to write a book?

The first draft of approximately 50,000 words — six months. Subsequent edits and rewrites, and further edits after my publisher took it on, while I was working on other manuscripts — 3 years!

What is your favorite childhood book?

Jonathan Livingston Seagull, a novella by Richard Bach & Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss

If you could spend the day with one of the characters from Shelter Island who would it be? Please tell us why you chose this particular character, where you would go and what you would do.

I would spend the day with Fyrndagas Underdel Dearth, the Third. Dearth is first into a fray and last to leave a battle. He’s cantankerous and doesn’t do small talk, but in a pinch he’s the one you would want on your side. I have no idea where we would go or what we would do. He takes the lead. In all likelihood the day would involve spying, pilfering of something needed to further the cause of Fridorfold, and a daring escape. Did I mention Dearth’s a rat? Actually, he’s an Underdel, not to be mistaken for the talkative, rather skittish and much rounder Underdens. Just don’t call him a r-a-t to his rather long-toothed, whiskered face.

What was the hardest scene from Shelter Island to write?

If I told you how many times I edited the first scene, which happens to be the entire first chapter, you would be appalled.

What made you want to become a writer?

I have always found stories compelling. Books opened up new worlds and introduced peculiar characters I would have liked to have as friends. Stories taught me profound truths which I could not grasp any other way. But it was Ernest Hemmingway’s Old Man and the Sea and Jonathan Livingston Seagull, a novella by Richard Bach which had the greatest impact on my young and impressionable imagination. I wept for Hemmingway’s old fisherman. Then, I got angry. I refused to believe that the old man’s experience, which read like a sad parable, was all life had to offer. Jonathan Seagull, in contrast, swept alongside a young artist and promised much, much more than meets the eye. I was astounded that stories could wield so much power. Perhaps, those novels were the grand impetus, when I knew there would be no turning back.

Thanks so much for visiting with us today!