Today we're kicking off the ROOTLESS Blog Tour! 14 days of exclusive interviews, vlogs, and music downloads, plus each day gives you a chance to win ROOTLESS swag! (Details about the giveaway below.)
I had the privilege of reading ROOTLESS several weeks ago, and the book has stuck with me ever since. It's like nothing else you'll ever read. So when the author, Chris Howard, asked YA Books Central to organize a blog tour, I jumped at the chance. This is such a special book (kick-ass too!), and I'm up for any chance to spread the word.
To kick off the tour, I interviewed Chris about books, films, and his inspiration behind ROOTLESS. Check out what he had to say!
Thank you for joining us on YABC today! First off, can you tell us a little bit about your novel, ROOTLESS?
I'm going to quote Publishers Weekly, because their review summed up the premise better than I ever have! ROOTLESS "introduces a devastated future devoid of trees, where omnivorous locusts plague the landscape, a ruined climate makes survival difficult, and genetically engineered corn is the only viable crop. Banyan, a teenage artist searching for his missing father, builds trees out of scrap for those aching for a touch of the past. When Banyan stumbles across a map to the rumored last trees on Earth, he and an unlikely group of allies are sucked into a perilous adventure, braving cannibals, poachers, pirates, slavers, and the omnipresent and insidious GenTech corporation."
I'll add that this is my debut novel, there's a romance between Banyan and a particularly badass pirate girl, named Alpha, and that one of my favorite characters in the book is a seven-foot Rasta bodyguard, called Crow :)
Were there any television shows, films, songs, or books that helped fuel your creativity and inspiration while working on ROOTLESS?
"Fuel" is a cool way of looking at it! I've been inspired by so many films, songs and books, and I'll list some of the Cs (for Creativity) that juiced me up while I was working on the book: Cormac McCarthy … the Catcher in the Rye … Cowboy Bebop … 'Chimes of Freedom' by Bob Dylan … Joseph Campbell … the Clash … Lewis & Clark … Snow Crash … Neal Cassady … 'Concrete Jungle' by Bob Marley … and MCA (aka Adam Yauch).
I talk more about my inspirations here, and you can also "see" some of them on my Pinterest board. I'm not a big TV person, but I was way into LOST when I was writing ROOTLESS, just plowing through them on NetFlix. In fact, Banyan sometimes sounds like Sawyer in my head!
Are there any ROOTLESS contests our readers should know about and enter?
YES! We're giving away a sweet pack of goodies at every one of the stops on this Blog Tour! You can win a signed hardcover of ROOTLESS, an awesome ROOTLESS T-shirt, and some signed ROOTLESS bookmarks, too. I also give away one signed copy of the book every week from my website - to enter, just find the hidden clues :)
What did you do before becoming an author?
I studied Natural Resources Management at Colorado State University, worked for the National Park Service, taught Forest Ecology, and for seven years I led wilderness adventure trips for teenagers, which was brilliant. I also wrote a lot of songs on my guitar, and spent a ton of time recording music. That's the highlights, anyway. I've done all sorts… dishwashing, carpentry, landscaping, stacking shelves, house-painting, ski-liftie, bartender...
What book would we find on your bedside table right now?
I've been reading ZEN IN THE ART OF WRITING by Ray Bradbury. I'm a huge fan of his stories and his prose, and this book really resonates with me. I feel like I set down words for some of the same reasons that Mr. Bradbury did, and it's inspiring to hear about his relationship with writing.
What was the most recent film you saw?
LOOPER… Such an awesome movie. I also went to see RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (the first Indiana Jones flick) at the IMAX. I'd never seen it on the big screen before, and it's probably my favorite movie of all time.
How much research did you have to do for ROOTLESS?
I didn't too much research as I wrote the first draft… unless listening to Lee Perry records counts! But then I wanted to make sure things checked out - in regards to the corn, and trees, and bio-fuel. It's a fantastical story, but I wanted things to follow the laws of the world I set up. My good friend next door was one of the first people to read the book when it was all printed up and official. He's a biology teacher, and said the "science was sound", which I was really happy about!
What is your go-to writing snack/beverage?
Tea and toast. I leave a trail of crumbs behind me.
Who was your favorite character to write in ROOTLESS?
I essentially wrote the whole book "as" Banyan, so he's my favorite. I really like writing Crow, too. And Alpha. They're all a blast for me to hang out with, really. The most fun of all might have been the Tripnotyst… something about his delivery cracked me up.
If you could cast your characters for a movie, who would you choose?
It'd be about finding someone who could show the right soul. I actually left Banyan's physical description pretty open as I wanted people to be able to imagine him however they wished, whether it be the color of his hair or the color of his skin. So, it's about the look in their eyes, more than anything… River Phoenix had it, that sort of intensity. Once you got Banyan, the others would fall into place - but you'd have to have him first, to see how they bounce off one another.
Sorry if this is sort of a non-answer! :)
If you could be in any scene in your novel, which would it be?
I'd like to walk through one of Banyan's forests. Particularly the one in… well, no spoilers, here!
What would be the theme song for this book?
Cool question! I have whole ROOTLESS soundtracks, but before sending off revisions to my agent or editor, I'd always play 'King Harvest' by the Band. The song sounds like the Old West to me, and that's something I wanted to get into the book. It became kind of a theme song, I suppose. It also sounds like the changing of the seasons.
Where can our readers go to learn more about ROOTLESS?
My website is loaded with information about the book and the writing process. It's also super cool visually. All the design work is ROOTLESS inspired. I wanted to make the site a part of the book, an extension of it… and there's hidden visual clues as you explore - click on them, and you find more information about Banyan's world.
I love books that make readers think, and ROOTLESS definitely makes us think about the dangers of genetically modified food. Why did you choose to write a book about this topic? Is this something that is close to your heart?
I wanted to write a book about something important being lost. And there's no doubt we're losing biodiversity as a result of corporations meddling with the natural world through their development of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). We're letting these corporations control what grows and what doesn't. They slap patents on their GM seeds and release them into the environment where they outcompete and interbreed with non-GMOs, reducing biodiversity and increasing the patent-holders' control over our food supply. And that's not even getting into the potential hazards of GMOs to people's health…
Where can readers go to find out more information about genetically modified foods?
I'd start here. It breaks things down well, and includes links to places you can read a lot more.
So, what's next for Chris Howard?
I'm revising ROOTLESS: Book 2, and on the first draft of Book 3. So I'll be in this world awhile longer… and the world gets bigger, the more I explore it! After I wrap up Banyan's tree-logy, I have a few different ideas I'm excited about, and I'll probably tackle the most ambitious one first.
Last but not least, what has been your biggest SQUEE! moment since becoming a published author?
Feeling the hardcover in my hands was a huge moment - and Scholastic really put together a beautiful book. Phil Falco, the designer, and my editor, Mallory Kass, worked really hard on it. And it's so shiny! The fact that it's a piece of art made out of dead trees definitely blew me away, too. Ironic, right?! The biggest moment of all, though, has to be when I heard the first chapter of the audiobook! It was the first moment something had been done with my book that I hadn't really been involved in. Someone had interpreted it and been inspired by it, and created something new. And that's really what the book's about, to me! That's why I wrote it… so that the story would come alive for other people, and I could pass on the inspiration.
Thanks so much for chatting with us, Chris!
Thank you! And may the forest be with you!
Connect with Chris and ROOTLESS:
1 international winner will receive a signed copy of ROOTLESS, signed bookmarks, and a limited edition ROOTLESS t-shirt! Fill out the form below to enter.
Check back each day for a new stop on the tour! Each blog has exclusive content for your reading pleaure. Check out this rad blog lineup:
Monday Oct 29 - Tour Kickoff at YABooksCentral.com/blog - Q&A with Chris Howard, author of ROOTLESS
Tuesday Oct 30 - VLOG from Chris at BookNerd.ca - The Inspiration Behind ROOTLESS
Wednesday Oct 31 - Q&A with Laura Rennert, Chris's agent at RamblingsofaWannabeScribe.blogspot.com
Thursday Nov 1 - Release Day Book Review at YABooksCentral.com/blog
Friday Nov 2 - How Do You Write? (An Interview with Chris) at BookandLatte.com
Saturday Nov 3 - The World of ROOTLESS at YAHighway.com
Sunday Nov 4 - Q&A with Mallory Kass (Chris's Editor at Scholastic) at CynthiaLeitichSmith.blogspot.com
Monday Nov 5 - VLOG from Chris at PageTurnersBlog.com - Chris's Thoughts about Release Day
Tuesday Nov 6 - Q&A with Phil Falco (ROOTLESS's book designer) at NovelNovice.com
Wednesday Nov 7 - Character Interview with Crow BookLove101.com
Thursday Nov 8 - Q&A with Nick Podehl (ROOTLESS's audio book narrator) at TheBookCellarX.blogspot.com
Friday Nov 9 - The Science of ROOTLESS at LiteraryRambles.com
Saturday Nov 10 - The Music of ROOTLESS at ReadingTeen.net (plus an exclusive song download, recorded by Chris!)
Sunday Nov 11 - Final Reader Q&A at YABooksCentral.com/blog - Chris answers the questions YOU submitted during the tour!