Interview: Alexis Marie Chute and The 8th Island – Exclusive
Alexis Marie Chute, the author of the highly-acclaimed The 8th Island trilogy, got to reveal the cover of the second book in the trilogy – Below the Moon – at BookCon 2019 earlier this month. We chatted about her inspirations, her amazing multitasking skills, and of course, The 8th Island.
Check out the interview below!
When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
Alexis Marie Chute: I always knew I was destined to be an artist of many forms. When I was in elementary school, I set up an art studio in my family’s basement and painted and wrote. It was all romantic notions of writing and art-making, but it was innate and natural for me from as young as I can remember. I began writing my first novel while I was in junior high school. I still vividly remember that story.
Who were some authors that influenced you as a youth, and in what ways?
The portal fantasy of Michael D. Warden was an early influence for me in writing in that genre. I also loved all the books by David Gemmel. Even the Western writer Louis L’Amour had a big impact on me. Their stories taught me about world-building, scene mastery, and character development. In terms of being a writer, I love Anne Lamott’s book Bird by Bird and Carolyn See’s Making a Literary Life. Those two were monumental for me as a young writer.
How did it feel when you got to hold your very first advanced copy?
Holding the first advanced reader copy of my memoir, Expecting Sunshine – which was my first published book – was surreal. I was breathless. My cheeks hurt from smiling. I knew right then that I would write books until I die. The feeling was addictive. It was this epiphany: I created this thing – a finished book – that was a tangible object I could show for all my tireless hard work. It was the greatest payoff!
What was the inspiration for The 8th Island trilogy?
I am inspired by the idea of resiliency. I’ve witnessed it in others and myself. It’s the desire to get out of bed every morning and live, no matter what we have been through. That “what” for me was the death of one of my children. That event taught me to be strong and brave. It taught me to fight. That is what The 8th Island trilogy is all about: how far will we go to protect those we love? To the end of the world – and beyond to other worlds as well? It is a book series about love and courage, even when we do not feel courageous.
At what point during the writing process did you realize it was going to be a trilogy?
Once I got to a natural ending for book one in the trilogy, called Above the Star, and the story was nowhere near over, that was when I knew I must continue. I did make the conscious choice of telling the story in a trilogy, instead of making the series open-ended in terms of the number of books it includes. It drives me nuts when series go on forever and drag things out. I like keeping the pace fast and the story tumbling along. When we know the end is in sight, it adds to the tension and excitement.
In your travels, who have you been most excited to meet?
I was recently at Book Expo and BookCon in New York City and was giddy to see Melissa Albert and Stephanie Garber in the flesh. I regret that I couldn’t be that “fangirl” who waits around to talk to them, but I had a flight to catch. Also on that trip, I met the cast of the Broadway sensation The Book of Mormon. That was a blast!
What was the big BookCon cover reveal like?
I had an amazing time revealing the cover of Below the Moon at BookCon! It was a wild day! It kicked off with an Instagram Live with book blogger Charnaie Gordon of Here Wee Read right at BookCon. Then I headed to the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History, where I shared moon facts while dressed in a NASA astronaut costume. I interviewed random strangers at the planetarium about moon facts – that was fun. It was a mom and son from Scotland! Then, continuing with the moon theme, I gave away moon-shaped cookies at Silver Moon Bakery and gifted copies of Above the Star (book one) and Below the Moon to interested folks. Then my husband and I photo-bombed Below the Moon at The Book of Mormon. We ended the day with an Instagram Live in Times Square. I had the time of my life that day. I’m also thankful my husband Aaron joined me. His support blows my mind.
What sort of surprises await us in Below the Moon?
The characters in the story are full of secrets; some of them do not realize the power that lies dormant inside of them. The mystery of The 8th Island comes to fruition. There are so many adventurous plot twists and character epiphanies in this book. Some of the early reviews have had readers saying they loved the story and had to grab their tissue box. I felt that when I was writing Below the Moon! The highs are so high and the lows so low, but that’s powerful. The book makes us feel, reminds us that we are alive and that we are all connected. Beyond that, I can say no more!
As well as being a writer, you’re an artist, designer, filmmaker, and curator – that’s amazing! How do you find the time and motivation to juggle all your passions?
I’m a master juggler. Haha, that was a joke! I mostly cope by scheduling everything on Google Calendar – props to my husband for finally breaking through and teaching me to use the program. I’m a big fan of writing things out by hand, but no more! He is a great support with work, helping me with the website and communicating with the artists in the shows I curate. I also have an amazing assistant named Brooke. She works so hard and has great ideas. She helps me out with the kids, too, as we both work from my house and I’ve got minis ranging in age from 9 to 3 years old. Brooke and I are a great team, except for the fact that she likes her coffee as strong as it can be. That’s the one area where we butt heads.
What advice do you have for aspiring young novelists?
Time deadlines work wonders for getting words on paper. I wrote the first draft of Above the Star, book one in The 8th Island trilogy, during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). The goal with NaNoWriMo is to pen a 50,000-word novel in the month of November. Since then, I have learned to be disciplined on my own, but that was a great start. My other advice is to separate the creative writing stage from editing. Write first, edit after. Plus, never feel like you are not ready to write the book that is burning inside of you. You’ll never be ready, so start now, get it done, and continue to write. Writing is a journey and a passion. Always learn and grow.
Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us, Alexis!