Hello loyal readers! We’re doing something a bit different today in light of the COVID-19 quarantine. As you know, many events have been cancelled; everything from national sporting events to Broadway to… well, book tours. When Alexis Marie Chute contacted us to see if we wanted to be a stop on her virtual book tour for the release of Inside the Sun, we couldn’t say no!
You may remember Alexis Marie Chute from when we interviewed her last June. She chatted with us about the release of the second book of her trilogy, The 8th Island. Well, the long-awaited third book has finally arrived, and we’ve got the insider scoop! Click “read more” below for photos, an interview with the author, an excerpt from Inside the Sun, and of course, information on where to buy the books!
When we spoke with Alexis last summer, the world was a completely different place. No one could have foreseen that a virus would sweep ’round the world and not only confine everyone to their homes but inspire Americans to hoard toilet paper, yet here we are. Here’s what Alexis has to say regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, the effect it’s had on her writing life, and the changes to launching a book:
Everything has changed. First, there is the stress that is causing me to write more poetry than any other form of writing. I find poetry wonderful to express abstract feelings, to seek to unearth how I’m coping (or not), to capture the essence of my present experience.
I’m also blogging much more than I ever have. I am posting about Authors Helping Authors and ways people can help their indie author friends, for example. I’ve even been writing creative curriculum I can use when teaching my kids. That’s never something I had imagined myself doing. This is a time where we must support each other however we can.
Our schedules look very different now that we are all in self-isolation because of COVID-19. My husband works from home half the time, the kids are home 100% of the time, and I’ve always worked from home. Can you see the theme: home. It is our hub of family, work, and school life now. Being a glass-half-full kind of person, I am loving the additional time with my family and am seeking to make the most out of every professional opportunity while this pandemic continues. It’s all about resiliency, supporting each other, and seeing the beauty in life despite the pain. This is a season and it too shall pass.
Launching Inside the Sun has been a new ballgame. I love meeting with readers in person, so I’m finding other creative and meaningful ways to connect. I do feel that The 8th Island trilogy is perfectly timed for the COVID-19 pandemic. The story is about people coming together to fight for what they believe, finding the bravery they need inside themselves in hard times. It’s a story I’m sure we can all relate to, and one that will inspire us in our own challenging times.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Alexis Marie Chute: As a child, I always wanted to be an artist and author—exactly what I am doing right now. I also wanted to be an actress and big business woman. I’ve always had many dreams and still think it would be a great challenge to be a lawyer or a firefighter. I don’t subscribe to the idea that we must pick one career and stick with it. Life is more fun with adventure, change and challenge.
Where/when do you best like to write?
Mornings are best for me. When I’m working on a book, I like to write first thing in the morning until 11am or sometimes, with a lot of coffee, till 1pm. Then CRASH (crash = nap). I like to write surrounded by candles and incense. I cannot have distractions or a cluttered desk. My music choice is typically classical, like Vivaldi or Mozart, and nothing with words as I find I begin typing what I am listening to. I like to write at my vintage style black wood desk by the window in my room. My actual work-desk in the office is too distracting. When I am crunching a deadline, I don’t have a “best time” to write; I simply sit down and get it done, no matter if I feel like it or not. I love deadlines as external motivators.
What do you think makes a good story?
A good story has characters that are simultaneously loveable and deplorable. The plot is unexpected and varied. There is a lot at stake, and the risks and rewards are always in flux. I can tell a story is good when it keeps me up at night, lingers long after the last page, and I wish I had thought it up!
What inspired the three main characters in The 8th Island Trilogy (Archie, Tessa, Ella)?
I was inspired to create the Wellsleys—Archibald, Tessa, and Ella Wellsley—based on real families. They have interesting relationships with each other, some good, like Ella and Grandpa Archie, and some more tense and complicated, like Tessa and her estranged husband Arden. I created characters with flaws, but also redeeming characteristics. In Ella, Tessa, and Grandpa Archie, my goal is for readers to relate, to see themselves, as well as have protagonists they can root for.
Do you always know what the ending of your books will be when you start writing?
When I began writing book one, Above the Star, I had no idea what the ending of the trilogy was going to be—not even after I began writing book two, Below the Moon. I had to pause writing at that point to outline and plot right to the end so I could make sure all the storylines resolved and surprise the reader.
It was a fun experience to outline—I’m typically a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of writer—although I always leave room for the magic of creativity while writing. I even surprise myself. For example, I cried when writing the end of Below the Moon. At the end of Inside the Sun I shed no tears but felt a strange sense of completion and satisfaction. It was eerie and beautiful, surprising and addictive all at once.
What are some interesting facts to note about The 8th Island Trilogy?
I wrote Above the Star during NaNoWriMo, which stands for National Novel Writing Month. The goal of NaNoWriMo is to write a 50,000 word novel in the 30 days of November. It happens every year. I wrote the book as free writing, stream of consciousness, and with a newborn on my lap.
I wrote book two—Below the Moon—in a video series I call my “80 Days of Writing.” Each day I filmed myself write in time lapse videos and added in an Author Reflections about what I learned through the creative process. You can find all the videos on my YouTube channel.
The trilogy are hybrid novels. There are 30 to 60 illustrations per book. Inside the Sun has the most illustrations and many of them continue in a sequence over multiple pages. The illustrations were created in the persona of Ella. Ella Wellsley has cancer and because of this cannot talk. The chapters from her perspective are unique because we the readers get to venture inside her head, hear her thoughts, and see the magical worlds through her eyes by her illustrations.
The 8th Island Trilogy is what’s called portal fantasy. That’s where the main characters start out in the human world and travel through a portal to a magical world. Another example of portal fantasy is Harry Potter. What’s great about portal fantasy is that we learn about the new magical world alongside the main character(s).
Another neat point to mention is that The 8th Island Trilogy is told in both first person perspective (Ella’s chapters) and third person perspective (Tessa’s and Archie’s chapters). This is one cool distinction that sets it apart. Also the fact that it is a young adult series, but has main characters that are not teenagers. Yes, there is one main character—Ella—who is a teen, but her mom and grandpa also play leading roles. This is quite unique for the genre.
Please click HERE to read the first chapter of Inside the Sun. Warning: this does contain SPOILERS for the first two books in the trilogy! (Link will open in a PDF.)
Thank you for joining us on the Virtual Book Tour!
We’d like to extend a huge thank-you to Alexis Marie Chute for inviting us along; it’s such a creative idea and it’s such a thrill to be a part of it!
Do yourself a favor and pick up The 8th Island Trilogy. It’s a fantastically fun ride with such realistic, fully fleshed-out characters. The best part? All three books are already out! No waiting!
You can pick up the first book Above the Star for 99 cents on Amazon Kindle from now until May 5th.