Monday, May 15, 2017

Q&A with Shane Arbuthnott

Shane Arbuthnott is the author of Dominion, a new novel for kids. His short fiction has appeared in On Spec and Open Spaces. He lives in Guelph, Ontario, Canada.

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Dominion, and for your character Molly?

A: With Dominion the world building came first. I started by wondering what the world would look like if magic was discovered during modern times, instead of being an ancient force. It took a lot more mulling and combining a lot of different ideas before it really had the shape it does in the book, but that was the seed of it.

Once the world was established, I could see where the problems were that needed fixing. Molly arose out of that. She was the right person for the job. Of course, once I start getting to know a character they also surprise me. Molly took the story in directions I didn't expect when I first started jotting down my outline.

Q: What age group do you think would especially enjoy this book, and why?

A: Can I answer this one twice? I wrote it for younger readers, around 9-14. I think they'd enjoy the adventure and the magic, as well as watching Molly find solutions to problems no one else is willing to tackle. Most readers have said they really like Molly. And I do too.

I also wrote Dominion because it's exactly the kind of book I like to read, and I just turned 37. So I think older readers can get into it too. There's lots going on, lots to think about. And even when you're 37, adventure and magic are still cool.

Q: Did you know how the book would end before you started writing it, or did you make many changes along the way?

A: The ending stayed pretty solid from my first outline, but it's one of the few parts that did. In the first version of the book Molly spent a lot more time reacting to bad things that happened. But that wasn't her, I learned as I wrote. Molly is the kind of character who wants to fix problems, not just survive them. So she ended up being a lot more proactive.

Q: Which authors do you particularly admire?

A: So, so many. I love Diana Wynne Jones' work, though I didn't discover it until I was in my 20s. Her books are all so rich, with such lovely, human characters at their heart. Even the nonhuman ones.

Ursula Le Guin's novels I love for their ideas. She creates alternate worlds that ask questions I find myself mulling over for years after I finish the books.

But I think the person who really made me want to be a writer was Charles de Lint. I could just crawl inside his books for days and not come out. It made me want to do the same for someone else--to create wonderful, complicated spaces and stories to explore.

Q: What are you working on now?

A: I'm in the final editing stages with the follow-up to Dominion, called Terra Nova. When I'm not working on that, I'm writing a new book set outside of the world of Dominion. Still fantasy, but YA this time, and set in a world closer to our own. (Though not too close.)

Q: Anything else we should know?

A: You can read more of Molly's adventures in spring 2018, when Terra Nova comes out. It's been a great joy to write it, and to spend more time with Molly and her crew.

--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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