Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Q&A with C.B. Strul




C.B. Strul is the author of the new novel The Ancient Ones. His other books include the novella Spinners. He lives in Los Angeles.


Q: What inspired you to write The Ancient Ones, and how did you come up with the idea for your character Blue Flower?


A: When I was young, my family used to go on these incredibly long cross-country drives over the course of each summer. We visited every drivable state during that time.


On one particular trip, we made our way out to Mesa Verde. I never stopped thinking about the power of ancient civilizations after that. I also never really stopped asking “why” a group of people would decide to build such monolithic structures in such difficult to reach places…Mesa Verde, Petra, etc.


As I got older, I developed a firm love for sci-fi/fantasy as a genre. Books like The Lord of the Rings and Isaac Asimov’s The Gods Themselves and films like GATTACA and Princess Mononoke would get my mind rolling with what if scenarios.


Eventually I had been working on a cycle of short films with a friend of mine, Maxwell Morro of MM Studios. He and I had been developing a series that ultimately became known as The Minuet Trilogy, which won top prize at the Moscow International Short Film Festival.


In those shorts we were experimenting with poetic form and different languages. During that process I decided I wanted to play around with my ancient cultures idea and ultimately I came up with a tale of a girl from an ancestral tribe meeting an ancient alien.


The primary language of that piece would have been music. But life got in the way, and even worse, Covid hit. I decided at the start of the pandemic, when I had an unusual amount of free time on my hands, that I wanted to continue working on projects. I also realized that I had the opportunity to do something much bigger than my usual screenplays.


So, I wrote a feature length piece based on the short and pitched the film as Apocalypto meets Stargate, and then I used that screenplay as a jumping off point — an outline of sorts — to write my full-length novel, The Ancient Ones.


As for Blue Flower, she was a sort of natural progression for me. I have a niece in the first grade, and I really want her to grow up with great female characters leading the stories she’s experiencing. Honestly, I’ve always wanted to see a greater number of strong women in stories.


Earlier I mentioned my love for Princess Mononoke. I think Blue Flower was really propelled forward as a character by that film. Though over the course of my edits she definitely grew in depth and some of her actions developed more meaning for me on a personal level.

Q: How did you create with the world you write about in the novel?


A: The Ancient Ones takes place 100,000 years ago, so there’s not a great deal of historical knowledge to pull from. This was intentional. I wanted to have as blank a slate culturally for myself as possible.


I didn’t want any one nation or creed to point to Tetset or Hen’Bon’On and say “that’s our people.” But what I did want to do was dig around in the known ancestral arboretum of time and gather up speculative examples of what might have existed in that capacity — even so, I took some liberties and invented a few things to mix in with the flora and fauna.


Likewise, I really wanted to build up an entertaining science fiction discussion about ancient monolithic structures. The series Ancient Aliens has had a surprising longevity that I don’t think its producers had anticipated from the outset.


I’m not usually one to deep dive into conspiracy theories or anything, but I did realize that there was a whole world of strange ideas about what has existed and what we know about the ancient past that I could play around with for the sake of good entertainment.


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


A: Good question. I had a very oddball meeting prior to Covid with a man who genuinely believed in the statement “the New World is the Old World.” He also spoke about some pretty apocryphal theories on more than a few biblical stories.


Again, this is not usually the kind of company I keep, but as a writer I try to take things that I think are different and exciting from the world around me to use in my stories.


Without giving too much away to anyone who hasn’t read the book yet, I definitely felt justified with the world and characters I had developed enough to tread some new ground.


I think, from where I started out, the main thing that changed by the end of the writing process was the very final chapter. I realized that the characters deserved the kind of sendoff that would give the audience a chance to breathe and wonder what might come next without implying that there would necessarily need to be more to read.


Q: What do you hope readers take away from the book?


A: A big theme in everything I write is communication. How do we communicate? Can we really understand each other when we try to communicate? Do we respect each other’s words?


My greatest hope for The Ancient Ones is that the reader comes out of the experience asking similar questions…wondering how they might have dealt with some of the problems that Blue Flower and Silent Wolf came up against.


I also hope my readers feel the sensation of having been on a ride through an ancient amusement park of sorts. There’s a lot of depth and sadness to the world of The Ancient Ones, but I personally hope that experiencing these emotions and all the action and adventure of the novel can ultimately lead readers to a state of catharsis.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: Since Covid, I have completed drafts for four novels (this includes The Ancient Ones).


The next piece in line takes place about 200 years from now. It’s sort of post-apocalyptic. A single mother living in a corpocracy climbs the corporate ladder but struggles to communicate with her son. One day she is introduced to an app that’s supposed to help her better interact with him…but this, of course, has mixed results.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: As a first-time author, I had a great deal of help in making this novel happen. My fiancée was right beside me the whole time rooting me on.


I had a fabulous artist named Aurelia Lozano that developed about 12 different art pieces for me that really helped me to better see the world of The Ancient Ones before I even began adapting the screenplay into novel form.


I had an excellent developmental editor named Alyssa Matesic who really helped me to grow and strengthen my characters. And I have a fantastic publicist named Catherine Kennedy. She’s really been helping me out a great deal at this stage of the process leading up to the book’s release.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

No comments:

Post a Comment