Wednesday, November 12, 2014

British YA novel 'Stormteller' combines fantasy, cli-fi themes

by our staff reporter

Stormteller by David Thorpe cover

David Thorpe has penned a crossover YA fantasy novel titled "Stormteller" and by crossover I mean it's for both young adults and adults. In a recent interview with the author in Wales in Great Britain, where he has lived for more than 20 years, I found a man who writes not only to tell a good yarn but also to offer hope in a world that sometimes seems devoid of hope.

Thorpe is a man of hope, an optimist. And with "Stormteller," he has something important to import to his crossover audience of teens and adults:
you gain hope in the face of
global problems like climate change by educating yourself and joining
with others, and by doing everything you can to make a difference in
your own life. 

While the novel is a fantasy YA novel, with a climate theme mixed in for good measure but not the main theme, the book could be seen in the way that Huffington Post columnist Scott Thill defines cli-fi as a cultural prism rather than a specific genre or marketing term.

"It's about survival," Thorpe says of his book's main lesson. "Survival is psychological as well
as material. The way to avoid feeling a victim of events outside your
control is to take initiatives, to seize the day. As the Michael Caine
character says in the film 'Interstellar', "it's time to stop thinking
as individuals, but thinking together as a planet" -- or something like

Thorpe lives Wales, and the story in "Stormteller" is set in the place he lived for 20
years in mid-Wales, near the coast. 

"I now live in south Wales, still a
beautiful place," he says. "I grew up in Nottingham, Robin Hood country. In
mid-Wales I lived in a village called Taliesin that is named after
Wales' legendary bard (a word in this case meaning a combination of
poet and shaman. Wales is the land of bards)."

Set in a landscape he knows well, having walked over much it himself over the years, Thorpe says Wales means a lot to him.

"I always felt when I moved to this edge
of the British Isles from London that here, unlike most places, the
skin of the present is thin: you can feel the vibrations from the past
still reverberating down the centuries like thunder beneath your feet.

''Not far away from my home here is the Bearded Lake, and allegedly a footprint left by
King Arthur when he passed this way, and north of there the mountain
Cader Idris, Welsh for 'Seat of Arthur'.''

''But the real stories that come from this area are older than Arthur's:
the birth of Taliesin and Cantr'er Gwaelod, which is the tale of how
the land that now lies beneath Cardigan Bay was drowned by the sea," he adds. "It's these,
and this beautiful, wild and dramatic landscape, that
sparked my imagination to write this YA novel."

Thorpe said that in terms of genre, the book is
"a young adult novel with fantasy elements, because it includes
these legendary, magical characters who are trying to influence the
events in the story by taking over the main characters."

"But they each
have conflicting aims for the same characters. Only one of them may be
successful in changing the outcome of their original myth, which they
wish to escape," he said.

When asked about the time frame of the novel, Thorpe said it's set in 2030, some 15 years into the future. And the climate change theme is real, too. 

"I do believe it
is still possible for us to escape the worst ravages of climate change,
but we must act together and quickly," he said. "In my novel there is a group of
people who anticipate these ravages and set up an eco-village. This
eco-village is based on the research I did for another book which is
being published at the same time titled 'The One Planet Life', about
people who are trying now to live within the means of the planet. But
in 'Stormteller' this eco-village does not survive because I think
things will get a lot more desperate than we imagine.''

Thorpe said that the eco-village sccene in ''Stormteller'' is based upon a real event that happened
four or five years ago when years the price of fuel went up a lot.
Farms in Great Britain were being raided for the pink diesel that they stored, as
pink diesel is tax-free there because it is used off-road."

one incident that happened, a farmer's wife was shot dead by thieves stealing this
fuel," Thorpe said. "It was astonishing and showed me how quickly civilization can
break down. This indicates how prepared we must be to defend what we
have when resources will get scarce."

When asked if "Stormteller" could be classified perhaps as a YA cli-fi novel, Thorpe said that he had never heard of the cli-fi genre term before this reporter mentioned it to him. 

"I like the cli-fi term, but I would
not like to get trapped within one genre," he added. "My last YA novel, 'Hybrids',
was called science fiction by the publisher, but I perhaps stupidly
did not realize I had written a science fiction book. To me it was a
metaphor. Are 'Brave New World' or '1984' science fiction books? What
about 'Metamorphosis' by Franz Kafka?"

When asked about climate change issues and how the denialist camp often muddies the discussions going on worldwide, Thorpe said he is a firm believer in global warming.

"Of course global warming is made by human activities," he said. "No one in their
right mind could imagine we could pump so many millions of tons of
greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and not make a difference to the
climate. I do not believe that the majority of the British public is in
denial, and that most people here and fortunately the government are convinced of
the reality of AGW. However the fossil fuel companies have financed a
huge propaganda campaign to protect their interests and stoked up
political division, particularly in the United States."

But with the United States and China having recently made an agreement to cut
emissions, which Thorpe sees as ''a great step forward," the innovations needed to
do this will make the world a better place, create jobs and make everyone

"It is a great opportunity, not a burden," Thorpe said of the U.S.-China accord.

Has there been any interest in turing "Stormteller" into a movie or a TV series in Britain?

''I think that ''Stormteller'' would be good as a film or as a three-part
television series and I would love to write it, and it would be easy to
adapt," he said, adding: ''It would not be expensive to make. I have suggested it to Ed
Thomas and his production company in Wales which is the group behind the successful
series 'Hinterland' here and to the commissioning editor at Welsh Channel 4."

When asked what the title of his novel means, Thorpe answered directly:
"You should ask my wife, she came up with the title. I think it's
great. You can make of it what you will."

Thorpe noted that he did not have a literary agent for the book.

"I don't have a literary agent," he explained. "I would like one, but it has to be
someone I would really get on with who understands my work. This book,
like many others, received many rejections in earlier drafts. I met
the publisher at a literary festival and told him it had been rejected
and he immediately offered to publish it, for which I was very
grateful. It is not a conventional publishing deal. Publishing is
changing fast and different publishers offer different services. In
essence it is a risk-sharing deal. In this case, the publisher does
most of the work and takes most of the risk, but I take a little too.
In return I get a much greater share of the received price for the

The novel also got some funding help from an arts group in Wales.

"As for the writing and editing process, in the first instance I
received a grant to write the novel from a local arts agency
interested in regional regeneration. They thought a novel set in the
area would help create tourism and jobs. I also paid for professionals
to do a critique of earlier drafts, which was a really good
investment. I recommend it. In all the novel went through about 13 drafts.''

No comments: