MFT Guest: Interview with Steven Arntson and Giveaway! *ENDED*

This Giveaway has ended
Today Steven Arntson is on the blog for an interview.  He’s the author of The Wikkeling which is a middle grade dystopian (though it’s VERY mixed genre.  Part fantasy/horror/dystopia and probably more…).  I read and reviewed this book (HERE) and really enjoyed it!  It’s kind of a quirky read.
Here’s a description:

Young Henrietta is about to uncover a mystery she was never supposed to solve. In the new-age world she lives in, everything is ruled by computers, and every person’s movements and actions are watched and analyzed. Henrietta feels suffocated by technology’s rule and questions a world she’s expected to blindly accept. She and her two newfound friends believe that there is more to life than what’s expected of them—they just haven’t found it yet.
That all changes when Henrietta finds a wounded Wild House Cat in the attic above her bedroom. This discovery sets off a chain of events that begin to poke holes in the secrets left behind by the well-hidden past. It also awakens a mysterious creature called The Wikkeling . . .

Can you tell us about yourself?   
I’m a writer and musician who lives in Seattle, Washington.The Wikkeling is my first book, though I’ve been writing stories for many years. I wrote my first “real story” at about age nine, on my mom’s Remington typewriter. In my adult years I attended the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and also taught creative writing as a college instructor. I currently live in Seattle with my wife Anne, who is a musician, and our three cats (who are aspiring musicians).

The description doesn’t reveal a terrible lot about the book, so what can you add to give us an idea of what TheWikkeling is about?
I’ve been struggling to summarize the book, because it’s a real stew of parts. I wrote this footnoted haiku about it.
Dystopic future.*
Secret attic, magic cat.**
Who’s the Wikkeling?***
The book opens in post-industrial technocracy characterized by a mania for cleanliness and safety, in which Henrietta is struggling. She suffers from mysterious headaches, and just can’t seem to complete her schoolwork.
** One night, Henrietta discovers a secret attic above her bedroom, and meets a very strange cat there. If there’s a “central theme” to the book, I’d say it’s formed around this scene: an emphasis on learning to see things we’re not told to see; that the true hidden nature of the universe exists alongside our habits of perception.
***Henrietta and her friends are pursued by a strange creature called the Wikkeling, who taps them on the foreheadsgiving them terrible headaches. Why is it after them? What is it? Where is it from? What does it want? These questions must be answered, because the headaches are getting worse.
What made you decide to write dystopia, and particularly a middle grade dystopia?  Did it just happen to fit for that age group, or was that something you did on purpose?
I’m a big fan of science fiction and fantasy since childhood. I cut my teeth on pulp sci-fi, reading anything and everything, and I think it was my destiny to return to it as a writerTheauthors I esteem now are trying to do more with the form—writers like Ursula K. Le Guin, Octavia Butler, Jonathan Stroud, Rebecca Stead, and others are going beyond the typical “good vs. evil” plotlines and confronting some very tough ambiguities. I hope to contribute to that, if I can.
The cover for The Wikkeling is very different.  How much say did you have in the cover?  And is there a special meaning behind it?  Like the person has no face, the cat looks like it’s hissing at him, etc.  It looks like a cover with great meaning behind it.
The cover is the work of the book’s designer, Frances SooPing Chow. I love it. Running Press has kindly included mein conversations about design, but my role is strictly advisoryRunning has been in my corner from the verybeginning; sometimes I think they understood the book better than I do. I’m glad the cover looks unusual, and I hope the content warrants it!

*note* I wrote this question when it was a different cover I was seeing.  There is no longer a cat on the cover, but really it’s still a quirky cover and fits the contents perfectly!*
Did anything in particular inspire you to write this book?  Was it maybe a dream, or something that just popped into your head?
usually start with an image that seems interesting. In thiscase, the image was of a little girl finding a wounded cat in a forgotten attic. It’s the moment when a character leaves what they’ve known that’s so powerful (the wardrobe into Narnia, Charlie finding the golden ticket, Harry’s entrance ontoPlatform 9 ¾, etc). The rest of Henrietta’s life followed along, filled with some of my own questions abouttechnologyindustryintolerance, education, and the mystery of where it’s all headed.
What was your biggest obstacle you had to overcome while writing The Wikkeling?
It was self-doubt, which might seem a bit odd. After all, my parents encouraged me from the beginning; I have an Master’s degree in fiction; I have friends who write; a very supportive home environmentspent ten years teachingcreative writing; &c. . . . but despite it all, I’d given up on The WikkelingIt sat unfinished for many months. Only because other people encouraged me to keep going did I complete it.
Where do you write?  Do you sit in an office only?  Carry your computer and write anywhere and everywhere?  You live in the Seattle area and the Pacific NW in general I find very inspiring (I live in SW WA, across the river from Portland).  I can go hike somewhere and sit in the woods and all sorts of ideas flow into me.  I can also sit down on the waterfront in Seattle or even Portland and watch the people and all sorts of brilliant ideas and characters seem to form in my mind.  I can’t say I can write in depth down there, but I can get some great ideas that I form into my story later on.  Do you feel that same inspiration from just going out and about?
The Wikkeling was written mostly in the old house I’m sitting in now, where my wife and I have an apartment. I also often write at the public library. Seattle is lucky to have some amazing library branches, especially our central branch, which was designed by the famed architect Rem Koolhaas. It’s a great place to work, all glass walls with views of the Puget soundSo it isn’t surprising that there’s a library in The Wikkeling!
I agree with you about the natural surround of Washington State. Here in the Northwest corner, where I’ve lived the majority of my life, I’ve always been inspired by our temperate rainforests. Some of the largest spruces and hemlocks in the world are found in the Hoh rainforest, less than two hours (and a ferry ride) from my home. I put a memory of one of those trees in the book: when Henrietta looks out of her attic window, she sees an enormous stump. In her future, all the trees have been cut down.
What can you tell us about your future projects?  
I habitually juggle different projectsbut I’m presently working on a sequel to The Wikkeling. I don’t know if there will be a market for it, of course—it depends on whether or not this first one finds an audience—but I’ve got lots of ideas for Henrietta continuing onShe’s a strong character, and it’s fun to write stories for her.
Thank again for stopping by! 
Thanks for interviewing me!

The Giveaway: ENDED
Running Press Kids is giving away one copy of The Wikkeling to one lucky person!  
Must be 13 or older to enter.
Open to US only.
Ends July 5th, 2011

To Enter:
Leave a comment with contact info.

For the schedule of The Favorite Things event check out the schedule post.  And make sure you head over to My Bookish Ways to see what she has going on today as well!

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  1. I love the cover on this book, it’s very eye-catching! It sounds like it would be very interesting and I have 2 grandkids I know would love to read it. Please enter me.

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    mlawson17 at hotmail dot com

  2. The Wikkeling sounds like a very different and unique book. The cover creeps me out, especially with the bright, happy colors and the creepy guy with ET fingers. The premise is quite intriguing though, even more so with Steven’s extra explanation about some things. I’m not sure if this is something I’d normally pick up, but maybe I should for that very reason. Great interview, Candace and thanks for stopping by Steven!

  3. Great interview hon. I too love the cover even of it is different from what you saw. It definitely has a quirkiness to it that I love. I love his inspiration though. That is what got me into sci-fi when I was little. How something so simple changes your life completely. I always loved that. Amazing interview. I would love to meet those musical cats LOL! Thank you guys for the interview and giveaway :)

    drharleyquinn87 (at) gmail (dot) com

  4. Self doubt isn’t an odd thing to struggle with! Thank you for the wonderful interview and giveaway :) edysicecreamlover18ATgmailDOTcom GFC Krystal Larson

  5. Wow! What a great interview! I admit, from the cover, I had no idea of what exactly was going on and I wasn’t sure if I would want to read this book, but after reading the author’s descriptions of the book, it is definitely on my TBR list now! Thanks for the great interview and giveaway:)

    jwitt33 at live dot com

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