Thursday, May 10, 2012
Book Review and Author Interview: PROVEX CITY
Date Published: March 5, 2012
Oliver Grain is a fifteen-year-old boy who has just moved to a new town and is going to a new school. As if that isn't enough for a teenager to handle, a neighbour informs him and his brother that their new house is haunted; in fact, a boy killed himself in the room Oliver now calls his own.
Oliver has to deal with the furniture in his room moving of its own accord and a scribbled message on his wall along with making new friends at school, inciting some enemies, figuring out why his history teacher, Mr. Gordon, is so interested in him, and having strange dreams about a castle and an evil man named Kafka.
There are two things that I really loved about this book. The first is Michael's talent for getting into a teen boy's head and making me feel like I was inside it as well. I was suddenly in high school again, feeling that pressure to make friends and live up to expectations. The thoughtful crafting of Oliver's point of view is partly what made this book difficult to put down.
The second thing I loved was the suspense and mystery that built up as the novel progressed. Just when I was going to put the book down for a break, another question would come up that made me want to keep reading! What were the red pills for at the beginning of the story? Who is Kafka the Bogeyman, the villain of Oliver's nightmares? Is Oliver's room really haunted or is it just his brother teasing him? Why is Mr. Gordon so interested in Oliver? Where does this "Provex City" fit in to the story? (I could go on, but my questions would progress into spoilers, so I won't.)
The one thing I wished to see more of in this book was Provex City itself--most of the story takes place in the "real" world as Oliver unravels the mysteries of his past. The city is incredibly interesting and Michael has created a unique world I am interested in learning much more about! However, I have high hopes that Oliver will spend more time in that magical place in the sequel.
I am impressed with Michael's writing talent and his initiative in self-publishing this book, and am looking forward to reading the next.
I am also pleased to welcome the author himself to Geek Banter today! I asked him a few questions I was curious about and he so nicely provided me with some fascinating responses. You can also check out Michael's blog here for updates from him, news about Provex City and its sequel.
What made you decide to self-publish?
I submitted to agents for about a year. Young adult fantasy is a hot, but competitive market to break into--especially with no publication credits in my query letter. The more I researched alternative methods of publication, I became inspired by the self-publishing successes of J.A. Konrath, Colleen Houck, and Amanda Hocking. I talked with some other authors and realized that even if I snagged an agent, that was just the first step. The process could go on forever. Finally, I took the leap of faith, took my writing future into my own hands, and made the firm decision to self-publish. There's no turning back now!
Why write for young adults?
I was inspired to write young adult after reading the Harry Potter series in quick succession. I think guys are still underrepresented in young adult, so I thought that would be a good place for me to be. Later, I'd be interested in trying middle grade as well.
Is there anything significant in the name "Provex"?
Unfortunately, no. I came up with a few city names for use in my series early on in the writing process. The original title for the book was Shroud Lifted, and I changed it to Provex City after submitting to agents for about six months. I felt like it was giving me a fresh start, like I was submitting a brand new book.
What was the most challenging obstacle you faced in writing Provex City?
What wasn't challenging? With this being my first book, I felt like I was in way over my head for much of the process. I had a brief outline on note cards and scraps of paper. I wrote the first few chapters, skipped to the last few chapters, and then just wrote until I got there. Getting a first draft written was a huge accomplishment, but then the editing began. Stephen King says to take your manuscript and cut at least 10%. I got ambitious and cut over 20%. It was tough, but I wanted the story to flow as fast as possible, making you want to continue turning the pages all the way to the end. I hope I achieved that. Then came writing the query letter and the synopsis. Then turning to self-publishing, which I'm still figuring out. It's early on, but I think I made a good decision. And as hard as everything has been, it's also been extremely rewarding. I'd do it all over again--in fact, I am--I'm about two months away from a first draft for the second book in the series. Interested?
What inspired the plot and/or characters for Provex City?
It's hard to talk about my inspiration for Provex City without discussing the bigger picture of the series... which I can't really talk about yet. But the basic construction of the story's universe came from an idea I heard concerning gaps in awareness: Billions of bits of information come through your eyes, most of which is filtered out by your brain, acting as a surge protector. I took that idea and asked the question: If your brain is constantly filtering out all this information, what if it's filtering out entire realities? And what if these realities are somehow coexisting? I built the plot for the series around the discovery of these realities, which is only possible through building self-confidence. I thought that would be a nice message for teens; God knows I could have used more self-confidence myself in high school.
Thank you, Michael, for stopping by! If you are interested in reading Provex City, it is available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle format