Editor’s Corner: Jim Thomas on Working with Author John Claude Bemis
One of my favorite books this spring is a middle grade novel by John Claude Bemis, author of The Clockwork Dark trilogy. Click here to read an author interview we did with John last year. His latest book is called The Prince Who Fell From the Sky (May 22, 2012) and I’ve been describing it to my booksellers as a post-apocalyptic “The Jungle Book”. As part of our Editor’s Corner series, today we hear from John’s editor, Jim Thomas, about how this book came to be:
John and I first started working together on his fantasy trilogy, The Clockwork Dark. What attracted me to that series was John’s innovative combination of classic elements. Like many American fantasy writers, John had grown up reading British fantasy. But when he tried to write about wizards and goblins, he realized that, as much as he loved that mythology, it was not his own.
So John looked closer to home for inspiration, and found it in the music he plays, bluegrass and blues infused with Southern folklore and tall tales. Drawing on that rich tradition, John created an epic fantasy adventure with a distinctly American character, where the hero is the son of John Henry, carries his nine-pound hammer, and struggles against a villain who represent the cold, implacable force of industry and the machine age.
John brought the same original thinking to his next story, The Prince Who Fell from the Sky. Like many of us, John has always admired classic animal fantasies like Watership Down and Mrs. Frisby & the Rats of Nimh. In 2009, he read The World Without Us, by Alan Weisman, who speculates about what the world would look like if humanity were to suddenly disappear. Would nature reclaim our cities and towns? John took it one step further—if animals were intelligent, as they are in fantasy, what story would they tell about the fall of humanity and their own ascension? And what would happen if a human child were introduced into this system?
The result is an imagination-capturing combination of speculative, post-apocalyptic fiction and animal fantasy—a futuristic Jungle Book. How could any middle-grade reader—or any adult connoisseur of middle-grade fiction—resist?