Monday, December 15, 2014

Spark: Atthys J. Gage

People are dying downtown, their bodies shriveled away to almost nothing. The police are mystified and outrageous rumors are flying. Fifteen year-old Francy Macmillan listens, but says nothing. It isn't a comfort knowing that no matter how far-fetched the theories, the truth is even stranger.

For Francy, the truth wasn't very hard to find. It followed her home from basketball practice one night, a floating bauble of light that speaks inside her mind and shares her thoughts and her feelings. Is it an alien wanderer fallen from some distant star? Or a shard of some divine entity? Whatever it is, Spark seems to like her.

But as their friendship grows, a disturbing fact emerges: Spark knows who is responsible for those deaths. With Spark's help, it is up to Francy to stop them. Spark leads Francy into a strange alternate reality, along with her friends: beautiful Echo with the dragon tattoo; moody Brooke with the wicked jaw; and Owen Owens, the boy with the fascinating eyes who may just get around to kissing her one of these days—assuming the world doesn't end first.
And the interview...
1. I write because…     Cliff-diving is too scary. 
2. If I were your favorite cookie, what would I be?    I'm just going to go ahead and say it:  oatmeal raisin. 
3. Plotter or pantser?   Plotter. A plodding plotter. I spend a great deal of time sketching out exactly what is going to happen, scene by scene. Then, as often as not, I ignore half of what I've written. 
4. What is your favorite type of character to write about and why?     I like mouthy, opinionated girls. I don't even have to plan them. At some point, in nearly every book, one of them plants herself center-stage and starts stealing all the good lines.  In Spark, it was Brooke.
5. Hamburgers or sushi?    Depends on my mood. They might just be two great tastes that taste great together. A sushi burger could be terrific. Hamburger sushi probably isn't such a great idea.
6. Name three things on your desk.   A nearly empty cup of tepid coffee.  Two telephones.  Unpaid bills. 
7. What books have influenced your writing style?     It's less a matter of particular books and more a matter of certain authors.  Delany, Patchett, McCarthy, Russ, Tiptree, Borges, Nabokov, Melville… how's that for highbrow?
8. Tell us a little about your book.    Okay. Girl meets fleck. Together they save the world. All right, maybe not quite so flip. Spark is a romp—a tale of love and trust and friendship in the face of an impossible calamity. It's about basketball and gnostic philosophy and thermodynamics (did I mention it was a romp?)
9. What advice do you have for new and aspiring authors?     Get lots of rest. Eat nourishing foods. Try to get outdoors once in a while. If I did these things, I'm sure it would make me a better writer.
10. What is next on your writerly horizon?    There's a book called The Flight of the Wren. The protagonist is a painfully ordinary high school girl—disaffected, disconnected, utterly disinterested in school, family, even friends. She is, in short, a typical teenage mess. She has no special powers, no special insights, not even a belief in herself.  Because I am a benevolent (if inscrutable) god, I toss her a lifeline. A gift. An impossible gift: a flying carpet. But there are strings attached. With it comes both a community (the other members of her flock) and a purpose, a mission. 
Top 5 favorite (pick one) desserts, movies, things to eat, ice cream flavors, books.    Mandarin Chocolate Sherbert, Black Cherry,  Chocolate Oreo,  Peanut Butter Fudge,  Chocolate Moosetracks.  


Snap! The air cracked like a cap pistol. Something bright flew across the room.
I wheeled around with my hand still full of hair.
"What the…?"
It flared orange—then red—a bright floating fleck of light. I watched it swirl, slowly stirring the air, rising like an ember from a campfire.
I dropped my hairbrush. My hair was on fire! I grabbed my head with both hands, pawing through my hair. "No, no, no...!"
But I couldn't feel anything burning. I checked in the mirror. Nope. Not on fire. Not even a little.
I turned around again. The fleck hovered at eye-level now. It wasn't orange any more. It was blue. I leaned in a little closer. It blinked white, then blue again.
"Okay, this is..."
But really, I couldn't think of a word that fit. I circled it in slow, careful steps. It stayed still, dangling in the air. I reached out a finger. The fleck flashed silver and spiraled upward, before settling at eye level again. Reflected in the dresser mirror, a second fleck performed the same maneuver.
"What are you?" My voice quavered a little. I wasn't scared—not exactly—but I could feel my heart beating pretty fast. I leaned in closer.
"What were you doing in my hair?" It made a tight vertical loop, pulsing green, blue, then green again.
"Why are you doing that?" I don't know why I kept asking it questions like I thought it could answer. I guess I was really talking to myself. I pushed my lips out and blew, just gently. The fleck flickered in the tiny draft, but it didn't blow away. If anything, it drew a little closer. I had the sudden impulse to run downstairs and get a jar from the kitchen and see if I could catch it, but I didn't do that. Instead, I put my hand out. The fleck danced in until it was barely an inch above my open palm. I braced myself and watched it settle into my hand. It was cool and tiny on my skin.
"Hey," I whispered. "What are you?"
It glowed and I heard a sound, low and metallic: bonk.
"Was that you?"
There was a chirp, and then a low warbling hoot like when you blow air over the top of a bottle. None of these sounds came in through my ears. They were just there, sounding inside my head.
Again, it went bonk. That seemed to be its favorite. A click, a whistle, a little wooden pop. Far-off thunder rumbled. Quiet at first, it rose up inside me, getting bigger and louder. The sound swooped up into a squeal, then dropped even faster to a sub-woofer grumble and faded to silence.
"Is this supposed to mean something?"         
It made a soft chugging noise, like a little toy train. The whole time, the thing just sat there glowing in my palm.
"I don't think we're getting anywhere."
It rose into the air until it hung just a few inches from my nose. I stared. It glowed blue, flashed silver, then paled to dull violet.
"It's okay," I said, and this time I was totally talking to myself. "This isn't really happening. It's a dream. I'm dreaming. A dream about a little fleck of light that floats around, making strange noises..."
Then, it flared bright crimson and flew straight into my head.

About the author:

Atthys Gage is a writer and musician with a lifelong love for myth, magic, and books. His second real job was in a bookstore. As was his third, fourth, fifth and sixth. Eventually, he stopped trying to sell books and started writing them. After studying classics at Haverford College, he developed an interest in the ways that ancient stories influence modern story-telling, and has always had a fascination for that cloudy borderline between the normal and the paranormal. He lives on the coast of Northern California with his long-suffering wife, strong-willed children, and several indifferent chickens.