Today I am thrilled to have Joshua Blum, author the of adult fairy tale, The Thirteenth Hour, on my blog today.
Synopsis of The Thirteenth Hour:
The Thirteenth Hour, a fairy tale for adults influenced by and paying homage to 80s fantasy and scifi movies, is a tale about dreams and wishes, wild hearts and childhood promises, and the quest to find the unsung hero that lies in all of us. A young man is reluctantly catapulted into a dangerous quest he’d previously only thought possible in fairy tales. Though his travels take him around the known world, the more important changes occur within, as he learns a little about what it means to live a life worth living, to die well, and what makes for great kisses.
What genre(s) do you write in? Tell us about your books.
It’s taken me a long time to figure out what genre I write in. In fact, it wasn’t until a few months ago that I finally figured out what it’s called: fairytale fantasy for adults. Not “adult” in the X-rated sense. Just the chronological sense.
My first novel, The Thirteenth Hour, a fairy tale adventure tale influenced by and paying homage to 80s fantasy and scifi movies, took about 16 years, start to finish, though I obviously didn’t work on it continuously. For a long time, it was just something I wrote and illustrated for fun since it represented the kind of book I would have wanted as a teenager but never actually found. The rest of the books I have out all take place in the same universe. A Shadow in the Moonlight, a short novella, is the prequel, and “Falling Leaves Don’t Weep” is the epilogue. Your Star Will Glow Forever is a children’s picture book I made to read to my daughter using illustrations I modified from The Thirteenth Hour set to a little poem.
How did you come up with the idea for your current story?
When I was a kid, I always wanted to fall in love with fantasy books but generally had a horrendous time actually getting into them. I loved looking at the covers and wondering what kinds of worlds lay within, but when I actually tried reading them, more often than not, I became quickly lost in the archaic ways of speaking and/or bored with the world building. The only things that came close to evoking the kind mystery and magic I sought were 80s fantasy and science fiction movies. Watching them in the late 80s and early 90s, when 80s movie tropes had been mostly played out, they were no longer terribly popular films. But I loved them anyway.
Eventually, I decided I would write my own story using a conglomeration of ideas influenced by these films and what I imagined I would have wanted to read as a kid. That’s how The Thirteenth Hour was conceived. The story largely wrote itself in the span of about two months the summer after I finished high school. Because the plot had come to me more as a film than a book, I made a series of illustrations meant to convey what I’d envisioned. I never actually intended to publish it; it was simply the story I’d always wanted to have found as a child but never had. For many years, that’s as far as I went with the story, though at various points, I edited the manuscript so it had more detail and internal consistency. Although I thought about publishing it at a few different points in time, I did not seriously consider the idea until 2014, when I could put aside the necessary time to polish the manuscript.
Tell us about your main character? What makes them so special?
The main character for most of the book, Logan, is somebody I envisioned as being unassuming and somewhat naive, not yet possessing the confidence that comes from having more life experience. Despite losing his parents at a young age, I wanted to portray the rest of his childhood in as secure a way as possible. Logan grows up in an orphanage, and it’s somewhat of a stereotype to portray institutions as evil, bureaucratic places that are understaffed, underfunded, and poorly run. And while there are no doubt some places like that, I wanted to paint a better picture for Logan’s childhood environment in order to give him the kind of consistent, safe, caring support that I thought he’d need to equip him for the challenges that he’d face. I also wanted him to be someone that spoke to the reader in an honest, sometimes irreverent way, kind of like an adult who’s looking back on his life but remembers what is was like to be a kid (like the narrators from The Wonder Years, Stand By Me, and The Christmas Story). I thought it important that he not take himself too seriously, because let’s face it, there are lots of lousy, humiliating things that happen to everyone when they’re kids but are funny years later. I always kind of thought of Logan as acting like Sean Patrick Flannery from the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, where he portrays young Indy as an inherently curious soul who tends to see the best in people in an idealistic, almost naive way and manages, through a combination of good luck, pluck, and youthful force of will, to bumble his way through adventure after adventure.
The other main character of the book, Aurora, is also not based on anyone in particular, but rather a compilation of characteristics that I thought would make her an interesting independent character yet good friend and partner to Logan. The creation of young adult female characters has always seemed a bit more loaded than the creation of their male counterparts. I’ve often gotten the impression that some authors write their female characters with some kind of political or social agenda in mind; instead of it just being a story about a human that happens to be female. I always thought of Aurora as someone who would have been cool to have as an older sister. She is two years older than Logan, so for the first part of the book, she is kind of like an older sister to Logan, and it isn’t until he comes into his own later in the story that their relationship begins to change. Like Logan, Aurora spends much of the book trying to figure out the world around her while navigating the challenges of young adulthood – namely, figuring oneself out and finding love. In a cinematic sense, I pictured her as acting something like actresses Jodie Foster or Lea Thompson, who are often cast as perky, straightforward, everywoman/next-door-neighbor types that sometimes land themselves in extraordinary circumstances and generally emerge on their feet, maybe with a layer of dust, dirt, and smoke, but still wholesome, optimistic characters that believe the world can be a better place someday. In my mind, Aurora has a low, kind of husky voice not unlike the voice of Lady Jaye in the 80s cartoon GI Joe (voiced by Mary McDonald Lewis).
What do you read? What are your favourite books and who are your favourite authors?
The writers I most enjoy reading are novelists Cynthia Voigt (Homecoming, A Solitary Blue, Jackaroo), Mark Salzman (Lost in Place, Iron and Silk), and Willa Cather (My Antonia). I feel like I could pick up any of those books, flip through the pages, read a section, and instantly be transported into the world they’ve created. Common to all is an intimate knowledge of what it is like to be a child, as well as an adult who remembers. My brother recently suggested I check out a number of books by Stephen King, who also does this well. And although not a novelist, screenwriter John Hughes (Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink, Some Kind of Wonderful) had a way of capturing the adolescent mind and putting in on film like few before or since. I suppose I’ve always been interested in the adolescent mind and the process by which teenagers become adults and begin to grapple with adult issues.
What new projects are you working on or are excited about right now?
There will be a sequel to The Thirteenth Hour, but that is some ways off. More immediately, I have started doing a weekly podcast that talks about the making of The Thirteenth Hour and a number of topics that are featured inside its pages (martial arts, 80s movies, fantasy books, music that inspired the book, etc). Lastly, a project that has been in the works for some time but has been put on the backburner for the past year is a graphic novel intended for teenagers. It’s very different from my other works in that it’s not really a fantasy. It’s intended to be a book that chronicles a teenage girl’s journey through the mental health system, which can be confusing for patients. Most of the comic is done without words, since the story is about how she finds them. It’s been a challenging but fun exercise to figure out how to tell a tale through pictures alone.
Thanks Joshua for being here today and for your insights into your book. You new graphic novel project also sounds amazing –personally, I am always interested in books dealing with mental health.
About Joshua Blum:
In 1998, Joshua Blum wrote and illustrated an early draft of his first novel, The Thirteenth Hour, inspired by his love of 1980s fantasy and science fiction movies, fairy tales, archery, and martial arts. He finally had the time to publish it sixteen years later. In the interim, he graduated from Princeton and Penn State Universities. He is grateful to his parents for instilling in him a love of learning, his brother for keeping him young, and his wife and daughter for their love. He is currently working on his next novel and hosts a weekly podcast (available free on iTunes @ apple.co/1S3FBWi)
Where you can connect with Joshua:
Links to Joshua Blum’s books: