Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Deadwood by Kell Andrews

CONGRATS TO TINA for winning a copy of DEADWOOD!
There’s something evil in Deadwood Park.

Martin Cruz hates his rotten new town. Then he gets a message from a tree telling him it’s cursed — and so is he. It’s not just any tree. It’s the Spirit Tree, the ancient beech the high school football team carves to commemorate the home opener. And every year they lose.

But the curse is no game, and it gets worse. Businesses fail. Trees topple like dominos. Sinkholes open up in the streets, swallowing cars and buildings. Even people begin to fade, drained of life.

Martin teams up with know-it-all soccer star Hannah Vaughan. Together they must heal the tree, or be stuck in Deadwood Park at the mercy of the psycho who cursed it.

cindy: It's my pleasure to have Kell Andrews join us at the Enchanted Inkpot today! Your middle grade debut DEADWOOD is unlike any other fantasy I've read before, and I enjoyed it very much. I liked the idea of old magic instilled in nature and the trees. What inspired the root of your novel? Was it based on any myth or folklore at all, or perhaps even a tree in real life? (I just noticed my "root" pun. Wasn't intended, ha!)

kell: People all over the world have believed that plants have spirits. I wondered why, and that's why I created a tree mythology from a science fiction perspective. My reference manual was the 1973 alternative science bestseller, The Secret Life of Plants by Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird, which explores the idea of plant sentience. This was the book popularized the 1970s idea that you should talk to your plants to keep them healthy. Most of the evidence in the book is actually pseudoscience, but the David Attenborough 1995 BBC/Turner Broadcasting mini The Private Life of Plants is more scientifically rigorous and covers related territory about plant survival mechanisms. I drew on the companion book too. 

Then, from that starting point of plant ecology and botany, I tied in some of the culturally ubiquitous myths about tree beings of all kinds.

cindy: I remember Prince Charles saying he talked to his plants. And a television show that displayed plants growing toward a speaker that played classical music and away from one that played rock (or something noisy and "dissonant"). ha! A fascinating area of study, indeed. I really appreciated the relationships you created in your novel--from the sibling friendships between Hannah and her older brothers, to the uncertain and awkward bond between Hannah and Martin. Even that between Hannah and Martin and the Spirit Tree. Were these interplays something you consciously wanted to focus on (family and friendship) or did they arise on their own in your writing?

kell: It was important to me to put both Hannah and Martin in strong, loving families. When I first planned the novel, Hannah had five older brothers, but even I got confused, so I narrowed it down to two. And Martin might living with his cold, demanding aunt, but only because his mother has been deployed to Afghanistan. She still shows up as an influential character in the novel, even if just by Skype and instant message.

And of course the relationship between Hannah and Martin is central -- neither of them is the person the other expected, but each was the friend that the other needed at that time. It just takes them a while to figure it out -- there are so many social pressures at that age, and nobody is really sure of themselves, even when they look confident to others.

cindy: Whoa on the five older brothers! I think the two she had stood out well individually. And I loved your emphasis on family. That came across. I also noted and appreciated your inclusiveness of diverse characters in the novel--was this a conscious choice or something that came naturally?

kell: The town where DEADWOOD takes place is an important part of the story, and it's a diverse place, like communities I based it on and where I've always lived. Hannah is a white Anglo and Martin is Puerto Rican. I'm white, so I was nervous about doing Martin's character justice. I chickened out originally and made his mother and grandmother, who raised him together, white, while only his father was Puerto Rican. But although Martin's ethnic background isn't central to the progression of the plot, I realized it IS central to Martin himself. He asserted himself and his identity, so I changed his heritage to fit. I found that he held that cultural identity very close, reflective of his feelings for his mother and grandmother, and I hope it works.

cindy: I truly do believe in staying true to your characters and their stories. I'm glad Martin spoke up. =) Could you share with us a little about your process in writing DEADWOOD as well as your journey to publication?

kell: I wrote DEADWOOD while my former agent was subbing an earlier middle-grade novel. That one didn't sell, and I ended up on my own again. I queried agents with DEADWOOD, but it didn't work out. Still, I had faith in the story and it has some timely elements, so I didn't want to shelve it. I found Pugalicious Press, which has been a good fit. And now I have a new agent for my subsequent work.

cindy: It is a fabulous debut--well written, entertaining, thought-provoking and original! Congrats to you! And last but never least, what is your favorite pastry?

kell: Do maple walnut scones count? Because yum.

cindy: Oh scones count for sure!! Great choice! And thanks so much for stopping by the Enchanted Inkpot! To learn more about kell, visit her tumblr here!

Deadwood giveaway!

I will be giving away my copy of Deadwood to one lucky winner! Simply comment in this post to enter. +1 entry if you are a follower of our blog. +1 if you tweet or fb status, etc, with a link to this post and mention of Deadwood giveaway. I will pick a winner on Wednesday, 1/16 and post winner name at the top of this entry. Good luck! (Open to US mailing addresses.)

Cindy Pon is the author of Silver Phoenix (Greenwillow, 2009), which was named one of the Top Ten Fantasy and Science Fiction Books for Youth by the American Library Association’s Booklist, and one of 2009′s best Fantasy, Science Fiction and Horror by VOYA. The sequel to Silver Phoenix, titled Fury of the Phoenix, was released in April 2011. Her first published short story is featured in Diverse Energies, a multicultural YA dystopian anthology from Tu Books (October 2012). Cindy is also a Chinese brush painting student of over a decade. Visit her website at


  1. thanks for a great interview, kell! =)

  2. I think you did a great job with martin's character and thought you did him and his family "justice." Did you have to research a lot to feel comfortable giving him the Puerto Rican background? What kinds of research did you end up doing?

  3. Love the concept of a tree mythology. Wishing you lots of sales! :D

  4. Very interesting, I think my 10 year old would enjoy this book!

  5. I so want to read this book -- LOVE the cover, Kell! And I'll be tweeting about the contest!

  6. I've heard good things about this book. it sounds neat!

  7. I already have a copy of Kell's book--arrived last week, and has yet to be devoured--so no need to enter me. But will happily share this on FB.

    Neat about the origins of the premise. I remember that story, actually.

  8. This sounds like a really interesting new book. I wish the author the best of luck in all her writing.

  9. Great interview, Cindy & Kell! I've got a copy, so no need to enter me into the contest. Deadwood is next up in my reading queue!

  10. I like that Martin's identity is something important to him. The book just bumped higher on my tbr list. :D

    (btw I'm a follower)


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