I’m delighted to be welcoming back to the blog David Meredith. David very kindly wrote a fabulous guest post for me last year on the timeless allure of fairytales. Today he’s in my hot seat chatting about the first book in a new trilogy, The Aaru Cycle. I think the premise for this world is very interesting …
David Meredith is a writer and educator originally from Knoxville, Tennessee. He recieved both a Bachelor of Arts and a Master of Arts from East Tennessee State University, in Johnson City, Tennessee as well and a Tennessee State Teaching license. On and off, he spent nearly a decade, from 1999-2010 teaching English in Northern Japan, but currently lives with his wife and three children in the Nashville Area where he continues to write and teach English.
Connect with David Meredith
Welcome back to Jera’s Jamboree.
Please summarise Aaru in 20 words or less.
Fault in Our Stars meets If I Stay meets The Matrix – Aaru challenges our convictions about life, death, and mortality.
Please tell us about the characters in your novel.
The story centers around Rose and her sister Koren. It is mostly told from their perspective. They are pretty typical American teenagers from a working class family. Rose is sixteen years old, but in the final stages of her battle with leukaemia. Koren is her younger sister with everything seemingly going for her – athletic, pretty, popular, good in school, but all of this falls apart when Rose passes. They were always close growing up, and Koren can’t seem to pull herself out of a morbid depression. Koren feels she is doomed to languish in misery and grief forever until she is approached by a mysterious man in a white lab coat with an impossible claim – Death no longer exists. Rose is still alive, in Aaru.
Was there anything about your protagonist that surprised you David?
In the beginning, Rose was definitely the protagonist, but I’ve heard from several people after the release that they actually felt like the book turned out to be more about Koren, and that was surprising. Either way they are both very strong characters and a central theme is really about the close relationship of these two sisters and how Aaru affects it.
What scene did you enjoy writing the most?
There is a talk show scene where Koren appears as a guest. The show is a little like Jimmie Fallon or Jimmie Kimmel or older shows like David Letterman and Johnny Carson, but it was just a fun way to deliver some necessary information to the reader. It also provides some vital levity in a story that is otherwise pretty serious.
Did you do any research for your book David? What resources did you use?
Tons. Aaru is liberally sprinkled with references to religion, mythology, and philosophy. I ended up reading a whole lot of Frederick Nietzsche as well as other philosophical thinkers and religious texts from many world religions. A central theme of this book is “how would the end of death as we know it impact humanity’s thinking about life, living, and faith?” So it was really important to get those theological and philosophical underpinnings right before beginning. I also conferred with a doctor Friend, James Battle to make sure the medical scenes were depicted accurately, and with Shervin Gerami, another friend who owns a technology firm to insure that the descriptions of the technology ring true.
Does your novel tackle a social barrier?
I wouldn’t call it a social “barrier” per se, but I definitely think that Aaru tackles some pretty serious and impactful issues in world society. There are so many conflicts that though not expressly caused by religion necessarily, are certainly justified by individuals’ adamant convictions about religion. Also, religion (many religions anyway, certainly not all) are largely based upon the need to ameliorate the very universal human fear of death and what happens afterward. Now first of all, I would like to state unequivocally that I am not anti-religion. I would, in fact, self-identify as Christian. However, I also have a number of problems with seeming corruption and hypocrisy in the organized church as an institution. It forces me to ask a lot of hard questions just for my own piece of mind and understanding of my personal faith. I would say the guiding question of this work is “how would the removal of the fear of death impact how we see life and belief?” I don’t think it’s as simple as the utopian realization of John Lennon’s Imagine lyrics. I think individual and institutional reactions would vary wildly. Some would embrace the change with joy, others would rebel against it, many more would be torn somewhere in the middle. This is what Aaru explores.
Aaru also deals with issues of grief and coping with loss. It deals with how media changes the individual to fit the zeitgeist of the time often to the individual’s detriment. And yes, just a bit about internet stalking. 😊
Who would you cast in the role of your characters if your novel were optioned for a movie?
Rose and Koren are pretty young, so I might be most interested in some up and coming actresses who nobody knows about yet, but maybe someone like a Taylor Momsen or Elle Fanning for Koren, and a Kira Kosarin, Demi Lavato, or Kristen Stewart for Rose. I think Keefer Sutherland would be great as Magic Man, the antagonist. He does sinister and creepy really well. Maybe Ben Kingsley as Mr. Adams, the scientist who approaches Rose’s family with the Aaru proposal, (I’d really like to see how he looks with hair 😊). Woody Harrelson would be great as Rose and Koren’s dad, Bill Johnson. Someone like a Cherlize Theron for Gypsie Johnson, their mother. It’s all fun to think about. I’d love to see Aaru made into a movie.
Do you have a theme for your book covers David? Who designs them?
I am a mendicant to the goodwill of talented friends. A photographer friend of mine, Jymmie Davis, shot the cover. The model is his cousin, and the cover designer is a friend of mine from college, Sean Marmon, who studied graphic design.
I definitely had a theme going on, which I developed by spending a number of hours on Deviant Art until I found a couple of images I thought represented the themes I wanted to demonstrate in my cover. I sent these to the people involved as concept art, and then trusted their creativity to come up with something striking.
Your novel is part of a series, what’s in the future?
I’m already about 110 pages into the sequel, Aaru: Halls of Hel, actually. It will delve deeper into the exciting new world the Residents of Aaru are creating as well as the building fervour and controversy about the Aaru service in the “real” world as the great and powerful start to take notice, and how this impacts the lives of Koren and her family. I also get much more in depth about the origins of the antagonist, Magic Man, and how he became so depraved.
Finally David, are there any tips you could share with new writers?
If you want your work to succeed, you can’t be squeamish about hard work or putting in thousands of hours to move it forward. There are no shortcuts to success. First, your writing and your story must be tight. Take the time to read, reread, and re-reread over and over again until it’s perfect. Then you have to hit the virtual bricks, as it were, to get your work noticed. For my previous novel, The Reflections of Queen Snow White, I probably sent out over 10,000 review requests to individual book blogger sites, which resulted in a fair degree of success for a first novel, but it’s a slow and tedious slog, and you have to commit to it. (Great advice 🙂 )
Thank you for being my guest.
Wishing you success with all your writing projects David.
Publisher: Bowker (10 July 2017)
“…Death and the stillness of death are the only things certain and common to all in this future…”
Rose is dying. Her body is wasted and skeletal. She is too sick and weak to move. Every day is an agony and her only hope is that death will find her swiftly before the pain grows too great to bear.
She is sixteen years old.
Rose has made peace with her fate, but her younger sister, Koren, certainly has not. Though all hope appears lost Koren convinces Rose to make one final attempt at saving her life after a mysterious man in a white lab coat approaches their family about an unorthodox and experimental procedure. A copy of Rose’s radiant mind is uploaded to a massive super computer called Aaru – a virtual paradise where the great and the righteous might live forever in an arcadian world free from pain, illness, and death. Elysian Industries is set to begin offering the service to those who can afford it and hires Koren to be their spokes-model.
Within a matter of weeks, the sisters’ faces are nationally ubiquitous, but they soon discover that neither celebrity nor immortality is as utopian as they think. Not everyone is pleased with the idea of life everlasting for sale.
What unfolds is a whirlwind of controversy, sabotage, obsession, and danger. Rose and Koren must struggle to find meaning in their chaotic new lives and at the same time hold true to each other as Aaru challenges all they ever knew about life, love, and death and everything they thought they really believed.