Leif Grundstrom-Whitney is the proud co-author of the sprawling satire The Hidden Chalice of the Cloud People; the wicked and witty character known as Facinorous contained therein is a product of his multifarious mind. He has been published in poetry journals such as the University of Maine Peace Studies Newsletter, World Community for Christian Meditation-USA Newsletter, among others. To say that he is an edacious reader would be an understatement worthy of Hemingway. If he had a spirit animal, it would probably be a gregarious talking raven who knows how to play a Hammond B-3 organ.
Jason Grundstrom-Whitney has been a Social Worker and Substance Abuse Counselor in the State of Maine for over twenty years. In this time, he has introduced meditation (tai-chi, qigong, yoga, and meditation) groups to teens when told he would fail. This was one of the most successful and long-lasting groups. He developed a Civil Rights/Peer Helper course that won state and national awards (for high school) and has worked as a civil rights activist. He has also worked as a long-term care social worker and now works as a Hospice Medical Social Worker.
Congratulations on the release of your latest book, The Hidden Chalice of the Cloud People. When did you start writing and what got you into Young Adult Fiction?
We have both written throughout our lives. To crudely paraphrase the inimitable Samuel Beckett: “Ever since we were whelped!” Poetry, short stories, tales, etc., have always been part of the fabric of our family. To be quite frank, we can’t imagine a day that would be possible without writing. Like breathing, eating, brushing your teeth, writing is good hygiene for the creative soul.
The daring choice of obeying the creative whim of the imagination or ambling down a certain line of thought that leads to words scribbled on paper fills our hearts with one of their greatest pleasures. Traversing the grandeur of the mind whilst admiring and luxuriating in the beauty and bewitching splendor of the ethereal regions of the Muse connects our spirits to the transcendent and the sublime in a manner similar to that which is described exquisitely by Wordsworth in his genius epical epopee The Prelude. When that creative sensation of mental exploration rolls through our minds, we feel jubilant and carefree and profound. The whole experience of writing enriches our souls; drowning our thoughts in joy and afflatus.
What more is there that we can tell? The blood of Orpheus polluted our ancestors’ generational well.
We were drawn into the hectic world of Young Adult Fiction by a powerful compulsion to satirize and introduce some much needed adequately thoughtful satire and inspired zaniness and sly jocosity into a genre that has grown rather grim and dystopian of late.
What is your book about?
There exists Lethia, a fantastical realm created by the mystical Lore Weaver whose purpose is to bring the worthy figures of humanity’s imagination and their own fictional imaginings to life. For clever and innocent teenager Tommy Dana, throughout his youth Lethia has been nothing but a fanciful focal point for his Grandfather’s stories. That is, of course, until one day when he is taken there himself by an unlikely villain desirous of neither power nor infamy. Facinorous, one of six beings known as Cloud People bound to serve as arbiters of what stories in Lethia are granted a reality, seeks the immoral freedom that can only come from Lethia’s destruction by means of stripping mankind of the imagination that sustains it. Facinorous pursues this dark agenda because he has been driven mad by jealousy over the importance of humanity’s imagination. Tommy is next in a long line of victims who at the peril of failing Facinorous’s devious games face losing their precious imaginative capabilities.
Dropped into the physical worlds and experiences of five stories, four of his own choosing, Tommy must defend from Facinorous’s mangling each story from beginning to end to ensure that the integrity of each moral and/or ending remains intact. His goal in the experience of these four distinct stories, amongst which he can jump with a thought, is to prevent Facinorous from largely destroying the moral or the integrity of their endings.
The essence of each story rescued and completed in this way fills the hidden Chalice of Facinorous, a symbol of his oath to Lethia, and brings it closer to within Tommy’s grasp. Tommy can foil Facinorous’s evil agenda to rob humanity of its imagination by reuniting him with his Chalice once it is filled with the essences of the four stories. Tommy’s hope lies in the ability with which he is endowed to jump betwixt story worlds and specific locations within them at will, escaping danger and freezing in time the other stories he leaves.
Joined by the shillelagh-wielding, no-nonsense female warrior and story star Shannon O’Neil whom he befriends early on, Tommy mix-matches helpful characters and elements from one story world to another in an attempt to outwit the shape-shifting schemes of Facinorous. This culminates with Tommy taking a dangerous flight into the unknown of an intimidating tale he does not know in order to defeat the wispy wretch with his own Chalice and restore Lethia and the pilfered imaginations that damaged reality contains.
What was your inspiration for it?
We were inspired by classics such as Gulliver’s Travels to create a work rather epical of ambit, teeming with pervasive satirical and comedic components, defined by a powerful vividness of imagination and an intoxicating and innovative strangeness, marked by an elevated degree of complexity in prose, word usage and composition, and filled with heady action and complicated, greatly varied adventuring. Such classical sources inspired us to want to subvert the expectations of what a Young Adult fiction novel could be. We want the oddness of the structure, themes, elements, and, to a certain extent, characters of our book to enthrall our readers. It is our express desire to shake up the Young Adult genre with winking mirth and weirdness.
How do you celebrate the completion of a book?
It usually involves hosting rowdy bacchanals that threaten to tear the framework of the welkin asunder. You know, exciting events where temperance is the guiding principle. Seriously though, book completion celebrations are handled in an understated manner befitting the innate class, dignity, and nobility of our characters.
Do you have a website or blog where readers can find out more about your work?
We certainly do. It would be our pleasure to share a website or two. Lo! A passel of links:
Where is your book available?
Our book is now available on Amazon.com! Check it out if you’re interested. The precise link to the book is located in the answer to another question.
What is your advice for aspiring authors?
Not sure about advice but we definitely have a few platitudes to impart. Take your art seriously; refine your abilities, hone your skills, and develop a habit of writing on a quotidian basis; not necessarily a piece of art that inspires the pneuma and rattles the firmament but something that is at least adequate or decent. Practicing your craft plays a crucial role in maintaining the well-being and the liveliness of your mental character as well as improving your writing abilities. Let the sensitive fabric of your psyche become pachydermatous and persevere through all the vicissitudes that adversity can muster.
George Orwell once wrote: “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” Comments?
His statement is exactly right in our humble estimation. An author’s greatest reward, if we may speak broadly, is silencing the howls of the dogged creative Daemon, the spirit of the insistent need for artistic expression, which resides in the deepest secrecies of our inwardness. Until that is achieved the exigent need becomes like a sickness. What is life without the miracle of writing (or any artistic endeavor for that matter) for those so inclined though? An empty shell of an existence, gutted by the malison of loneliness, withering unto an unmourned conclusion!
Photo and cover art posted with permission from the authors’ publicist.