Alexis Marie Chute - Magical Rendition of a Wholly Creative Tale
Alexis Marie Chute wears many hats: author, artist, filmmaker, international public speaker, art curator. She’s an outside-the-box thinker, a multi-award-winning storyteller, and passionate cultural connector. Alexis Marie Chute is the author of The 8th Island Trilogy, including books Above the Star, Below the Moon, and Inside the Sun. She is also the author of the bestselling memoir Expecting Sunshine: A Journey of Grief, Healing and Pregnancy After Loss, and is the director-screenwriter of its accompanying documentary film, which has been screened internationally. As our Author of the Day, she tells us all about her book, Above the Star.
Please give us a short introduction to what Above the Star is about.
The 8th Island Trilogy includes Above the Star, Below the Moon, and Inside the Sun. Over the three books, we follow the adventures of a quirky family, the Wellsleys. The main characters are frumpy senior citizen Archie, his daughter-in-law Tessa, and his ill fourteen-year-old granddaughter Ella.
Archie, searching for his missing son, accidentally transports his family—and a cruise ship full of people—to a magical planet. There they uncover the truth: all worlds are dying. Yet, hope is not lost. A way to restore all that will soon be destroyed is revealed, along with the realization that Ella will play a role that no one could have imagined—especially not her.
On the mysterious island of Jarr-Wya, many races of creatures battle for dominion, and magic lurks around every corner. When the world falls dark, that is when bravery must shine the brightest. That is when the Wellsleys will reveal the strength they never knew they possessed and the power of love to save the day.
How did you conceive of the unique way the story is told?
The story is told in the third person perspective by grandpa Archie and Tessa, AND in the first-person perspective by Ella. Ella has cancer and cannot speak, therefore her chapters are experienced through her eyes, as we the readers are privy to her inner monologue. Plus, in Above the Star, Ella is separated from her family, captured by a ruthless race of creatures, the Bangols—apart from two teenagers. These two—Luggie and his sister Nanjee—give Ella a sketchbook and ink in which she draws her encounters and illustrates to communicate.
This unique way of telling the story evolved organically in the writing process. I rely heavily on my imagination and the blissful spontaneity of free writing to allow the story to unfold. When I am writing, I typically start out with a setting—which I can always see vividly, being a visual person and fine artist—and then let the characters walk in. I often feel like I am reading/experiencing the book at the same time as I am writing it.
Tell us more about Archie. What makes him tick?
Archie is such a dynamic character—he is fun to read in the story. Archie is in his sixties, is clumsy, and provides humor, sometimes dark humor. He accidentally finds himself in all kinds of precarious situations, some of which are of his own making, and yet he is resourceful and cleaver. Archie loves deeply, strives to do what is right, and is fiercely loyal. He always sides with his missing son, Arden, and can often inadvertently pester people—like Tessa. As Archie fumbles along through the adventures his company face, he
often struggles with his aging body and what he believes is his inability to be the protector of his family and friends that they need. However, something begins to change in him upon his arrival on the magical island of Jarr-Wya. It is this change that will help him discover the truth of who he is.
What makes Tessa and Ella so special?
Tessa and Ella are special for many reasons—and most of these I cannot share without giving away major spoilers. I will comment on their relationship with each other, however. The bond between mother and daughter is precious, but also perilous. As in the real world, so too in the magical; Tessa and Ella butt heads at every turn. I sometimes thought of my own relationship with my mother when writing these women. Tessa thinks she knows what’s best, always, and Ella is asserting herself as an independent young woman. They disagree only slightly more than they find themselves on the same page. Still, their bond and love anchor the story as the storm of battle, deception, struggle, sacrifice, and pain swirl around them.
You used three very unlikely heroes for this story... why did you take this approach?
I love rooting for the underdog. That is who Archie, Tessa, and Ella are. Underdogs. They are not warriors, scholars, or wizards. They come from a humble life. They have problems, just like you and me. I relate to each of them in different ways, and I believe that’s why the books are so beloved by people of all ages, genders, and abilities. We see ourselves in them and they inspire us to believe in ourselves.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
Apart from writing, I am skilled in visual art—painting, sculpture, photography—and design—graphic and web—and marketing. All these skills tie together. I have fun with it all.
Does your book contain an underlying message? What do you hope readers will take away from this?
The underlying message is that we can all be our own heroes. I hope readers will feel less lonely, more inspired, and the breathlessness of adventure.
Some have said that this book is A Wrinkle in Time meets The Princess Bride. Would you agree? Are you a fan of these beloved fantasies?
I love A Wrinkle in Time and The Princess Bride—both movies and books. I was so honored that some see my novels as peers of these classics. What links them are these story elements: the adventurous journey, the transformation experienced by the characters, the danger, the redemption.
Above the Star is the first of a trilogy. How do the other books in the trilogy tie in with this one?
The 8th Island Trilogy tells the full story of the Wellsley family. The books are not stand-alone. They need to be read from start to finish in order; Above the Star, Below the Moon, Inside the Sun. Each book builds upon the one before. The stakes are higher. The pace quickens. Readers dig deeper into the secrets, and the truth shines brighter. Everything is connected between the three books.
You are also a filmmaker, international public speaker, and art curator. How have your own life experiences influenced your writing?
Like the three books in The 8th Island Trilogy, I feel all my creative work is interconnected. I am inspired by the pulse of life all around me and that—thank goodness—seeps into my writing.
If you could choose one character from your book to spend a day with, who would it be? And where would you take them?
This is a hard question! I would love to hang out with Ella and draw all day, but I do think grandpa Archie would have amazing stories to tell.
Do you consider yourself a disciplined writer? Do you have a schedule that you stick to, or is it more in the moment?
I am very disciplined when I have a project I am working on. Then I guard and protect my writing time. I usually write all morning for 4 - 5 hours straight, then lunch and nap with my four-year-old. I count sleeping as working time as well—partially joking here—because I often dream about my stories and find my unconscious mind will come up with plot twists, settings, and solutions to problems I’m encountering in the stories. It’s pretty cool. I have a desk in the corner of my bedroom and I find that my go-to place to write because I can close the door and shut out distractions (apart from said four-year-old).
What are you working on right now?
I am plotting a prequel to The 8th Island Trilogy—which is a graphic novel! This book will follow the character Arden Wellsley before he disappears. Ella, Archie, and Tessa will be in this novel, but they will be secondary characters to Arden. I am really excited about this!
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
Facebook: Alexis Marie Chute, Art, Photograph and Creative Writing
LinkedIn: Alexis Marie Chute
Above the Star https://www.alexismariechute.com/abovethestar/
Below the Moon https://www.alexismariechute.com/belowthemoon/
Inside the Sun https://www.alexismariechute.com/insidethesun/
The 8th Island Trilogy https://www.alexismariechute.com/8thislandtrilogy/
Expecting Sunshine Memoir https://www.alexismariechute.com/expectingsunshinebook/
Expecting Sunshine Documentary https://www.alexismariechute.com/expecting-sunshine-documentary/