A. R. Silverberry writes fiction for adults and children. His novel, WYNDANO’S CLOAK, won multiple awards, including the Benjamin Franklin Award gold medal for Juvenile/Young Adult Fiction. I’d like to welcome him here on No Wasted Ink.
Wake up between six and seven, roll out of bed, find my cat, and soak up the morning love. Place face deeply into Persian fur and listen to him purr. Pet him until it’s clear what he really wants is food. Promise to continue to fool myself this tomorrow. Clean litter box. House boss now content, retreat to my office. Hammer at words for two hours. Feel happy with what I’ve written. Or not. If not, try not to drive my wife crazy talking about it. Commute 75 minutes, listening to audio books. Currently engrossed in Stephen King’s Dr. Sleep. Twenty to thirty minutes before arriving at day job, give left-brain a rest, turn off book, and tune into classical station. See psychotherapy clients 5 – 6 hours. Listen. Play games on the floor—most of the clients are children. Thank God this is fun! Back in the car and back to Dr. Sleep. Wind down munching on chips and watching reruns of Dance Academy on Netflix. Sleep. Dream, dream about the novel you’re writing.
When and why did you begin writing?
I felt the call. That’s something we either listen to or we don’t. If we do, we’re happy and we’re dong our soul work. If we ignore it, we’re on a fast train to a miserable life. Sometime in my twenties I understood this. I had dabbled with writing in the 1980s. I may have the beginning of a few stories lying around. It wasn’t until 1998 that I got serious after reading a slew of Oz books. I haven’t looked back.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Probably when I was wrapping up the first draft of my first novel; I saw that I had actually woven a story that held together. But maybe it was before that. My wife had asked me to write a story for her to illustrate. I came up with two of them, but one tale had a clear voice, which, while it’s evolved over the years, is still essentially mine.
Can you share a little about your current book with us?
What if your world was six miles wide and endlessly long?
After a devastating storm kills his parents, five-year-old Wend awakens to the strange world of the Stream. He discovers he can only travel downstream, and dangers lurk at every turn: deadly rapids, ruthless pirates, a mysterious pavilion that lures him into intoxicating fantasies, and rumor of a giant waterfall at the edge of the world. Defenseless, alone, with only courage and his will to survive, Wend begins his quest to become a man. Will tragic loss trap him in a shadow world, or will he enter the Stream, with all its passion and peril?
Part coming-of-age tale, part adventure, part spiritual journey, The Stream is a fable about life, impermanence, and the gifts found in each moment.
What inspired you to write this book?
The idea came from a conversation I was having where I was using the metaphor of a stream. But the philosophical underpinnings of the story date back years. I did a lot of yoga and meditation starting in middle school. In high school, Herman Hesse’s masterpiece, Siddhartha, had a huge affect on me. Who wouldn’t want to achieve Nirvana? I took a class called Eastern Religion and Philosophy, adding to my understanding and interest in Buddhism. More recently, I’ve embraced the use of mindfulness and compassion in my work as a psychologist. But maybe it really dates back to that sailing trip I took with a good friend and his father when I was in high school. We journeyed up the Sacramento River and anchored in a peaceful byway. Those images found their way into the book.
Do you have a specific writing style?
Everyone does. The trick is to get out of the way of it and let it sing. I’m also a pianist and a composer, so I’m very aware of the rhythm of my sentences, not just individually, but next to each other. If it doesn’t sound right to me, if it feels off, I rework it. I also love the sound of words. Sometimes I’ll choose a word as much because of how it sounds as what it means.
How did you come up with the title of this book?
Titles are the hardest for me. I came up with several options and polled my beta readers as well as people who hadn’t read the book. There were several strong candidates, but I opted for the simpler title, which seemed fitting for a fable like this one.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Absolutely, but you’ll never get me to say it! As Stephen King said, you want the reader to feel the emotions, not think. So you’ll excuse me if I just invite anyone out there to feel the emotions of the book. I promise you’ll smile; I promise beauty; I promise darkness descending with a vengeance; I promise hope.
Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
My wife teases me that I’m all the characters in my stories. That may be partially true, but most of my characters amalgams. Some, though, spring fully blown from who knows where. Those are the ones I love.
What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?
First and foremost, the many peoples across many lands and time who formed the myths and fairy tales that distill what’s at heart in the human condition. One of the first books I saw, The Way of the Whirlwind, my parents bought for my brother and me before we were born. It’s about two aborigine bush children, Nungaree and Jungaree, who set out to find their baby brother, who trickster, Whirlwind, stole. The illustrations were colorful and magical, and made me feel that all things in the world were sentient and animated. Fertile ground for a budding fantasy writer! A fifth grade teacher turned on to The Hobbit, and as soon as I could find The Lord of the Rings, it was all over for me.
If you had to choose, is there a writer would you consider a mentor? Why?
The real life mentor was my father. He wrote a play, Open Secret, that was included in a volume of best one-act plays in the 40s. He also wrote the original screenplay for the movie, Baby Face Nelson, starring Mickey Rooney. He used to play a game with me as kid. We came up with characters with opposing motives, and then made up stories to fit the characters. It seemed like magic to me, and of course, I never forgot the underlying message: characters make your story.
Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?
My website designer, Diane Widdon, is also a graphic artist. She did a fabulous job on the cover for the ebook edition of my first novel, Wyndano’s Cloak, so I knew I wanted her for The Stream. For both books, I selected several photos (after sifting through hundreds!) and asked her to work up three designs. There was no doubt which one I would use for Wyndano’s Cloak. The black background, the intensity on the girls face, the sword, the silver lettering, all said FANTASY! Including the cloak wasn’t necessary. Diane came up with two great covers for The Stream. I polled people to see which design would most likely get them to buy the book. The majority chose the mysterious one you see here. I’m keeping the other one, though, and may use it down the road.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Write the truth.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
The best part of writing is sharing my work with you. I’ve met you in bookstores and online; many of you I’ll never forget. The most profound thing for me as a writer is knowing that what’s in my heart, resonated in yours.
A. R. Silverberry
Northern California, USA