One great thing about being able to have my own little corner of the blogosphere is discovering all these great, smaller publishers I may never have discovered before. I hope that by sharing these books, authors, and publishers with you,that you enjoy discovering them, too.
Everton Miles is Stranger Than Me is the sequel to 2014’s The Strange Gift of Gwendolyn Golden. It’s the continuing story of a teenage girl who discovers that she’s got an incredible gift – but there are always strings attached, and being able to fly comes with some pretty big strings. It’s a fun tale of magical realism, family, and friendship, and you don’t need to have read the first one to pick up the second; the book fills you in on the basics that you need to know to enjoy the story. I enjoyed visiting Gwendolyn, Everton and their friends; they’re characters you genuinely like and want to see good things happen for them. The supporting characters are all strong and empathetic; I especially love Gwendolyn’s headstrong younger sister, Christine.
If you’ve got readers who enjoy a little bit of magic in their daily lives – Rebecca Stead’s When You Reach Me is a great read-alike here – add the Night Flyers series to your bookshelves.
Recommended for ages 10-14
I was lucky enough to have author Philippa Dowding put together a fun Q&A for this post. Read and enjoy!
1. What’s your new book about?
Everton Miles is Stranger than Me (Dundurn Press), is a sequel to my 2014 title, The Strange Gift of Gwendolyn Golden, which was nominated for the OLA Red Maple award in 2015. In the first book, Gwendolyn, my 14-year-old protagonist, wakes up one morning on the ceiling of her bedroom, which is odd, but doesn’t particularly shock her. Floating around is just another weird thing that seems to be happening to her during puberty. As the story develops, however, she realizes she’s part of a larger community of Night Flyers, and that her dead father was a Night Flyer, too.
In the new sequel, I pick up where we left off: Gwendolyn has one year to decide whether or not she will become a Night Flyer forever. As she enters grade nine, she has all the problems of a regular teenager, PLUS she’s also part of this magical community of Night Flyers, which imbues everything with a sense of wonder, and a little darkness too, frankly. Everton Miles shows up at the beginning of school, a grade older, much cooler than her, and surprise, surprise … he’s a Night Flyer, too! The two mismatched teenagers are thrown together, and as Gwendolyn discovers more about the death of her father, she and Everton have to face Abilith, a fallen Rogue Spirit Flyer, kidnap, and the unspeakable horror of the Shade, together. Gwen discovers that with the help of Everton Miles, her community, and The Night Flyer’s Handbook, she might actually survive grade nine!
2. The series is called The Night Flyer’s Handbook. Why did you choose that as a series name?
Part of the new story is built around an 800-page book, The Night Flyer’s Handbook, that Gwendolyn’s mentor, Mrs. Forest, hands her. It’s quite hilariously the exact opposite of the flimsy 3-page brochure for the Less-than-Willing-Reader that Gwen received in book 1, (which ended up being entirely unhelpful). The much larger Handbook is intended to help her understand her new life as a Night Flyer, if she chooses to become one forever. Gwen isn’t a great reader, and finds the book daunting just to look at, but she does slowly read it, as the story progresses.
I’ve been both an academic and a copywriter in my life, and have written probably thousands of brochures, as well as a few academic papers in university. I thought it would be fun to introduce a tiny taste of academic-style writing into the story, since it couldn’t be more different from the useless 3-page brochure Gwen gets in book one. The Handbook has hilariously earnest chapter headings, like “Enemies and Entities,” or “History and Hysteria.”
Here’s a sample: “There appears to have been spirited rejection of the medieval European Night Flyer population, and as Professor Gertrude L. Lisquith (N.F., PhD, Oxford), concludes in her lengthy and definitive 1963 study, The Dialectic Presented by the Earliest Records of Night Flying/Non-Witch Identified Populations in Medieval England, France, Germany and Belgium, (Oxford University Press, pp. 816–865), although Night Flyers most likely existed before 1437, we have virtually no written record of them…”
Gwen finds it mystifying, but she doesn’t give up. The Handbook also has illustrations by a mythical 15th century illustrator, “T. Bosch,” who is a fictional, lesser-known relative to Hieronymus Bosch. As Gwen’s story progresses, and she eventually finishes the enormous Handbook, she realizes that it actually does help her, and is a valuable tome about her Night Flyer community. The message? You can still find the answers to life’s questions in books!
3. The teenagers in the story build a beautiful bottle garden with thousands of recycled glass bottles. Where did you get the idea for a bottle garden?
I was reading an article about wind catchers. There’s a low-tech wind-maker people create, using plastic bottles with the ends cut off, poked neck-first into plywood, which catches the breeze. This led to more reading about what to do with bottles, and I was astonished to discover the beauty of glass bottle garden sculptures.
One of the characters in both books, Mr. McGillies, is an old bottle collector. He has a fairly large role in Everton Miles is Stranger than Me, so I wanted to do something useful with all the bottles he hoarded on his property, plus I wanted to show that teenagers are remarkably resourceful, and beauty can pop up in the most unusual ways. I also wanted a tip of the hat to recycling.
Search “glass bottle sculpture” on the web, you’ll be amazed!
4. You HAVE to choose a favourite character from the book. Who is it, and why?
Abilith the Rogue, hands down. He was fascinating to write, and who doesn’t love creating a brilliant, powerful, menacing sociopathic antagonist, a fallen outcast from a race of immortals? For more about Abilith the Rogue, you can follow my blog tour this week, the schedule is on my blog: http://www.phdowding.blogspot.ca
5. What are you publishing next?
I have a middle-grade series with Dundurn Press called Weird Stories Gone Wrong, so I am currently expanding on those three books, hopefully there will be two more in the next year. I’m also considering a third book in The Night Flyer’s Handbook series, so stay tuned on that!
Enjoy a book trailer for The Strange Gift of Gwendolyn Golden right here!