In honor of the upcoming release of Jason Chabot’s second novel, ABOVE, Turner Publishing posed the following forty questions to find out more about this Vancouver author and his trilogy.
1. What is your favorite character from a book?
It would have to be Erik (a.k.a. The Opera Ghost), from Gaston Leroux’s The Phantom of the Opera. He’s such a complex character who exhibits both worthy and deplorable qualities. When I was younger and first read the story, I had such empathy for the driving force behind Erik’s need for artistic expression, contrasted by his isolation in a world of beauty that considers him monstrous.
2. If you weren’t already an author, what would be another dream occupation?
I would be a competitive ballroom and Latin American dancer. I first discovered my love for these two styles of dancing in my first year of university, long before Dancing with the Stars was popular on TV. At the time, my dance partner and I enjoyed much success at competitions, but for various reasons out of my control, I was not destined to make it my lifetime career. But no doubt about it, I was born to be on the dance floor.
3. What is your favorite movie?
My all-time favorite film is Amélie, a whimsical and romantic movie set in Paris, about a young woman who tries to bring love and joy into the lives of the people around her. The story, the cinematography, the acting... it’s all brilliant. And don’t let the French dialogue with English subtitles turn you off. This movie is definitely worth watching.
4. What do you find irresistible?
Cookies! Cookies! Cookies! Cookies of every type: crispy or chewy, homemade or store-bought, giant or bite-sized, raw or cooked! I have no control around cookies, so I rarely allow myself to have them in the house. They disappear much too quickly.
5. Have you ever encountered a ghost?
I’m sure of it. I was alone in bed one night, with my head resting on one end of my pillow, when I felt the other end of the pillow sink down as if another head had settled upon it. Yikes! Every inch of my skin flared with goose bumps, and it was difficult to fall asleep afterwards.
6. Do you have any phobias?
Jumping into a body of water where I can’t see what’s below the surface.
7. What is the most memorable class you’ve ever taken?
My second year English class at university was amazing. The professor could be best described as a modern-day witch, with her black clothes, long, jet-black, scraggily hair and severe, pale face. But she was very dramatic whenever she stood in front of the class to read passages out loud from a book. I found her passion and obvious intelligence absolutely captivating.
8. What is the most recent photo you took on your phone?
A picture of the fish in my saltwater aquarium.
9. What was your first thought this morning?
Thank goodness... I don’t hear any rain outside!
10. Cat person or dog person?
Dog person. Unfortunately, I am allergic to cats. Of course, whenever I come across cats, they always feel snubbed because I have to ignore them, so the poor animals will do everything they can to climb all over me, or rub up against my legs, purring their little hearts out.
11. What book would you take with you to a deserted island?
It would have to be Wild Swans, by Jung Chang, which chronicles the lives of three generations of women living in China. It’s astounding the paths that people’s lives can take.
12. What’s the next book on your reading list?
Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell. I’ve wanted to read this for a very long time, and I’m finally getting around to it!
13. Favourite quote?
It’s a quote from Henry Ford: “If you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right.”
This inspired me to come up with a similar quote of my own: “If you think you can, or you think you can’t, just write!”
14. What is your favorite reality TV show?
House Hunters International.
15. Have you ever tried doing something that you knew you’d be bad at?
I’m a terrible singer, but I made a commitment to take a full year of singing lessons to see if I could improve. Twelve months later, I sounded just as atrocious as when I began. I cringe now to think of those unfortunate audience members who were forced to listen to me perform at the yearend concert organized by my singing coach!
16. What would people be surprised to learn about you?
When I was still in elementary school (and before I officially became a teenager), I was already well over six feet tall.
17. What is an advantage of your height?
People can always find me in a crowd.
18. What is a disadvantage?
Shopping for jeans can be unbearably difficult.
19. What is the first thing you notice when meeting someone new?
Whether or not they can make eye contact.
20. What is your favorite Halloween costume?
For years I have recycled the same two costumes because they suit me so perfectly. I wear them in rotation – one year I’ll be a pirate, then the next year I’ll be the Phantom of the Opera.
21. Do you skip breakfast?
22. What did you have for breakfast today?
The juice from one lemon, a serving of cottage cheese, and then a bowl of oatmeal with blueberries and lemon zest.
23. Favorite cuisine?
South Asian. There’s nothing better than a delicious curry sauce.
24. What do you refuse to eat?
Creamed corn. Disgusting!
25. Favorite travel destination?
It’s a three-way tie between Paris, Rome, and Cairo.
26. Where are you traveling next?
I’m looking forward to a very busy week-long book tour in Ontario this coming May. I am also very excited about a snorkeling trip to Fiji later in the fall.
27. Who’s the most famous person you ever met?
28. Which well-know person would you like to meet, living or deceased?
Leonardo da Vinci. I consider creativity one of the greatest pursuits in life, and Leonardo da Vinci was a genius for his incredible talents as an artist, mathematician, musician, architect, engineer and inventor. Imagine the great fortune of being his apprentice and all that could be learned.
29. What question would you ask your future self?
Does it all work out OK?
30. Any advice for your younger self?
Don’t worry so much.
31. Do you speak a second language?
Unfortunately no, though I would love to. I admire anyone who has the ability.
32. What was the last event you dressed up for?
33. Coffee or tea?
Tea. For some reason, people in my family have stomachs that suffer severe indigestion from coffee. Surprisingly, that doesn’t stop some of them from drinking it, though they are notorious for incessantly belching.
34. Sunrise or sunset?
Sunrise. I catch very few of them, but they are a truly magical time of the day since everyone else is usually still asleep and all is quiet.
35. Spring or autumn?
Spring. Seeing that first blossom or green bud means the dreariness of winter will soon be over.
36. What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever witnessed?
This is honestly a true story. One summer morning, I was sitting in my parked car, feeling particularly discouraged about a big dilemma I was facing, when there was a sudden cloudburst outside. The rain, however, hit only my car... nothing else! The street, the sidewalk, and the other cars around me were completely dry, basking in full sunshine. After about half a minute, the downpour stopped and the lone cloud overhead moved on. I took it as a sign to remember that if I’m struggling with a dark mood, the brightness of happier times will soon come.
37. Where is your favorite place to read?
I have a massive, circular, purple sofa in my bedroom that allows me to assume all sorts of crazy positions as I constantly rearrange its five large pillows.
38. Describe the setting where you do most of your writing.
Except for the few times when I found myself scribbling madly on a notepad while crammed on an airplane or trapped in a hotel, I wrote the majority of my trilogy in my cozy home office where the walls are painted black and the glow of morning light can filter through my window. My little desk has just enough space for my laptop, and I typically sit cross-legged on my ergonomic, high-back chair, until my legs go numb beneath me.
39. What inspired you to write The Broken Sky Chronicles?
The concept for my trilogy was first planted as a teenager when I worked at a tree nursery that supplies saplings to reforestation programs in British Columbia. I didn’t think a summer job could get any worse – the burning sunshine, the dirt, my aching back, the relentless little flies forever trying to bite me. I used to gaze up to the surrounding mountain peaks that poked above a halo of clouds, and I’d always wish I could somehow, miraculously, fly up to their alpine meadows, to relax for hours while watching my coworkers slave away, far below, in the afternoon heat. “Above” always seemed like the ideal place to be, although I now suspect the bugs up there would have been much larger and more ravenous.
Many other elements of The Broken Sky Chronicles were inspired by places and moments in my life. Growing up on the West Coast, I have always been drawn to nature, whether it’s our forests, our mountains, our shorelines, or our sunsets. In Vancouver, we are always warned that the Juan de Fuca fault line is long overdue for a horrendous earthquake – so be prepared! And during an amazing trip to Egypt, I was surprised many times to see plastic trash everywhere, half buried in the sand dunes, or floating high in the air, caught in the currents where clouds should be drifting instead.
I chose to write a fantasy adventure novel for young adults because I was intrigued by all these natural elements and how they might affect the lives of two teenagers when their physical worlds collide. While Elia has been enslaved by class and drudgery, Hokk lives in almost complete isolation, and I have enjoyed exploring how each character discovers unexpected strength to survive epic challenges, yet at the same time question their perception of reality.
40. Any tips for aspiring authors?
Love what you are writing about, but don’t feel the pressure to always love everything you write. And no matter what you’ve written, never delete it completely or throw it away. If you can’t recycle it for some other purpose in the future, then it can be a great learning tool to strengthen your skills, or to assess your growth as a writer.
Want to learn more about Jason? Then please check him out online.