Kathie: Hi Shane, and welcome to MG Book Village! You know I’m a huge fan of your previous books, DOMINION and TERRA NOVA, so I was so thrilled to hear you have a new book coming out on September 14th from Orca Books called GUARDIANS OF PORTHAVEN. Can you please tell us a bit about it?
Shane: Thanks so much, Kathie! GUARDIANS OF PORTHAVEN is about superheroes, aliens, and privilege. Malcolm Gravenhurst is the youngest member of the Gravenhurst family, the only family in the world with superpowers thanks to the strange alien technology that landed in the city of Porthaven when his grandparents were young. As the only superpowered people in the world, it’s the Gravenhursts’ responsibility to protect Porthaven and the world from the klek—alien robots who keep showing up and trying to wreck the place. But as Malcolm takes on his duties as a Guardian, he discovers his family may have done some odious things to keep a monopoly on superpowers. Things that are making the invasion worse, not better. If Malcolm really wants to be a hero, he’ll have to find his own way forward. Luckily, he’s not alone, and the people of Porthaven may not be as powerless as he thought…
Kathie: Can you tell us about your main character, and what you admire most about them?
Shane: Malcolm Gravenhurst is someone who grew up with a lot of privilege, and that sometimes makes it hard for him to see the impact of what he’s doing. But he aspires to be something better. He makes a lot of mistakes, but I think the most admirable thing about him is that when he’s brought face-to-face with his own shortcomings, he doesn’t turn away. He keeps trying to do the right thing.
Also, he’s incredibly excitable and more than a little geeky—both things I love in a character!
Kathie: What sort of reader did you have in mind when you wrote this book?
Shane: The book is written for an older middle grade audience—around 10 to 15, I’d say. It’s the kind of book I would have loved at that age. And, honestly, the kind of book I still love at 40.
Kathie: What part of the process of writing this book did you most enjoy? Do you like the idea generation, plotting, editing, or something else?
Shane: I loved the process of getting to know the characters, which happens both in the plotting and the editing. Learning what they like, how they feel, and seeing how they learn and grow when they interact with each other. It’s like having roommates in my brain for a little while.
A close second was making up all the powers. That was just flat-out fun.
Kathie: OK, let’s talk about your cover. Who is the designer/illustrator? Did you have any input on it, and if so, what was the experience like for you?
Shane: Dahlia Yuen is the designer behind this cover, and I really think she’s done a fantastic job. I actually did get to have some input on the design as well, which was a great experience. There was a whole team contributing their thoughts on what was the core of the novel, what was important to represent. I loved seeing what others thought was integral, as well as having my own voice heard in the process. It was great to collaborate on this with Dahlia!
Kathie: Let’s show everyone what it looks like!
Kathie: I love the characters in silhouette, and it has a cool science fiction vibe to it! Is there an element that most stands out to you?
Shane: Do I have to pick just one? I love the rich colour of it. Since I grew up reading comics, I’ve always been drawn to vibrant, saturated colours, and they fit perfectly with this big, bombastic story. And second (sorry, I know I’m cheating!) I love that Malcolm is together with what I call the ‘main four’ of the book. Malcolm is the protagonist, but a big part of the story is him learning to listen and work with other people, because the decisions he makes affect more than just him. So it makes perfect sense that his friends are there with him on the cover.
Kathie: What else would you like readers to know about this story?
Shane: Like I said, I grew up reading comics, and I’m so excited to bring my own superhero story into the world. It’s got a lot of my favourite things: superpowers, alien technology, complicated relationships, strong friendships, and people working hard to figure out right and wrong. For me, the best superhero stories combine a child-like idealism with a realistic, complicated world, and I’ve tried to do that in GUARDIANS. Part of growing up is learning to see the world in all its complexity, but that doesn’t mean letting go of the things you feel are important when you’re young. If anything, they become even more important as you get older!
Kathie: Where can our readers go to find out more about you and your writing?
Shane: They can visit my website, shanearbuthnott.com! They can also find me on twitter, @smarbuthnott, where I ramble about writing and my kids and politics and basically anything that crosses my mind.
Kathie: Thank you for letting us be part of your cover reveal today, Shane, and I’m anxiously awaiting an opportunity to read it.
Shane: Thanks so much to you, Kathie, and the entire MG Book Village team! I’m so excited to get this book into the hands of readers, so they can go on this journey with me and Malcolm.
SHANE ARBUTHNOTT’s debut novel, Dominion, was nominated for multiple awards, including the Kobo Emerging Writer Prize. The sequel, Terra Nova, published in 2018, also received great critical acclaim. His short fiction has appeared in On Spec and Open Spaces. Shane grew up in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, and now lives in Regina with his family.