Kathie: Hi Samantha, and thanks for taking some time to talk with me today about your upcoming book, ARROW, which will be released on June 22nd with Paula Wiseman Books. Can you please tell our readers a little bit about it?
Samantha: Hi Kathie! I’m thrilled to join you on MG Village today. I love your site and am excited to tell your readers about ARROW. This book is my love letter to rainforests and the people who protect them. I think of it as Mad Max meets The Jungle Book with plenty of Fern Gully thrown in. Here’s the description:
This middle-grade novel tells the story of Arrow, a 12-year-old boy with a limb difference, who has grown up the only human living in a lush forest oasis in a dry and arid future where the rich live in stilted cities and industry has devoured nearly all the trees. This patch of rainforest survives behind a magical curtain that keeps it hidden from those who would exploit it. But the magic has started to deplete, and the veil that shields the forest has begun to shred. When people from the outside world find the cracks in the magic, they discover a place they have only seen in dreams—dense and green with water in the air. Arrow is intrigued by these new humans, the first he’s ever seen, but their arrival sets off a chain of events that will lead Arrow to make a devastating choice: be accepted by his own kind or save his home from being destroyed.
Kathie: This story has a very strong environmental focus, including the setting, characters and plot. Why did you choose to make this the center of your novel?
Samantha: I didn’t set out to write a story with an environmental focus, but I shouldn’t be surprised that this theme ended up being so important. Living as part of nature as opposed to trying to force our will upon it has long been a passion of mine, and it never ceases to amaze me how a writer’s passions end up in their stories. But also, the idea for this book came to me while trees were getting torn down all around my neighborhood to make space for more shopping centers and gas stations. I heard the horrible grinding noise every time I left our house. When a boy with one hand who lived in a tree popped into my head, I immediately thought of a trip I had made into the Amazon rainforest when I was 10 in my birth country of Guyana in South America. Putting those memories together with the tree cutting around me and this boy in my head, the book started to take shape.
Another thing I loved about working with this theme was the opportunity to blend science and fantasy. While ARROW is a fantasy book, set in a future with trees that pull magic from the earth, every bit of the magic in the story is based on science. I had so much fun researching and working out how I would amplify our real world to make the science-based magic in the book. It’ll be fun for students to figure out what’s real and what’s not.
Kathie: I found it so fascinating that the story is told from the perspective of the Guardian Tree. I’d love to know why you chose to make it the story’s narrator?
Samantha: I’m so glad you liked the Guardian Tree! I’ve actually always wanted to write a story from the viewpoint of a tree and had another story idea that never got written. But for ARROW, this was another case of me following my muse instead of dictating how the writing should go. The first lines of the book were the first things I wrote:
“My end began the day the sky turned red. We shook. We trembled. We started to bleed. But this would be only the start, a small taste of the battle to come. Our quiet world had been changing, and I could only hope some would survive.”
Those words poured out of me when I still didn’t know much about the story, and they haven’t changed from the first draft. But they ended up showing me how the story should be told and who should be telling it. The more I wrote of the book, the more I realized that the Guardian Tree is the perfect voice for this story, and when readers get to the end, I think they’ll see why.
Kathie: Arrow is a character who is torn between the life he’s known, and the life he wants, and the consequences of the choices he makes. What do you hope readers will learn about themselves through him?
Samantha: I love Arrow and he’s got a lot of me within him. I didn’t grow up the only human in a rainforest and I don’t have a limb difference, but I’m an only child and by the time I was 12, I’d lived in four different countries. I grew up feeling like I was always an outsider who desperately wanted to be accepted, just like Arrow when he meets other humans for the first time. But as a child, while I did make some good friends along the way, I also met a lot of resistance from other kids, just like Arrow does.
For anyone who feels like they’re an outsider, I hope when they read ARROW, they’ll see that their worth isn’t decided by other people. We are the only ones who can truly know what we can do, but as long as we stay true to ourselves—straight and true like an arrow—we’ll find the people who will really appreciate us for who we are.
Kathie: What sort of reader did you have in mind when you wrote this book?
Samantha: Readers who love adventure and acceptance books will love ARROW. While it’s got environmental themes, it’s ultimately an adventure story with mystery. Arrow is on a mission to save the rainforest even before the book begins. The magic that feeds the rainforest is dying and Arrow and the Guardian Tree have been trying to fix it. When the other humans come into the forest, they add complications and set Arrow on a course to save his home in more ways than one. It’s part mystery, part adventure as Arrow races against time to find out what’s killing the forest and protect it from being exploited by the outside world.
Kathie: If there was one thing you hope a reader will remember for this story, what is it?
Samantha: I of course hope readers will get a better understanding of trees and nature when they read ARROW. But aside from that theme, I hope they’ll also see the importance of ecosystems. The Guardian Tree talks about this in the book, how a forest is an ecosystem, with everything within it living and working together for the benefit of all. They help each other, no one taking more than they need and everyone doing their part. Nature lives within ecosystems, trees providing homes for birds who in turn spread the trees’ seeds, for example. And people are designed to live within ecosystems. Our ancestors did, all playing a part for the health and well being of everyone.
But too often in today’s society, we tend to have a me first view of life: Me before other people and Me before nature. Unfortunately, as we can see in our world, this doesn’t help to keep ourselves, our families and our communities thriving long into the future. So, I hope ARROW’s readers see the importance of being a part of an ecosystem, of sharing and helping everyone within their own ecosystems, whether it’s their family, classroom, school, or town.
Kathie: Can you please let us know where we can find out more about you and your writing?
Samantha: Absolutely! My website is http://www.samanthamclark.com/ There you’ll find blog posts with writing tips, interviews and more. I also do monthly giveaways on my enewsletter, and you can subscribe here: https://www.samanthamclark.com/enewsletter/
You can also find me on social media here:
Kathie: I really appreciate you talking with me today, and I wish you all the best with ARROW’s release.
Samantha: Thank you so much for having me, Kathie!
Samantha M Clark is the award-winning author of THE BOY, THE BOAT, AND THE BEAST and the forthcoming ARROW (June 22, 2021), both published by Paula Wiseman Books/Simon & Schuster and AMERICAN HORSE TALES: HOLLYWOOD coming from Penguin Workshop/Penguin Random House on June 29, 2021. She has always loved stories about ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. After all, if four ordinary brothers and sisters can find a magical world at the back of a wardrobe, why can’t she? While she looks for her real-life Narnia, she writes about other ordinary children and teens who’ve stumbled into a wardrobe of their own. In a past life, Samantha was a photojournalist and managing editor for newspapers and magazines. She lives with her husband and two funny dogs in Austin, Texas. Samantha is the Regional Advisor for the Austin chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators, and explores wardrobes every chance she gets. Sign up for news and giveaways at www.SamanthaMClark.com. Follow her on Twitter @samclarkwrites, Instagram @samanthamclarkbooks, Facebook at SamanthaMClarkAuthor, and Pinterest at SamClarkWrites.