Blog Tour - Owl and the Japanese Circus (The Adventures of Owl #1) by Kristi Charish ~ Guest Post, Brianna's Review and Giveaway!
The Indiana Jones Thing
So for my guest post today, the Biblio Belles suggested I write about the Indiana Jones influence thing...And it ended up being a lot harder than I expected.
I’ll be the first to admit it. I’ve never been entirely comfortable comparing my work to Indiana Jones movies. Don’t get me wrong, my work is absolutely inspired by Indiana Jones and that genre of movie, but it wasn’t (and still isn’t) something I’m entirely comfortable with. Heck, The Temple of Doom and Raiders of the Lost Arc are two of my all time favorite movies. Actually saying ‘This is kind of like Indiana Jones’ in reference to my own fictional musings was kind of the equivalent of saying ‘Hey, look everyone, I think I’m awesome’.
No way, no how.
Any hoo, after I finished writing Owl and decided to try my hand at getting published, I was nervous about the whole query process. First off, I wasn’t a real writer. I was a scientist. What respectable agent or editor was going to want urban fantasy written by a geneticist? Or at least that’s what the niggling voice in the back of my head kept telling me. Around that time the local Sci-Fi/Fantasy Convention, Norwescon, was being held and they were running a pitch workshop, where hopeful authors could try their ideas out on editors. What better way to test my book idea and query tag? So, I got up the guts to pitch my novel in person, making every effort to not mention my action genre hero.
It went something like this:
Judge/Editor 1: So what is your book about?
My Pitch: Ex archaeology grad student turned international antiquities thief Owl has one rule. No supernatural jobs...
(There was more, but that was the hope-filled gist of it). Besides, this was a workshop so its not like I got the chance to finish.
Judge/Editor 1: (interrupting me part way through) Ok, so it’s an Indiana Jane novel.
I realized two important things from that. First, half of my pitch could be summarized in two words. In the future, screw the misplaced modesty and just use the two liner. Second though, it dawned on me that 'Indiana Jones/Jane’ is no longer just a descriptor for 3 movies (the fourth to never be named). Indiana Jones has morphed into the tagline for an entire genre; the adventure packed, swashbuckler story featuring a hero disguised as an antihero.
Why is it that? Out of all the adventure action movies what is it about Indy that still resonates so much in our culture?
It’s not just the archaeology. Though I do use an archaeologist in my book, that’s not the detail from Indiana Jones that appealed to me or defines the series. It’s the sense of adventure that goes with a certain class of 80’s genre movies (ET, Goonies, Big Trouble in Little China, Gremlins), a hopeful sense of fun mixed with excitement that you can’t help but walk away happy from. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a tomb filled with snakes, a temple overrun by cultists, or the Nazis looking for a supernatural weapon. The Indiana Jones genre of movie always manages to add hope to bad situations, and without being condescending or patronizing, convinces the viewer Indy and his friends will get out with their skin and teeth intact. Where a lot of today’s entertainment goes the dystopian route (and there’s nothing wrong with Katniss), I think there’s still an appeal for the lighthearted, fun adventure that Indy and his ilk provide, and that’s why the movies still resonate.
There’s something to be said for an adventure where you know your deep-routed and a little to close to home fears aren’t going to be thrown at you. I hate to use the word ‘safe’ because I don’t think its accurate- there’s nothing safe about trying to sell people a story that doesn’t have a greater meaning or link in some way to our ever more complex and changing world. Let’s instead go with selling fun adventure for the sake of adventure. Sounds simple, easy in fact, but it’s a lot harder to pull off than it looks, otherwise there’d be a new ‘Indiana Jones’ type movie out once a year. There’s an odd balance to strike between not taking yourself to seriously and turning the story into a long running gag. There’s a sincere love of the genre needed. You can’t dress it up and parade it around as something it’s not. It’s adventure for the sake of adventure and there’s no shame in that.
With regards to comparing my own writing to one of my all time favorites movies? I won’t lie; it still makes me as jumpy as a giant rock boulder rolling overhead like a bowling ball of doom. Then again, maybe that fits with the Indy genre.
*I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.*
It’s no secret that I love books that feature strong heroines. After seeing that this novel’s protagonist was an antiquities thief, as well as a former archaeology student, I just knew I had to see what it was all about. So when I got the very lucky chance to read an early copy of this book, I was pretty happy, and that happiness has not changed upon reading the final page.
Owl was the aforementioned strong protagonist. Clever, resourceful, and a bit mistrusting of others due to her past, I found her likable overall. She was also a gamer, which was a pretty awesome twist. I did have a bit of a hard time feeling sympathetic when she’d do or say something horrible, but I eventually understood why she did or said those things. In the end, I was always on her side, and found her stubborn and brash personality rather admirable, when it wasn’t getting her into trouble.
With the side characters in this novel, there were a variety of good and bad guys. There were also quite a few twists that I didn’t see coming. First, there was Captain, Owl’s vampire-hunting cat. I loved him, and the scenes were he played a big part were great to read. There was Nadya, Owl’s forthright, smart best friend. The real depth and start of their friendship was never really shown, but I loved that Nadya always told Owl what she thought, regardless of whether or not Owl wanted to hear it. Then, there was Rynn, one of the characters who wasn’t exactly what he seemed in the beginning. He was also Owl’s love interest. He was pretty good for Owl, because he tried to make her slow down, and see that sometimes, a plan really was necessary. There was Carpe, Owl’s best gamer friend. The fact that he was more than just a gamer was something I never saw coming, and after the ending of this book, I’m really intrigued as to how much we’ll learn about him in the next installment of this series, if there will indeed be one. There were other characters as well, like the dragon Owl ended up working for, as well as Ochiro, one of the dragon’s workers who ended up being very different from how he seemed. I just really like how the author wrote these characters, and how some good characters ended up being bad, and some people who were portrayed as bad weren’t really villains.
The plot of this story was really interesting. It followed Owl as she went across the world in search of an artifact for a dragon. Along the way, she met various other supernatural races, and tried to solve the mystery of the artifact she was searching for. There was action, some romance, and lots of historical sites. I wasn’t ever bored, that’s for certain!
In the end, I really liked this book. Owl was a unique, fun, though sometimes reckless heroine. The side characters were varied and surprising. I loved the historical aspect of this book, and thought the friendship and romance were good aspects. I definitely recommend this book to anyone who loves urban fantasy, or modern fiction with historical elements.
Kristi is the author of a forthcoming urban fantasy series OWL AND THE JAPANESE CIRCUS (Jan 13th, 2015, Simon and Schuster Canada/Pocket Books), about a modern-day “Indiana Jane” who reluctantly navigates the hidden supernatural world. She writes what she loves; adventure heavy stories featuring strong, savvy female protagonists, pop culture, and the occasional RPG fantasy game thrown in the mix. The second installment, OWL AND THE CITY OF ANGELS, is scheduled for release Jan 2016.
Kristi is also a scientist with a BSc and MSc from Simon Fraser University in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry and a PhD in Zoology from the University of British Columbia. Her specialties are genetics, cell biology, and molecular biology, all of which she draws upon in her writing. She is represented by Carolyn Forde at Westwood Creative Artists.
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