Welcome, readers, writers and adventure seekers, too! We have Andrew Auseon on the blog today sharing his spook-tacular new MG book, Spellbinders - The Not-So-Chosen One. Spellbinders follows Ben, a kid who doesn't feel wanted by anyone... until he finds himself face-to-face with a girl who looks like a game character and who desperately needs his help. Will he be able to help the girl and will he finally feel like he belongs? Want to know more about Andrew, his amazing new book, PLUS want a chance to win a super sweet treat? Read on...
Q: Hi, Andrew! Thanks so much for joining #SeasonsOfKidLit. We’re so excited to have you Trick or Treat with us, and hear all about your new book Spellbinders - The Not-So-Chosen-One. It sounds like such a cool read! Can you share a little bit about yourself and how you got into writing for children?
A: First of all, thanks for letting me tag along for Trick or Treat! Think of me as the kid in the oversized homemade costume that doesn’t fit quite right. You know the one. I remember a Halloween night many years ago, when I dressed up as a gigantic 9-volt battery. The costume was fashioned out of an enormous cardboard refrigerator box, and I could hardly move my arms when I walked. At one point, I tripped and fell onto the dirty sidewalk and couldn’t get back up again. My “friends” abandoned me there because I was slowing them down. Their loyalty was to the candy, not to me.
What was I talking about? Oh, yes! Spellbinders - The Not-So-Chosen-One, my new middle grade fantasy novel! I’d like to think it’s a cool read, and a fun one, and maybe even a bit surprising in places. I’ve always loved books for young readers, and many of the stories that inspired and delighted me were ones I read when I was a kid. So it came as no surprise to me that when I started writing professionally and most of my ideas focused on young protagonists and involved coming-of-age stories. It seemed a natural fit! I’ve been writing YA and MG novels for about 20 years, and nothing brings me more joy. :)
In addition to my career as an author, I’m a video game writer and designer, which has been key to my development of the Spellbinders series. Designing games is just one more mode of creative self-expression, and it’s a fascinating way to take storytelling a step forward with more immersion and interactivity. It’s also a wonderful way to meet and work with other artists, storytellers, and talented individuals. (Writing books can get lonely sometimes, so it’s nice to be around other people to rest and recharge!)
Q: In Spellbinders, your main character Ben doesn’t feel chosen by anyone. Not by friends who haven’t kept in touch with him since his parents’ divorce or by his mom who is so busy they barely see each other. But all that seems to change when he runs into a girl who looks like she could be a character from the games he plays, and who needs his help.
This sounds like such a cool premise for a book! Can you share more about Spellbinders and the inspiration behind it?
A: Thank you! In Spellbinders, when Ben is at his lowest, he meets a girl who resembles the kinds of characters who might appear in some of his favorite games, but he believes she’s simply dressing up as a fan for a local game convention. In reality, she’s an actual fantasy warrior from a magical world who’s come to Earth in search of hero. Spellbinders celebrates the importance of games, fandom, and fictional characters, but the deeper story is about Ben misreading the situation and getting in way over his head.
All that being said, I’d like to think it’s a pretty cool premise. I’m a big gamer, and I spent much of my childhood (and adult life) wishing I was somewhere else doing something I believed to more dramatic and important. It’s hard not to do that when your daily routine feels a little boring. Paper route. School. Chores. Homework. It can get old pretty fast. I found an escape in games (of every kind) because they gave me the opportunity to play the magical hero, or the powerful general, or the legendary chosen one. But it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking life would be better if it was more exciting, or that being the center of attention means everything comes easy.
When Ben accidentally ends up as the hero in somebody’s else story, he thinks he’s finally gotten his wish, but the truth becomes clear pretty fast. Being a Chosen One comes with a lot more responsibility than he anticipated, and people expect you to have the answers to all their problems. Ben starts to realize that maybe his “normal” life wasn’t so bad after all. I guess if there’s a lesson in Spellbinders it’s that every person is important and heroic in their own way, and even being the Chosen One has its drawbacks.
Q: What’s one thing you hope young readers with the same struggle as Ben will take away from your book?
A: On the surface, the main characters in Spellbinders are all very different. But if you look closer, it’s clear that they’re struggling with the same issues regardless of their lives and backgrounds. Early in the story, Ben meets a young warrior named Niara, who comes from a world of monsters and magic. Everything about Niara seems mysterious and strange. She’s a skilled fighter, tracker, and spy; she was raised by a secret order of scholars in an ancient tower; and she possesses courage far beyond that of any thirteen year old he’s ever met. Of course, what he doesn’t see is that Niara is like every other kid, and she struggles with her identity, insecurities, and questions about what she wants in life and what she believes. They have more in common than they realize, and once they start to understand that, their bond strengthens into a deep and lasting friendship.
Q: Can you share more about the series as a whole? What exciting adventures await our heroes as the world of Spellbinders expands and changes?
A: Now that I’m deep into the writing of the next few books, I can say with confidence that there’s a larger story I want to tell, and things are going get weirder and wilder. More magic. More monsters. More incredible illustrations. And new characters! It’s truly a series where anything can happen, and I’m constantly surprised by where the stories take me.
It’s also worth mentioning that I love talking about the writing process, as well as game design and what it’s like to write and develop video games. I welcome anyone who’s interested to contact me at email@example.com with questions.
WOW, thanks Andrew! That's a huge treat to all the budding writers out there reading along.
Q: What is one of your favorite things about Halloween and fall?
A: First of all, I’m amazed at how Halloween, October, and the whole fall season has exploded into its own cultural mini-vibe. Everywhere I go, people are putting out the decorations and serving me pumpkin spice. My social media feeds are full of moody music mixes and fall outfits. It’s all so funny.
While I’m not a costume person, I adore Halloween for the spooky stuff, and I fill the whole month of October with movies, old radio shows, and games bursting with spooky themes. Scary board games are some of the most fun. I also listen all of the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark audiobooks because they’re truly creepy and really well done. Nothing beats a scary story in front of a roaring fire on a cold, windy October night.
Q: BONUS QUESTION: What’s your favorite Halloween Candy OR what candy pairs best with your book?
A: I’ll take your first question, since the only sweets mentioned in Spellbinders: The Not-So-Chosen One are gummy candies, and a few references to fruit snacks (usually found squished and leftover in somebody’s pocket). I don’t tend to like chocolate because it melts so quickly, and I don’t like food that has the potential to leave my fingers dirty or sticky (yuck, no), so I’m a fan of fruit-flavored candies (otherwise known as “not food”) such as Starburst, Nerds, Spree, Mamba, Twizzlers, etc. My favorite is the brand Laffy Taffy, Strawberry flavored. I don’t know why, I just got a taste for it young and it must have tickled my brain in a way that stuck with me.
Thanks again for joining us, Andrew! We had a blast talking with you and getting to know more about your new book!
Q: Would you like to leave a Trick or a Treat for the readers?
A: A Treat!
I'm offering 2 signed copies of Spellbinders!
Thanks for such a sweet treat, Andrew!
Contest Details: To enter to win this amazing giveaway make sure to share this post on social media and leave a comment below thanking Andrew for stopping by!
#SeasonsOfKidLit's Trick-or-Treat Winners will be chosen on or about November 5th.
*Books will be shipped in the US only*
Note: Those who leave a comment on all posts will be eligible to win one (1) of ten (10) Rate Your Story Speed Passes, perfect for quick MS feedback, provided by Agent Mentee Lynne Marie & Author Heather Macht.
About Andrew Auseon:
Andrew Auseon is the author of several books for children and young adults, and he is the writer of numerous bestselling and award-winning video games. A transplant from the Midwest, he lives in Washington, D.C. with his family and two very naughty cats. He loves breakfast cereal, the sound of the ocean, and the feeling of a brand-new book in his hands.
For more about Andrew, check out the below links:
Blue Sky: @andrewauseon
To purchase Andrew's books on Amazon, or to leave a review for them, click here.
A special thanks to David Rodriguez Lorenzo for the amazing custom-signatures!