What or who inspired you to write Rootless?
I'd been working on a very different book but immediately dropped it when the idea for Rootless occurred to me. I was up in the mountains of Colorado and found myself surrounded by trees killed by Mountain Pine Beetles, insects that have destroyed a lot of the forests here in our state. As I stared at all these dead trees, I started to imagine a plague of insects consuming every living thing… every tree, all the plants and grasses, animals and crops. But I imagined a type of genetically engineered corn surviving, and it becoming the sole source of food and fuel for the people who'd managed to hang on. And then I imagined people building trees out of scrap metal, as a way to remember the way the world once was… I knew my young "tree builder" would find a clue to the whereabouts of the last living trees, and set off to try to find them. And I knew I had to write this book!
Rootless has a similarity with the concept of the movie The Lorax (2012) in that there are no real trees. In Rootless, what kind of environment exists? Aside from trees, what else is gone?
Well, The Lorax was originally a book, before it was a movie. A Dr. Seuss book, in fact! And I remember the book being pretty awesome - worth checking out, if you haven't read it. But, in Rootless, you have this blasted, ugly world where nothing can grow except the genetically engineered corn owned by a single corporation. And the locusts that destroyed everything else now feed on human flesh...
I've read on your website that you don't want to spoil us readers with too much info on the synopsis and the plot but could you describe to us Banyan? What kind of personality does he have?
Right on! There is a good description of the book on my website, I just advise against reading it IF you already plan on reading the book. Go in fresh, you know :) As for describing Banyan… he's someone who goes on an incredible journey, and he's a different person at the end of the book. But right from the start, he's someone trying to do more than just survive - through his tree building, Banyan's trying to transform the world around him. He starts off as a nomad and a loner, but he cares about people. And he craves more than his burned-out world can offer.
If you could be a character in your own story world, who would you be and what would you do?
Banyan's an incredible artist - the forests he builds out of scrap metal are amazing feats of creativity and ingenuity. So I'd love to be him for a day… I'd like to build forests the way he does, and experience his talents.
What's next for Chris Howard?
I'm revising the second book in the ROOTLESS trilogy, and working on the final book, too. I've known how the story would ultimately end since I first came up with the idea, and it's exciting to get nearer and nearer to that final scene!
About the Author:
Chris Howard was born not far from London, but was raised under the influence of a galaxy far, far away. He left England at the age of nineteen, traveled around the globe one too many times, then settled in Colorado. He's studied natural resources management, concentrating on forest ecology and sustainability; spent seven years leading wilderness adventure trips for teenagers; worked for the National Park Service; released three albums of swirly guitar music; and been a kick-ass wedding DJ. His debut novel, ROOTLESS (Scholastic Press, November 1st, 2012) was sold at auction by Laura Rennert of Andrea Brown. Chris is currently working on the next book in the ROOTLESS series.
Seventeen-year-old Banyan is a tree builder. Using scrap metal and salvaged junk, he creates forests for rich patrons who seek a reprieve from the desolate landscape. Although Banyan's never seen a real tree—they were destroyed more than a century ago—his father used to tell him stories about the Old World. But that was before his father was taken . . .
Everything changes when Banyan meets a woman with a strange tattoo—a clue to the whereabouts of the last living trees on earth, and he sets off across a wasteland from which few return. Those who make it past the pirates and poachers can't escape the locusts—the locusts that now feed on human flesh.
But Banyan isn't the only one looking for the trees, and he's running out of time. Unsure of whom to trust, he's forced to make an uneasy alliance with Alpha, an alluring, dangerous pirate with an agenda of her own. As they race towards a promised land that might only be a myth, Banyan makes shocking discoveries about his family, his past, and how far people will go to bring back the trees.
In this dazzling debut, Howard presents a disturbing world with uncanny similarities to our own. Like the forests Banyan seeks to rebuild, this visionary novel is both beautiful and haunting—full of images that will take permanent root in your mind . . . and forever change the way you think about nature.
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