by Dave Amaditz
& Marcy Collier
Welcome to April version of - First Friday - Five Favorite Things - Debut Novel Day. In this monthly series, we ask five simple questions about a debut novel that will hopefully entice anyone reading this post to pick up the novel and read it themselves, and/or give them at a glance some insight into the author's writing style and voice as well as how some of the characters might think or act. We do this by presenting, first, answers to our Five Favorite Things, followed by the author's answers in a follow-up post.
This month we're pleased to highlight debut author and National Book Award Winner, William Alexander's novel, Goblin Secrets.
1) What is your favorite line or paragraph from the novel as it relates to the main character's development and/or growth?
Dave - I picked this passage because the main character, Rownie, has just had his narrow view of the world grow larger. Not only has he met a troupe of goblin actors, but he realizes that they know of his missing brother, Rowan.
The circle of goblins all stared at Rownie with their large, bright-flecked eyes. Rownie tried not to cough again. The world had just changed shape, and he didn't recognize the new shape it was in.
Marcy – This development comes early in the story, but this brief snapshot gives the reader a better understanding for Rownie, the main character’s motivations and actions throughout the novel.
Rownie had a brother older than any of the siblings who shared Graba’s shack, an actual birth-brother. They looked alike, both of them dark with dark eyes – eyes you couldn’t easily see the bottom of. Everyone called the brothers Rowan and Little Rowan. After a while “Little Rowan” shortened into “Rownie.” Rownie had never had a name of his own. Their mother drowned before she’d had a chance to name him.
2) What is your favorite chapter ending or cliffhanger?
Dave - In Zombay, the tunnels are the worst place to go, yet Rownie goes there in search of his brother. He is confronted in the darkness by Graba, an evil spell caster, who is after both Rownie and his brother.
Rownie remained in the dark, with Graba. He tried to remember how to breathe.
Marcy – ***Spoiler Alert*** Poor Rownie has been searching high and low for his long lost brother the entire novel. The reader peers around every corner with Rownie, hoping and praying the two brothers will once again be reunited. I won’t give away the dramatic details, but check out this cliffhanger:
The railcar shook and slid to a halt. The lights inside sputtered and went out. “Rowan?” Rownie asked in the dark.
3) Who is your favorite secondary character and why?
Dave - Essa, a goblin, is my favorite secondary character. In the midst of chaos and danger she maintains her easy-going personality. What's not to like about lines like these?
The first example comes when she sees Patch, a goblin whom they feared dead.
"Shut it, scowly trousers!" Essa came sprinting from the other end of the tower and knocked both Patch and Nonny to the ground with a tackling hug. Patch held his leg and winced. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry!" said Essa. "Are you hurt? Is it bad? Are you actually drowned and you just came back to haunt us? I hope not. I would hate it if you said even less than you usually do."
The second example is her explaining to Rownie what a halberd is.
"If an ax and a spear had babies, they would be halberds," Essa told him. "It's a pokey-pokey weapon for convincing things that are taller than you to stay back, please. Here's one." She handed it to Rownie and grabbed another.
Marcy – Even though Rowan doesn’t appear until the end of the novel, I get such a clear picture of his vibrant and vivacious character through Rownie’s eyes that I keep hoping that I’ll get to meet the real Rowan, not simply hear about Rownie’s memories of him. Throughout the novel, little snippets of big brother’s character shine through like the paragraph below.
Sometimes Rowan had enough to buy an extra fish pastry, and they would split the third one. He always gave his younger brother the larger piece.
4) What is your favorite line or paragraph of description?
Dave - There were so many fantastic images throughout, but in the end I decided to pick one that gave a little insight into Rownie's personality as well as his kid-like voice.
Rownie understood very little of the conversation, though he listened carefully. He sifted words through his head like fine dust through his hands, and he caught what he could. As the youngest he was used to piecing together his understanding from snatches of overheard conversations, and the rest he set carefully aside on the shelf in the back of his mind.
Marcy – Like Dave said above, there were so many great lines of description that I had a hard time choosing as well, but I decided on one simple sentence. Twelve words. What an image it paints for the reader - well done!
The gravestones were all worn and crooked, like teeth badly cared for.
5) What is your favorite line of dialogue?
Dave - This comes from Essa, a goblin, and is extremely short. But I loved it. What else would a goblin actor say to their fellow actor before going on stage?
"Break your face, everybody!" said Essa. She said it with so much hope and cheer that Rownie was sure he must've heard her wrong.
Marcy – There is a scene in the novel where Thomas, one of the Goblins goes on a tirade and is going to curse Cob, the owner of the alehouse, for not paying the goblins for their performance. His young daughter comes out to make amends and shows true honor and bravery toward the goblins. Her sincerity comes through in these lines:
“I’m just sorry he tossed you out,” the girl said. You should have some payment for the show, so I brought you some bread.” She lifted the basket she held. “It’s fresh. It doesn’t have maggots in it, not unless your curses work very fast.” She gave him the basket.
You can find William at: