I read The Carver earlier this month and was blown away and honored by the opportunity to interview the book’s author, Jacob Devlin afterward. The Carver is Jacob’s debut novel and the first in a trilogy, set partially in the real world and partially in another where all your favorite fairytales are real. With Ivory Queen, the books make up The Order of the Bell Series. Let’s start with the blurb and a brief synopsis before we dive into the interview:
THE GIRL IN THE RED HOOD has been looking for her mother for six months, searching from the depths of New York’s subways to the heights of its skyscrapers…
THE PRINCE looks like he’s from another time entirely, or maybe he’s just too good at his job at Ye Old Renaissance Faire…
THE ACTRESS is lighting up Hollywood Boulevard with her spellbinding and strikingly convincing portrayal of a famous fairy. Her name may be big, but her secrets barely fit in one world…
Fifteen-year-old Crescenzo never would have believed his father’s carvings were anything more than “stupid toys.” All he knows is a boring life in an ordinary Virginia suburb, from which his mother and his best friend have been missing for years. When his father disappears next, all Crescenzo has left is his goofy neighbor, Pietro, who believes he’s really Peter Pan and that Crescenzo is the son of Pinocchio. What’s more: Pietro insists that they can find their loved ones by looking to the strange collection of wooden figurines Crescenzo’s father left behind.
With Pietro’s help, Crescenzo sets off on an adventure to unite the real life counterparts to his figurines. It’s enough of a shock that they’re actually real, but the night he meets the Girl in the Red Hood, dark truths burst from the past. Suddenly, Crescenzo is tangled in a nightmare where magic mirrors and evil queens rule, and where everyone he loves is running out of time.
The Carver weaves three different stories together, beginning in the modern-day real world and moving to three years ago in The Woodlands. Then, a third storyline begins that describes events in the magical world twenty-five years ago. The three stories weave together beautifully, clueing us in on reveals just at the right moment to match the other stories.
Along the way, we meet characters such as Peter Pan, Pinnochio, Hansel & Gretel, Mulan, Snow White, Alice (in Wonderland), Merlin, Kaa (from The Jungle Book), and Dr. Frankenstein. New fairytale characters that you’ve never seen before are also featured, as well as the children of some of the more famous characters.
So now that you know a little bit about the story, here is my interview with Jacob Devlin!
Interview with author Jacob Devlin
R.Q. Woodward: What was your first spark of inspiration for The Carver?
Jacob Devlin: In my Masters thesis on the Peter Pan Syndrome in Italian literature (i.e. 30-year-old dudes who still act 12… think every Seth Rogen movie ever), I came across a lot of similarities between Peter Pan and Pinocchio, Peter dealing with the “man vs. boy” identity crisis and Pinocchio dealing with the “real vs. puppet” crisis. My imagination took off from there! What if they both grew up? Had sons? How would their sons resemble them, and what magical baggage would they carry over from their childhood homes? And what if that old world wanted them back?
RQW: How long did it take to write The Carver?
JD: From start to publication: about a year and a half! The first draft only took about three months, but I spent much, much longer on the revisions. My approach is really to crank out a first draft as fast as I can before the ideas dry out, and then sit back and take my time to smooth everything out.
RQW: Were the multiple storylines in the book written separately and then woven together or written much as they are presented in the book?
JD: It was like doing a jigsaw puzzle, especially having three running threads: Enzo and Rosana, Hansel, then Violet and the kids. I knew my end game was for all the timelines to converge and the characters to collide. First I had to identify that moment that would bring it all together, and then I outlined each thread separately on different colored index cards to figure out how I would get them there. Once I had three outlines, I put them together in one big “master outline” and wrote the scenes more or less in the order that you see them. It was a blast!
RQW: Did you know all along that the story would take three books to complete, and did you have an idea of what each book in the trilogy would consist of?
JD: I knew pretty early on! Three is a magic number in the fairytale world, and there was so much potential to explore these interconnected worlds. The trilogy sort of hinges on Chapter 8, where Violet gives gifts to Pinocchio, Peter Pan, and Alice–three central heroes. I wanted each of those three, and their kids, to get some time in the spotlight. With that said, the last chapter of book three has been in my head ever since I wrote Chapter 1 of The Carver. I truly can’t wait to share it!
RQW: How did you narrow down which fairytales or famous stories to include in your made up world and which characters to feature? Do you see your world as being open to every famous fairytale, story, and character?
JD: Ultimately, each of these famous characters had to come from the public domain and it was important to me that I give them a unique personality. I focused a lot on childhood favorites with lives and personalities that I could complicate! How often do we get a Hansel story besides that awesome Jeremy Renner movie?! Snow and Prince Charming? They’re always depicted so perfectly, so I want them to face some demons. After this trilogy, I do plan to expand this world through short stories and possible spin-offs. There may be more icons from the public domain, but I want to shift my focus to lesser known characters and brand new faces. Peter and friends will have earned their peace–at least, those who survive! *laughs maniacally*
RQW: Who is your favorite character in The Carver?
JD: Aw maaan! Hardest question! I truly do love them all. Enzo really grew on me over time and I’m proud of his series arc. But I will say that Pietro is the one I’d most want to be friends with. I’m kind of a goof so his dialogue comes the most naturally to me. I probably have the most admiration for Rosana. She’s my toughest. I also have my soft spots for Hansel and Liam. I know, this probably isn’t a real answer!
Thank you Jacob for your wonderful answers! They’ve made me even more amped about reading The Unseen and The Hummingbird, the final book of the trilogy which releases in February of next year. For more info about Jacob Devlin or to follow his blog, check out his website.