Today we’re excited to share a guest post by local author Samantha M. Clark, whose new novel, Arrow, releases June 22nd. Signed and personalized copies are now available at bookpeople.com and every pre-order helps plant a tree in the Austin area! We’ll be celebrating the book with the author on June 23rd at 6pm CT. Learn more here!
My New Book ARROW was Born In My Childhood
Anyone who knows me shouldn’t be at all surprised that my next novel, Arrow, is set in a forest. Trees were my comfort place when I was growing up. My family moved a lot, but in every place, I found a good tree where I could hide out and read. When we lived in England, I rode my bike in the nearby forests every chance I could. But it was a trip I made in my birth country of Guyana when I was 10 that probably had the most impact on this book.
Even though my family had to leave Guyana when I was young, the country has always had a big part of my heart, especially the Amazon. I still remember going into the rainforest (or the “interior”, as it’s known to the Guyanese) when I was 10. We went in by boat, floating down the river, stopping at Amerindian villages. I still remember all the sounds and smells of the forest and the smiles of the Amerindian children. I fell in love with the place, and have been enamored with rainforests especially ever since.
So when a boy with a limb difference who lived in a tree popped into my head, asking to be written about, it wasn’t a stretch for me to think he lived in a rainforest. The rest of his story, however, was a mystery, but two things happened that put it on track to become the book Arrow is today.
First, I saw a TED Talk by renowned ecologist Suzanne Simard about how trees communicate and mother trees protect their offspring as well as the other trees and plants around them. I was fascinated. It was as if my feelings that the trees around me were my friends, my community, had been proven true.
Second, the area around my north Austin neighborhood was going through a construction phase and acres of beautiful, mature trees were being razed to make space for more apartments and gas stations (the latter was very perplexing to me since we already had four within less than a mile and didn’t seem to need more in between). As I drove to appointments and shopping, I couldn’t get away from the guttural grinding sound of trees being torn from the earth.
With these swirling in my head, the story of Arrow slowly came clear: Not just set in a rainforest, but set in a rainforest where the mother tree has used magic from the earth to hide as much of its realm as possible, protecting it from further deforestation.
I also wanted to honor the true protectors of forests and trees—the indigenous people around the world. If it were up to the Amerindians in the Amazon, none of the rainforest would be torn down. But even as they try to protect it, they are at the changing whims of the governments of the countries the Amazon stretches over. Too often, these governments favor short-term profits rather than the long lasting and far reaching benefits the Amazon gives to our entire world. Knowing that Amerindians fight to protect the Amazon, I set ARROW in a future that I hope will never happen: The indigenous people of my fictional rainforest, the original “Forest Dwellers” as the Guardian Tree fondly calls them, have been pushed out by governments and corporations, the “Imposters”. There is a constant fear that politicians will allow this to happen one day. If it ever does, I hope our real-world rainforests have some magic that can hide them. We will all need it.
Because there’s a reason rainforests are called the “lungs of the world.” Trees help to filter the carbon dioxide that’s speeding up climate change, causing the stronger hurricanes, floods and wildfires we’ve been seeing escalate every year. So I wanted to show this in Arrow too, the effects of a world without forests. In my book, the world outside of the hidden rainforest has become dry and arid. I liken the story to Mad Max meets The Jungle Book with a healthy dose of Fern Gully thrown in.
This doesn’t have to be our future, though. The more we learn and new technologies are created, the more it’s clear that we can still have our houses and apartments and malls, our cities and towns, while still protecting and growing forests around us. This is why I’m donating to Tree Folks to have a new tree planted for every copy of Arrow that’s ordered at BookPeople through the launch party at 6pm on June 23. Tree Folks is a local non-profit that protects the forests and trees in our wonderful city, and I’m thrilled that they’ll be joining me at the launch event to share information about trees.
Outside of my passion for trees that inspired my new book, Arrow also is simply the kind of story I love to dig into: an adventure with high stakes, a rich world, and a determined character who has to overcome his insecurities to do what’s right. It’s got magic based on real-world science and a feisty monkey called Curly. While I hope readers will gain a new appreciation for the trees all around us, most of all, I hope they enjoy the story, one I would’ve loved as a child.
About Samantha M. Clark
Samantha M. Clark loves stories about ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances because if four ordinary brothers and sisters can find a magical world at the back of a wardrobe, why can’t she? Until she finds her own real-life Narnia, she writes about other ordinary children and teens who’ve stumbled into a wardrobe of their own. She grew up in different countries around the world and now lives with her husband and two funny dogs in Austin, Texas. Samantha is the regional advisor for the Austin chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators and she explores wardrobes every chance she gets. Her debut novel, The Boy, the Boat, and the Beast, was lauded as “an unforgettable, life-affirming tale” by Booklist. Visit her online at SamanthaMClark.com.