Saturday, March 12, 2016

"David and the Phoenix": The Sequel?

Recently I heard from Christopher LaForce, who, like me, is a fan of Edward Ormondroyd's 1957 middle-grade novel David and the Phoenix.

But there are a good number of fans of this book. So why did I immediately ask Chris if I could interview him?

Read for yourself:

Give a brief bio: who you are, where you live, what you do for a living?

First of all, I am thrilled to have you interview me, Marc! Thank you! My name is Chris LaForce. I was born in Massena, NY in 1961 and raised in a nearby hamlet called Chase Mills. After graduating from the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art (Dover, NJ) in 1987, I've lived in several locations, including Denver, CO and Asheville, NC. For the past 11 years, I've lived here in Taylors, SC with my wife, Amy and three children, Shannon, Ryan, and Jessica. Also for 11 years, I have been employed as a telecommunications Engineer at Windstream Communications, in nearby Greenville, SC.

What is your connection to David and the Phoenix?

I was introduced to
David and the Phoenix in December 2015 when my 10-year-old son, Ryan, told me he had just read his mom's copy. My wife had saved her 1958 Weekly Reader Children's Book Club edition all these years because it was one of her favorite books as a child.

Shortly after Ryan filled me in on the book, he and his eight-year-old sister, Jessica, showed me that they had written the first two paragraphs of a sequel. Ryan loved the book, but was disappointed by the ending. He wanted a story wherein the Phoenix would be reunited with David, and would come to remember him. My two youngest asked me for "help" with the manuscript—but soon lost interest in the writing of it. So, in the beginning, this was only a labor of love for my children. As I composed the manuscript, however, I found myself becoming emotionally involved in it.

What made you reach out to me?

I searched the internet for information on Edward Ormondroyd, much like you did, and also found a dearth of info. I located your heartwarming tribute to him, and the video taken in 2011 at the Trumansburg Elementary library. It moved me deeply, and I felt compelled to post my thoughts on your blog.

You told me you reached out to Edward, too. How was your conversation?

I had the privilege of chatting on the phone with Edward on 1/23/16. The first thing he said to me was, "Well, LaForce Awakens!" I thought it was a clever start to a conversation, which was a wonderful and rewarding one. During our 45-minute chat, Edward said he realized now that he had left an angry Scientist out there, still a threat. I mentioned that I had my own solution for this, and for reuniting the Phoenix with a now teenaged David. Mr. Ormondroyd also advised during our conversation, that, although he'd never mentioned David's exact age, he had envisioned the boy as around nine years old, that of a fourth grader. Edward's wife, Joan, a former teacher and librarian, always told him that fourth graders were her favorite age group to teach.

What does he think about you (or anyone) writing a sequel?

Edward had no major objections to someone writing a sequel, although I sensed that he felt normal concerns—that it would be done in a manner that would do justice to his (epic!) original. He asked if I intended to get a publisher, or if it was only the labor of love for my kids that I mentioned earlier. I said I wasn't sure, although I have since decided for certain to get my manuscript published.

Did he make any requests regarding the sequel—things to do or not do?

When I told Edward I intended to mail him my manuscript for his perusal, he said that would be fine. He didn't want to be my editor, though. He said that he would only inform me when it had arrived. Edward didn't really have any requests, but he did voice a couple of concerns. When I told him my sequel takes place about four years after the original, he astutely brought up that the dynamics of a young teen differs from a boy of about age nine and that the reborn, golden Phoenix would be only four years old so he wouldn't be terribly experienced. I explained that I am definitely dealing with the maturing personality of David, and that, in my view, a Phoenix matures comparatively soon, being that, as "hatchlings," they are already physically adults. This Phoenix has a somewhat different personality than the one David befriended, still has limited life experience, and, obviously, a less sophisticated vocabulary. After I had explained this, Edward seemed to agree with the plausibility of it.

Did you decide to try to write a sequel and then come up with a plot, or did an idea for a specific plot come first?

Actually, as such things often go, it was somewhere in the middle. After talking with my son and thinking I might go ahead with writing a sequel, I had a general idea of what I wanted to do with the basic plot. I developed the story as I went along, though, and had a blast doing it!

Will your story have any new characters?

Yes, nearly half of the characters are new, although there are certainly some key figures returning. Without giving too much away, I can't necessarily refute that a certain Witch and Banshee don't make an appearance…

Will you try to get it published via a traditional publisher or do you plan to self-publish?

Although there are certainly a number of options out there today for self-publishing, I would like to find a traditional publisher—one that can not only get an author on Amazon and Barnes & Noble but also in [brick-and-mortar] bookstores (which ones remain, that is). If that doesn't work out to my satisfaction, then I'll go the self-publishing route.

Do you have a working title for the book?

The title is David and the Phoenix II, a Second Chance. It's rather simple, as I wanted to immediately catch the eye of those familiar with the classic original.

Are you writing it in the same style as DATP or will it have a more modern tone?

I decided from the beginning to keep my book in the same charming and wonderful style as Edward Ormondroyd's (as much as possible, anyway). Even the format of chapter titles and such are mirrored.

Have you ever attempted to write and illustrate a book before? If not, have you considered it? If not, why do you think DATP was the inspiration to do so?

I was actually in the midst of writing and illustrating another children's book that I call Waking the Dead. I'm putting my family and pets as the protagonists. Like it probably sounds, it's about the reanimated dead, but in a tongue-in-cheek fashion. I put that project on hold to pursue the DATP II project.

I created a comic strip many years ago called The Bedside Manor. Although I received several fairly positive responses, I wasn't offered a contract.

Anything you'd like to add?

As luck would have it, I just completed the text for my DATP book (and will begin illustrations shortly). An idea I'm formulating is that I'd like to create the illustrations in a style similar to the originals by Joan Raysor, but also blending elements from Purple House Press's Time at the Top, another Ormondroyd epic. That book's artist, Barb Ericksen, has a marvelous style. And, I'll probably throw in some of the illustrative, fading-away-at-the-periphery style of Bill Watterson of Calvin and Hobbes fame. Incongruous, I know, but I think it can be done!


Unknown said...

Any word on progress?

Chris LaForce said...

Yes, thanks for asking! During my meeting with Edward Ormondroyd and his wife in Trumansburg, I received valuable advice. I did a substantial rewrite and have revised the book's title to The Further Adventures of David and the Phoenix. Copy and illustrations were completed a while back, and I've submitted the ms. to several small publishers. One was giving it a second reading, but I've put the process on hold till I complete my Tommy Ryan boxing biography. Then, I will resume my search for a publisher.
Chris LaForce

Glog said...

I am THRILLED to hear that there is a sequel!! It's the first book I remember my Mother making us read. I am going to read it to my kids for bedtime as soon as I get my own copy.

Chris LaForce said...

Thanks, Glog! I completed the final version of the sequel a couple of years ago and have been seeking (off and on) a publisher since then. I haven't heard back from all those I've submitted to yet.

Larry W. Virden said...

Mr LaForge, I am turning 69 years of age this year and still reread David and the Phoenix regularly. I would love to know of any progress in getting it published so I can buy a copy.