Omnimystery News is thrilled to welcome Tom Llewellyn as our guest blogger. Tom is the author of the children's mystery The Tilting House (Tricycle Press, Hardcover, June 2010, 978-1-58246-288-2).
Today, Tom writes about the book's setting -- the real "tilting house." And he's also providing our readers with an opportunity to win a copy of his book. Visit Mystery Book Contests, click on the "Tom Llewellyn: The Tilting House" contest link, enter your name, e-mail address, and this code (9013) for a chance to win! (One entry per person; contest ends October 19, 2010.)
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The setting for my novel, The Tilting House, is an old home in Tacoma, Washington, built for a mad, mysterious occupant named F. T. Tilton (hey, it’s a kid’s novel, so a little wordplay is allowed). The house was built with floors that tilt precisely three degrees toward the center. And over the years, Tilton covered the walls with bizarre scientific writings.
When a new family moves in, plenty of creepy things start to happen. Walls disappear. Rats talk. Pocketknives grow. Brothers Josh and Aaron enlist the help of their neighbor, Lola, to solve the mystery of the house—and its original, deranged owner—before it’s too late (cue creepy music—oooooooohhhh).
Nearly all of the action takes place in and around the home, so I figured the house itself had to become tangible. It had to feel like dimensional space that a young reader could navigate in his or her brain. Here’s what made that possible: The house is my house. I live in it.
OK, so my floors don’t tilt three degrees. But since it was built in 1898, marbles and pencils do tend to congregate in my home’s downhill corners. And the features of the two houses are nearly identical. In the book, Josh and Aaron discover talking rats in The All The Way Up Room. That room exists in my house, at the top of a stairway that begins in the bedroom I share with my wife. As I wrote about the entryway in the novel, I sat in a chair in my own entryway and described the walls and stairway I saw, physically, right in front of me. Before Josh climbed through the dim, cobwebby attic, I climbed through my own attic, on all fours, balancing precariously on the ceiling joists of the floor below.
Authors expound for hours on the idea of back-story: what motivates a character? What would the character do in situations that don’t even appear in a book? What formed the character’s childhood, even if that childhood is never mentioned?
The same is true for setting—at least in The Tilting House. A good setting has its own back-story. So I created a mythology of this place that the reader will never read, but I think they’ll sense in the pages. I know what Tilton would have kept in his closets and in his junk drawer. I know where each doorway leads—even the ones that are never opened. While Josh discovers plenty of creepy surprises in the rooms he explores, I know plenty of other mysteries that Josh may never find.
Living in the inspiration for the setting made for a straightforward writing process. When I described a complicated bit of action, I could literally walk through it to make sure I was describing it correctly. And even though plenty of fantastic things happen in the book, I think the stories still feel set in a real space.
I will say that there were some sections of the book that I’ll probably regret writing. In one key section of the book, Josh and Aaron have the hair-raising task of looking for a body in the crawlspace. Since then, I’ve had to grab a flashlight and go down into that creepy place to check a leaky pipe. I couldn’t help wondering if I might trip over a dead body or two.
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Tom Llewellyn grew up in a drafty, old house (without tilting floors) on the shores of the Puget Sound. One winter, the house got so cold that the water in the toilet actually froze. Tom survived (thanks to plenty of blankets) and went on to study creative writing at the University of Washington in Seattle. He has worked as a trade journalist and copywriter, and is the cofounder of the guerrilla art project, Beautiful Angle. Tom lives with his wife and four rambunctious children in a Victorian-era home (with tilting floors) in Tacoma, Washington, the city which provides the setting for The Tilting House. For more information about the author and the book, visit TheTiltingHouse.com.
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About The Tilting House: Brothers Josh and Aaron Peshik are about to discover that their new home with the tilting floors hides many mysteries.
When the boys and their neighbor Lola discover the hidden diary of F. T. Tilton, the brilliant but deranged inventor who built the house, they learn a dark secret that may mean disaster for the Peshik family. Can the kids solve the riddles of the tilting house before time runs out?
Praise for The Tilting House:
"Llewellyn's debut is inventive, gripping, and shot through with macabre details." -- Publishers Weekly
"... a genre-blending page-turner with plenty of room in its eaves for sequels. One to watch." -- Kirkus Reviews
"Llewellyn’s first novel takes the classic family-in-a-new-house motif and mixes in just the right creaky touches of the macabre ..." -- Booklist
For a chance to win a copy of The Tilting House, courtesy of the author, visit Mystery Book Contests, click on the "Tom Llewellyn: The Tilting House" contest link, and enter your name, e-mail address, and this code (9013) in the entry form. (One entry per person; contest ends October 19, 2010.)