The author of Solstice High discusses this and future books!
Publisher: Strategic Book Group
Urban Fantasy/Sci Fi/Young Adult
An interview with Ardash Vartparonian, author of SOLSTICE HIGH
Serendipity: I felt like I was reading the first part of x-men. Do I feel a series in the works?
Ardash Vartparonian: I’m actually really glad you brought this up; whenever people ask me what my book is about I answer that, in a nutshell, it’s sort of like ‘X-Men meets Gossip Girl’. I’m a big fan of X-Men, from the movies to the comics, and I’m not ashamed of announcing that it has definitely influenced my work. The line I draw between X-Men and Solstice High is that while X-Men has always been seen as a metaphor for minorities, the powers in my book are a metaphor for the struggle teenagers go through trying to discover themselves. One of the reviews I’ve had on this tour commented that the supernatural side of the novel doesn’t always seem the central aspect, and I agree wholeheartedly.
It’s obviously a really big point, and the plot point the whole novel spirals around, but at its heart I think the book is more about these four kids coming to terms with themselves, and the bumpy road that it entails.
Solstice High is a trilogy, so your suspicions are spot on. I wrote this novel chapter by chapter with a fragmented skeleton of its entirety in mind rather than knowing what would happen every single chapter. When I first started writing, I planned on it being a stand-alone book. The thing is, the closer I got to finishing, the more I realized I didn’t want to finish, I didn’t want to say goodbye to these characters I had created. I felt their stories could go on. They had more to say and live through.
So I decided to not address some issues and they would be answered in later books. The second book is finished and so is the first draft for the final book. I’m hoping to make a bit more noise with this first novel before releasing the second.
Serendipity: Will you “age” the kids — like Harry Potter aged — with the series?
Ardash Vartparonian: When I first started writing the book I had planned on making the kids a year younger, juniors rather than seniors in high school. Then I decided to make it a lot more intense and cram all three books into one school year.
The first book takes place over nine weeks, the second in just two. It’s faster and more furious than the first, but I liked playing with that. In the first book, I had to introduce the four kids and flesh them out. The slower pacing allowed more introspection. But with the second, I barely allowed the kids a chance to breathe before all Hell breaks loose around them.
The end of the third book shows the plans the four kids have for their futures when they finish school and go out into the “real” world. They are only plans of course.
One thing I wasn’t happy about with the final Harry Potter book was how fixed the endings were for Harry, Ron and Hermione. I would have preferred the book without the epilogue, allowing me to imagine what the future held for them.
So, no. I’m not aging the characters. All three books take place in the same school year, but I believe the end will be satisfying. I’d rather readers imagine how Matt, Rochelle, Daphne and Jonas’ futures play out, though I’ll definitely show what path they are on after school.
Serendipity: Are you planning to add more characters to the core group? Or is this going to be a closed set?
Ardash Vartparonian: In the second book — because of plot points I don’t want to spoil — the character set expands and you get a deeper look into characters introduced or briefly mentioned in the first book. Bethany and Abigail, for example, while simultaneously introducing new characters. They aren’t new to the school, but new to readers.
The four main characters are still the four points of view in the next two books: Matt, Rochelle, Daphne and Jonas. As soon as I knew I was going to write a second and third book, I decided I wanted to expand the character scope.
I had to pace myself. I didn’t want to overcrowd the book with too many characters by the third book. But there are always ways to make room for new characters and remove older ones, if you know what I mean. LOL.
Serendipity: What about babies?
Ardash Vartparonian: The only baby in the books will be Harmony’s. The second book takes place in just two weeks and the baby doesn’t arrives until the third book.
When I thought Solstice High would be a stand-alone book, I planned on having Devlin force Harmony to terminate her pregnancy which would have given her a motivation to turn against him. I ultimately decided it would be too dark and touchy a subject. I wasn’t sure I was comfortable or ready to tackle it. It also gave me another plot point for the next two books.
Harmony’s baby is quite an issue. It will be the first baby born to someone with active powers. What does that mean for the baby? Or Harmony? I decided to tackle the questions I thought would be particularly interesting to explore.
Serendipity: What decided you on making one of the characters unashamedly homosexual? This is the first openly homosexual “superhero” I’ve met. There have been a few who were probably in the closet, but Matt is obviously what he is. Did you think the world was ready or was there some other reason?
Ardash Vartparonian: To be honest, Matt being gay was never debatable for me. He just is. When it came to writing, I was at first a bit cautious about love scenes between him and Julius — as opposed to the relative comfort I felt writing about Rochelle and Jonas for example.
Then I thought “You know what? Screw it! It’s (when I was writing) 2007!” I decided I would treat Matt just like I would a straight character with the same exposure. Equal treatment in things like love scenes even if they might be sensitive subjects. Matt being gay for me doesn’t make him special. It’s who he is. So I made to give treat him the same as a straight character. All his successes and failures are unrelated to his sexuality. They grow out of his persona.
To be honest, Matt is my least favourite character. It has absolutely nothing to do with his sexuality. It’s purely based on his personality. His self-pity and angst. I’m sure I like him least because out of the four, he resembles me the most, personality-wise … when I was his age. I always find it interesting when someone says Matt is their favourite. I’m thinking “Really?”
There will always be — at least for the next few decades — people who have a problem with a gay main character. That doesn’t bother me. If you have a problem with it, don’t read the book. It’s that simple. I’m not going to turn Matt into one of those two-dimensional, “sexless” gays portrayed in lots of literature and television as comic relief. Or just add a gay label on his head and not explore that side of him to sell more books.
I think the world is ready for having a gay super-powered character. Authors need to create more of them so they become part of the norm instead of a ‘special’ character as in ‘oh, right, him, the gay one’. There should be more gay characters, but I don’t think their sexuality alone is what should make them stand out.
Marvel Comics are handling this issue quite well in their Young Avengers comics. These feature two gay teen characters who are a couple. I think we are ready for this and need more of it.
Serendipity: Since Solstice High loses its infrastructure, will the kids finish their education somewhere else?
Ardash Vartparonian: Solstice High will be opening its gates again in the second book right off the bat. In the book, only a few weeks have passed. I won’t say whether or not it stays that way, but I think the school has become almost a character of its own. For 17 to 18-years-old, whether you like it or not, and if you realize it or not, the building where you are going to school is a huge part of your life. It’s not just the amount of time you spend in it. It’s what goes on there too. High school inevitably ends, but it leaves a lasting impression and may even influence the person you are.
About the author:
Ardash Vartparonian was born in London, but raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina. At the age of 18 he began his début novel, Solstice High, and continued writing throughout his last year of school and first year of university, where he moved back to the UK to study English Literature at Edinburgh University. Now a fourth year student, Ardash enjoys going out with his friends, watching horror movies and reading fantasy books while trying to keep up with his university work.