The Summer I Drowned Tour – Feature & Author Q&A

About the Book

Title: The Summer I Drowned
Author: Taylor Hale
Publisher: Wattpad Books
Release Date: May 26, 2020
Genre: Teens & YA
ISBN: 9781989365182
Price: $10.99 (USD)

Five years after almost drowning, Olivia Cathart returns home to Caldwell Beach determined to face her fears and take some risks—not just by swimming, but by opening her heart. Hoping to rekindle her friendships, she’s excited about a carefree summer with her best friends Keely and Miles. But life in the sleepy town has changed, and no one and nothing is as it seems.

When a series of startling crimes threaten Olivia’s fragile state, she is plunged into a terrifying game of cat and mouse. Her only solace from the chaos is West, Miles’s disowned and ruggedly handsome brother, but even he can’t answer the question on everyone’s minds—is Olivia really in danger or is it simply all in her head?

About the Author

Taylor Hale was born in Southwestern Ontario, and started writing on Wattpad in 2015. When she isn’t writing, she can be found bartending at a live music venue, and thinking up her next idea. The Summer I Drowned is her first novel.

Author Q&A

Question: What inspired you to write The Summer I Drowned?

Taylor Hale: Oddly enough, it was the name of a candle – “Sea Glass.” I thought it would make a pretty title for a story set in a beach town, maybe a romance. However, the title of the story evolved as the story itself did!

Q: What struggles did you face when writing this book? How did you go about using details from Olivia’s past to inform her present narrative?

TH: Getting into Olivia’s mental state was definitely a challenge, and a bit of a dark place to be writing from. I wanted to write her as someone who is constantly reminded of her past due to not only her trauma, but her emotional attachments to the people and places in the story. I think both her traumatic memories and her positive memories from Caldwell Beach shape who she is and how she sees the world throughout the story.

Q: In the book, Olivia struggles with trauma and PTSD. What do you hope young readers will take away from the ways Olivia copes with her mental health? 

TH: I hope they will feel less alone. I also hope they will see it’s okay to ask for help, or to accept help when it’s offered—it isn’t a weakness, it’s a strength.

Q: How does The Summer I Drowned stand out from other books of the same genre? What do you hope to bring to young adult fiction?

TH: I think THE SUMMER I DROWNED stands out in the sense that it has an element of thriller to it, but is very much a YA Contemporary story that focuses on friendships, relationships, and growing up. I hope to bring fresh and unique stories that someone, somewhere can relate to, even in a small way. More than anything, I hope my stories provide solace to those who need it.

Q: When you started using Wattpad, did you ever anticipate becoming a published author?

TH: Not really, no! I knew nothing about the industry or how people even get published. However, after being on the platform for a while, I quickly realized that writing was my calling.

Q: What advice would you give to young writers who are inspired by your writing?

TH: Writing is a craft that takes time and practice. Allow yourself room to “suck” — everyone starts somewhere. Give it time and patience and be kind to yourself when you feel your writing isn’t quite up to par; you’ll have time to fix things later. Getting words on the page is the most important first step.

About Wattpad Books

Wattpad Books, a division of Wattpad, is the leader in data-backed publishing. Leveraging billions of daily insights from Wattpad’s global community of 70 million book lovers, Wattpad Books combines the best of art and science, using human expertise and Story DNA Machine Learning technology to identify the trends, voices, and stories that are the future of publishing. By elevating the stories of diverse communities around the world, Wattpad Books is creating new space for writers and fans of every genre.

Visit books.wattpad.com for more information.

George Frei’s Monster Series Review, Interview, and Sneak Peak

About the Book

George Frei’s Monster Series is a collection of short stories, Illustrations, and sketches where every corner and every turn will be met with the possibilities of wonder, amazement, and fear. George Frei’s Monster Series is filled with sections such as Frankenstein’s Failures, Mythology, Sketchbook, and short stories such as Pumpkin King, ShadoCasters, and The Tree Monster and Me. Frankenstein’s Failures takes a glimpse into the lost pages of Dr. Frankenstein’s journal and his tragic spiral into madness as his failures fuel his passion to perfect the human condition. The Pumpkin King is an urban legend story of Anton Gabor and his tragic connection to the Pumpkin King on All Hallows Eve in 1930’s Chicago. ShadoCasters takes you on an adventure with were hyena’s and were lions clash in a medieval world filled with savagery and magic. The Tree Monster and Me is a mysterious adventure story about a boy who must come to terms with the ways of the world and realize his destiny in a desperate struggle of man vs nature.

Review

Wow, what can I say but, where was George Frei’s Monster Series when I was a kid? This book would have called out to my young and dark self. I can just imagine myself rereading it over and over and bringing it in to school to share with all of my classmates. Why do I say this? Because I want to do the same thing now. This is a book that will resonate with all of the monster lovers out there, young and old. The stories each have moral undercurrents that everyone can take a piece of advice from.

This book seriously has it all. While it’s not an overly heft tome it still packs A LOT into it! And at the turn of each page you are finding something new and fantastical to explore. I really enjoyed the stories, they were all very unique but there were also elements that draw upon familiar myths, fairy tales, and fables. This added depth for me, because as I was reading the stories I was relating memories from other stories while also being in the midst of something new.

Meanwhile, the illustrations were just: wow. I’m very fond of dark and twisted and slightly off kilter art, so these illustrations spoke to my soul! Every illustration was something new and the stylistic approach to each illustration morphed to match the story it was a part of. And then, to make it even better, Frei added a mythology section and sketchbook at the end of the book. This little taste of his other works shows off just how talented of an artist he is. And while I can’t say I have any specific favorite piece (they’re all amazing), I do really love the “Love Bites” piece in the sketchbook.

The stories themselves include: Frankenstein’s Failures, The Pumpkin King, ShadoKasters, and The Tree Monster & Me. I absolutely loved the design of Frankenstein’s Failures. This piece is truly a flowing and intertwined work of art across multiple pages. The Pumpkin King was such a fun innovative story and now I really need to go watch The Nightmare Before Christmas for the millionth time. I might be partial to ShadoKasters because I’m partial to furry monsters. I mean, monsters need love and cuddles too! And The Tree Monster & Me is such a unique and intricate story that I look forward to reading more of in (hopefully the near) future.

On a final note, I could really see this artwork being really popular amongst tattoo artists and lovers. There were so many times that I stopped and thought, “dang, that’d make such a cool tattoo!”

About the Author

With a career spanning 24 years, George is best known for his dynamic visual storytelling, imaginative characters, intense color pallet, and fantastic world building. George’s versatile skill set allowed him work for some of the highest profile clients in the industry. His work includes Toy design, Consumer Products for Theme park’s and Restaurants, Branding, Set Design, Character Design, & Conceptual Development.

George Frei’s credit list as follows:

• Lucasfilm • Marvel • Disney Entertainment • Disney Design Group • Marvel • Universal Studios • SeaWorld • Busch Gardens • Gentle Giant Studios • Fasen Arts • Senor Frogs • Carlos n Charlie’s • Vamanos • El Shrimp Bucket • Scholastic • Pixar • ILM • Carter and Holmes • Personal Creations • NASCAR • Hooters • Arabian Nights • Wacky World Studios • Give Kids the World • ESPN X Games • Art-Flo • Quantified Marketing • POST • Hard Rock Park • Rainforest Café • Agave Azul • Captain’s Table • Gatorland • Florida State Distributors

Publications:

• George Frei’s Monster Series • Scholastic (Cover Artist) • Flesh & Blood (guest artist) • Tommy Castillo’s Coloring book of the dead (guest artist) • Tommy Castillo’s Dark Side of OZ (typesetting) • Far Away Bird by Douglas A. Burton (Cover Artist)

Awards:

• Art Direction/Show (UP A great bird Adventure) Disney Entertainment
• IPPY Award (Orlando City Lions Ad Campain)
• Best Art Direction (ESPN X Games)

George is currently working with his company Treehouse Machine Studios producing his IP’s and book projects.

Interview

How long did it take you to plan out and develop this series?

Let’s start from the beginning. I was laid off from a teaching job and had just been recruited to be a concept artist for a local company in Orlando. After I accepted the position my contract stated that they owned my ideas as soon as I started working for them and that any side projects I do had to go through them first and if they rejected the idea it would go back to me. This did not sit well with me since I had already started working on George Frei’s Monster Series. When you’re a professional artist working in the entertainment industry it can get tricky with intellectual property and ownership of ideas. Creative companies like to own ALL your creative ideas even if you’re at home on a Saturday in the shower and something pops in your head. I didn’t want to stop working on the book but I needed money to pay the bills. I wouldn’t sign the contract that would pretty much give away my book and ideas to this company. So I cashed in my 401k savings took a hit on the taxes to pay the bills and proceeded to work on George Frei’s Monster Series. That’s why the book is a compilation of short stories because I wanted to get my 3 best ideas published so no other company could stake claim to my work.

When you’re a professional artist working in the entertainment industry it can get tricky with intellectual property and ownership of ideas. Creative companies like to own ALL your creative ideas even if you’re at home on a Saturday in the shower and something pops in your head.

George Frei

Some of the ideas in George Frei’s Monster Series have been in my head for about 10 years or so. The Tree Monster and Me was an idea that started in 2009 and I have plans to make that story into a 3 book series. When I actually decided to do the book it took about 1 year in total working on it between jobs and weekends around my professional career as an Artist.

Where did you draw your inspiration(s) for in creating the Monster Series?

Because George Frei’s Monster Series is a compilation book of short Stories Illustrations and sketches it pulls from my love of cautionary tales, mythology, and world building. My inspirations come from childhood curiosities of playing in the woods, building forts with my friends, Playing Dungeons & Dragons, and making up characters that I wanted to act out as a kid. I also love nature, animals, ancient cultures, mythology and so on.

Because the stories in George Frei’s Monster Series are cautionary tales I’m fascinated with the human condition and I think it’s a big pool to get inspired from. What makes the good guy turn evil? What makes bad characters redeemable? I want people to feel what my characters are going through, that raw emotion through story and image. So I take the monsters in my stories and humanize them and I think it adds an interesting twist to creating these stories and worlds.

Who are three artists that creatively inspire you?

The masters of course! If we were talking more contemporary artists I’d say Frank Frazzetta, Bernie Wrightson, and Al Williamson. I also love the writings of Robert E. Howard, H.P. Lovecraft, and Ernest Hemingway.

Which of the monsters is your favorite and why?

That’s a hard question because I love each of the Monsters I create in a different way. It’s like having kids you can’t really pick a favorite.

I see that you grew up watching old monster movies, which ones were the most influential in guiding your career?

The classic Universal Monsters of course, but my favorite was Frankenstein. Universals depiction of Frankenstein was very different than Mary Shelly’s original story. When I read Mary Shelly’s book it scared me and invigorated me as a creative. The real Monster in her story was Dr. Frankenstein and that was such an interesting twist when I read it as a kid. It made me look at the so-called “monsters” in a different way. Why was the creature Dr. Frankenstein created evil? He didn’t ask to be born into a world that hated and shunned him because of how he looked. He was created disfigured and not taught how to live, to love, and have compassion. He was lonely and isolated and in the end all he wanted was a companion to make it all the hate around him bearable. I think this is why I like the idea of the sympathetic monster. A monster that has power and capacity for evil but chooses good instead is an interesting twist.

Why was the creature Dr. Frankenstein created evil? He didn’t ask to be born into a world that hated and shunned him because of how he looked.

George Frei

How do you determine when and where you immerse the images with the text?

When I write I’m visualizing my story in my mind, playing it back like a movie so the visuals auto populates like sequential storyboards. I pick a significant scene that I think will compliment the storytelling and Illustrate that scene. It’s nice to be the writer and illustrator in my work because there is never a disconnect between the writing and artwork.

When putting this book together did you know which stories were going to be told or did your art guide you in writing the stories?

In terms of the stories I always knew which ones I was going to write and put in George Frei’s Monster Series.  The one story where the art actually guided the development of the story was The Tree Monster and Me. I actually drew the image you see in the book of the Kid holding up the crystal to The Tree Monster and that stuck with me and slowly developed into the story you read in the book.

How would you describe then endings to your stories?

I would definitely say they have a moral undertone to them. I like the idea that among the twists and turns of storytelling you may have some obscure character whom you thought would never go a certain direction does and becomes the hero. In the end you learn a lesson and in my stories the lessons are taught by the least likely characters…the Monsters.

A lot of your stories have an undercurrent of morals to the theme; how do you entwine these with the dark setting of your stories?

They are definitely cautionary tales for sure and I think those types of stories resonate the most with the audience. Allot of times the “Monster” is depicted as the bad guy running around killing and doing evil things. I like the idea of “The Helpful Monster” in the stories I like to tell. I want people to dig a bit deeper into my characters struggles and feel what they are feeling when reading my stories. I think it’s a wonderful thing when you can get people to sympathize with the so-called “Monster”.

I want people to dig a bit deeper into my characters struggles and feel what they are feeling when reading my stories.

George Frei

Who is the Monster Series for?

I’d say young adult as they are at the beginning of their own hero’s journey and my stories may resonate with some struggles they have been through.

How do you encourage everyone to maintain and develop his or her imagination?

Don’t take yourself too seriously, get out there and play, explore, travel, see new places, experience as much as possible so you have a vast library of things to draw from when creating.

*I received a copy in exchange for an honest review*