Tim Burton, Monster Flicks, and Edward Scissorhands Inspire Author's Sophomore Novel

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A new novel inspired by the work of Tim Burton, monster movies, and Edward Scissorhands is released in time for Halloween.


I think Aubrey sees Dr. Taylor as someone who is as cool as Johnny Depp-a kind of mythical figure like author Jack Kerouac, but has this feeling inside him of being an outsider too. She trusts him, and he's the first person who gives her encouragement

Reality and fantasy blur in the book 'The Mask of Aubrey Clover,' released on October 1st, just in time for Halloween, as it pays tribute to everything from 'Creature from the Black Lagoon' to anything by Tim Burton.

The second novel by XT (the first, 'The Fabric,' a fable penned under the name E.H. Rogers), published by Mulberry Bark, is a melancholy tale about twelve-year-old Aubrey Clover, afflicted with the disease Craniodiaphyseal dysplasia (the same disease suffered by Rocky Dennis in the film 'Mask').

"Aubrey is treated like an outcast because of her disease," said XT, the 2008-2009 winner of the prestigious Jones Scholarship for dramatic writing at the University of Southern California. "She relies on the fantasy world in her mind to escape, wishing she could run away to be with her hero Tim Burton, or imagining that Edward Scissorhands magically rescues her. She has a hard time dealing with the real world, because for her, reality is a disease that could take her life at any time, children picking on her constantly, and adults staring at her disfigured face in pity."

Aubrey is treated so badly that she sees herself, literally, as a monster from a horror film. On her thirteen birthday, Aubrey believes she will undergo her final transformation from pre-teen girl to werewolf. Written in first person, present tense, in Aubrey's own voice, readers are transported into her dream world (jumping into a music video in her mind or a scene from a Fellini film), along with Aubrey's real world (living with her real father for the first time after moving from various foster homes).

After living with many different families, Aubrey has never felt as if she belonged anywhere. Moving in with her real father doesn't make her fit in either. Oblivious to his daughter's needs and his own 'weirdness,' he too resides in the land of bizarre, obsessed with Tom Selleck and 'Magnum, P.I.,' even going so far as to dress like the star. Although Aubrey is looked upon as 'different,' every person she encounters is far stranger.

It's not until she meets fifteen-year-old Travis Edwards that she finds a cohort, who is equally outcast at their private Christian school. With the help of a sympathetic teacher, Dr. Taylor, who Aubrey imagines looks like a young Orson Welles, they are able to get through the school day without feeling so isolated.

"I think Aubrey sees Dr. Taylor as someone who is as cool as Johnny Depp-a kind of mythical figure like author Jack Kerouac, but has this feeling inside him of being an outsider too. She trusts him, and he's the first person who gives her encouragement," the author said.

But it's Travis who Aubrey envisions as a fellow traveler on the road of the weird. He builds robots, dresses like Frank Sinatra, and croons like Nat King Cole. They bond instantly over their love of horror flicks and bizarre movies. "You know it's kismet when two people meet who both love everything from 'The Bat' to 'Night of the Ghouls'," said XT, who is a graduate student working toward a degree in movie-making, as well.

The love of monster films is part of what inspired the author to write the novel. "I like the old-style horror films, the 1931 'Frankenstein' and the Vincent Price movies of the 1950s and 1960s," she said. "But it's really Tim Burton's films that were the catalyst for this book. He's been a great influence on both my writing and my life, especially 'Edward Scissorhands', and this is my tribute to him and his movies. When you grow up feeling like you don't fit in, and you see someone like Tim Burton and a movie like 'Edward Scissorhands', it's an outlet where you feel encouraged to be yourself and be creative. He has so much influence on young people today."

For readers, however, the book is a tribute to those who feel like an outsider. "If anything, my goal is that I help people feel better about who they are. You can be anything you want in life. It doesn't matter what you look like, or how people treat you. Be yourself, regardless of anything else. I hope this book reaches out to anyone who feels misjudged and makes them feel better about their place in the world," the author said, who grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas. "I made Aubrey a fan of Tim Burton because I think he, and his movies, have helped so many people who feel like they live on the fringe of society. If my book can have that same impact, help people feel better, then I will be happy."

"My last book, 'The Fabric', was intended for the same purpose, to make people believe in something, go for something, regardless of what anyone tells you to do," she said, adding that her name "XT" is not a pen name, but her actual nickname. "I've been called XT for as long as I can remember. I wrote under E.H. Rogers last time as a tribute to my grandparents, but I prefer to be called XT. It's sounds mysterious."

And if one likes mystery about what is real and not real, then 'The Mask of Aubrey Clover' is as close as one can get. XT added, "The book is a bit ambiguous, especially the ending, but that is the purpose. What is real? It's like 'The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari' (a silent German expressionist film about a sleepwalker). Maybe we are walking around in a dream world?"

Currently, XT's feet are planted in both her dream world and the real world as she is in pre-production on an animated film with animator Jimmy Lu and artist Jay New (both fellow USC graduate students) that she wrote and will direct. Over the summer, she co-produced the short film 'Loop,' Joselito Seldera's quirky story about unrequited love.

For more information, or to obtain review copies of 'The Mask of Aubrey Clover,' contact Lisa Bowman at Bowman.Lisa at MulberryBark.com. Also, visit TheMaskofAubreyClover.com

Mulberry Bark publishes literary fiction, young adult fiction, cookbooks, and self-help non-fiction. MulberryBark.com


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