I love a supernatural story, and “Ascenders” by author CL Gaber is the type of book that will keep you turning pages. In the novel, Walker Callaghan doesn’t know what happened to her. One minute she was living her teenage life in suburban Chicago…and the next minute, she was in a strange place and in a brand new school with absolutely no homework, no rules, and no consequences. Walker Callaghan, 17, is dead. She doesn’t go to heaven or hell. She lands at The Academy, a middle realm where teenagers have one thing in common: They were the morning announcement at their high schools because they died young. These high school kids are now caught in a strange “in-between” zone where life hasn’t changed very much. In fact, this special teen limbo looks a lot like life in a quaint Michigan town complete with jocks, popular girls and cliques. “There are even cheerleaders in death,” Walker observes. It’s not a coincidence that the music teacher is a guy named Kurt who “used to have this band.” The drama teacher, Heath, is crush worthy because back in his life, he starred in some superhero movie, according to the book synopsis. Once I read about this book, I was sold and I am sure you will be as well once you flip through it.
We spoke to author CL Gaber about the novel in this exclusive interview for Young Adult Hollywood.
The novel explores high school after death. What made you come up with this idea?
It came about in a strange way. I’m a journalist who interviews film stars, plus writers and directors. Many years ago, I interviewed Stephenie Meyer at the ‘Twilight’ press junket. She said that Edward Cullen and Bella came to her in a dream. At the time, I thought that was amazing, but rare. I’ve been writing my entire life and nothing like that had ever happened to me. Then (come on, you knew it was coming!) I was in Los Angeles staying at really cool, funky hotel. It was one of those balmy nights, so I left the doors open to the patio.Imagine the filmy white curtains blowing into the room and the sweet smell of the night air. I fell into a hard sleep and had a dream where Ascenders played out in my mind like a movie. I saw Walker, Daniel, and all of the characters. The movie had a beginning, middle and end. I woke up around 3 in the morning and knew what I had to do. I sat down and wrote what became the first two chapters of Ascenders on these little notepads and then made sure to jot down every detail I could remember. It was an amazing experience. As I developed the idea, I thought more about this limbo for teens and how it would have no rules. No one could get hurt or die again. What would a teenager do if there were absolutely no limits?
Do you think once we depart there’s another realm where the cheerleaders rule, the jocks stand by them and the geeks thrive? Would that be the coolest?
As a proud English geek myself in high school, it’s time for us to get our day and some respect! With Ascenders, I wanted to add as much scientific fact to the fantasy. What I found out is that most scientists agree that the human mind doesn’t fully form until you’re 24. It explains why teens do crazy things sometimes. (Hey, if you’re a teen…this is the best excuse EVER for parents…”my mind isn’t fully formed”)…Anyway, given the fact that the teens in Ascenders die young, I figured (fictionally) that they would go to a middle ground that looked and felt pretty normal. In fact, the main character Walker believes she moved to Michigan. Slowly, we (and she) find out what happened. It was so much fun to create this new realm. There had to be some epic twists like the geeks ruling this world and the cheerleaders struggling to get some recognition.
What inspired this novel and how do you feel about it being out in the book world?
I grew up in suburban Chicago. I remember the day my junior year of high school when the principal came on the PA and told us that a student named Scott died last night in a car crash. He was only 16. It was mind boggling. Later that night, my best friend and I sat in my backyard until about 3 in the morning talking about it. We couldn’t stop talking about it. How could someone so young die? What about all that potential? When I thought of Ascenders, I added a second sentence: Where does someone who dies that young go? Maybe it’s not heaven or hell, but somewhere else and unique? …As for the book being out, WOW. I’ve received so many beautiful letters from teens and people of all ages about how this book made them look at both life and death differently. And lots of people are asking when it will be a movie or TV show (Scoop for you guys: We’re working on it!!!).
Do you feel like the characters vividly introduced themselves to you and the story came about? Who’s your favorite character and without spoilers, a part of the book that really gets to you?
I do think that the characters vividly introduced themselves. Walker Callaghan, the female main character, wanted to work for the New York Times one day. She was on her school paper when she died. Her dream is shot, but that doesn’t mean that her natural curious nature has gone anywhere. I love that she never accepts anything and questions everything. I have to say that Daniel Reid, the bad boy love interest, is my favorite. He died in a plane crash with his younger brothers and sisters. His abusive, super rich father who didn’t know how to fly crashed them into a field on Christmas Eve. Daniel was a top soccer player on his way to UCLA on a scholarship. Now, he’s dead. He had an attitude when he was live and more of one now that he’s dead and raising his younger siblings. He doesn’t want to get involved with Walker, but when Daniel falls…he falls hard. As for favorite scenes, well, there’s one where Daniel and Walker decide to jump down a waterfall that gives me chills. One secret: In their realm, they can’t get hurt. So it’s teenage life with no rules. Falling in love, however, is the most dangerous thing you could do. No one knows how long they will be in this realm and losing the one you love would be like a second death.
Any last words for your fans on what they can expect from you in the near future?
First, I want to thank everyone for reading and reaching out to me at CLGABER@yahoo.com. I LOVE hearing from readers. You guys are the best! When I hear that this book moved you or made you fall for Daniel or admire Walker…well, it not only makes my day. It makes my week! There is actually lots to tell you…We’re working on developing a TV series and have a super cool trailer coming out soon with music from a major artist. You can join me on Facebook at CLGaber for more information or check out Ascenderssaga.com. Oh, and one more thing: Ascenders 2 comes out this Halloween. I’m looking at the cover right now and will share soon. Have a great summer!!! XO CL
Be sure to pick up your copy of Ascenders today!