Thursday, October 17, 2013

Blog Tour, Interview, & Giveaway: The Grotto Under The Tree (John A. Theo Jr)

The Grotto Under the Tree

In a small New England seaside town there grew an ancient oak tree. It sat on a small hill behind a red brick elementary school. Legend has it the tree was planted by a wandering monk just after the town was founded in 1757. No one recalls his name, but they did say he was tall and thin with long brown hair, and was known for the hooded cloak he always wore. Some say the cloak was used to hide his pointed faerie ears. Halloween night 1973, a New England nor’ easter sweeps in off the ocean and the ancient tree is blown down. In the small space exposed on the underside of the tree two children, Sebastian and Sara, discover something extraordinary. They find a perfectly carved stone staircase spiraling down into a secret tunnel. The tunnel leads them into an underground grotto where they discover a pod of Mer people (mermaids, mermen and mer-children). A short while later they come face to face with the person who planted the tree. They are astonished to find out that he is not really a man, but a magical elven lord named Capri. For centuries Capri has searched for his lost tribe and his betrothed. He traveled the world planting these magical trees as beacons for his people. Capri leads the children on an adventure to the Arctic Circle in his flying galleon, Telestar. Upon reaching the far north they find the one human the elves have befriended. Someone who can help Capri find his tribe and his lost love. During their journey they are pursued by ghost-like creatures called The Kylo. These creatures prey upon the remaining magical creatures of the world. The elves are the last line of defense against the Kylo. If they fall then there is nothing tostop these creatures from hunting humans.
Find the book: 

John Theo, Jr. has numerous published articles on arts, culture and sports figures. He holds an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Pine Manor College in Chestnut Hill, MA. During the day John serves as Vice President of Operations for Blue Sky Holdings, which owns many commercial fitness clubs. John is also an adjunct professor at Endicott College in Beverly, MA, where he teaches screenwriting. John's Book, The Grotto Under The Tree, has been released by Astraea Press.

Find the author: 

1. What gave you the inspiration to write this book?

Writing a fantasy book has always been at the top of my list of genres to write in. I grew up watching a ton of sci fi movies and reading comic books so my mind was always in some far away place. In the young adult fantasy genre I was influenced by authors such as Tolkien and Lewis. As I got older I researched their backgrounds to find out what made their fantasy novels so timeless. I discovered their writing was heavily influenced by their Christian faith, which I share.

2. Who is your favorite character in the book?

This is a difficult question. I probably feel closest to Sara with her wantsand struggles. With that said I am really proud of the way I portrayed Father Christmas. I spent a ton of time researching the history of Saint Nicholas and published a non fiction article on him a few years back. Sadly our culture has turned this historical character into a charicature. There have been well over a hundred movies made involving Santa and they are all about a jolly fat man in a red suit. I wanted to portray him closer to the holy man history recorded as Nicholas of Myrna. The end result was a character closer to Gandalf from the Lord of the Rings than a fat red-suited jolly man saying ho ho ho.

3. Which came first, the title or the novel?

The novel but the title came about halfway through it.

4. What scene in the book are you most proud of, and why?

The final battle scene. I believe I was able to create a fullfilling climactic action scene without a lot of violence. It is the antithesis of what our culture is used to seeing and reading in movies and books. I was still able to accomplish the final feel-good resolution, but in a very different way. There was no blood and guts and the ultimate weapon trumped any cool weapon the characters wielded.

5. Thinking way back to the beginning, what’s the most important thing you’ve learned as a writer from then to now?

Revise, revise, revise. The old saying of writing is re-writing definitely applies. Also you must put in the "dirt time" as outdoorsman say. Going to conferences, taking classes, belonging to reading groups and such are all good things, but at the end of the day you must shut the door to the outside world and carve out time to put pen to paper. It's a very lonely (sometimes tedious) job, but very fulfilling at the same time. With a young family, a day job and being an adjunct professor I have to be disciplined with how I spend what little free time I have. One thing I did was drastically reduce the amount of time I watch television..

6. What do you like most about the cover of the book?

I love everything about the cover. From the tree to the children to the green and blue hues. Astrea Press did a great job designing it. I love how they were able to get the water to appear under the tree which was my only real sticking point.

7. What’s up next for you?

I'm quite busy….My agent is markeing a murder mystery novel I wrote which takes place on Cape Ann. Unlike Cape Cod, this is Massachusetts little known "other cape" where I call home. The story has a very nautical feel and I think captures the flavor that only a local writer could get.

I have also just finished a first draft of a post apocolyptic sci fi novel which is about a group of refugees who flee the US after economic collapse and world wars ravage the planet. The theme is similar to the original pilgrims fleeing England for religious freedom and landing on Plymouth Rock, but this futuristic destination is a man made island in the middle of the ocean.

Having done so much research on the historical Saint Nicholas I was left with a lot of source material. I used it to write a screenplay revolving around the historical character of Nicholas of Myrna.

I have outlines for two follow up books to Grotto and one for Cape Ann along with a children's easy reader book I just finished.

Candaces Book Blog


  1. You can get famous Harlequin books on Hqnindia. This is the right place to browse authors and books of all category of Harlequin.

  2. Entered from -

    This book The Grotto Under The Tree by John A. Theo Jr sounds like an interesting read I would like to read the final battle scene as reviewed in your post.

  3. I really loved the way he portrayed Father Christmas as well, that was done incredibly well. Thanks so much for hosting another tour stop!

  4. Sounds intriguing! Interesting to see the author note that his final battle scene does not have a lot of violence, too.

    Wendy @ The Midnight Garden

  5. thanks and I love the sound of the book you are working on now the post apocalyptic one, I have a thing for those lol

  6. This book sounds like a wonderful read and I just love the cover!!

    ~Veronica Vasquez~

  7. This sounds like such a great read.