Friday, October 11, 2013

Chasing Shadows Blog Tour: Guest post by Swati Avasthi

I rarely participate in tours these days, but I couldn't say no when it came to this one. I am honored to be a part of the blog tour for Chasing Shadows, Swati Avasthi's sophomore novel that hit bookshelves last month and very happy to welcome Swati back on the blog. Swati is also the author of Split, an amazingly well-written debut that I reviewed and adored. So now onto the fabulous guest post Swati wrote! I hope you all enjoy it :)


So, you haven’t heard of Freerunning?
When I first heard of  “freerunning” I thought it meant shoeless runners.  And “parkour”, which is a more popular name for a very similar sport, sounded to me like a kind of flooring. So I was surprised to learn that it meant that doing things like this:

Or this:

Or even this:


Freerunning/parkour is the fastest growing sport in the world and it involves using the urban environment you live in to do amazing tricks. Like a hybrid between gymnastics and running with intent, freerunning is all about flow, how to channel the momentum from a one story drop into a roll that distributes the pressure from your shoulder across your back to your hip and then to your feet.

At first I thought the stunts were rigged, then I thought these people were nuts and extreme freerunners are definitely about the thrill, but freerunners in general are more about invention, creativity, and the challenge of finding the fastest or most fun way through a place.  “See a wall, find 101 ways over it.”  It’s about not forgetting that play is a part of life no matter what your age.  When I asked Chad Zwallo freerunner extraordinaire, co-owner of Fight of Flight Academy and all around cool guy, when he started freerunning he says that every kid is naturally a freerunner – climbing over walls and playing that the ground is lava—so the question isn’t when he started freerunning; the question is, for those of us who don’t, when did you stop.

And freerunning about never giving up– something that seemed about right for my characters in CHASING SHADOWS.

Holly, Savitri, and Corey –freerunners all – have different takes on the sport.  Holly is a thrill seeker, using the freerunning to control her fear; she has to run her fear ragged.  Savitri isn’t about the thrill, but about the freerunning community and the creativity.  And Corey, who is also a risk taker, is about the adrenaline rush. 

In addition to being the most fun research ever, (seriously, check out this video) one of the things that this awesome sport gave CHASING SHADOWS was a way to distinguish these characters – the way they looked at life.  In fact, each of them has a different phrase associated with freerunning from an old Japanese proverb (seven times down, eight times up) to Chad’s own phrases (A jump has three parts: take off, landing, and in between.  You can control the take off and the landing, but when you’re in the air…there’s no going back). 

I never liked doing research much, but this research was invigorating. I would sit in the gym and watch, noting down forms and asking afterwards what they had done from kong vaults to butterfly twists – I ended up with a whole new vocabulary and some great philosophies that will stay with me—whether or not (not, oh so very not…not, not, not) I learn how to do the sport.

Because behind the sport, there is a deep philosophy about respecting your environment, about staying young and loving movement, freedom, and invention, about play and expression and challenge.

At its root CHASING SHADOWS is about friendship and relationships and how relationships change and grow when the people in them change and grow.  Freerunning asks these questions of its practitioners: Who are you now; who do you wish to become; how do you respect your present while respecting your movement to the future?  In this it reflects the struggles of the characters in the book, and their efforts to face and resolve them.  It’s also just plain cool.

Yes it is. Wow. O_O

Swati Avasthi is the author of two YA novels: CHASING SHADOWS which is a Junior library guild selection, and received starred reviews from Publisher’s Weekly and Kirkus, and SPLIT which received the International Reading Association Award, Cybils Award, a silver Parent’s Choice award and made numerous “best of lists” including YALSA, CCBC and Bank Street. 

Swati got her MFA from University of Minnesota and teaches at Hamline University and lives in Minneapolis with her two dogs, two kids and one husband, though he is worth two.
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  1. I just started Chasing Shadows the other night and I have to admit that I know next to nothing about freerunning.

    I was happy to see this post. Personally, it would scare the crap out of me but I loved this quote - "so the question isn’t when he started freerunning; the question is, for those of us who don’t, when did you stop."

    1. I'm so glad the post helped! I didn't know anything about free running either--I wasn't even aware that it was anything official. o_o But yeah, I agree with you; I'm nowhere near brave enough to attempt it. Thank you for commenting, and for sharing that really great quote!

  2. Thanks for the chance to post about what it is. It is a little scary, I agree. But I love that about it -- for fiction. All of the real freerunners I know are actually really careful. They don't tend to do the extreme version and Chad's idea is that if you can do it on the ground, then what's the point of doing it 30 feet in the air? Now that makes sense to me.

  3. The sport (and the book) sound utterly fascinating. I never knew freerunning existed. But I love Chad's point that all children are natural freerunners. What a lovely thought. Thanks, Swati and Sandy, for the lovely post.

    1. Thank you Angie for stopping by and commenting :)

  4. Wow, I love the philosophy behind the sport just as much as the sport itself. I am adding this book to the TBR. Split too. :)

    1. Hurray!! You're in for a treat, Holly, SPLIT is a fantastic read. Thanks for commenting :)