I have a confession to make. As a 34-year old man, I’m far from an expert when it comes to the world of YA (young adult) novels—a fact that concerned me a little bit as I read through the first couple of chapters in Gateway to Celesta. However, as I continued to read, I realized that what author Tessa Apa had done was manage to tell a story that could be attractive to younger readers, but also offer enough complexity to keep older readers entertained.
Gateway to Celesta is the first entry of a forthcoming series of books that revolves around the lives of three extraordinary children. Sisters Frankie and Xim, and their brother Boscoe, are unknowingly entrusted as the guardians of an ancient puzzle called The Qui, which comes bundled with special powers. Once the children are able to unlock the Qui’s secrets, they are given the gift of “thought throwing,” and telepathic communication. They also soon discover that unlocking The Qui has greatly enhanced their primary natural talents, allowing them to excel even beyond their wildest imagination. However, the Qui’s most important secret is that it serves as the doorway that leads to the hidden world of Celesta.
As you might expect, a gift of great power soon attracts the attention of nefarious characters that would rather use its power for greed and destruction. A troubled teenage boy named Peter is given the task of seeking out the Qui and retrieving it for a shady faction known as The Chapter. Peter’s journey is a struggle, however, as he is torn between doing the sinister things mandated by his mother, and following the small traces of light that exist within his heart. When he meets Frankie, she makes him feel significant for the first time in his life, but allowing himself to fall for her would come with a hefty price for defying his mother’s wishes.
The influence of Harry Potter is impossible to ignore while reading this book. It’s highly likely that author Tessa Apa intended for this to be a story that parents could easily share with their children before bedtime. With the exception of a few fleeting moments that might be a little intense for younger audiences, I’d say she hit the mark straight on. Apa is incredibly imaginative, and her creation of the Qui puzzle, it’s powers, and the world of Celesta, are vast and complex. Perhaps even a little too complex at times, considering the intended demographic.
What you’ve got here is a more than adequate entry point for a sprawling new series that should satisfy J.K. Rowling fans wondering what to do in life after Potter. As with any first novel, Gateway to Celesta is occasionally rough in spots, and it could have used just a little more polish before release (Apa recycles a few of the same visual cues throughout the book), but there is no question that this author is poised for even greater works on the horizon. Considering that the cost of entry is but a mere .99 cents, the mystical world of Celesta is a bargain worth venturing toward.
[DAVID K. HULEGAARD]: Gateway to Celesta is very deep and contains many layers. How did the whole idea come about?
[TESSA APA]: It started with the concept that we are not always in control of what we think. You know how we can sometimes be swept away by unexpected thoughts? How they pop into our head from no-where or maybe they come from ‘somewhere?’ Does that make sense? Anyway, that’s where it began. I also wanted the book to be a warning – that we should guard our minds, and be very careful what we dwell on. The world of Celesta grew from there, and the whole concept that we all have the ability to tap into this power. Every single one of us – not just the special people.
[DKH]: How long did you wait before you decided to try and put your ideas into a book?
[TA]: I started straight away and pretty much wrote the first and the last chapters in the same day. After that I had to fill in all the detail. That part took four years (I’m the world’s slowest writer!)
[DKH]: Did your story change a lot as you wrote, or did you stick closely to your original vision?
[TA]: It changed a huge amount. I developed the relationship between Frankie and Peter. At first they were barely interested in each other. I also added a lot more tension with the fire and the dog being stolen (and thought murdered!). None of that was really planned at first – those elements just developed as I wrote. I even changed some of the characters names. Taking four years to finish it definitely didn’t help on that score. Because I was writing it with my children in mind (as my audience), they grew from pre-teens to teens in that time span, so I had to add more depth, conflict and relationship than originally planned.
[DKH]: Gateway to Celesta is the first book in a series. Do you have a plan for how many books you would ultimately like it to contain?
[TA]: I know there is a second book. I think there is a third. I’d love to say 6 or 7 but I just don’t seem to be able to plan that far ahead. I also keep getting ideas for other stories and those distract me a lot. I love writing short stories with fresh new ideas and seeing where they lead.
[DKH]: Did you have any real-life influences for creating the kids in your story, or are they all entirely your creation?
[TA]: How did you know? I have three children, two girls and a boy (like the James children). I read somewhere to write what you know and that’s why I went down that path – only some of their characteristics are similar though. They know which ones, but hopefully no one else does. Peter is entirely my creation though. I look for him everywhere, but haven’t seen or met anyone who comes close. Goose, the dog, is a shameless tribute to my dog – there’s a photo of her on my website.
[DKH]: What’s up next for you?
[TA]: I’m finishing a novella called The Girl Who Played Chess with an Angel. After that I have to fill in the gaps on the ‘Gateway’ sequel. I have promised myself to finish that this year. I think the first book is the hardest in so many ways. Cross fingers I can do a quicker job from now on.
Buy Gateway to Celesta for: Kindle