Local fantasy series author, June M. Pace, is living her wildest dreams
June M. Pace has never eaten a taco. It was unheard of in her hometown of Cleveland, Ohio. By choice, she’s never had a sip of Coke. Same goes for Oreos—she never cared for chocolate. In fact, as a teenager in Los Angeles, she and a friend would buy a snow cone and a Heath Bar every day during the summer. Pace looked forward to eating the slender block of toffee—only after the self-dubbed “vanilla freak” peeled off every bit of milk chocolate to give to her friend.
It may seem a bit bizarre for Pace to be so unfamiliar with these not-so-healthy, very-American foods. But that’s just it: Pace isn’t like most people. She has a mind that works in more whimsical ways, concocting a literary realm chock-full of fantastical things: benevolent gnomes and fairies, curious kids and an evil queen, magic that is either beautiful to behold or dark and unsettling, and a breathtaking rose garden inspired by Maison du Lac in the Santa Cruz Mountains.
These are a few of the many spellbinding elements that define “Benjamin McTish and the Door through the Grandfather Tree”: Pace’s first novel, released in July, as well as the first segment of the epic fantasy series she has in store. The series is centered around the adventures of Benjamin McTish, a teenager with a mysterious family history living in the English town of Grandlochcheshire, and his close friends, Annabel and Mathilda Wickcliff, the American sisters living next door. Compelling themes such as devotion to family and friends, powerful female characters, empowerment, teamwork and courage, elevate the text from a fun read to an inspiring read.
Spoiler alert: Magic isn’t the most enigmatic part of this book—it is its classification as a “Young Adult” novel.
According to Pace, “I was a yoga instructor for a few years and I used to teach meditation and all that, and I always wanted to be of service to younger people—like how can I get younger people to understand more about themselves? You know, explore who they are, figure it out, and then just be that person and have the courage to be that person and to be accountable for their actions.”
But this initial thought evolved into something greater. “I realized you don’t have to be 12 or 14,” she recalls. “You can be 44 and still be lost, and maybe [‘Benjamin McTish’] will help you go, ‘You know what? I want to figure out who I am. Right now.’”
Pace reminisces about feeling different and alone when she was younger, just like the novel’s protagonist, Benjamin. At a young age, Pace became a vegetarian and practiced meditation regularly—things her family never quite understood.
“Maybe because I was born on Christmas Day, and I had an interesting childhood, and I had to run into fantasies a lot, had to go into make believe and things, and I was looking to lose myself a lot when I was younger—I think that ironically enough, I am one of those rare people that knows exactly who I am and what my purpose is,” she says. “I’m not lost. I haven’t been lost in a long time … however, I live for magic. I don’t know why. I just love being lost in a really magical place.”
Long before having her heart set on becoming a full-time writer, Pace’s dreams were rooted in music. “I wanted to be the female Jackson Browne,” she says, adding that while she was living in Los Angeles, she was very involved in the rock scene and used to sing with Fleetwood Mac. “That was my goal back then in the ’70s, because his poetry, the way [Browne] wrote—I want to be able to touch people that way.”
Now, Pace hopes to connect with people through her writing. And she’s found success so far—“Benjamin McTish” has received favorable reviews both far and wide, including earning the No. 19 spot on a Goodreads list of 220 books titled “If you like Harry Potter, you’ll like…
The second book in the series is also well under way. Pace hopes to release “Benjamin McTish And The Wizards of Coranim” before the year ends. As the title suggests, the sophomore installment features wizards, as well as steampunk-loaded visuals, a map, glossary of terms, and “a trippy new little character,” she says. For fans already hooked on the series, Pace assures there will be no less than four more books; in fact, it’s likely there will be at least six additional novels.
Also a talented artist—the illustration on the cover of the book is her own—Pace has a knack for painting portraits of famous rock ’n’ roll icons like Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin. A collection of her work is currently on display at Santa Cruz Rehearsal Studios.
“I can paint David Bowie and it’s great, but it’s still not like some fine piece of art,” says Pace. “It’s good, it’s nice, and I can’t imagine not painting. But when I write this book, this taps into something that I’ve never experienced in anything—in teaching yoga, nothing. This passion, the passion that comes from writing, is superior to anything I’ve done in my whole life.”
‘Benjamin McTish and the Door through the Grandfather Tree’ is now available for purchase at Capitola Book Café and Bookshop Santa Cruz. The book is also available via the Kindle App and Amazon. For a discounted price, order directly from benjaminmctish.blogspot.com.