YA sci-fi/horror author of The End Games and Mr. Fahrenheit, T. Michael Martin, was kind enough to answer some of my annoying, fangirl questions, so I'm sharing the interview below. My questions are italicized, and his responses are other-than-italicized (haha--I mean, they're "normal" although some would argue there's no such thing as normal). You're welcome! :-)
Insofar as Mr. Fahrenheit is concerned--and my apologies if I get too spoiler-ish--why did you choose to go with the whole alien storyline? I haven't seen a whole lot of aliens in YA lit in recent years.
I don't feel that I chose aliens as much as aliens chose me, as strange as that may sound! After finishing THE END GAMES, which is a pretty intense novel with an abundance of zombies, I was feeling burnt out and wanted my next novel to reflect a "lighter" (though still suspenseful) perspective. If THE END GAMES is about my nightmares, MR. FAHRENHEIT is about my dreams, about that feeling when you're a kid and look at the night sky and life just feels so full of promise and infinite. For me, an alien plot seemed the best way to explore those feelings, which is how I wound up writing the book.
The main character in Mr. Fahrenheit is a young man named Benjamin "Benji" Lightman, who seems to be searching for...something...some unknown, perfect, "out of this world" moment. He's kind of a the-grass-is-greener-somewhere-else type of person. How much of Benji was influenced by your own personality? And if he's not, why did you paint him this way?
Well, as much as I love Benji, I don't think there's a ton of my current personality or outlook in him. That said, he definitely reflects my younger self. I admire a lot about Benji; for instance, he is a person who lives fervently by his values. But everything casts a shadow, and what Benji has to learn (and what I had to learn) is that idealism can be damaging and outright dangerous if not tempered with some semblance of realism. In fact, thanks to its dichotomous style of thinking, idealism can become a form of cynicism, and can lead to becoming a very bitter person when the world doesn't meet your idealized standards.
Ellie is Benji's love interest, and he envisions her as this almost super-human, angelic person. I love the scene where she puts him in his place and gives him that "get a grip" speech. What inspired you to create their relationship--and this scene--in such a way?
So glad you liked that scene! It was one I labored over a lot!
I was thinking a lot about gender roles in fiction while writing MR. FAHRENHEIT. Specifically, like a lot of people, I'm really troubled by the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope (though I do think the term has become overused a bit), which is ultimately a product of idealization and a kind of other-person-as-wish-fullfilment syndrome. Benji is basically a kindhearted guy, and he means well, but he begins the story with some problematic views of Ellie. It was important to me to have the main female character be both a tough and awesome person, and a naturally flawed human, and part of Benji's growth is learning to see all of Ellie, rather than merely the parts of her he takes out of context and is too enamored with.
My dad is the physical therapist for my hometown's high school football team. I spent every Friday autumn night of my childhood on the sidelines with him at every single game. I couldn't NOT make football CR's sport. :]
Did you have to do research on magic techniques for this novel, or were you already a magic aficionado?
Oh, I was definitely already a magic geek! It was so fun to finally put some of that nerdy knowledge to work in my fiction.
MR. FAHRENHEIT is really about nostalgia, about memory and how we misremember events in our past, and the profound impact those mistakes have on our present and future.
Many of the cultural references are influenced by bygone pop culture. I'm thinking Bedford Falls, doo-wop and jukeboxes, Charlie Brown, and this line in particular regarding Charlie Brown: "The kid still can't believe he got to touch the football." Do these references reflect a nostalgia on your part, and do you think young adult readers will catch these pop culture references?
Well, I think MR. FAHRENHEIT is really about nostalgia, about memory and how we misremember events in our past, and the profound impact those mistakes have on our present and future. So the choice to have those nostalgic references was part of a thematic purpose, as well as a bit of fun for me because I deeply love those things.
As for whether I think YA readers will catch the references, that's a great question! During the writing process, my agent and I actually discussed this--like, it's not at all certain that most teen readers will be super familiar with what doo-wop is, for instance. But ultimately I trust my readers, and also I hope that if there are things they aren't familiar with, they'll look them up and fall in love with them the same way I did. (There's something really magical about discovering something new, right?)
Regarding the other hats you wear, specifically your Internet persona, I've been watching your "How to Adult" videos, and I must say you are ridiculously charming and cute, so do you put a lot of effort into being nerdy or does it just come naturally *asked with total affection and respect*?
YOU ARE TOO NICE HOW DID YOU GET SO NICE!
Thank you, thank you. :] I have to say, I don't have to put any effort whatsoever into being nerdy. As Lady Gaga put it, I was born this way, baby.
How did you become associated with The Green Brothers?
Long story, shortened: John was a fan of my YouTube videos, and then became a fan of my books, and then my friend Emma and I pitched them the idea for How to Adult (our web series that they produce), and they agreed to produce it.
Finally, do you have advice for writers (or non-writers) on juggling multiple responsibilities at once--writing, doing vlogs, marketing, remaining employed, and possibly sleeping sometimes?
As Anne Lamott put it, just take things bird by bird. Small steps add up. Tolstoy said it best when he said, "The strongest of all warriors are these two - Time and Patience." I wrote my first novel, THE END GAMES, entirely while employed in various positions, including being a test subject in experimental drug studies! It took years, but it also enabled me to eventually become a full-time writer. In my darkest moments, I told myself that time was going to pass no matter what I did, so I might as well spend the time doing things that would build the life I wanted. Keep the faith, keep writing, and use your energy as wisely as you can. I believe in you.
My BIG THANKS to T. Michael Martin for graciously doing this interview with me (Thanks, Mike!)--oh, yeah, this is Cheryl again. If you'd like to read some of Mike's work yourself, then check out Mr. Fahrenheit and The End Games at your local library (Libraries rock!) or do something good for the world and buy them at biblio.com (They practice carbon offsetting for all book orders AND build libraries in Bolivia in addition to other do-gooder ventures.) or GoodBooks (They partner with Oxfam to, in their words, "provide clean water, sanitation, develop sustainable agriculture and create access to education" in impoverished communities.).
You can also follow Mike's How To Adult series on Youtube or connect with him on his website.
In my last post, I promised to do a sneak peek of what's coming up on my blog over the next several months, so here is the what along with the why.
Alice in Wonderland
Here's the backstory: I wrote this super-funny (I thought) middle grade (say 4th-7th grade) novel-length re-telling of Alice in Wonderland. It's called Glassbreaker Alice and uses a lot of the same tropes and characters from the Disney version of Alice in Wonderland, which is actually a re-telling itself (Basically, then, I've written a re-telling of a re-telling). After pitching it to agents and getting discouraged, I kinda/sorta forgot about it and wrote another book. But a couple of months ago, I decided to put my Alice story out there anyway, and I have been posting it chapter by chapter on Wattpad, where you can read it now (You do have to create an account first, unfortunately).
On my blog, I'm going to do some reflection on the story of Alice in Wonderland. Why does it persist? I'm also going to be doing some visual renditions of my novel and posting them here.
The Pied Piper of...Oklahoma?
I just finished a novel. It's a mashup of "The Pied Piper of Hamlin," the Cold War, and farm life. Weird combination, right? The Pied Piper is an interesting fairy tale with an even more interesting history. I'm going to investigate and share what I find out.
Bad, Bad, Bad Future
I am embarking on a new novel, which will combine the issues of terrorism, climate change, and refugees. Heavy stuff, right? I am in the process of doing research, and I plan to post some of the information I discover in future posts.
When it comes to college, be a Boy Scout!
Since my target reader is considering college or already in college and since I teach college classes, I'm going to do a series of posts on what to expect in college and how to prepare yourself. Included will be interviews with real, live college graduates or students in college right now.
Ah, the college years! Best years of my life...true story.
Of course, I'll probably get distracted by other topics along the way. I'm like a dog who sees a squirrel, that way. In any case, I'm quite sure some topic will come up that I feel a sudden need to blog about. What that will be remains to be seen.
Thanks for sticking with me, dear reader. We're gonna have some fun!
Do you ever glimpse those wild places along the roadside? On the edges of a park or springing up between the cracks in the sidewalk? Unbridled nature, weeds and insects, scruffy trees, towering branches, spots of red and gold flowers? Yeah, those places. As I'm writing this, it's spring verging on summer, and nature has come alive. The air is ripe with buzzing insects and the scent of chlorophyll. The world has gone wild.
It's during these times that I feel a yearning to dive into the wild and go exploring. When I see a copse of trees along the margins, I am drawn to it. I long to leave behind the concrete and the glass and dive into the chaos of nature. I want to ramble through the brambles and bracken. I want to hide from society and find solace in solitude.
My husband thinks my desire to lose myself in nature is crazy. He hates bugs and the outdoors. In turn, I don't understand why he won't sit on the grass and never wants to eat dinner in the back yard.
The truth is that researchers have studied the effects of nature on the human body, and here's what they have found--
Being in nature...
Though we live in an artificial environment, we are creatures of nature. We were built by nature. Even the Bible says that God made Adam from clay. Our origin is the soil itself. We need nature much more than nature needs us. So please make room in your life for nature. Love the trees, love the soil, love nature, love the wild.
Read more about the health benefits of nature.
How do you interact with nature? Leave a response below, and thanks for reading!
I was recently listening to PRI's The World, a radio program about current events and movements around the world, and my ears perked up when I heard them mention something called "slow fashion." Ever heard of it? No? Well, have you heard of slow food? Slow food is a push back at fast food. Slow food is about investing time and energy into food preparation and taking the time to enjoy it. And so slow fashion is...well, it's nothing like slow food really.
According to the story from The World, slow fashion emphasizes organic fibers, high quality construction, and fair wages. It's fashion that defies trends--the intent is for you to use and wear these garments for twenty years or more. Does that sound like an outrageous length of time to you? According to the story, most women wear an article of clothing only seven times before discarding it. Yeah, you read that right. Seven times! Who are these women?!?! I wear my clothes over and over and over again. I keep my clothes until they're so messed up I can't wear them anymore or until I can't wear them anymore because my belt line has shifted locations. :-/ I have been known to wear shoes until there are holes in the bottom, making the soles flop up and down, and I still only part with them reluctantly.
Okay, so maybe I'm not a fashion maven. In fact, the word "maybe" is a bit too generous: I am definitely NOT a fashion maven. But I do like to look nice...even if the attire I wear is not quite in fashion at the time.
Because slow fashion is of the highest quality (it's gotta be, right? How else would it last for 20+ years?!?!), it's also pricey. A plain t-shirt goes for $55, and a pair of socks is $20. *elephant-sized gasp* A pair of socks for $20! Good Lord! Who can afford those prices? Not a skinflint like me, that's for sure!
So here's an alternative--let's say you are interested in looking good and helping the environment by keeping perfectly good clothes from ending up in the city dump. And let's further say that you don't want to pay $55 for a t-shirt or $20 for a pair of socks. In fact, let's say you would actually like to get an entire wardrobe on the cheap. How can you do all that?
Pay a visit to your local thrift store!
You can actually go into a thrift store and for $30 or so, buy an entirely new wardrobe.
But, ew, you may recoil and say. Am I really telling you to buy and wear clothes that other people have worn and discarded? Well, yes, I am. I mean, it's not like I'm telling you to go digging through someone's trashcan and wear their old discarded newspapers with coffee grinds dripping off. And it's not like this stuff is dirty. Most (if not all) thrift shops actually do wash their donated clothes before they ever put them on the shelf. Once you get past the "ew" factor, I think you will actually be pleasantly surprised. Below, I've posted some pictures of several outfits I've purchased at thrift stores over the years. As you look at them, remember that I'm not a professional photographer, and I'm actually a pretty terrible picture-taker.
You can actually go into a thrift store and for $30 or so, buy an entirely new wardrobe. And since it's so cheap, you can change and add to your wardrobe constantly without breaking the bank. You may have to dig a little, of course, because while all thrift stores have great bargains, they also have mountains of clothing that you will find horrible. But don't give up, and remember that with each article of clothing you buy from a thrift store, you're helping Mother Earth!
So please, before you buy some polyester something online or at a store, consider thrift-shopping. Just give it a shot and see what you think.
"'Slow Fashion' Designers Tout Their Wares as Better for the Planet"
Read the original story that inspired me at PRI's The World.
"8 Awesome Thrift Store Items People Often Miss"
This article describes several treasures you can find at your local thrift store.
"10 Reasons Why Thrift Stores are Awesome"
This article lists several benefits of shopping at a thrift store.
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Word and Book Lover.