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.
What if people who were dead came back to life, but instead of just being normal, they were flesh-eating monsters, you know like zombies?...No, wait, that's been done. Night of the Living Dead and ad infinitum.
But what if these so-called zombies destroyed civilization, and we got to watch the survivors in the aftermath of the zombie apocalypse?...Oh, no, that's been done too. The Walking Dead et cetera.
So then what if one of those brain-eating creepers accidentally fell in love with a girl and regained his humanity?...Okay, that's been done, too. Warm Bodies, a zombie romance.
Insofar as zombie-related plots are concerned, it seems like it's all "been there, done that." Hmmm....
Ah, but what about this--The zombie apocalypse has occurred, but the survivors have reversed it with a new miracle drug?
Hey, that hasn't been done before!
And now it has. Welcome to In the Flesh, a post-zombie apocalypse story courtesy of the BBC.
I've only seen about the first 30 minutes of the first episode of this series (okay, so I'm definitely not an expert--I know that), but I am really psyched about the premise. A boy named Kieran is one of the undead...or at least he was, but now he's been identified as actually having Partially Deceased Syndrome (PDS), an ailment that apparently causes people to lose their minds and go cannibal all over people's butts (well, every part of their body, not just their butts). But now, with the help of medication, he's learned the error of his ways and has recovered enough to be returned to his family. The problem is that he's wracked with guilt and suffering flashbacks of the people he's eaten in his zombie state, his home is ground central for a militia that hunted and exterminated "rotters" like him, there is still a lot of simmering anger towards people with PDS, and Kieran's sister Jem was/is a zombie hunter (Her buddy in the Human Volunteer Force (HVF), Billy "Sarge" Macy calls her The Rambo of Roarton). How is Kieran going to navigate this new life as a regular-teenage-boy/recovering-human-flesh-addict?
I can't wait to find out!
Here's what I like about this series so far:
As far as I can see from a rudimentary Google search, In The Flesh originally aired on BBC three and BBC America. It's available now on Hulu Plus. I don't know if it's available anywhere else right now, but if you get the chance, check it out, and please let me know what you think about it in the comments below.
Thanks for reading. If you like this post, hit one of the share buttons below. :-)
Before I do the review of this book, which I actually really enjoyed, I want to go on a rant about the title. Shadow and Bone. This title is so generic it could refer to almost any kind of novel, a murder mystery, a religious book, a historical novel, even a romance. Well, maybe not a children's book, but actually, yeah, maybe a science based one about the skeletal system and the physics of shadows. Okay, so maybe that's a bit of a stretch. But I stand by my statement that this title is just too darn generic. It in no way does justice to this exciting novel.
So for the sake of specifying the genre, this is a fantasy novel.
The world the main character Alina inhabits seems to be influenced by some sort of Eastern European traditions. The various names used throughout are "Ravka," "Kribirsk," and "Fjerda," to name a few. And in fact, on the acknowledgements page, the author credits several books about Russian folklore as influences in the creation of this book. So yeah, it sounds pretty Russian. I wonder, however, which themes were actually influenced by Russian folklore. Nothing in the novel screams Russian influence, other than the place names, of course. Something to think about.
Alina's country of Rvaka has been ravaged by wars since long before she was born, and she and her best friend Mal (a boy) were raised in the household of a philanthropic duke when their parents were killed in the fighting. Ostensibly ruled by a king, the real power in Rvaka lies in the hands of the Grisha, people born with magical powers. Tested as children for these innate abilities, neither she nor Mal exhibited anything worth noting, so they grow up and join the army instead.
The most frightening thing a person can do in this land of magic is to enter The Fold. It is a terrifying place of darkness where rich farmland has been made barren and where horrific creatures with giant teeth and leathery wings called volcra prey on anyone foolish enough to enter their realm. It is said that The Fold was created by an evil Grisha at some time in the past. No one really understands it.
The military unit Alina and Mal serve has been ordered to cross The Fold to deliver supplies to the other side. Unfortunately, Ravka is a land divided by The Fold, and the only way to reach the other side--other than traveling into the bordering countries it is at war with--is to cross The Fold. Soon after they enter the darkness, Alina's convoy is attacked, and it is when a volcra threatens the life of her beloved friend Mal that a sudden white light encompasses them all, killing the surrounding volcra and saving their lives.
As soon as the white light erupts, Alina passes out, little understanding what has happened. When she awakens, no one will tell her what happened and everyone looks at her with horror. It is when she is presented to the head Grisha--the Darkling himself--that she finally discovers the truth. She herself has created the white light. She is Grisha.
Torn away from the only person in the world that means anything to her, Alina is thrust into the opulent society of the Grisha and begins the training she needs to control her skill. But things do not go as well as she, or the Darkling, would like. There is a barrier preventing Alina from accessing her power, and until she discovers what it is, she is useless.
When the Darkling comes up with a shorcut that will enable Alina to use her power in spite of her inability to control it, she jumps on the chance. What she doesn't realize is that this shortcut will take her power out of her own hands and put it into those of someone who cannot be trusted.
Yay! What a fun novel! I really liked this one. Great fantasy, and some really imaginative conceits! Like I said at the beginning, I wonder how much of it was influenced by Russian myth. The scene that is absolutely the most awesome is at the beginning when Alina and her crew come under attack in The Fold. It is very Stephen King. It reminded me a lot of The Mist because of the inability of the people to see what is around them and the horrific creatures that inhabit their surroundings. It is a great scene. The only thing that makes it more disturbing is when we later learn what the volcra actually are. I'm not going to give it away, but it is truly inspired. The great thing though is how organically the novel comes together. Every surprise and twist that comes along seems to flow naturally from the storyline. Although unexpected, each of these twists and turns makes complete sense in the end.
Like fantasy? Put this on your must-read list.
This book was hot popular on the librarian listservs, which is why I decided to give it a go. Of course, I'm not a pioneer reader. It was published in 2012, and I picked it up at the end of 2013. That's okay. Better late than never.
A diviner is a person with the ability to see the future, a prophet or soothsayer, according to dictionary.com. The world of The Diviners is peopled with individuals with special--shall we invoke the word "magic"?--abilities, but I can only remember one who could actually see the future. So I suppose the title is a BIT misleading, but it's a great title nonetheless.
The Diviners is a huge undertaking, both because the book itself is hefty--578 pages--and because the plot indicates a much longer narrative, i.e. several sequels. It is 1920's America--Prohibition, speakeasies, flappers, and rampant jazz. Evie O'Neill leaves her hometown in a hurry after she accuses a boy she knows of "knocking up" a girl (Yeah, I know. I didn't realize that particular slang term was so old.). It turns out Evie's claims are not based on suspicion. She can hold objects in her hand and uncover secrets about the object's owner. She is shipped off to New York City to live with her uncle, the docent of "the museum of creepy crawlies," a museum chock full of occult artifacts. Evie is a free spirit who loves to get down and get funky. She's a party girl, and it doesn't take her long to start painting the town red, alongside her friend Mabel, the daughter of radical Communists, who dresses and behaves like a dowdy spinster.
Evie is quickly drawn into a strange murder mystery, via her uncle, who is called upon to help with the investigation. It seems the corpses of this particular killer display signs of occult activity. The murderer leaves behind evidence that point to the bible, albeit an apocryphal version, and through their research, Evie and her uncle, along with helpers Jericho and Sam, discover that the murder is a resurrected member of a cult intent on bringing about the end of the world.
So that would be enough of a premise for a good novel, right? But, uh-uh. There's more. Woven within this overarching narrative are the stories of Memphis Campbell, a numbers runner from Harlem with a latent healing ability, and Theta Knight, a gorgeous chorus girl who seems to have some sort of pyrotechnics magic. Then, there's Sam, the fellow who helps out with the murder case and who I mentioned in the previous paragraph; he can will himself to become invisible when someone looks his way. It's apparent these folks are some sort of superhero superforce who are going to be important in the books to come.
Memphis and Theta share a dream of a strange man in a cornfield and the premonition that "something wicked this way comes," something even more wicked that the resurrected serial killer Evie and her pals are investigating. In addition, a woman referred to as Sister Walker is scouting for potential "diviners," testing Memphis's younger brother, who can predict which playing cards she is holding with astonishing accuracy. She shows up at Evie's uncle's museum and behaves cryptically, insinuating that something evil is on its way. Then, there is the scene of the gray man in the stovepipe hat who rips the heart of a rabbit for no apparent reason and walks around being evil and mysterious. So, yeah, I'd say there are more books on the way.
Although the suggestion of further stories and further mysteries is delicious, it is also a distraction from the major narrative in the novel. The defeat of Mr. Resurrected Cult Serial Killer (Okay, he does have a name--John Hobbes, also called Naughty John and the Pentacle Killer) is pretty anticlimactic considering that all the events up to that point have led to his destruction. Evie has a face off with him, there's some scary stuff, a bit of uncertainty--will Evie be his final victim?--then Evie routes him and he's crushed to dust. Cough. Cough. Bye, bye, serial killer dude. Then, the book just keeps chugging along with hints of some future menace even badder than Naughty John. For me, these cryptic droppings kind of took away from the Naughty John plot, and I think the showdown between him and Evie could have been more climactic.
The novel's real prize is its romp through 1920's New York. The reader gets a real sense of life during the Roaring Twenties, and it's obvious Bray did a lot of research into the time period. We get the Zeigfeld Follies, speakeasies, flapper fashion, eugenics, the Harlem Renaissance, and all that jazz. Some of it is a bit overkill, such as when Memphis mentions several Harlem poets and writers who are well-known today. On the other hand, for a large part of the target audience--teenagers--this will probably be their first introduction to the culture of the 20's, so I guess I can forgive Bray's overindulgence in naming nearly everyone and everything associated with the time period.
Overall, a whole lotta fun, this one. Dig in. It's all jake.
Word and Book Lover.