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.
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Word and Book Lover.