“What is Eve?” is an intriguing, engaging story that kept me going until the last word. Tell us something that inspired this tale.
So glad you enjoyed it! I found middle school to be one of the most awful experiences of my life, so I guess it’s not surprising that I eventually got around to exploring middle school in a story. The SF aspect of the story was something that had been sitting in my idea file for a while, but I couldn’t figure out how to turn it into a story. Lately I’ve written a few young adult and middle grade books, and that felt like the right setting.
You struck a perfect note with Ben’s reaction to Eve and, in many ways, her reaction to the class as a whole. As adults, we often forget much of what it was like to be a young teenager trying to find our way in the world. What do you feel was the hardest part to write when it came to capturing Ben and the other characters in this story?
It’s always a challenge to capture the voice of younger characters, both inner dialogue and spoken. I cringe when I read fictional kids’ and teens’ thoughts that are simple and straightforward, because my experience is that kids don’t have simple thoughts, and they don’t speak simple sentences. They think differently, often from a more emotional place. Capturing that is a challenge.
This is a story of communication, reaching out, establishing boundaries, knowing when to make an effort, when to step back, when and how to take chances. This also establishes multiple levels of conflict in the story, inner and interpersonal. How do you balance negotiating such conflicts so that they work together to move the story forward rather than one overpowering the other?
Often through multiple drafts. My first drafts are usually thin on character and internal conflict, heavy on plot and interpersonal/external conflict. Then I go back (often after getting feedback from a writing friend) and try to tie that external conflict to the character’s personal and inner struggles. The inner stuff is harder for me, and requires more digging.
Ben, Eve, and the others must also face the twin realizations that they are responsible for the safety of Earth and that they cannot trust the adults (most notably Colonel Winn) to do the job correctly. Taking such attitudes into the real world, what are some ways you feel adults could encourage children and teens to build a better future and save the world?
I think adults can point to the world we’re currently living in and say, “See how we’ve done things? Don’t do what we’ve done. You can do better.” I wrote a book called Soft Apocalypse about a decade ago, where civilization is sliding into collapse and no one seems to realize it. Each year that sentiment feels a bit more like nonfiction to me.
You are known for both your novels and short stories. Are there any writing projects you’d like to tackle in the coming year?
I’m always working on something! This year I’m hoping to contribute to a new dystopian triptych edited by John Joseph Adams and Hugh Howey. I’m also working on a new near-future young adult novel that is gentle and uplifting, and a thriller with absolutely no speculative content whatsoever. It’s probably not wise of me to be all over the place in terms of genre, but I love mixing it up.
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