Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Author Interview: Laurence Klavan and Susan Kim preview Wasteland

For my spotlight on upcoming dystopian/post apocalyptic fiction series, I interview authors with novels coming out in the genre in 2012/13. These are exclusive first looks at exciting new works. Enjoy!

Today I have writing duo Laurence Klavan and Susan Kim here to discuss their post-apocalyptic thriller WASTELAND, coming out with Harper Collins in March 2013.

The teaser summary:

WASTELAND takes place in a world inhabited solely by children, where life ends by nineteen due to an inescapable mutated virus that lives in water. Fifteen-year-old Esther, her partner Caleb, and her best friend, a mutated androgyne, have to fight a young tyrant who controls their world's dwindling supplies in order to free themselves.
The cover:

And the joint interview:

Why do you think people are drawn to "dark" stories?

Susan: That’s a good question! Weirdly enough, I think dark stories make people feel better and less anxious. There’s something satisfying about following characters you care about through a dark and scary world and seeing how they manage to battle through to a different place. It feels like a real journey in clear terms, through good and evil, in a way that a romance or comedy or everyday drama can’t do. (Not that I’m against romances and comedies and dramas, by the way!)

Laurence: I think there's a lot of concern now about the state of the world and the future, especially among young people. As Susan says, seeing characters battle through bad times and triumph over them helps us cope with those fears. Besides, it makes for a juicier story if things are rotten (and if some characters are, too).

If your book had a theme song, what would it be and why?

Laurence: Since our characters have such short lives and have to make the most of them, I'd choose: "Fifteen" by Taylor Swift..."Forever Young" by Bob Dylan..."Your Life is Now" by John Mellencamp... and "Time" by Pink Floyd.

Susan: Because the world in our book is so torn apart, I immediately think of the primitive energy of early punk, like Iggy Pop’s “Lust for Life”. And because Esther turns into such a kickass, I’m also reminded of Joan Jett, like “Bad Reputation”.

What fictional character from another book would your main character chose as his/her best friend and why?

Laurence: I think Esther would get along with Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird, Huckleberry Finn, and Harriet the Spy (though her New York references might confuse Esther, it being the post-apocalypse and everything). Anyone with spunk.

Susan: Definitely Scout! Although I could imagine her really admiring Katniss, too.

What are your top 5 Dystopian lit recs and why?

Susan: Some of my favorites are classics. Lord of the Flies by William Golding is an amazingly suspenseful story that also explores good and evil—all told through a group of schoolboys lost on an island. I read that when I was fourteen and felt like I viewed the world differently afterwards. Farenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury, is also amazing, in a totally different way. If you love books (and I assume anyone reading this does), what could be worse than a world in which they’ve been outlawed? Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go is spooky, sad, and so well-written… I don’t want to give away the hook! I’m going to cheat and mention two dystopian movies that I loved: Children of Men, based on the book by P.D. James, and Terry Gilliam’s Brazil.

Laurence: I'd add a few more classics: 1984 by George Orwell, which invented so many of the ways people think about dictatorships, and Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, which predicted test tube babies, rampant consumerism, and the waning of individuality, among other things. To the movies, I'd add Blade Runner, based on the book by Philip K. Dick, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

What's on the top of your to-do list before the world ends?

Laurence: Get my rent check back. Cancel my haircut. Apologize to many people, and demand their apologies. And start writing a new book.

Susan: Travel to more places—India, Turkey, Japan, Iceland. Swim in more lakes. Own more cats. Spend more time with the people I care about and stay up all night with them telling jokes and ghost stories. And definitely write more!

How does your novel stand out from others in the genre?

Susan: This is by no means a knock on other books out there, but I’d say that our novel stands out for not only its characters, but for the individual journeys they each take. Esther, one of our two heroes, doesn’t start off as being heroic at all; she’s just a normal 15-year old, someone who despises small-town conformity and meaningless rules and basically wants to be left alone with her friends. She fights with her older sister, Sarah, who seems close-minded and controlling, but is ultimately more complicated than that. Our other hero, Caleb, starts from a very dark place, but comes to re-think who his real enemies are and what he needs to do to protect the people he loves. Neither is a superhero; they have flaws like anyone else. But eventually, both come to realize how important it is to act when terrible things are happening around you.

Laurence: It takes place in a world made up only of children and teenagers, and yet the emotions are hopefully as big, deep, and complex as in books about adults. So are the events of the plot, the action, and the romance.

Plus bonus Q! Why did you two decide to write this novel together?

Laurence: Susan and I had really enjoyed writing the graphic novels, City of Spies and Brain Camp, together. While there was some screaming and crying--all by me--we generally found it fun and gratifying. So writing a three-book novel series was a new challenge, one we wanted to see if we could survive both as writers and a couple. The good news is: we did both. Susan is the best collaborator I've ever had, and I've had several.

Susan: We were both writers long before we met each other… in fact, we met at a theater conference, both as playwrights. Writing our first graphic novel together was a little scary at first, but we really liked how they turned out, i.e. distinctly different than if we had written them solo. It calls for insane amounts of communication and trust; and there’s ZERO room for ego. But, honestly, I wanted to collaborate with Laurence because I love the way he tells stories, and I thought it would be fun.

Thanks Laurence and Susan!

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1 comment:

Zibilee said...

I also loved The Children of Men, and wrote a piece about it in my college newspaper many years ago. I wish I could find that article and post it today!

I also think the authors points about why dark stories are so powerful are interesting, as sometimes when I am reading them, or my kids are, it alleviates some of the anxieties of the real world. I always watch these interviews to see how this question is answered, and it tells me a lot about how the authors view the world, both inside and outside of their fictional worlds.

Great interview today, Lenore!