A couple of weeks ago, I reviewed Kevin Emerson's The Lost Code, which I absolutely loved, and today he has stopped by to hang out and answer some of our hard hitting questions! Now that we feel like we know him, we've gotta get an FYA Slumber Party: West Coast Edition going!
THE ACTUAL BOOK-RELATED QUESTIONS
The world you created for The Atlanteans series is, in my opinion, the best idea since Harry Potter. How did you come up with so much detail, and was it difficult to keep things straight? (Did you have to have a reference guide for yourself while you were writing?)
I kept a lot of notes, and meant to make a snazzy guide at some point, like with cool fonts and multicolored papers and an index of the index, and a robotic hand that would pat me on the back for being so thorough, but ultimately it’s just a scattershot word file that is many many pages long.
As to how I built the world, it happened because I started off with this BioDome in the future. I imagined the world inside the dome first, this Eden place where things were idyllic and you could go to summer camp and connect with nature, except that nature was fake. Then I thought outward from there.
I really like realities that have been well thought-out. And I want to be able to buy into the logic of a fictional world, even if that logic doesn’t fit our world. And I like the big scale. Like when you’re at Disneyland and you are walking around the back side of Thunder Mountain and there’s nothing to do there and yet the world is still completely fleshed out down to the fish jumping in the innocuous little pond off to your right. That is the goodness. It’s the kind of detail I love pointing out to my daughter, and that makes her kind of stop and go, ‘oh.’
So I just kept asking myself questions about this world. In chapter 1 it’s the dome and the lake, then in chapter 2 it’s like, okay, so what’s it look like outside the dome? And are there other domes? And not everybody in the world can be living in domes, so who is in them, and what are the rest of the people doing who aren’t? And if the climate has changed in all these ways, how would people react? It was questions like that. And I read a bunch of books and articles not just about climate but population and social change. I was noodling away at it in my mind for a couple years while I developed the story.
Side note: Even though I wanted to really flesh out this world, I wanted the story to feel personal and inside a 14-year-old’s head (I teach creative writing to 8th graders one day a week). It’s a fascinating age where you know yourself and the world, but you also don’t. So I filtered the story through Owen’s point of view. The choice to make this a first person narrative made conveying the exterior world more challenging than it would have been in 3rd person. But I felt like it added to the texture. Owen would know about some things, but not others, and as a reader, we would be working with limited insights, and almost have to act like reporters gathering evidence. That was tricky, but it felt satisfyingly organic to work through it with Owen.
And it worked out for the reader as well!
Atlantis lore was one of my favorite things to read about as a kid. What were your biggest influences growing up?
I liked pulpy stuff as a kid. Choose Your Own Adventure, James Bond novels, and then in middle school I switched over to Stephen King almost exclusively. His first four Gunslinger books were like my sacred tomes (along with “It”). I was a late-comer to Kurt Vonnegut and Douglas Adams (not until college) sadly, but they were a huge influence. Harry Potter and the Golden Compass series and Sharon Creech were the books that really got me into writing for young people. I read them while teaching science in a K-8 school in Dorchester (Boston), MA.
Teaching in Dorchester! You are a hero, then, as well!
If you could be one of the three Atlanteans, which one would you choose to be, the Mariner, the Medium, or the Aeronaut?
I think it would be best to be the Medium, and have some cool ESP-style skills, but I’ve always been a little dense at intuition (actually it’s more like my intuition is right, but I have a hard time just acting on it without filtering it through a hundred “should’s”).
But what I am for sure good at is driving, and that was always my role with my friends and in bands. I was the guy who would fly us home from whatever godforsaken rock (read: suburban house or crappy rock club) we’d landed on. So, I’d probably be the Aeronaut, like Owen. I love maps, and I love planning routes, but invariably I take a wrong turn or try some unplanned short cut and I secretly love those moments because then it is Han Solo time (even though I was definitely more of a Luke growing up, you know, hoping to understand the force and get off Tatooine, whining about it incessantly, and being fascinated by girls in holograms).
Nice! Also, remind me never to take a road trip with you. I am very strict about my map following.
THE YA QUESTIONS:
Kevin in Junior High. That is some awesome feathered hair!
If your real life adolescence was a YA book…What would you, the main character, be like?
His name would be Corey (my middle name), and he would get more action in middle school than high school (peaked too early) and he would think it was completely okay to buy two identical pastel colored button downs and wear them one-inside-the-other with the cuffs and collars folded out, along with pegged jeans and Eastlands and no, he would not be doing this ironically. He would get to high school and be harassed for his look (perfectly feathered blonde hair), and have no recourse other than to try harder at drum line and running track, both of which were pre-retro-cool at the time. And despite all this, he would fancy himself a great hero in waiting.
I would read this book.
Who is your secret crush?
The unattainable field hockey star. Corey swears there’s more to her than just the stunning jock exterior.
What is your number #1 source of angst?
Corey has a crappy summer job at a country club, working maintenance, where the hot life guards don’t notice him, and the other maintenance kids and uppity club attendees don’t notice his greatness. But then, After a tough break up with the out-of-town girlfriend, fate strikes when he hits it off with the field hockey star, but she’s not in love with him. He gets close, but it turns out he’s not her type. Meaning he’s a boy.
At what point would the reader pump his/her fist in victory?
When Corey makes a secret and heroic drive to her college campus during the fall of freshman year, cue the Peter Gabriel! Except it doesn’t work out.
It never does.
And who would play you in the film adaptation?
A reanimated River Phoenix?
THE SLUMBER PARTY Qs:
What is your secret power?
I can play the drums standing up while singing. And it doesn’t suck. Mostly.
What is your #1 favorite food?
I like lots of food, but I always get inordinately excited about onion rings. Also, last week I had this shawarma sandwich in Brooklyn that I am still licking off my teeth.
Those two are most excellent foods. I find I crave shawarma at least once a week.
What is your best karaoke song?
I kill at Sister Christian by Night Ranger. But I can also bring it with Copacabana, and we all know that is what the people want. Nobody wants me to do Richard Marx, but I could, sadly.
You will have to do Richard Marx for the FYA karaoke party. And also Copacabana, so we could all be Fannilows for a while.
Tell me something scandalous!
I wear wool socks in summer! I once dressed up as Ethel Merman for a male beauty pageant! Really, I don’t have much in the scandal department.
But did you swim?
What is your favorite adult beverage?
Lately I have been obsessed with the Rob Roy. It’s a classic, basically a Manhattan made with Scotch. So, it’s got the groovy spicy thing going on, but with the bonus of tasting like licking a piece of still-warm cinder on a cold November morning (rain outside) while snuggled in a third generation wool blanket.
I cannot believe I have never had one of these.
What book have you read the most number of times?
Weirdly, Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut. It’s his second book, and before he’d really cemented his style. It’s also the first book I read by him. There’s just something about it I can barely explain…
Who is your “freebie”?
President Laura Roslin on BSG. And I would call her Madame President. This would also be a good time to mention my deep love for Anna from Downton Abbey but it wouldn’t be proper to consider her in such a context. For her, it would be all bowler hats and wool pants.
And now you, sir, have won the undying affection of both George -- my husband, and sometimes contributor to the site -- and myself. George approves of your choices.
YA authors are so cool. Who would you give a BFF charm to?
I am currently having a YA friend bromance with Sean Beaudoin, a fellow Seattle YA author. We are both from Connecticut, both enjoy zombies, and both have 6-year-old daughters. It’s pretty steamy. Plus, he can write your pants off. Also, I have made fast parallel-life-BFF’s with Seattle’s Cat Patrick. And after last weekend at Disneyland, she (and her brother) and I share the secret knowledge of Goat Vertigo.
It would seem that Seattle authors are, indeed the coolest, then.
Out of all of the characters you’ve written, which one do you most wish you could be?
It’s probably going to be Owen once I finish the Atlanteans series, but right now it’s still Oliver Nocturne, my tween vampire of six books. He was in such a tough spot, and lost so much, but he found true love and stuck with it and in the end was redeemed, but not perfectly. His ending is how I most feel about the possibilities and limitations of life.
If you were invited to the FYA slumber party (and obvs, you ARE), what pajamas would you wear, and what is the most crucial snack food and/or movie you’d bring?
A Browncoats t-shirt and fleece pants. Cheese puffs and Trader Joe’s dark chocolate covered pretzels, Say Anything on VHS, Alien on blu-ray, Teen Wolf on Laser Disc.
Cheese Puffs and Trader Joe's dark chocolate covered pretzels!!!!!!!!
And now for the junior-high fortune telling game, MASH! (The magic number was 18)
Sasha Cohen (my Olympics girlfriend)
Number of Kids:
short order cook (breakfast)
4 million French Pacific Francs
One Million tax sheltered American Dollars
1979 Honda civic
Fall City, NE
Cheshire, CT (actual)
Thanks so much for taking the time to hang out with us while you're on deadline, Kevin! Hope you enjoy your new life with Aimee Mann and a million dollars! Keep that iguana warm!
As a bonus, the following is a little ditty Kevin wrote about The Lost Code, called Question Mark. Stop by his website here.