In honour of their latest collaboration, Nightfall, authors Jake Halpern and Peter Kujawinski are here today to discuss their journey to publication. Here's the official scoop on Nightfall:
The dark will bring your worst nightmares to light in this gripping and eerie survival story, perfect for fans of James Dashner and Neil Gaiman.
On Marin’s island, sunrise doesn’t come every twenty-four hours—it comes every twenty-eight years. Now the sun is just a sliver of light on the horizon. The weather is turning cold and the shadows are growing long.
Because sunset triggers the tide to roll out hundreds of miles, the islanders are frantically preparing to sail south, where they will wait out the long Night.
Marin and her twin brother, Kana, help their anxious parents ready the house for departure. Locks must be taken off doors. Furniture must be arranged. Tables must be set. The rituals are puzzling—bizarre, even—but none of the adults in town will discuss why it has to be done this way.
Just as the ships are about to sail, a teenage boy goes missing—the twins’ friend Line. Marin and Kana are the only ones who know the truth about where Line’s gone, and the only way to rescue him is by doing it themselves. But Night is falling. Their island is changing.
And it may already be too late.
Take it away, Jake and Peter!
Jake and I have been writing books together for over a decade, and by now we’ve built up a routine. Each book starts with an initial concept that gets us excited, and then we begin talking about characters, setting, plot, etc. The process for Nightfall was similar in many ways, but the one important difference is that from the very beginning, we talked a lot about the writing style. We wanted the writing to be lean, quick, and immediate. Related to this, we tried to make Nightfall as atmospheric as possible. Ideally, when you read it, you’re plunged into an engrossing world that is equal parts familiar and bizarre. Incidentally, this is how I feel when I travel to other places, be they in the U.S. or across the world. For example, when I was in rural Haiti, parents took their kids to school just like I do – and yet they lived in a place so totally different from my life in Chicago.
In addition to writing style, we reminded ourselves from the beginning that Nightfall – at its very core – was an escape novel. At the time we began conceiving of Nightfall, I had read Papillon, the memoir by French ex-con Henri Charriere that became a huge hit movie with Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman. Throughout the writing of Nightfall, Charriere’s book reminded me that the simplest plots – get off the island! – are often the most effective.
Once we settled on a writing style and a basic plot, it was all about the characters, and I think from the beginning we liked the potential of twins. I’ve got 4-year-old twins – also a boy and a girl, like Kana and Marin. In some ways, it seems like an amazing way to grow up – with your best friend at your side. But in other ways, it can also appear claustrophobic, not allowing either one enough space to grow. That relationship, tested to the breaking point in the book, seemed incredibly compelling. I figured I should write the book and just see what happens to them – I hope you like how it all ends up!
I started off my career as a journalist. And I still write for the New Yorker and the New York Times Magazine doing investigative journalism – writing about darker sectors of the U.S. economy, with characters who are former drug dealers, armed robbers, and money launderers. The fact checking in this kind of work is rigorous. I have to read court papers, prison records, and also just talk to people on the street to see if stories check out. I enjoy this work, but I also find it draining. All of this is to say that, when I collaborate with Peter on a fantasy novel, one of my main goals is simply to have fun – to imagine and joke around the way I did when I was twelve years old. I like to do this because it’s enjoyable, of course, but also because I honestly believe that it creates a better product – a more enthralling read. If I can really creep Peter out, with a cool idea, I feel great. I remember when we first discussed what Marin and Kana should find at the Mayor’s House after they are left behind on the island and, ostensibly, are stuck on the island – alone – for the next fourteen years. I said, “What if there is a note tacked on the Mayor’s door?” And Peter says, “Yes! And it should say, HIDE.” I felt a shiver run up my spine. And then we were both laughing like schoolboys. We knew we’d hit on something good. And those are the best moments in out collaboration and our writing process.
Thanks for stopping by, Jake and Peter! Visit the rest of the Nightfall blog tour stops for more from Jake and Peter!
Nightfall will be available on September 22nd. Check out FYA's Nightfall mood board here!