What inspired you to write The Fellowship for Alien Detection?
My initial inspiration was a deep love of The X-Files, combined with a cross country road trip where we went to Roswell, White Sands, and Area 51. Not to mention Graceland. The second thing was thinking about achievement and how some teens today get so completely overscheduled (that’s where the idea of a wacky summer scholarship came from). Once I had these ideas, I thought about being on road trips with your family, something I spent a lot of time doing as a kid and teen.
How long did it take you to write The Fellowship for Alien Detection?
The problem with everything I wrote above about inspiration was that I then needed a plot. I had three ideas from the start: Suza in her missing town, Haley and her clocks, and Dodger and his radio. But despite all that, it took me 7 YEARS to write this book. Part of that was weird circumstance: my agent found an interested editor right off the bat, but he wanted me to remove the parents from the book, and make the kids older and on the road on their own. Which would have essentially ruined the story. Then, it sat on the shelf while I wrote my first books. Other editors read it, but were never that interested. My agent and I kept believing in it, and I finally met an editor, Jordan Brown at Walden Pond Press, who felt the same. And then, after all those years, I rewrote the entire thing! But those basic ideas and characters were still there.
What are some of your favorite books from childhood? Were there any specific authors who inspired you?
When I was a kid, I loved a series called The Three Investigators, which was a Hardy Boys knock off. I also really liked Encyclopedia Brown, and Spider-Man comic books and Choose Your Own Adventure anything. As a teacher, some of the books that inspired me to write for kids were The Golden Compass, Absolutely Normal Chaos, Holes, Catalyst, Harry Potter, Maniac McGee.
How did you come up with the characters Haley and Dodger?
Both were inspired by students I’d had. Haley by the neurotic overachievers, Dodger by the inward, awkward boys. They both got a bit of my anxiety: Haley the compulsion to DO THINGS because she feels like she’s on-the-clock. Dodger got the paralysis that comes with feeling like you don’t fit in as part of a vast universe, and the feeling that you’re alone and different. In a way, the two characters are halves of a whole.
If you could befriend any character from a book, who would you befriend? Why?
Probably Lyra from the Golden Compass. I could have used a girl like that in my life in middle school, both to have adventures with, and to set me straight.
Where do you like to write? Do you listen to music while you are writing?
I either write in my office at home, or in a coffee shop. I listen to music sometimes, but other times I need to hear the rhythm of the words and the character voices. I also get lots of writing done on airplanes.
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be? Why?
There are so many places. The South Pacific? At least for awhile. I’d like to feel that remote. Also, London. Man, I love London. Or in a ski town like Telluride.
Have you ever met an alien? If so, can you tell us about it?
Where can we purchase your book?
F.A.D. is in all the places that have the books. The best spot is always an independent bookstore near you.
Amazon ☞ Barnes and Noble
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