Welcome to my stop on the Monument 14: Sky on Fire Blog Tour
I'm excited to be hosting author Emmy Laybourne, who is stopping by to answer some questions.
Jen: I’m so happy that you could stop by and talk about your books!
Emmy: It’s a delight to be here. Thanks for hosting me on my blog tour!
Jen: Sky on Fire, which just came out in the U.S. on May 28, is the follow-up to Monument 14, your debut YA novel about fourteen kids who shelter inside a superstore after an apocalyptic disaster. I see from your bio that you’re also an actor who has done a lot of improv. Is your writing process at all similar to improv?
Emmy: My improv training absolutely plays a part in my life as a writer. When I sit down to write, I prepare myself for what writing guru David Spencer calls the “white hot rush.” I am well fed and well rested. I turn off all devices that might distract me. I put in my ear-buds and play music to set the mood. And then I write and I write hard! That practice of taking care of myself - of keeping my brain in top condition so I can perform well, is one I learned in my many years as an improvisor.
Of course, my training creating characters is another tremendous gift my years improvising gave me. I have a bunch of different exercises I can rely on to help me figure out how a character walks and talks and thinks and dreams!
Jen: That's one of my favorite things about your characters. They really do seem to react to things like kids, which must be a function of your ability to put yourself into their shoes. Acting seems like such a collaborative endeavor – was it tough to adjust to the solitary life of a writer?
Emmy: I love the lifestyle of a writer - but do I miss doing improv? Yes, I do. I miss the surprises. When you build scenes with other actors - finding a story in a collaborative way - you have no idea where the thing is going. I miss the rush you feel when you’re onstage, in front of an audience, and you are truly surprised! It’s an amazing feeling.
Jen: Well, reading your books is quite the rush itself! Monument 14 begins as a group of kids is riding to school on the bus. Disaster strikes and the kids take refuge inside a superstore and have to find ways to feed themselves, defend themselves, and entertain themselves. Did you do any research on superstores? (I picture you creeping through the aisles with a notebook, scribbling stuff down and laughing diabolically until someone calls security.)
Emmy: You have it exactly right! I spent a lot of time stalking the aisles of superstores and making maps. One day, I was snapping shots of shelving systems in a Wal-Mart once and they sent the “Greeter” over to tell me I couldn’t take pictures. We struck up a conversation and I asked if it was a common occurrence. The Greeter told me there’s a whole meme of photos posted online of the terrible outfits people wear to shop at Wal-mart! Who knew?
Jen: *awkward silence* Once I went out to get milk wearing a coat over PJs. I blame it on my kids. Speaking of kids, the characters in your books range in age from six to sixteen. What made you decide to include such a wide span of ages?
Emmy: I wanted the older kids to have to take real responsibility for the younger ones. If the youngest kids had been in the 12-13 year range, I think there would have been a lot more bickering about power and rules. I also thought it would be interesting to track how much the little kids understood about the catastrophic events taking place in the world of the story.
Jen: As Sky on Fire begins, these kids -- who have been through so much together -- have split into two groups, one that’s decided to leave the store and another that stays. Without revealing any spoilers, let’s just say that both options are fraught with peril. If you had been in caught in this situation as a kid, which group do you think you would have joined?
Emmy: My blood type is O+, so truthfully, I think I would have stayed behind. I would be too terrified that I might inhale the compounds and hurt or kill my friends. As those of you who have read Sky On Fire know, neither choice is actually very safe. Both groups of kids face real danger.
Jen: That's true. I loved the fact that Sky on Fire was told from the perspectives of both groups, so you could see what happened to each. You’ve also recently released a short prequel to Monument 14 called Dress Your Marines in White. Can you tell us a little more about that?
Emmy: Dress Your Marines in White is a short story that’s up on Tor.Com. It gives some back story to the creation of the warfare compounds that make life so dangerous in the Monument 14 series. In it, we meet Brayden’s Dad, who is a scientist working on the project. It’s a very dark and scary story - maybe even more so than Monument 14. If your readers check it out, I’d love to hear what they think.
There’s also a second companion story coming out in June. It’s called Jake and the Other Girl, and it will be released mid-June on Tor.com. It tells the story of what happens to Jake after he wanders away near the end of Monument 14.
Jen: Okay, before I let you go, I thought we’d play a quick game. An unspecified apocalyptic disaster has struck. Grab your purse and tell me what you’ve got that might help you survive.
In my bag I found a tiny LED flashlight that actually works, a pack of oyster crackers, and two band-aids.
|Actual contents of Jen's handbag.|
I have two back pain pills and one dose of Day-quil. Those will come in handy for, um, back pain and a head cold...
I have several ballpoint pens - I can use those to give myself or someone else an emergency tracheotomy.
And I have some SPF lip-balm I can use to cover my skin with so I won’t get a sunburn?
Let’s face it, I’m doomed!
|This is a photo reenactment. I did not ask Emmy to send a picture of her purse contents. I thought that would be weird.|
Jen: Yeah, me too. I already ate my crackers. And, uh, if I'm in need of an emergency tracheotomy, I'll tweet you. Thanks so much for stopping by! This was fun.
Emmy: Thanks for hosting me here, Jen! I hope you and your readers will stay in touch with me on https://www.facebook.com/Monument14 or Twitter @emmylaybourne. Or both!
You can read Dress Your Marines in White now on the Tor.com website!
Be sure to check out all the other stops on the Sky on Fire blog tour here -- they include the weirdest things Emmy Googled when writing Sky on Fire.
Emmy will be on tour in June with the Fierce Reads authors -- check here to see if they are coming to a city near you.
Thanks to the generosity of Macmillan, I am giving away a paperback of Monument 14 AND a hardcore of Sky On Fire to one lucky winner. Books can be mailed to US/Canada addresses only.