Twenty Questions with J. M. Kay, author of Under The Shadow: Children Of The First Star, Volume 1
The Interrogation Room here at Another World has remained unoccupied for far too long. Today this oversight will finally be rectified as I have secured my very first
To mark the imminent publication of Under The Shadow: Children Of The First Star, Volume 1, I have brought in its author J.M. Kay to face twenty probing questions; the first ten to gain some insight into the book and the author, and the second ten to examine his geek credentials.
Enjoy the interview, and keep an eye out for the giveaway that I’ll post shortly, as one lucky reader will have the chance to win a signed copy of the novel, plus a $15 Amazon gift card.
01. Your début novel, “Under The Shadow,” is due to be published in October. Can you give a summary of what it is about?
“Under the Shadow” is a story of self-discovery. Two thirteen-year-old boys, Jason Swann and Daniel Elliot, are forced into friendship as they are accidentally abducted by the Archivist, a robotic being created by an ancient alien race known as the Shantar Anar for the purpose of studying the universe. But of course, things that seem like coincidence reek of deeper mystery as the boys and the Archivist find themselves lost in an adventure on a foreign world, Ranis Anjiran. What they discover there only further dismantles the myths surrounding their accidental abduction and their connection to the Shantar Anar.
While the boys are in far off worlds, their respective families in the small town of Ashton, in the American Midwest, desperately seek to find them, thinking the worst. Their search uncovers a hidden history with ties to the events surrounding Jason and Daniel’s journey.
02. What was the inspiration that lead to you writing this story?
I grew up reading fantasy and science fiction, so one of those genres felt like a natural choice for me to tell a story. Science fiction became the conduit, but the inspiration is based on my own feelings about how human beings deal with fear. And how our fears, more than any other emotion, dictate the state of the world we have created.
03. Many writers when pitching their ideas, will often describe them as “this title, meets that title”. How would you pitch “Under The Shadow” to potential readers?
“Close Encounters of the Third Kind” meets “A Wrinkle in Time.”
04. The Young Adult book market is a very saturated one at the moment. Why should readers place “Under The Shadow” at the top of their to read list?
I think readers will find that “Under The Shadow” is a very different kind of story, one that tries hard to avoid the trope of clearly defined “good” battles clearly defined “evil” and that’s just the way things are. It is an intricate story that doesn’t attempt to dumb down either the child characters or the adult characters. It is full of technological imaginings that are very unique.
05. If “Under The Shadow” were to be adapted for the big screen by Hollywood, who would you choose to direct the film, and who would you cast as the leads?
My real dream for it would be to have Hayao Miyazaki adapt it into an animated film as only he could. I love his movies, especially “Spirited Away.” His artistry and imagination would give incredible life and detail to the world I’ve created in a way I don’t think any other person alive could duplicate.
06. What would you be doing with your life if you were not an author today?
I can tell you what I am doing with my life, since currently being a soon-to-be-published, first-time author isn’t paying all the bills. I have a background in economics and accounting and I’ve worked in that world since I graduated from university. And yes, being an author is much more fun.
07. Who would you say are the biggest influences on your writing?
I have to break this question into categories. My biggest influences as far as fantasy and science fiction are concerned are Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, creators of my favourite fantasy series “The Death Gate Cycle” and Robert Heinlen and Orson Scott Card for science fiction. The literature nut in me is influenced by James Calvell and Alexandre Dumas simply because “Shogun” and “The Count of Monte Cristo” (unabridged) are the two best books I have ever read. I would be remiss if I didn’t include T.S. Eliot, as the emotional qualities of his poems, and the feelings they evoke, are special.
08. There is a tendency for critics to liken new authors to successful, previously published writers. Which author would you most like to be compared to?
Well, if we are going to be lofty, then I would say Robert Heinlein, simply because he used the genre of science fiction to tell contemporary and meaningful human stories with such amazing expertise.
09. Which book, by any other author, do you wish you had written?
I know I mentioned this in an earlier question but that would have to be “The Count of Monte Cristo.” There isn’t one word in its twelve hundred pages that isn’t perfect, as far as I’m concerned.
10. Which prestigious literary award would you most like to win?
I would love to win the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry – what I write when I’m not writing books. Of course the Hugo and Nebula awards for science fiction would be pretty nice too!
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11. I consider soap to be the greatest invention in history. What do you consider to be the greatest invention?
Agriculture – it’s the reason I get to sit at a desk writing rather than spending fifteen hours a day hunting for berries and small woodland creatures.
12. If you had to be stranded on a deserted island for five years, which fictional character would you most want to accompany you?
Belgarath the Sorcerer from David Eddings book series “The Belgariad” and “The Malloreon.” As a pretty much all powerful mage, he could make those five years endlessly entertaining and at the end simply teleport me to wherever I wished to be.
13. When I was a child, I tried to get to Narnia through my wardrobe. Which fictional world/universe would you most like to visit?
The world of virtual reality created by Tad Williams in his series “OtherLand.”
14. If you owned a time travelling DeLorean car, which era would you like to travel to?
The accountant in me wants to travel back a mere hundred years and buy up half the land in Southern California. The historian in me would love to travel back to the days when the greatest scholars in the world built the Library of Alexandria so I can save all of the one-of-a-kind works of human knowledge lost in the fire that destroyed it.
15. If you were granted three wishes by a genie in a bottle, what would you wish for?
1. The ability to travel through time with no consequences to my actions.
2. The ability to travel effortlessly through the universe.
3. Of course, wish for more wishes.
16. With superheroes being so popular in film and TV at the moment, what superpower would you most like to possess and why?
I’d probably go with either telepathy or intangibility. The ability to control another person’s thoughts is tempting, but also is the ability to jump of mountain tops or out of planes with no consequence.
17. In the 1982 film Tron, Jeff Bridges was sucked into a video game. Which video game would you like to be sucked into?
Chrono Trigger, the amazing ‘90’s RPG created by Square.
18. If you could resurrect any deceased author in history, who would you choose to bring back?
Shakespeare, so he could write plays about the world today.
19. Which unfulfilled ambition do you most want to accomplish before you pass away?
To write every book and every poem and every short story that currently lives as in incomprehensible jumbled mess inside my head. If I get halfway there I’ll consider it a success.
20. Are you dreading Star Wars: Episode 7 as much as I am?
I’m still trying to pretend episode 1-3 was just a bad dream.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank J.M. Kay for his participation in this interview, as well as to wish him every success with the launch of Under The Shadow.
I would also like to thank DeeAnn Veeder of BooksEndependent for allowing Another World to participate in this blog tour for the book, for arranging the interview with the author, and for all her kind assistance over the last few weeks.