UPDATE: Read about her Book launch for Book 2 and Book 1
Interview by Brock Eastman
Featuring Code Name Flood
Perfect for fans of Jurassic Park and Jurassic World!
Code Name Flood is the electrifying sequel to The Ark Plan, which School Library Journal praised by saying: “Nonstop action, marauding dinosaurs, and kids on the run: What’s not to like?”
Last week, twelve-year-old Sky found a cryptic message from her dad, who mysteriously fled the safety of their underground compound five years ago. The note said the fate of the world depended on her going topside, to a lost world that’s ruled by dinosaurs.
Today, after a treacherous journey through the wilderness, Sky and her friends have made it to their destination: Lake Michigan. There they discover a hidden underwater lab, and with the help of its scientists, Sky will finally learn the truth about her father’s secret mission.
Tomorrow, it will be up to Sky and her friends to save humanity from the very edge of extinction.
Readers who enjoy middle-grade adventures by Brandon Mull and Rick Riordan will love this action-packed story, which takes the premise of Michael Crichton’s bestselling classic to a whole new level, envisioning a post-apocalyptic future where cloned dinosaurs have taken over, and the world’s only hope is one group of courageous kids.
Brock: What was your inspiration for writing Edge of Extinction series?
Laura: While my inspiration for the entire series came from a visit to the New York Natural History Museum and their amazing dinosaur display, the idea for a large part of this book actually came from the New York Subway system. When I visited New York with my mom, I was amazed by the underground networks that crisscrossed and twisted underneath the city, and I wondered what it would look like if the human race had to live in those tunnels, instead of just using them to get from point A to point B. So when I was writing CODE NAME FLOOD, and I needed an East Compound, I put it in New York’s subway system.
Brock: Tell us about the main characters. Who are they? What makes them unique?
Laura: Sky, Todd, and Shawn are all back for book two, and I added a new character I think everyone is going to enjoy named Chaz. I don’t want to say too much about her and give away a big surprise in the story, but I think she is one of my favorite characters. She’s spunky and funny, and I think she is a great foil for Sky’s one-track determination, Todd’s humor, and Shawn’s seriousness.
Brock: In three words, what is this book about?
Laura: Sea Monsters, Determination, Friendship
Brock: Do you outline the entire book before starting, or do you write as you go and let the characters take control of the story?
Laura: My character’s are the boss, I just show up for work every day and do what they tell me.
Brock: How do you believe this story relates to the lives of readers?
Laura: My readers are usually middle school age kids, and while they crave adventure and excitement, but a lot of times they aren’t quite ready for the real thing yet. My book is an edge-of-your seat thrill ride from page one, and my readers get to LIVE all that danger and excitement from the safety of their couch!
Brock: What is your favorite genre to write for?
Laura: Science fiction and fantasy will always have my heart; since those are the genres I most enjoy reading. Besides, there is something intoxicating about building worlds and creating something that only existed in your imagination up until it hits the page.
Brock: How many books are planned for this series?
Laura: This is the second and last book in the series. CODE NAME FLOOD wraps up the mysteries and questions that were started in Edge of Extinction-The Ark Plan. That being said, I’d love to write another one. The world I created for Sky and her friends is just too much fun, so never say never!
Brock: Any certain research required for the book, or is it all from your imagination?
Laura: While book one required quite a lot of dinosaur research, Code Name Flood required research of a slightly different variety. You many have noticed the rather fierce looking creatures on the cover, well, those AREN’T swimming dinosaurs. They are ancient aquatic marine reptiles. Which is a mouthful to say and an even bigger mouthful to incorporate seamlessly into a story. Despite that annoying technicality, the research on creatures like the kronosaurus and elasmosaurus was incredibly interesting. There is just something about sea monsters that sends a shiver up your spine. I’m not so sure my characters would agree, as I unceremoniously dumped them into a lake swarming with the creatures, but it makes for a fun read!
Brock: Why did you choose to focus on a female protagonist?
Laura: My narrator, Sky Mundy, is a girl, which is funny since EVERY other book I’ve ever written has been from a male perspective. Please don’t ask me why, since I have no idea. In fact, the next series I’m pitching is written with a boy protagonist. I guess part of it is that I was never a girly-girl. I always hung with the boys (I was the only girl invited to many a boy’s birthday party in grade school), and I loved sports and being outside. So I guess I have an easier time seeing the world that way. My solution with Sky was to make her a lot like who I was at that age. She came out a very focused and driven character because that’s who I was!
Brock: Are you working on the next book in the series?
Laura: As I mentioned before, the Edge of Extinction series is done for the moment, but I do have other things in the works! I’m not at liberty to mention any of them yet, but I think they are pretty great! No dinosaurs this time though, sorry!
Brock: Do you plot or outline the entire series before you begin writing, or do your books take on lives of their own? Or is there a combination?
Laura: I should outline, but I don’t. I’ve tried it, and it never works out. (I’ve never been very good at following directions!) I’m what you’d call a “pantser” which means that I “fly by the seat of my pants” when I write. Some (my mother) would also tell you that I live a lot of my life that way. For better or for worse. I like having the freedom to take the story wherever it needs to go.
Brock: If your book changed as you wrote it, how is it different than how you originally planned?
Laura: A large part of this book takes place in the East Compound, which used to be the underground subway network of New York City. This was never in my original plans for the book, but when my original manuscript got split into two books, I loved the idea of taking the story into the subway network.
Brock: How do you hope parents will use this book with their kids?
Laura: I hope they use CODE NAME FLOOD in the same way that they used Edge of Extinction-The Ark Plan, to foster a LOVE of reading in their kids. I think we get really wrapped up (and I was guilty of this as a teacher) in worrying about what our kids are comprehending, deciphering, inferring, and predicting while they read, when really, we should be worried about fostering a love of reading in our kids. In handing them a great book and telling them they get to read in the same way we’d hand them a huge ice cream cone with sprinkles and tell them to enjoy.
Brock: Are you a full-time or part-time author?
Laura: I’m as full-time as being a stay-at-home mom to two small children allows…so not nearly as full-time as I would like some days! My writing time usually comes after my kids are in bed for the night and the house is quiet. It has been a huge blessing to be an author and a mom, and I have an incredibly supportive family who steps in if I need to do an author visit or a signing. It’s really the best of both worlds.
Brock: Expound on the spiritual themes in the Edge of Extinction.
Laura: I’m not sure if it counts as a spiritual theme, but there is definitely some biblical symbolism in both books. I wove references and symbols from the story of Noah’s Ark throughout both books, which is where the title CODE NAME FLOOD, came from.
Brock: When did you realize you wanted to become a writer?
Laura: I realized I wanted to be a writer the first time a book grabbed me and refused to let go until I finished it. It was an incredible experience to live in someone else’s world for a while, to be someone else. I put the book down and went, wow, I want to do this someday.
Brock: What are some of the strongest influences on your writing?
Laura: I mentioned in the first interview we did about Edge of Extinction-The Ark Plan, that I taught seventh grade language arts for six years before becoming an author, and I think the biggest influence on what I write are the kids that I taught. I had so many students who struggled to get engaged in a book, to really fall into a story, and every time I sit down to write, those are the kids I have in the forefront of my mind. I want to write a book that they can’t put down. I picture that student I had who told me that they didn’t like reading, and I imagine handing them my book and saying, “Oh yeah, prove it.” That may sound odd, the whole imaginary interaction in my head, but if you think about it…that is exactly what an author does for a living. Conduct imaginary interactions and then put them down on paper. So really, I’m not crazy, I’m just a professional writer!
Brock: What is the one author, living or dead, who you would co-write a book with and why?
Laura: I would give anything to co-write a book with Tamora Pierce. I’ve been reading her books ever since grade school, and I still buy everything she writes. Her books are the ones that I’ve read and re-read a million times, and that I re-buy when my copies get a little to beat up. I first fell for her Song of the Lioness series. Her protagonist, Alanna, was a spunky red-headed twelve year old with a will of iron, and I wanted to be her. So I guess it isn’t all that surprising that when I wrote my own book, I made my protagonist a red-headed girl!
Brock: In what ways does your faith impact how you approach writing?
Laura: I think my faith impacts my writing in the same way my faith impacts every aspect of my life. I am first and foremost a Christian, and I live my life that way. What I write, how I write, and who I write about is all a reflection of that.
Brock: Favorite place to vacation?
Laura: Ever since having kids, I don’t think vacation is a place anymore. Vacation is now going to the grocery store…alone. My husband and I had the house to ourselves for an entire Sunday a few weeks ago, and I think we enjoyed it more than most people enjoy sitting by the beach. I love my kids to pieces, but there is something about being alone, about remembering who you were before you were “mom”, that feels like a vacation.
Brock: Favorite pasta dish?
Laura: My mom’s spaghetti. It’s nothing fancy, just sauce out of a jar, but it always tastes better if my mom makes it.
Brock: What is your favorite dinosaur?
Laura: The Spinosaurus, which is why he got to be front and center on the cover of book one. I mentioned before that there really weren’t “swimming dinosaurs.” Well, there weren’t until they discovered the Spinosaurus. The more we find out about this terrifying guy, the cooler he gets, and I think he is eventually going to give the T. Rex a run for his money in the dinosaur popularity contest.
Brock: What is your favorite thing about writing books?
Laura: Getting to talk to the kids that have read them. It never gets old, and it’s such a thrill every time someone tells me they enjoyed my story.
Brock: Be sure to check out Laura's newest released book in the Edge of Extinction series, Code Name Flood. You won't want to miss it!
Author Website: LauraMartinBooks.com
Author Facebook: @LauraMartinBooks
Author Twitter: @LauraMartinBook
Author Pinterest: Laura Martin
Author Instagram @LauraMartinBooks
Interview by Brock Eastman
Featuring A Plague of Unicorns
Have you ever heard read a book by Jane Yolen? There’s a good chance you have. The author of over 350 books and recipient of countless awards you’ve likely picked up or seen a Jane Yolen book while browsing your local bookstore. She’s been called the Hans Christian Andersen of America and the Aesop of the twentieth century. I’m honored to have had the chance to sit down and talk about her recent Zondervan release; A Plague of Unicorns.
Brock: Jane, thanks for taking the time to share about A Plague of Unicorns with us. Can you first start with how you came up with the idea for the novel?
Jane: The prosaic answer is that I was introduced to editor Kim Childress at the Texas Library Assn. Meeting two years ago and she said she was a big fan and would love to do a book with me. I knew ZonderKidz, but wasn't sure I had something that might work for them. But then I remembered a short story I'd published years ago in a book of mine called Here There be Unicorns. And when I told her [Kim] a bit about it, and how I thought it could be made into a middle grade novel, her eyes lit up. She asked to see the story and some idea of how I would turn it into a novel.
The deeper answer: I have been fascinated by unicorns since a child. One of my first published poems was in my college magazine about unicorns. So to be asked to go back to engage, enlarge, and be enveloped one again in unicorns was a gift.
Brock: She’ll probably be embarrassed I’m sharing this, but she’s my sister so it’s a brother’s right. When my sister was in grade school her room was decked out in unicorns for a good while, statues, bedspread, poster, curtains. Who are the main characters in the story?
Jane: James, heir to the dukedom of Callanshire, who's father has not come back from the Holy Lands and is presumed hurt, imprisoned, or dead. He is a child who asks questions, though he seems rather more interested in asking questions than listening to the answers. His sister Alexandria who--for the medieval times--is a mighty strong young woman. And then there are the various monks and abbots who all stand for various minds of teachers.
Brock: Jane, would you share one fact about each main character that no one else knows?
Jane: James is rather like me at that age, and rather like my middle child, my son Adam. Alexandria is named after my oldest granddaughter Glendon Alexandria Callan-Piatt. I have the abbot's cider recipe but didn't put it in the book, nor will I give it out.
Brock: A cider recipe you’re withholding. We’ll see if we can’t get it from you some time in the future. In three sentences what A Plague of Unicorns about?
Jane: It is about unlikely heroes, faith and trust, learning to listen to answers--though they may come from some of the oddest places--and about how kindness towards an enemy or a presumed enemy can often overcome even the meanest of them.
Brock: How do you believe this story relates to the lives of readers?
Jane: Every reader brings a bit of themselves (their baggage if you will) to a story. And what they take out is unique to them. So that is something you will have to ask them, not me.
Brock: Fair answer. What is your preferred genre to write for?
Jane: Depends which day you ask. Right now it's poetry and fantasy because that's what I'm working on.
Brock: Any certain research required for A Plague of Unicorns, or was it all from your imagination?
Jane: As I had already written a number of short stories, poems, and even a novel (The Transfigured Hart) about unicorns, I didn't need to do a lot of research about them. Medieval abbeys/monasteries however. . .the summer I was working on the book I was in Scotland and visited a few ruins. It helped me visualize them.
Brock: I’m sure that was fun and added more depth to the writing. Why did you choose to tell the story from this perspective?
Jane: I tell the story that wants telling. In this case, it's about a younger brother/older sister (as I was to my brother Steve). But with sixty novels out, I have written from both boys’ and girls’ points of view.
Brock: Is it difficult to be accurate to a Biblical perspective when writing fantasy fiction?
Jane: The unicorn is seen in Christian terms as an avatar of Christ: pure, able to heal (with its horn), and in many of the stories killed and then resurrected in a garden. (See the unicorn tapestries.) But I decided to make them an inexplicable force of nature in this book, which the monks cannot conquer until it is done with gentle persuasion and a kind of love.
Brock: Now let’s switch gears and learn about you as an author. Where do you like to write?
Jane: Downstairs in my house, surrounded by photos of my children and grandchildren.
Brock: Are you a full-time or part-time author/writer?
Jane: More than full time. After all I have more than 350 books out!
Brock: How long does it usually take you to write a single book?
Jane: As long as it takes. I once wrote a picture book in three days, including all the revisions. But my picture book OWL MOON took fifteen years to write.
Brock: When you write do you outline the entire story before starting, or do you write as you go and let the characters take control of the story?
Jane: There are two kinds of writers--outliners, and those of us who fly into the midst. Of course in this book [A Plague of Unicorns] I already had an outline, the published short story. But I had to let quite a bit of it go!
Brock: It sounds like you prefer to ‘fly into the midst.’ When did you realize you wanted to become a writer?
Jane: As a child I was always writing. I thought I would be a poet for my heart and a journalist like my dad to make a living. I was a lousy journalist.
Brock: What was your favorite book as a teen or child?
Jane: I was such a constant reader, it continually changed. But some of my favorites were The Colour Fairy Books by Andrew Lang, any version of the King Arthur story, The Secret Garden, Little Women, James Thurber’s Thirteen Clocks, The Story of Ferdinand, and any horse and dog book.
Brock: What are your hopes for your future as an author?
Jane: I am about to turn 76. I still have many stories in me. I hope I can live long enough to write most of them.
Brock: Now for some lightning round questions. Coke or Pepsi?
Jane: Mineral water.
Brock: Soft shell or hard shell tacos?
Jane: Don't like tacos.
Brock: Favorite place to vacation?
Brock: Favorite season?
Brock: Do you have a particular drink or food you consume when you write?
Jane: British decaf tea and dried dates.
Brock: Favorite color?
Brock: Do you listen to music while you write?
Jane: Never. I am so musical, it would drive the story's rhythms rather than letting the story do that.
Author website: JaneYolen.com
Author Twitter: @JaneYolen
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