“So, Steph, now are you going to admit this was a bad idea?” Archer asked as we hung prone in the rusted belly of a retired fleet ship somewhere near the edge of the Beta quadrant.
“We needed to replace that ship for Veronica Rossi. I didn’t know someone else was here! Damn it! Those things are carrying some kind of round, instrument. Is that a probe? What are they going to do with that?”
“Oh, use your imagination, Steph!” I hissed, tugging on my restraints as the tall, thin, pale aliens talked amongst themselves and made awkward gestures at us using their strange instruments. The aliens flipped a switch and electrical currents crackled out of our bodies and up the chains toward the alien’s weird machine.
Abruptly they turned, took their shiny, bulbous, foreign tools that had suddenly sprung to life, and began applying them to the spaceship – using them to remove panels of metal sheets.
“Huh…” Adam said, relaxing in his restraints, “It’s a screwdriver! And I think they’re using us to power them.”
“Yeah. Well, they’ll still probably kill us if we don’t get out of here,” Stephanie hissed. “Quick, while they’re busy – we have to escape.”
Abruptly, my restraints fell away and my body dropped to the ground. When I glanced, I saw that my rescuer was a woman in a black skintight suit, wrestling with Adam Archer’s restraints and connecting some kind of battery to the chains.
“Who are you?” I asked incredulously.
“I’m an author and I want to do an interview with you,” she answered, removing her helmet and standing akimbo before us like the Goddess of Badass.
“Meagan Spooner? Author of Skylark and coauthor of the highly anticipated Young Adult novel, These Broken Stars? Hell, yeah!” I cheered, earning a censuring glance from my companions, thankfully the aliens didn’t seem to notice.
She grinned in response and went to let Steph go.
Archer massaged his sore wrists. “Believe me, we’d love to, Meagan-”
“Meg,” she corrected as Stephanie dropped to the ground. Meagan slapped a weird, flashing bracelet onto each of our wrists and then crept closer to the engine, keeping an eye on the distracted aliens.
“Meg,” Archer continued, “We’d love to do an interview, but we don’t have any paper or pens or crayons and I don’t relish the idea of doing it in my own blood! I don’t really think this is the time or place…”
Steph sprang to her feet, pulled out her notepad, and pen. “Way ahead of you, but I can’t think of any questions.” At Archer’s and my stare she continued, “What? Someone has to be organized! ”
“I have a question,” I said. “Skylark is about a girl, Lark, living in a doomed world where children are harvested of their magical energy. Those aliens just harvested our electrical energy. How do we know you’re not harvesting us of our energy now?” I gestured to my flashing bracelet.
Meg fiddled with the controls and tampered with some of the computer systems as she answered. “Well, I do get younger and more beautiful and more talented every day. So that’s gotta be a tip-off right there that something’s going on. Plus, there’s this whole army of machines that runs around my apartment cleaning and doing my laundry. How do I power those? You’ve got to ask yourself…”
Steph began jotting her answer down as Archer and I followed Meagan through the ship. “Ladies, there is a time and bloody place for this,” Archer reiterated. “We need to escape.”
“Archer,” I replied with a shake of my head, the walls extending into the distance like an ominous grey tunnel, “You’ll quickly learn here at Cuddlebuggery that there is no good time to do an interview. They usually all end up with ghosts or ninjas or space ships crashing… So, go ahead and ask a question while we run for our lives.”
“The fu…” Archer said. “Fine, okay, if it gets us out quicker…what was your favourite part of Skylark to write?”
“The scenes where Lark is interacting with the outside world for the first time were some of the most challenging and some of the most fun,” Meg said, stopping abruptly and, putting her ear to one of the thick, metallic doors that lined the corridor.
“Whenever a storm would roll in I’d go running outside to sit in the yard, letting the rain and wind and lightning rage around me, trying to imagine what it’d be like to have never experienced this before. I did crazy things like wandering around outside blindfolded, to try and wake up my other senses… we’re used to the way wind feels and smells and sounds, so we don’t notice. You have to really focus on it to imagine what it would be like to experience those sensations for the very first time.” Meg straightened up and glared at the door in frustration. After a brief pause, she slipped out a laserpowered katana and stabbed it into the control panel embedded in the frame. The circuitry fizzed and the display flickered. Meg flicked open a panel on the handle and typed in a code to hack through the door. When the door slid open with a swish, Meg turned back to answer the rest of the question.
“The first time Lark sees the sky–she’s terrified by it, how empty and open and huge it is. She’s lived in a dome her entire life, and never imagined something so vast and limitless. There are little things tucked away throughout the book where she sees things for the first time. Wind. Bees. Clouds. Sunlight. She’s never seen flowers before. She’s never been cold before. And rain. The scene where she gets rained on for the first time in her life is one of my favorites.”
“How did you? Huh?” Steph stammered. “Say you could harvest creative energy instead of magical. Which author’s creative energy would you harvest? Hypothetically…” Steph asked, her eyes dodging to us with burgeoning concern.
Meg chuckled and led us through the door toward the center of the ship. “Oh, this is where I become a super-villain. I wouldn’t be able to stop with just one. I’d say I was just going to take a little… you know, just enough to give me an edge, not enough to hurt them. But pretty soon there’d be an epidemic of author-vegetables wandering around like zombies, moaning “boooooks” and gnawing on hardcovers. Hungry for the words they can’t find inside anymore. MuahahahaHAHAHAAH–”
“Oh by Odins great and mighty beard,” Archer said, throwing his hands up in frustration. “We’re lost, on a hostile alien ship, in the middle of the freaking Beta quadrant, and Meagan Spooner is going to suck out our creativity with her lightsaber! We’re doomed!”
“That’s not a lightsaber, it’s a laserkatana,” I corrected. When everyone looked at me I shrugged. “What? It is! Also, I need to drink!”
Meg gave me a cool wink, and went to work on the giant safe in front of us. A jet of gas sprayed out unexpectedly and hit me in the face. Meagan looked temporarily embarrassed before muttering something about my problem being solved.
“Maybe I shouldn’t say who, just in case it happens and the trail leads right back to me,” Meagan amended, picking back up the previous conversation. “But I’d love to have a window into the minds of talent like Peter Beagle for his prose, Lois Lowry for how beautifully simple and emotional her writing is. Aaron Sorkin for his dialogue and banter. Terry Pratchett for his humor. Patricia McKillip for her poetry. Joss Whedon for his inexplicable Whedon-ness.”
With a heaving stab, Meagan’s laserkatana dug into metal and an earsplitting shriek cracked through the hull. We paused and waited to see if the aliens had heard it, but nothing happened.
Archer pulled me aside. “Are you insane? What the hell happened to getting out of here?”
“We can’t leave Meagan alone! What if those aliens get her? She’s too awesome to get drained like a battery!” I replied.
Archer shook his head and sighed. “Try this on for size. Meagan, I have another question: Could Lark kick our asses?”
Meg was too busy hacking into the high tech safe to look at us as she responded. “It depends. Did you give her a reason to?”
I paled and Archer gave me a meaningful glance. Was that subtext? Oh damn, I did not want to get on her bad side. Archer nudged me and gestured for the door, but I was starting to feel a little weird. As if Meagan had heard us, she continued. “Lark is not an overly physical person. Her strength tends to be mental, both in the sense that she has to make truly terrible choices, and make them knowing it’s going to be the difference between life and death, and not just hers–but also in the sense that her abilities are with magic and thought, not fists or bows. So I think the short answer is no, she probably couldn’t kick your ass. But she could kill you with her brain.
If you gave her a reason.”
Archer and I shuddered while Steph, oblivious to it all, jotted down Meagan’s words.
“That doesn’t mean anything,” I whispered back to Archer. At his look of disbelief, I continued, “I’ll prove it.”
“How similar are you and Lark?” I asked as innocently as I could.
“I don’t think we’re very similar at all.” Meagan replied nonchantly as I shot Archer a victorious smirk. “A lot of authors find shades of themselves in their characters, and I’ve never really found that to be the case with mine. On the one hand, of course all my characters contain elements of me–I wrote them. It’d be concerning if they didn’t. But that’s as far as it goes, for the most part. Lark is in many ways who I wish I could be, in a realistic world. She’s far from perfect. When she first escapes her city she’s utterly incompetent, completely unprepared for what she faces. I feel like that a lot of the time, embarking upon this publishing journey for the first time. But Lark adapts, she learns, she comes to understand how she fits in such a world, how to survive it. She’s afraid all the time, but she continues on in spite of it. She fights for the things and the people she cares about, even though she was never a fighter before. She wasn’t born strong, but by the end of the book she’s on her way to becoming steel.”
I brushed a tear off my cheek and stepped forward for a hug with Meagan. “That’s beautiful. Really, really beautiful. I’m going to email everyone and tell them that.”
“Oh boy. Whatever that gas was… I don’t think it was good news,” Steph muttered. “We can’t have Kat telling people where we are and that we were trying to steal a spacecraft!”
“Distract Meg before Kat starts hitting on her,” Archer said, snatching my iPad and holding it above me teasingly – chuckling as I jumped for it.
“Give it back! Give it back, Archer! That’s my baby!”
When Meg turned from the door to us questioningly, Steph stepped in front and asked another question. “So…What was your biggest influence in shaping Lark’s world?”
Meg rolled her eyes as I kicked Archer in the masculine area and snatched the iPad back greedily. She turned back to the door and worked the laserkatana in deeper. “My own world. The geography of Lark’s world is based on the place where I grew up. And what kid didn’t grow up thinking “What would this place be like with magic?” Okay, there’s probably plenty of kids who didn’t, but if you’re reading this, you’re probably one of the ones who did. Some of the things Lark encounters in SKYLARK are things I thought of when I was younger, exploring the woods behind my house or walking through the deserted Smithsonian Museum of Natural History on an after-hours tour.”
“Steph!” Archer said, drawing her off to the side. “We need to get out of here-”
“Dude, relax. Seriously, we’re with Meagan Spooner. If those aliens try anything she’ll put that laserkatana through their brains.”
“No, I mean, Kat. It’s like she’s drunk. We don’t want her to pass out. Because whilst yes, that would be bloody hilarious, I am not carrying her.”
“Ah, I see you point.” Steph amended. “Okay, time to haul some ass. I’ll ask one more question while you get that flask off Kat.”
Archer grimaced. “I already tried that, Steph. She’s a mean drunk! She kicked me in the pods.”
“Yeah… about that, just get creative. She’ll hit her melancholy stage soon enough.” Steph left Archer and I together and approached Meg. “Usually post-apocalyptic worlds are shaped by something the author wants to say about society. Was this the case for you?”
“The initial scrap of an idea for SKYLARK came to me while I was listening to a piece in my car on NPR about the energy crisis. I zoned out after a while, thinking about alternate sources for energy and power–and being a fantasy geek, I got to “magic” pretty quickly. The statement about society was originally that even if we had it to do all over again, with different sources for energy, we’d still over-exploit it, fight wars over it, ruin it. But in SKYLARK, that’s all happened over a hundred years ago. They’re living in the aftermath of humanities mistakes. The apocalypse has already happened. Ultimately I think my message is more hopeful, because it’s about what happens after the inevitable collapse of civilization. It’s about what happens next.”
Archer used Meg as a distraction and stole my iPad again. He paused momentarily, trying to decide what to do with it, before he simply snapped it in half.
I gasped in horror. “No! Archer! You’re the devil!” through sheer rage and fury, I pushed him into the wall, activating the intoxicating spray and dousing him in it. “Take that!”
Archer waved me off, his pupils widening alarmingly. His seven foot frame started to sway. “Nah. I’m good.”
“Ohhhh…. Now I’m pissed. I’m officially an angry drunk, you overgrown viking!”
Archer waved back and forth on his feet. He lifted a hand and vaguely pointed in Steph’s direction. “She made me!”
Confusing his meaning and assuming he was pointing at Meagan, I approached unsteadily. “You, Meagan Spooner, and I are sworn enemies as you used to live in Melbourne! I will be avenged!”
Steph wormed her way in between a chuckling Meagan and my inebriated self. “It seems you’ve travelled a bit. Was there any one place that helped you sculpt Lark’s world?”
“It’s funny, most of the things I write are influenced heavily by the places I’ve traveled. But for SKYLARK, I looked no further than my own backyard. Back when it was originally set in our world, it was set in the D.C. area. The Institute was based on the Smithsonian Institute, the “city” was D.C. itself, and when she escapes, she’s setting out through suburban Virginia and heading across the Appalachians. When I decided to change the setting to an entirely fantasy world, I kept much of the details the same, because to me, it wasn’t a completely secondary world–it was an alternate universe. This was what my home would be like, IF things had turned out differently. If we had magic.”
Archer and I bumped chests and giggled, my quarrel forgotten.
“That’s it. What is this?” Steph asked, looking at the panel on the wall. “An anti-burglary device aimed at inebriating criminals into uselessness,” she read. “This is… not good…”
Meg’s laserkatana beeped and the door to the safe slid open. Meg dashed forward and snatched at a heavy, metallic, finecrafted piece of technology in the shape of a cube.
“You’re here treasure hunting?” Steph exclaimed. “What does that do?” she asked, pointing to the cube.
Meagen fixed a warm smile on her face, edging away from Stephanie’s annoyed glare. “I’m so excited to be on Cuddlebuggery. Can’t wait! If you need me to clarify anything or answer anything else just let me know.” Meg stuffed the cube into her bag, pulled out her laserkatana from the safe and made for the door.
“Wait! You have to tell me!” Steph insisted, blocking the way.
“I could have sworn I replied… Hey Kat, Melbourne is so far superior to Sydney it’s not even funny. It shouldn’t even be a contest. You’re clearly delusional.”
“What have you done?” Steph groaned as I launched for Meg with a shriek, Steph moving to hold me back and inadvertently allowing Meagan to slip past her.
We all froze as the aliens at the other end of the ship stopped and began making worrying sounds.
“Busted,” Steph hissed. “Exit time?”
“Exit time,” we agreed.
Meg led the way, dashing down the dark, rusty halls with Steph and I dragging Archer along after her as he muttered about a little goblin.
The aliens converged on us out of nowhere, their weapons drawn and their drooling mouths twisting in malicious delight. “I told you we should have left earlier! I knew I should’ve brought my axe!” slurred Archer.
Meagan pressed a button on her flashing bracelet, winked at us and whipped out a gun. Steph screamed and ducked out of the way as Meg blew a hole in the side of the ship, the vacuum of space sucking us out of the safety of the old cruiser.
The silence was deafening and my skin felt a strange, tugging sensation. We drifted for less than two seconds before our beeping bracelets were locked on by Meg’s ship and we were scooped up dramatically into the holding bay.
The moment the door shut and gravity returned, Archer, Steph, Meg and I dropped to the floor, sucking in air and coughing.
We lay, sprawled on the hard floor, soaking in the joy of being alive. All except for Meg who jumped up like nothing had happened and began maneuvering the ship away toward home.
“You survived your first interview, Archer,” I choked out. “Thoughts?”
“Just one,” he wheezed. “Meagan, you also have a project coming up with Amie Kaufman – what can you tell us about that?”
He grinned triumphantly and I high fived him. “That’s the spirit.”
Meg grinned too and answered his question. “It’s so much fun. It’s so very different from SKYLARK, but in a good way. THESE BROKEN STARS is a science fiction story about two people who were never supposed to meet–a rich socialite princess-type and an up-by-your-bootstraps kind of soldier. They end up stranded on an abandoned planet together when the spaceliner they’re traveling on crashes, and they have to work together to survive. So you’ve got some of the wilderness survival aspects that SKYLARK does, and I will say that there are moments in THESE BROKEN STARS that will rival SKYLARK in terms of hit-you-in-the-face knock-your-breath-out twistiness. But there’s also a lot of banter and humor in TBS that comes from Amie, who is tremendously clever and funny. (Much more so than I am!) We each bring such different things to the table, but that makes us more suited to writing together, not less. We have such different strengths, and that comes out in the story, I think.
I can say I love it because it’s only half-mine. I don’t have to have all of the same self-doubt that you get with a solo novel. I’m not ashamed to say that I completely adore TBS because of Amie’s writing.”
“Home?” Steph asked.
“Home,” I replied. “Thanks, Meg, for saving us and being so completely awesome.”
“I have to say,” she replied, swiveling her chair around to face us, “That I am falling head over heels for book bloggers–you guys rock.”
“I’ll drink to that!” I chirped.
“No!” Steph and Archer yelled in unison.
And that’s the true story of Archer’s first Cuddlebuggery interview!
We want to give a huge thank you to Meagan Spooner for the interview & rescuing us from the aliens!
[author] [author_image timthumb='on']http://cuddlebuggery.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/photo1.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Meagan Spooner grew up reading and writing every spare moment of the day, while dreaming about life as an archaeologist, a marine biologist, an astronaut. She graduated from Hamilton College in New York with a degree in playwriting, and has spent several years since then living in Australia. She’s traveled with her family all over the world to places like Egypt, South Africa, the Arctic, Greece, Antarctica, and the Galapagos, and there’s a bit of every trip in every story she writes. She currently lives and writes in Northern Virginia, but the siren call of travel is hard to resist, and there’s no telling how long she’ll stay there. In her spare time she plays guitar, plays video games, plays with her cat, and reads. She is the author of SKYLARK, coming out August 1 from Carolrhoda Lab/Lerner Books. She is also the co-author of THESE BROKEN STARS, forthcoming from Disney-Hyperion in Fall 2013.
Don’t forget to check out Skylark available August 1st 2012!
Vis in magia, in vita vi. In magic there is power, and in power, life.
For fifteen years, Lark Ainsley waited for the day when her Resource would be harvested and she would finally be an adult. After the harvest she expected a small role in the regular, orderly operation of the City within the Wall. She expected to do her part to maintain the refuge for the last survivors of the Wars. She expected to be a tiny cog in the larger clockwork of the city.
Lark did not expect to become the City’s power supply.
For fifteen years, Lark Ainsley believed in a lie. Now she must escape the only world she’s ever known…or face a fate more unimaginable than death.
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