“We’re trekking through a forest again? Why do you hate me?” Kat complains.
“Well, Josin and I were talking about where we should meet to do the Q&A and she was like ‘let’s go camping’ and I was like ‘I love camping’,” I say, pulling on my nap sack.
We’re meeting up with Josin L. McQuein, author of Arclight for a little interview session. I knew Kat wouldn’t be happy with our choice of destination, but I try to make it my mission to put her in at least two compromising situations every week. What are good co-boggers for anyway? The Forbidden Forest on the Hogwarts grounds seemed like a perfect place as any.
“We’ve been over this, Steph. If it’s not at least 4 stars, I’m not interested,” she says.
I roll my eyes and say, “Walk faster. Josin said to make sure we got there before dark or else things would happen.”
“How very ominous of her,” she replies.
“Whatever, princess. Look, there’s the campsite,” I say, pointing a short distance off. Josin is already there pitching the tent and starting a fire. It’s getting dark.
“Where’s the RV? We’re sleeping in a tent?! I swear, if gigantic spiders start tearing through this forest, there will be hell to pay,” Kat fumes.
“You’ll live. Now c’mon.”
We walk towards Josin and she stands to greet us. Hellos and hugs are exchanged and she allows us a brief moment of fangirlism over Arclight. We compose ourselves and we sit to start the interview.
“Thank you for meeting with us, Josin,” I say. “Arclight takes place in future where creatures called the Fade have taken over and only a small group of humans remain. What was your biggest inspiration behind this world?”
“It’s actually the result of bringing a space-based story down to earth. While some of you will have seen me make mention of an invasion of army ants being the inspiration for the Fade, originally they were a deep space enemy (a glowing, particulate non-biological swarm, actually). And, also originally, the Arclight was a space ship, rather than a compound on the ground. When I changed the setting, I kept the idea of the humans living in a closed off place that was brightly lit and protected, while their enemy came from this deep, dark void that surrounded them. The rest was a natural extension of the idea of an existence split between light and dark,” Josin replies, gesturing around us.
Now that she’s mentioned it, it is darker than it ought to be. Oh dear. What have we gotten ourselves into now?
“What’s your favorite thing about writing in the YA genre?” Kat presses as I pull out my note pad.
“There are fewer “rules,” it seems.” She pauses and then says, “In the adult literature market, the lines between sci-fi and fantasy and all of the other genres seem to be much more rigidly drawn. Even think about dragging that line into new territory, or try to stand on top of it and peek over into some other genre’s backyard, and things can go sour, fast. Those who regularly read a specific genre have things they expect to find in a given story, and there can be a lot of disappointment if you omit or subvert them. You run the risk of your novel not being seen as a “real” whatever genre you’re wanting to write.
With YA, the readers aren’t as set in their expectations. They don’t find a hodge podge of genres to be off-putting, so the writer’s free to have a science fiction novel with horror elements or fantasy elements. And the readers are so enthusiastic!”
“Or rabid, depending on the situation,” I say. I may or may not be speaking from experience. I’ll never tell.
Josin laughs at my lame joke. She’s too kind.
“What’s are most important factors in writing your characters, specifically the love interest and heroine?” I ask.
“I wanted them to be real, and I wanted them to have real reasons for the things they do.
Any number of books start off with the heroine and LI not on the best terms – even antagonistic – but it’s usually treated as some big mystery. The heroine mopes, trying to figure out why this guy doesn’t like her. I really think that’s one quality that ends up getting so many YA heroines labelled “Mary Sues.” Because of the ambiguous nature of the animosity, and the amount of time the heroine spends obsessing over it, a dynamic is created where the heroine can’t progress because *one* person doesn’t find her instantly charming. Sometimes you can even tell that’s not the situation the writer intended to convey, but it’s how it plays out because we’ve got such a tight focus on the heroine’s thoughts,” she says.
Kat shakes her fist. “Damn Mary Sues! That’s kind of what I liked about Marina. She didn’t seem to care too much that other people didn’t like her. Though she did fixate a little on one particular guy and his motives, it didn’t feel entirely overbearing. But, I digress. So how did that effect your process for Arclight?” Kat asks.
“For ARCLIGHT, it’s established up front that the LI doesn’t like the heroine, but for a very specific reason – his father’s just died to save her life. And for that same reason, the heroine feels like she owes this guy a debt that she doesn’t know how to pay back. She’s not really in love with him at first, but she can’t help but notice him because that guilt is always gnawing at her, and every move she makes seems to make it worse. Tobin’s stuck with the feeling that he has to help this girl, or else his father died in vain. It very much a case of both of them doing what they think they’re “supposed” to do, no matter if it’s what they want or not. Then, as events conspire to keep them in close proximity to each other, they figure out that neither of them is exactly what the other suspected.”
An owl hoots somewhere near by. We all glance around and edge closer to the fire.
Josin continues despite the fact that Kat is clearly becoming uncomfortable. “Another factor that was important is that of trust. Neither of the main characters trusts many people. Marina has enough friends to count on one finger, and every reason to believe that any sort of friendliness from the rest of her peers comes with industrial strength strings attached. Tobin’s world has fallen down around his ears, and he’s in a defensive position protecting what little he has left. People who used to be his friends are regarded with suspicion because he’s afraid that they’re trying to take the only home he has away from him – and you can forget trusting the new girl. But then they’re put into a situation where their only choice is to take a chance on each other. It’s not perfect, and there are still a few stumbling blocks, but it’s a progression all built on that first moment of “I’ll trust you, if you trust me.””
“I love the way you explain that and I could definitely see the hesitation between both Marina and Tobin,” I say, mesmerized by her passion of the story.
“In Arclight, the Fade communicate differently than humans. Was that difficult to incorporate into the story?” Kat asks eagerly.
“Best decision and worst mistake I EVER MADE. There were times when trying to figure out how to “phrase” something in “Fade” made me want to rip my hair out because it was far too easy for that dialogue to sound like an old Hollywood attempt at “broken English,”‘ she says, laughing.
“What made it so difficult?” I ask.
“We’re talking about a communication system that literally has no grammar or sentence structure. It’s more than being mute – the Fade don’t only not “talk,” they don’t “speak” period. No expressions, no hand signals, nothing external to give someone a clue what they’re trying to say, which is a component of why they’re so feared. They’re so different that the humans can’t tell if they’re being understood or not. That’s one of the reasons I made sure that certain characters were fast learners. Most of the Fade started off as human, so the memory of how to speak is still there, and since they’re a hive mind, it’s knowledge they can share with others, if needed.”
“That was easily our favorite part of the book. The descriptions were gorgeous and the Fade were brilliantly done, especially this one character. Ahem,” Kat says, clearing her throat.
Josin winks at Kat.
“Speaking of difficult, what was the most difficult scene to write?” I ask.
“I’m better at writing action and dialogue – a side effect of drafting things in movie-format – so anything that requires description or introspection is more difficult,” Josin replies shyly.
“I refuse to believe that. The descriptions were perfection for me!” I say. Kat nods in agreement.
Josin smiles at us and continues, “I obsess over it because I’m never sure how much description is needed. You’d be surprised how hard it is to remember that people can’t see things the way I see them in my head. Sometimes the things I find obvious leave others wondering what they missed.”
The sounds of the forest have stopped completely and the silence is deafening. I don’t like this one bit.
Kat leans in and says, “Talk to us about this ‘love pretzel.’ We iz intrigued.”
Josin gives us the shifty eyes. “Now that would be a major spoiler, wouldn’t it…”
“Oh, you have to give us something!” I say.
“We must know, Josin. Our feels depend on it!” Kat cries.
“I call it a pretzel because “triangle” is too stiff a shape for something so flexible. (occasionally I also call it a Möbius strip because then it sounds like it was made in the Matrix). You’re dealing with three sides, but four vertices, and the only way to express that is to say it loops back on itself into a big smoochy pretzel,” Josin explains.
“Okay, I can tell we’re getting into eye-twitch territory with all of the geometry references, so try it this way. People who have read ARCLIGHT see a love triangle between one girl and two guys. However, it’s not that simple, and as the story progresses, you find out why. In book 2, you’ll see more as Marina deals with the fallout of what she learns in book 1. Suffice to say what Marina recovers is more than memories, leaving us with more than a triangle’s worth of participants, but still only three people, and no one’s fighting over the same girl… sort of…”
“My brains ’bout to ‘splode,” I say, confused to the tenth power.
“I’m still stuck on ‘smoochy pretzel’,” says Kat.
Josin laughs. I can tell she is enjoying our torment. “Sorry, but if I say it any plainer, it will not only spoil Arclight, but a good part of book 2 along with it.”
“Well, in that case, we’ll let you slide just this once,” I say, winking.
Then, everything goes black. I scream and I can hear Kat scrambling for my hand. She trips over a log with an oomph! and I rush toward the sound blindly.
“Kat! Kat! Are you alright?!” I ask.
“Yeah, I’m fine. I’m going to feel that in the morning and I won’t be happy.”
“I’ll be sure to make myself unavailable during your scorn. We need to find Josin and get out of here. It isn’t safe, ” I reply.
“Gee, what could have possibly given that away? The looming darkness or the feelings of impending death?” she retorts.
To the left of me I hear my name being called. Kat pulls out her cell to light the way. It’s Josin packing up her belongings and she’s urging us to go. She doesn’t remotely seem concerned about herself.
“B-b-but Josin,” I stammer. “Aren’t* you afraid of the dark?”
Through the faint light from the phone, I see a grin appear on her face as she pulls something out her bag. “Nope. I haz flashlight hat,” she says, turing the device on.
“Okay, then. C’mon, let’s get out of here,” Kat says, pulling on my sleeve. We run and I start to regret not putting in more hours at the gym. Kat is pumping her limbs hard and leaping over overgrowth and branches like a track star goddess. For one split second, I think of tripping her, but then I realize I’d have no one to boss around.
Just when we think the worst is behind us, we hear someone chasing us. And it sounds angry.
“Oh my god, the Dark Days are coming! The Dark Days are coming!” I pant.
“Please, please, please let it be unicorns,” Kat gasps out.
We break away from the forest and rush the hill ahead. The coast seems clear so we both drop to the grass with relief.
“Oh man. That was nuts,” I begin, sitting up. “Can you belie—”
“Halt. You are under arrest from trespassing on Hogwarts school grounds,” says a cloaked figure.
I look up and see a blue car flying full speed at us. It skids to a crashing stop beside us, half running our assailant over. The doors fly open and there’s Josin, yelling for us to get in.
“Shotgun!” Kat says, hoping into the passenger seat.
I jump into the back seat and Josin peals off before I can even close the door.
The figure tries to give chase, but his efforts are in vain. “Catch us if you can, punk!” Kat taunts.
I look up at Josin in awe and say, “You came back for us.” She glances back at me and simply smiles. How could I have doubted her?
Josin drops us off back at our ride near the Leaky Caldron and we pile out of the vehicle. We murmur thanks and Kat says, “See ya, Josin. Don’t forget to be awesome!” Josin drives off to whatever adventure awaits her.
“What say you and I have a little fun down on Diagon Alley?” Kat says slyly, pulling out the wand she’s apparently stolen from guy at Hogwarts.
This could possibly get us into so much trouble and I shouldn’t be enabling Kat, but instead I feel the mischief creeping in my bones. I grin and say, “Yer a wizard, Harry.”
And that was the day Kat and I almost got sent to Azkaban.
*”Are” was changed to “aren’t” for the purpose of the story.
We want to give a huge thank you to Josin McQuein for the interview & saving us from what I’m sure were impending unforgivable curses! Looks like we got in trouble anyway. Oops.
Also, thank you to HarperCollins for allowing us to be apart of the Dark Days blog tour!
Don’t forget to check out Arclight, out now!
No one crosses the wall of light . . . except for one girl who doesn’t remember who she is, where she came from, or how she survived. A harrowing, powerful debut thriller about finding yourself and protecting your future—no matter how short and uncertain it may be.
The Arclight is the last defense. The Fade can’t get in. Outside the Arclight’s border of high-powered beams is the Dark. And between the Light and the Dark is the Grey, a narrow, barren no-man’s-land. That’s where the rescue team finds Marina, a lone teenage girl with no memory of the horrors she faced or the family she lost. Marina is the only person who has ever survived an encounter with the Fade. She’s the first hope humanity has had in generations, but she could also be the catalyst for their final destruction. Because the Fade will stop at nothing to get her back. Marina knows it. Tobin, who’s determined to take his revenge on the Fade, knows it. Anne-Marie, who just wishes it were all over, knows it.
When one of the Fade infiltrates the Arclight and Marina recognizes it, she will begin to unlock secrets she didn’t even know she had. Who will Marina become? Who can she never be again?
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The Blog Tour
HarperCollins is kindly offering up one copy of Arclight by Josin L. McQuein to one lucky US winner. In addition, I’m giving away my ARC of Arclight to one lucky international reader. Good luck!
- To enter, please fill out the Raffelcopter form below.
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