We are so pleased to have Megan Crewe here today to talk about her most recent release, The Way We Fall. We are also featuring this title in our Dystopian Reading Challenge 2012. Thanks to Disney-Hyperion, you also have a chance to win a copy of the book. Comment below for a chance to win!
Like many authors, Megan Crewe finds writing about herself much more difficult than making things up. A few definite facts: she lives in Toronto, Canada with her husband and two cats (and does on occasion say “eh”), she tutors children and teens with special needs, and she has yet to make friends with a ghost, though she welcomes the opportunity. Her first novel, Give Up the Ghost, was published by Henry Holt in 2009 and is now out in paperback. Her second novel, The Way We Fall, is coming in January 2012 from Disney-Hyperion.
DFT: Could you start us off with telling a little about The Way We Fall?
Megan: Sure! The Way We Fall is about a 16-year-old girl named Kaelyn, who is trapped when the government quarantines her small island community after a deadly epidemic breaks out there, and must struggle to protect herself and her loved ones. It’s written as a series of journal entries, some of which Kaelyn addresses to a friend who left the island before the quarantine.
DFT: What can you tell us about your protagonist, Kaelyn?
Megan: Kaelyn’s always been a little socially awkward, and her anxieties got a lot worse after her family moved from the small town where she grew up to a big city for five years. She’s only just come back to the island, and she’s finding it harder than she expected to fit in again. Her lack of self-confidence is something she grapples with throughout the book. She doesn’t trust people easily, but is quick to defend those she cares about. One of her main interests is animal behavior, so she’s spent a lot of time studying the local wildlife. She hopes to become a wildlife biologist in the future.
DFT: What was your research process like for creating this story?
Megan: I read a few books with broad accounts of deadly diseases and how people have dealt with epidemics in the past. Those gave me a pretty good idea of what sort of characteristics I wanted my virus to have. Then I looked up some more in-depth textbooks on viruses and the immune system to make sure all the elements made sense, and to see if there were others I should account for. The internet was a big help too, of course, for looking up the more random details I couldn’t find in the books, about viruses and also factors like living on an island. There were a few important scientific plot points I was still uncertain about, and thankfully author and microbiologist Jacqueline Houtman took the time to discuss my ideas with me and point me in the right directions.
DFT: Do you have any plans to continue to write about Kaelyn or this story universe in the future?
Megan: Definitely! I knew before I started writing that this book was not the whole story. The Way We Fall is the first in a trilogy–the second book has already been written and edited, and I’m working on book three right now.
DFT: What was your favorite part about writing The Way We Fall?
Megan: One of the main reasons I wrote this book is because I find epidemics so frightening. I think my favorite part of the process was getting at the heart of what was so scary about them for me, and bringing those feelings to life on the page through the characters and the situations they find themselves in.
DFT: What other projects are you working on that you would like to tell us about?
Megan: I can’t give much detail, but other than the trilogy, I’ve most recently worked on a contemporary fantasy set in Japan, and a novel that would probably best be labeled supernatural horror, both YA.
DFT: What motivated you to write The Way We Fall?
Megan: As I mentioned above, I’ve always been terrified by the idea of an epidemic. The only books that have scared me enough to give me nightmares are Stephen King’s The Stand (about a deadly flu virus) and Carrie Ryan’s The Forest of Hands and Teeth (about a zombie virus). After that second nightmare, it occurred to me that an idea that affected me so deeply would probably make for good story material! And I was right–as I explored the concept, characters and plot and themes came to me until I had enough for not just one novel, but three.
DFT: What would you do first if you were stuck in Kaelyn’s position?
Megan: I would get my hands on the best protective gear (face mask, gloves, clothing, etc.) available, so that regardless of who I had to interact with or where I had to go, I could feel at least somewhat protected.
DFT: Why do you think there is the misconception that young adult books are not as deep or as complex as books for adults? What is your response to this misconception?
Megan: I think there’s a misconception that teens themselves are not as deep or complex as adults, and so therefore books about them wouldn’t be either. And while it’s true that teenagers have less experience, and may not always be as articulate in expressing themselves, I think a lot of adults forget just how thoughtfully and intensely they responded to the world at that age. There’s nothing simple about dealing with unfamiliar emotions and situations for the first time, and nothing shallow about trying to figure out what kind of person you want to be and how. I suspect the teen years are when the majority of people grow and change the most, and that most of us stay relatively stuck in our ways afterward.
Just as with adult books, some YA is deep and some is brain candy. I haven’t noticed that either has proportionately more of the deep stuff. And YA by its nature is addressing those same concerns the teens themselves have, which are often deep and complex to its intended readers even if to an adult eye they appear shallow.
DFT: What genres/books do you read in your spare time? Any recommendations for our readers?
Megan: I try to read a variety of genres, because you never know where you’ll find inspiration, and if I read too much of the same type of story all at once I get bored. I tend toward the sort of books I write: YA with some sort of speculative element, whether it’s fantasy, science fiction, paranormal, or horror. But I also read realistic and historical YA when the storyline appeals to me, and sometimes middle grade, and a fair number of adult books. I worry less about the genre and more about the quality of the writing and story.
A few of my somewhat recent favorites…
MG: When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead, Spell Hunter by R.J. Anderson, and The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z by Kate Messner
YA: The King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner, Dramarama by E. Lockhart, and Peeps by Scott Westerfeld
Adult: Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold, and Out by Natsuo Kirino
DFT: Are there any questions that you wished were asked in an interview, but never are?
Megan: To be honest, I think I’ve been asked just about everything at one point or another!
DFT: How would you describe a “bad writing day”? How do you deal with a bad writing day?
Megan: Usually a bad writing day is a day when I have trouble getting myself to sit down with my laptop in the first place. Either I’m anxious about whether that day’s writing is going to turn out well (most common when starting a new draft, or writing a first draft), or I’m anxious about non-writing things, and I end up procrastinating with whatever I can find to distract myself. The easiest way to deal with this is to make it as hard as possible to procrastinate. I’m not “allowed” to turn on my desktop computer, where I do most of my internet surfing, until after I’ve done at least one writing session that day. I refuse to let myself pick up a book. So usually before too long I get bored, and start writing, and the writing goes fine once I’ve started.
Occasionally I have days when the writing itself is just not coming, if I’m under the weather or tired or more stressed than usual. I may sit with the laptop for a half an hour and only manage to get out a paragraph–one I don’t even like. I usually push myself to try for at least a thousand words, even if they’re words I’m unhappy with, and then I let myself stop. If I can’t focus at all, which happens pretty rarely, I give myself a break after a couple paragraphs and leave it for tomorrow. As important as self-discipline is, I think it’s also important to know when to cut yourself some slack and give your mind and/or body time to recuperate.
DFT: Do you have any particular writing process or rituals?
Megan: My basic process is: come up with the idea, brainstorm and research, outline scene-by-scene, write the first draft, get critiques, write a second draft, polish. Then the book goes to my agent or editor. Depending on how tricky the book’s being, there may be an additional draft after the first before I let anyone see it. The longest part of this process is almost always the second step. Some ideas take years before I figure out enough of the pieces to outline and write the book, but once I’ve started drafting, I’m usually at the polishing stage in six months or less.
As for rituals, I always write on my laptop, which for some reason feels better than the desktop computer. And I have a special “writing chair” that I only sit in when I’m writing, though sometimes I will go out on the deck or down to the living room couch for a change of scenery.
DFT: What influences and inspirations (both literary and non-literary) do you draw from while writing?
Megan: I’m sure I’m influenced and inspired by all the stories I’ve enjoyed, in various forms (books, TV, movies, plays), throughout my life. It’s hard to pinpoint specific ones while I’m writing, because a lot of what I’ve picked up has become automatic. (I’m more conscious of which influenced the ideas behind what I’m writing.) I also find music to be a huge inspiration. I have playlists for all my books, and often listen to them before starting a writing session to get in the right mindset. Sometimes songs will even suggest plot or character developments to me that I hadn’t considered before.
Thanks for having me on the blog!
DFT: Thank you very much for stopping by and chatting with us about your new book and your writing in general! It was a pleasure, and I look forward to reading your trilogy.
Available on January 24, 2012 from Disney-Hyperion
About the Book:
It starts with an itch you just can’t shake. Then comes a fever and a tickle in your throat. A few days later, you’ll be blabbing your secrets and chatting with strangers like they’re old friends. Three more, and the paranoid hallucinations kick in.
And then you’re dead.
When a deadly virus begins to sweep through sixteen-year-old Kaelyn’s community, the government quarantines her island—no one can leave, and no one can come back. Those still healthy must fight for dwindling supplies, or lose all chance of survival.
As everything familiar comes crashing down, Kaelyn joins forces with a former rival and discovers a new love in the midst of heartbreak. When the virus starts to rob her of friends and family, she clings to the belief that there must be a way to save the people she holds dearest. Because how will she go on if there isn’t?
Click HERE to read an excerpt
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