Scott Westerfeld came to prominence a decade ago with his award-winning and best-selling dystopian young adult series “Uglies”, then set his sights on a middle grade alternate history of Steampunk “Clankers” and gene-splicing “Darwinists” for his “Leviathan” series, a fantastically-illustrated (and narrated, by Alan Cumming) adventure-romp through WW1-era Europe by diesel-powered mech walkers, modified whale airships, and (perhaps) even stranger methods. It’s been 3 years since Goliath concluded that series, and today Westerfeld’s new young adult/new adult novel Afterworlds launches from Simon Pulse. Tomorrow night (Wednesday, September 24) he’ll be in Raleigh for a reading at Quail Ridge Books.
Afterworlds is about “Darcy Patel, a young writer who bangs out a novel in her senior year of high school, has it published for a ton of money, and moves to New York City to revise it, write a sequel, and hang out with the NYC YA crowd.” And! “Interspersed with Darcy’s story is the entirety of her novel, also called Afterworlds, about Lizzie Scofield, a young girl who escapes a terrorist attack by playing dead, but then discovers that she has played too well . . .” You can get a feel of what’s going on here via the book trailer, or dig into some excerpts (PulseIt, B&N, and the longest at Overdrive).
Here, Westerfeld takes the time via email for an interview from Durham author Mur Lafferty. Westerfeld’s tour kicks off in New York City tonight, and Raleigh’s Quail Ridge Books is stop #2 tomorrow, ahead of stops in Pennsylvania, DC, St. Louis, Milwaukee, London, and beyond.
Interview by Mur Lafferty
Q: Most authors find it difficult to write one story, and you’ve had to weave two together nearly effortlessly. Was that more difficult than crafting your other books?
Writing two interwoven stories was complicated, certainly, but it’s also very compelling to write two stories that interact with and support each other. Like any novelist, Darcy’s real life influences the book she’s writing. When she learns something about the world, whether it’s a big truth about true love or something as simple as a cool new word, it’s reflected in the pages of her novel. So whenever I got stuck on Lizzie’s story (the novel-within-the-novel) I only had to look at what was going on in Darcy’s life for inspiration.
Q: NaNoWriMo tends to polarize authors (and other publishing pros). Many pros think it’s a waste of time or it invites drek to hit agents’ desks in December or tells people it’s OK to write only once a year instead of make a habit. And then there’s you and a handful of others who see it as a positive. What made you want to not only feature a NaNoWriMo writer in your book, but dedicate the book to WriMos?
Supporting NaNoWriMo makes sense to me as a writer, because people who’ve attempted to write a novel are more educated, more thoughtful readers. It’s like playing music for musicians — they have a fuller understanding of what you’re doing, and that gives you license to experiment a bit more.
Also, NaNoWriMo provides a great metaphorical framework for Darcy’s life, because she’s leaving home and growing up. She’s rewriting herself, so to speak, taking this story she wrote in high school and making the adult version of it, just as we all do when we leave home for the first time. Because NaNo makes you write a first draft quickly, it focuses young writers on rewriting, and that’s where the magic happens, in both novels and life. We are all made of drafts.
Q: You’re deft at switching genres, the Leviathan series was very different from the Uglies series, and now you have a new genre with Afterworlds. Do you have a favorite genre?
I grew up as a science fiction reader (and would argue that way back then the SF section was the YA section) but every year I try to add a new genre to my reading habits. As I read more broadly, I feel the urge to write in more genres. YA is great that way, because it keeps my books in one section of the bookstore regardless of whether I’m doing fantasy or SF or realism. And really, after twenty (or so) novels, I’d hate to be using the same set of tools.
Q: What will be the next genre you delve into?
This is top secret so I can only give you three words: superheroes, sort of.
About the interviewer: Mur Lafferty, winner of the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer at the 2013 WorldCon, is an author, podcaster, and editor. She lives in Durham, NC, with her husband and daughter. Her first professionally published novel, The Shambling Guide to New York City, won the inaugural Manly Wade Wellman Award; a follow-on novel, Ghost Train to New Orleans, was published in March by Orbit.