For this weeks edition of Ask the Author I have the grand pleasure of bringing you the amazing Shaun David Hutchinson, author of, among others, The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley and We Are the Ants. He was so kind to take his time and answer a couple of my Q's with some A's which I am very excited to share with you!
Here is his latest novel and the interview:
Published: January 19th 2016 by Simon Pulse
Number of Pages: 464 Pages (Hardcover)
There are a few things Henry Denton knows, and a few things he doesn’t.
Henry knows that his mom is struggling to keep the family together, and coping by chain-smoking cigarettes. He knows that his older brother is a college dropout with a pregnant girlfriend. He knows that he is slowly losing his grandmother to Alzheimer’s. And he knows that his boyfriend committed suicide last year.
What Henry doesn’t know is why the aliens chose to abduct him when he was thirteen, and he doesn’t know why they continue to steal him from his bed and take him aboard their ship. He doesn’t know why the world is going to end or why the aliens have offered him the opportunity to avert the impending disaster by pressing a big red button.
But they have. And they’ve only given him 144 days to make up his mind.
The question is whether Henry thinks the world is worth saving. That is, until he meets Diego Vega, an artist with a secret past who forces Henry to question his beliefs, his place in the universe, and whether any of it really matters. But before Henry can save the world, he’s got to figure out how to save himself, and the aliens haven’t given him a button for that. (goodreads.com)
Interview with Shaun David Hutchinson
1 – Describe We Are the Ants with a haiku.
Henry has a choice
To press the button or not.
Life is beautiful.
2 – What sparked the idea for We Are the Ants?
I don’t think there was any single inspiration, but the inclusion of Jesse’s suicide stemmed from my own suicide attempt when I was 19. I wanted to tell a story about how that affected the people in Jesse’s life, especially how it affected Henry. But I was definitely also inspired by Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five and Andrew Smith’s Grasshopper Jungle.
3 – What was the most challenging about writing We Are the Ants and which scene was the most fun to write?
The most challenging part of writing ANTS was keeping the story from veering into melodrama. There are so many painful things happening in Henry’s life, but I wanted to make sure it felt real and grounded. Sometimes I worried I’d put too much stuff into the story, but I think that’s how life is. When I was suicidal and dealing with my sexuality as a teen, that pain wasn’t happening in a vacuum. There was also the confusion about what college I’d be attending and what I wanted to do with the rest of my life and problems with my parents. But putting all of life’s drama into one book sometimes threatened to weight it down too heavily. So balancing that was definitely a challenge.
The most fun scene to write was actually all of the end-of-the-world scenarios. I had a really great time trying to come up with weird and unusual—but theoretically plausible—ways for the world to end.
4 – What do you like most and least about your main character Henry Denton?
I like most that Henry never actually gives up. He thinks about it…a lot. But he never actually does it. In the end, he finds the strength to keep going. I least like how long it took him to realize that Marcus was bad for him.
5 – In retrospective, is there anything that you’d change about the story or are you happy with the way it turned out in the end?
I’m actually really happy with how it turned out. Of course, I’d have loved to have had more time to explore Marcus’s story and Audrey’s story in more depth, but I was already pushing the page count, so I feel really great about where the book ended up.
6 – How did you feel when you first realized that this story you had written would soon be read by thousands of people and how do you feel now, years later, after your newest book was released? Did the feeling change or is it still the same?
Well, I’m not so sure thousands of people have actually read my first book…but before it came out, I was kind of cocky about the whole thing. We Are the Ants is a much more personal story, and I was terrified of people reading it. I’m blown away by the response to ANTS…it’s just been amazing, and I can hardly believe it. Sometimes I’ll get an email about it from an awesome reader and have to wonder if they didn’t accidentally read a different book that just happened to have the ANTS jacket on it by chance.
7 – What do you think about the cover for We Are the Ants? Does it do the story justice?
I love the cover. Regina Flath designed it, and I had no idea what she was going to come up with. She also came up with the cover for The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley. She’s kind of a genius. But I definitely think it encapsulates the expansiveness of the story as well as the intimacy of it. I couldn’t imagine a better cover.
8 – How do you prepare for a new story? Are you a planner/outliner or someone who just wings it as the story progresses?
I’m definitely a pantser. I’m trying to outline more, but most of the time I just dive into a story when I hear the voice on my head and hope for the best.
9 – Do you have a writing routine or do you write whenever creativity strikes?
I’m routine oriented. I usually write first thing in the morning. Though now that I’ve started a new job, I’ll be doing my writing in the evening. But either way, I make sure to write every day.
10 – What advice could you give aspiring authors?
Read everything you can get your hands on, even in genres you wouldn’t normally read. And write the thing you’re most scared for people to read.
11 – If you could have any superpower, what would it be and why?
I would really love the ability to take on the appearances of other people so I could slip into their lives and see what it’s like to be them.
Shaun is a major geek and all about nerdy shenanigans. He is the author of The Deathday Letter, fml, and the forthcoming The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley. He can be reached at email@example.com. He currently lives in South Florida with his partner and dog and watches way too much Doctor Who. (goodreads.com)