Hey, guys! Today, I have the great pleasure of welcoming Andrew DeYoung to the blog. His debut novel, The Exo Project, is available in stores now! I hope you guys enjoy the Q&A, and be sure to check out the link to an excerpt of the book below!
Publisher: Boyds Mills Press
Pub Date: April 4th 2017
Buy it: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Book Depository
This fast-paced, sharply written multiple-perspective YA science-fiction debut opens on a future Earth ravaged by solar radiation. Desperate for money to save his sick mother, seventeen-year-old Matthew agrees to participate in the Exo Project, a government plan to save the human race by flying across the galaxy in search of a habitable planet for resettlement. He thinks he’s been given a death sentence: 100 years in cryostasis, followed by a quick death on some barren world. But then he lands on Gle’ah, discovering the strange, beautiful creatures who live there, including Kiva, the captivating teenage girl who leads her planet’s matriarchal society. Kiva views Matthew as a threat and for good reason—if he tells Earth that he’s found a suitable planet, it will mean the end of her people’s way of life. But then Kiva and Matthew discover an emotional connection they never expected—and as they begin to delve into the secrets of Matthew’s mission and the dark truth behind the seeming paradise of Gle’ah, the choices they make will have consequences for both of their worlds.
Andrew DeYoung is a writer and editor who has dreamed of being an author ever since his ninth-grade English teacher made him write down his biggest life goal for a class assignment. He studied literature in college and graduate school, writing a thesis on the history of Victorian detective fiction before making the jump from academia to publishing. These days, he lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota, where he edits children's books and lives with his wife, daughter, and a feline companion named June Carter Cat. Andrew's taste in science fiction leans more Star Trek than Star Wars—though only barely. The Exo Project is his debut novel.
How much research did you have to do for The Exo Project? Did you work with any scientists or astronomers to check accuracy, for example?
My personal rule for writing research is to do enough that I feel confident to keep writing, but not so much that I start to get obsessed with the research at the expense of the story. Generally I start with Wikipedia to get a very general sense of the topic, then follow the sources to get library books and journal articles on a given topic. I had to research a lot of topics for The Exo Project. To portray a future Earth, I investigated models for how global warming will affect our planet in the future. To construct the space program in the book, I looked into the Mars One mission, in which participants volunteer knowing it's a one-way mission and they'll probably die on Mars! To portray a matriarchal society on an alien planet, I researched real-life matriarchal societies, and also read theories from feminist thinkers and social scientists about where patriarchy came from in human societies. That helped me conceptualize how a matriarchal rather than patriarchal society might come to be under different conditions. Plus research into nanotechnology, quantum mechanics, astronomy, and relativity to make sure that all the sci-fi plot points were at least plausible. But, throughout my research, I had to remember that story was the most important thing, and I definitely took liberties with the research when it was necessary for the book. I imagine a lot of authors would say the same thing about research.
What are some of the weirdest things you had to Google while writing?
Effects of radiation on cellular level, nanotechnology cancer treatment, ionized energy, antigravity, cryogenic freezing, telepathy, the list goes on and on!
What are some of the biggest science fiction books, tv shows, or movies that influenced you and your work?
I often think of The Exo Project as a cross between Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles and the TV show Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG to fans!). The Martian Chronicles is a sci-fi book about planetary colonization and human/alien interaction that's often very dreamlike and strange. In The Exo Project, I wanted to create a similar world, where an alien planet is a sort of dream landscape where I could symbolically explore emotions and ideas that are hard to talk about directly. But, at the same time, I wanted the book to have a compelling story and plot, and that's where TNG came in. Some of my favorite episodes of TNG are basically space-mysteries about some strange phenomenon or alien culture that the crew of the Enterprise have to figure out. The Exo Project has a mystery like that, where the human characters have to figure out what's going on with this planet and this alien culture. So, combine the dreaminess of The Martian Chronicles with the space-mystery aspect of TNG, and you have what I was trying to accomplish in The Exo Project!
What are your favorite and least favorite types of scenes to write, and why?
Tough question! Looking back at the scenes that have come easily and those that haven't, they key seems to be whether or not I have a good handle on the emotional currents of the scene. If I know what the characters are feeling in the scene, and how those emotions motivate what they're doing in the scene, then those are fun scenes to write. They seem to pour out from the tips of my fingers and onto the page. When a scene is tough to write, it sometimes means I don't have a good handle on the emotional content of the scene, or the emotions don't ring true, or worst of all, I've left out emotion completely for the sake of just moving the story forward! Usually, the key is to slow down, have a talk with my characters about what's going on with them, and then try again.
Do you have an all-time favorite fictional couple (or OTP)? What about their relationship makes you love them so much?
I'm going to choose Eleanor and Park from...well, Eleanor & Park. Years after I read it this is still one of my favorite young adult novels ever, with one of my favorite romantic pairings. There's just something so sweet and vulnerable about these two and how their relationship becomes a refuge for both of them in exactly the way they need right then.
Such a fun and interesting interview, Andrew! Thank you so much for stopping by the blog :)
Also, be sure to check out an excerpt of The Exo Project here!