Below is a fascinating interview with Emily and she is also offering two prizes as giveaways. One is a signed copy of THE FARM and the other is a Vampire Apocalypse Survival Kit. The giveaway is open to everyone (yes, including international). To enter, post a comment to this blog by December 11th, 11:59 p.m. EST and please include an email addy so we can contact you!
Here's the cover copy: Life was different in the Before: before vampires began devouring humans in a swarm across America; before the surviving young people were rounded up and quarantined. These days, we know what those quarantines are—holding pens where human blood is turned into more food for the undead monsters, known as Ticks. Surrounded by electrical fences, most kids try to survive the Farms by turning on each other…
And when trust is a thing of the past, escape is nearly impossible.
Lily and her twin sister Mel have a plan. Though Mel can barely communicate, her autism helps her notice things no one else notices—like the portion of electrical fence that gets turned off every night. Getting across won’t be easy, but as Lily gathers what they need to escape, a familiar face appears out of nowhere, offering to help…
Carter was a schoolmate of Lily’s in the Before. Managing to evade capture until now, he has valuable knowledge of the outside world. But like everyone on the Farm, Carter has his own agenda, and he knows that behind the Ticks is an even more dangerous threat to the human race...
Take 10 with Emily McKay!
1.) Where did you get the idea for THE FARM?
I was sitting in a workshop about world building at a writer's conference and I was thinking about this basic inconsistency in many vampire stories. If they're really stronger, faster, smarter than us, then why are they the ones who are hiding? Why not just take over and farm us as food?
Of course, it took me a couple of years to get from that spark of an idea to an actual story that made sense, but that was the spark.
2.) THE FARM is an unique post-apocalyptic story for YAs while your previous novels are romances for adults. Why did you switch?
Don't laugh, but I think there's actually a common thread between romance novels and a lot of post apocalyptic fiction. Obviously, I've always loved reading and writing romance novels. Romance novels are the most optimistic of all fiction and also the most intimate. [I didn't laugh - it's true!]
But I've also always been drawn to post apocalyptic stories. The Postman by David Brin is one of my all time favorite books. There's a sort of basic optimism in many post apocalyptic books (not all, but a lot). They're stories of humanity sinking to the absolute depths, but rising out of those depths to carry on. There's a powerful message of love and hope in the very idea that there will be a post apocalypse, that there will be anything after. Of course, to me the most interesting aspect of the apocalypse is how we take care of the people we love as things are falling apart. What kind of sacrifices we're willing to make to for others.
I had known for years that someday I wanted to tell a post apocalyptic story, I just needed to find the right setting. And then, of course, I added in lots of scary monsters, dramatic sacrifices and a hot guy. :-) With THE FARM, I got to play around in all the sandboxes I love best.
3.) What do you find most interesting about Lily and Mel?
I loved exploring all the emotions that comes with a sisterly relationship, especial one where one sister is so dependant on the other. There’s so much love there, but frustration and resentment on both sides. I loved exploring how their relationship shifted and changed throughout the story.
As much as I love writing short contemporary romance, that’s one thing you never get to touch on. There’s just not room to deal with characters other than the hero and heroine. So that was a lot of fun for me.
4.) What else do you enjoy doing besides writing? Interests? Hobbies?
I love cooking and baking. Mostly baking. My sister and I joke that baking is an outlet for our OCD. It keeps us both sane. With baking, there’s so much safety. You know if you follow the recipe to the letter, you’ll get great results. It’s kind of the opposite of writing. In writing, there’s infinite space to play—but also to fail. You mix together the ingredients and you have no idea how the product will turn out. With baking, you know the right amount of sugar, flour and eggs will yield chocolate chip cookies. I love that about it! [Yum cookies!]
5.) Did you have to do any special research for this book? What did you learn that you didn't know before?
I did a fair amount of research on autism. I read some books by famed autistic savant Temple Grandin as well as mathematic savant Daniel Tammet. I did research on synesthesia, which is a neurological condition where people experience their senses in some unique way. For example there are people who perceive numbers as having a color or shape. Some people with synesthesia experience sounds or music visually. Synesthesia fascinated me and I decided to use it for Mel. I wanted Mel’s synesthesia to be something that helped her cope with the world and something that would give the reader insight into her mind. So Mel perceives people’s emotions as noise, sometimes even music.
There are some sixty different forms of synesthesia. I’m pretty sure, that none of the real forms of synesthesia are like Mel’s (though, of course, it’s possible). I figured, I’m writing in a world where vampires are real, why not make up my own twist on a real neurological condition? The other paranormal elements in the story gave me the latitude to play around with how I wanted Mel’s autism and synesthesia to present.
6.) How did you become a writer? Is this what you saw yourself growing up to be? Or did it take you by surprise?
I knew when I was seven that I wanted to tell stories for a living. I don’t think at the time that I even understood that books were written by writers. I was an extremely late reader. I didn’t read at grade level until the ninth grade. So when I was seven and knew I wanted to tell stories for a living, I didn’t have any idea what being a writer was. I couldn’t even read yet! I just knew that’s what I wanted to do.
7.) Which authors inspire you? Has that changed over time?
I think all authors inspire me. Obviously there are great authors whose books I love. Writers who just create these amazing worlds that you completely lose yourself in, like J.K. Rowling and Orson Scott Card and Ann Brashear and, of course, you. (I know that sounds like I’m brown nosing, but it’s true!) [Awww...thanks!] For me, one of the signs that a writer is awesome in when I start dreaming about his or her book as I’m reading it. It’s like their world is so complete and so huge, my brain can’t even take it all in during the day. I need extra time to process it. Those are the kinds of books and authors that inspire me.
And then of course there are all the writers that are part of my circle of friends. They inspire me in different ways. Not only do I love their books, but I see how hard they work. Knowing how much work they put in really raises the bar. It makes me go the extra mile as a writer.
8.) Do you have a writing routine? Talk process for a moment, how do the words get on the page?
It’s best for me if I write every day. I find my brain stays in the story that way. I usually write in the morning, after I get back from taking my son to school, then again in the evening after everyone else is asleep. The hours from about 2:00 to 9:00 are family time, the rest of the time I’m usually doing something writing related.
I write a pretty sloppy first draft and then revise a lot. I wish I could say I was one of those writers that writes the first draft quickly. Unfortunately, for me, the first draft is usually slow and painful, with a lot of wrong turns. Once the draft is done, I usually trim a lot and then add in a lot more, in addition to just general massaging.
THE FARM is a pretty long book (just over 110,000 words), but I cut at least 20,000 words in the final stage of revising. I’ve had friends say, “Oh, well, you should put those cut scenes up on your website because readers might be interested.” Um … no. I’m sure no one would be interested. When I cut all those words at the end, I’m trimming out all the times the characters have the same conversation five different times because I wasn’t sure when they needed to have it. Or the times they have a five page long conversation about something not interesting at all, like soup or acorn squash or squirrels. I’m not kidding. I’ve actually trimmed convos about all of those things out of my books. And nobody needs to read a two page discussion about soup. [They might if it's interesting enough :)]
So that’s my process in a nut shell. I wish it was faster or more fun or cooler, but it’s not. As writers, I think it’s very important to be willing to try new things, but at the same, we’re kind of stuck with how our brain creates. But I love talking process and hearing about other people’s process, so thanks for asking! [You're welcome]
9.) Office? Closet? Corner of the living room? Do you have a set place to write? A favorite?
I write all over the house. I have an office, and I write there sometimes, but I also write on the sofa, at the kitchen table, in bed, on the front porch and sitting at the foot of my kids’ beds as they fall asleep at night. And that’s in addition to writing at coffee shops.
10.) What are you writing now? What's coming out next?
I’m working on two projects right now. First off is the sequel to THE FARM, which is tentatively titled THE LAIR. That will be out next year. I’m also playing around with a prequel novella called THE BEFORE. That will be available briefly on my website as a free read and then as a prize people can earn if they join my Green Team. http://www.escapethefarm.com/green-teams/
Thanks for the great answers, Emily. Your new projects sound very interesting!
Links to all things Emily and THE FARM: