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(2001-07-03)Q: Can you tell us a bit about your debut novel Hope's End?
A: At its most basic--I suppose thematic--level, Hope's End is a book about growing up. The funny thing, for me, is that a lot of "growing up"/"coming of age" books tend to skip most of the nastier elements that are part of that process. I have read a lot of novels that involve a protagonist who finds him or herself on a quest and, lo and behold, at the end of the journey that protagonist suddenly realizes, more of less painlessly, his or her place in the world. Much of the time, I think, these stories that are about young people don't involve the kind of real pain and real issues that young people have to deal with. Hope's End, I think, is about that.
It's difficult to talk about the book's plot directly without giving too much away; suffice to say, it's set on a world called Hera in a town called Hope, and people seem to be living at a fairly "medieval" technological level, and then--early in the book--someone draws a knife with "B. Mussolini" engraved on it. There are several layers to everything that is happening on Hope, and meanwhile, the protagonist, a teenager named Vel, finds himself in the middle of a large, very complicated situation that he wants no part of. Overall, it's a dark, unsettling book that I think asks a lot of difficult questions and does not always come to the same conclusions people are accustomed to hearing.
Q: How did you come up with the idea for the book?
A: The concept for Hope's End has evolved over the course of about three or four years. It began when I had a conversation with the man who is now my agent, and we brainstormed plot ideas. That was when the skeleton grew. Then, I sat down and wrote a very rough draft--this was in the December of my Junior year in high school--and I showed it to him, and this agent said, "Well, it's not publishable, but in a few years it might be." And he was right.
So I went to a freelance editor, then I went to the Odyssey Writing Conference in New Hampshire, and then, just before I graduated from high school, I managed to sell it to Tor via the same agent who had helped me out. After that, it still wasn't finished changing. It even had around three different titles throughout all this time, and, usually in short, frantic bursts, I rewrote and rewrote and edited and rewrote the book some more, until it became the book that will be published in August. So, I suppose the muscles and the tissue and the skin and everything else that you see in the novel now, formed over those next few years, but the skeleton was there in a few hours over a long-distance phone call.
Q: What led up to the publication of the book? Not every author have their
debut novel published by Tor.
A: When I was in the sixth grade, I cranked out a lot of long, very awful books. Then, the summer after my sophomore year in high school, I decided to just grit my teeth and really try to write a good book. So that summer I wrote another long, fairly bad novel. Not as bad as the other things I had been turning out, but still not very readable beyond the first fifty pages. Being that that age is one of the "formative years" and that I was grappling with "what I wanted to be when I grow up", I questioned writing. At the time, I was doing two things: acting and writing; so naturally I said, "I know, I'll do one of those." Acting and writing, of course, being two of the professions that are the most difficult to succeed in. I was well aware of this at the time.