Today, I’m pleased to be joined by a fellow 2017 Debut Author, Andrew DeYoung, whose debut young-adult novel, The Exo Project, is scheduled to come out tomorrow, April 4, 2017 from Boyd Mills
JR: Hi, Andrew and thanks for joining us today!
Before we begin, can you tell us a little bit about The Exo Project and the impetus behind writing it?
ADY: The Exo Project is a science fiction novel with two main characters: Matthew, a human boy who joins a mission to find a replacement planet for Earth, and Kiva, a telepathic alien girl who leads a matriarchal society on the planet he finds.
The book started, for me, with an image: a girl, lying on the grass in a huge prairie that stretches to the horizon. At the moment the sun sets, the girl closes her eyes and has a vision of a spaceship coming down and landing on the grass, and a boy walking out of it.
I ran to my computer and wrote out that scene, then started asking questions. Who was that girl? What was this prairie planet she lived on? What was her society like? And the boy in the spaceship—who was he? Why was he there? Why did he leave Earth behind? The whole novel basically grew our of that first image, and the questions it raised.
JR: I saw on your website, www.andrewdeyoung.com, that you have a blog which deals a lot with pop culture. Does that play a part in your novel at all?
ADY: I occasionally blog at a pop culture site called The Stake (thestake.org). At The Stake, we write a lot about the power of genre fiction. I love genres like science fiction, fantasy, mystery, and horror. I can’t say that anything I’ve written at The Stake directly influenced The Exo Project, but my work in both places is informed by my belief that genre fiction, particularly science fiction, is a place where we as writers and readers can think deeply about the human experience and things that we see happening in society, while also enjoying really entertaining stories.
JR: Can you tell us a little bit about your writing journey getting to this point?
ADY: I’ve had the dream of being a published novelist since I was in high school! When I was a freshman, an English teacher gave us the assignments of naming out loud the one biggest thing we wanted to do with our lives. In front of my teacher and my classmates, I said I wanted to be a novelist.
I’ve dabbled in writing with varying degrees of dedication ever since then, but it wasn’t until 2012 when I decided that I needed to finally buckle down and go for my dream. I wrote my first novel—a YA historical mystery set in Victorian London—and got my agent on the strength of that novel.
But it didn’t sell. That was hard for me—I’d worked so hard just to finish that novel, and get an agent. But I knew that I could do better, so I started writing a new book, a weird little science fiction story that eventually became The Exo Project.
I finished The Exo Project, revised it thoroughly with my agent, and then we went back out on submission. I was delighted when Boyds Mills Press picked it up!
JR: What’s your writing process like?
ADY: I write every morning before my wife and daughter wake up, starting at 5:30 a.m. That sounds insane to a lot of people, but I’m a morning person so it’s not too bad.
I’m a planner: I outline and plot my novels extensively. But, when I’m writing I often discover that my best-laid plans don’t actually work! My characters don’t always behave the way I want them to. So I make my plans—and then, when the story wanders off in a different direction, I stop everything and make a new plan. It’s not unusual for me to go through three or four completely different outlines on a single book!
As for the writing itself, it depends on the day. Sometimes the words come easy, sometimes they come hard, and sometimes it’s like the story is flying through the tips of my fingers and onto the screen. Either way, I make myself put down the words, then try to make them better in revision!
JR: What’s your favorite book and who’s your favorite author?
ADY: This is too hard! I have literally dozens of “favorite” books and writers. But here are a couple favorite books that influenced The Exo Project in one way or another: Jonathan Lethem’s Girl in Landscape and Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles. I LOVE both of these books.
JR: What’s your favorite movie?
ADY: Again, too hard! But here are a couple of sci-fi favorites: 2001: A Space Odyssey and E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial.
JR: Something people would be surprised to learn about you?
ADY: I don’t know if it would necessarily surprise anyone, but I’m a newish dad. I’ve got a 14-month-old daughter who was born just a little bit after I got my book deal. Being a dad has changed my life more than I ever imagined it would! I love her to death.
JR: Do you do a lot of research when you write?
ADY: Not a ton. I did plenty of research when I wrote my historical novel, the one that didn’t sell, but since then I’ve been writing in genres that require a bit less research.
JR: Here at the Tuesdays, a big part of our success and the purpose of this site, has been being involved in a critique group. Are you involved in one and if so, how has it helped you?
ADY: I sure am! I have an awesome critique group who read all of The Exo Project and helped me make it way, way better. They’re an awesome bunch, and I thank them in the Acknowledgments
JR: What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve received and is there any advice you can give to writers looking to break in?
ADY: Commit to the process, not to the outcome. Big goals like “write a novel” or “get an agent” or “get a book deal” are so overwhelming that it’s easy to get discouraged and quit. Smaller goals like “write 500 words three times a week” or “send out one query letter every week” are much easier to stick to—but they’ll get you moving in the direction of your big goals. Reward yourself for committing to the process. The outcome will follow.
JR: What are you working on next?
ADY: I have a two-book deal with Boyds Mills, so I’m working on Book 2 for them now. It’s completely different than The Exo Project! I can’t say much about it right now, except to say that it involves murder, and time travel, and ghosts.
JR: Before we go, I always like to ask, who’s your favorite member of The Tuesdays and please don’t say Faran.
ADY: I’m going to tell you what my mom always told us when we asked her which of us she loved best: You’re all my favorite. Now eat your vegetables.
JR: Well, I don’t like that answer, but I guess it’s at least better than saying Faran. Anyway, thanks again Andrew, and good luck with The Exo Project!