For What It's Worth

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Author Interview: Ann Aguirre

Today I'm welcoming author Ann Aquirre to For What It's Worth. I've been a fan of her Sci-fi romance Sirantha Jax series and was dying to read her take on YA dystopian. She did not disappoint. Ann's debut YA novel Encalve - Book 1 in her new Razorland series - will be released April 12th, 2011

Karen - Tell us a little about your YA debut novel, Enclave. You have said that you are obsessed with the series. (I am now too)
Ann - Always, when I get this question, I want to dig my toes in the dirt and go, "Golly gee whiz, I wrote it. Don't make me talk about it. You should just read it." So that's what I'm going to do this time. (But for those who like a more substantive reply, you can find out anything you'd ever want to know about the book right here. Or alternatively, you can just ask Karen if it's worth your time. I'm sure I can rely on her unsolicited testimonial.)
Karen: You can read just how much I loved Enclave in my review here

K- Why do you think people are so interested in the dystopian/apocalypse genre, particularly in YA, right now?
A -I think it's because they're uplifting. No, seriously. You take a world in utter disarray. Things are incredibly bleak. Then a hero arises, someone who has the desire and drive to succeed, no matter what. And this person changes his or her world in some fashion. How can that message not be incredibly valuable to young adults? I think it lends hope that there can always be brightness, no matter how dark it seems.

K -Do you believe in all the 2012 and apocalypse predictions?
A - Nope. In fact, there aren't any authentic Mayan apocalypse predictions per se. The Mayan calendar ends in 2012, but it doesn't mean they thought the world would. It's just the termination of a cycle.

K - What type of research did you do writing Enclave? Of course this is fiction but there were lot of little details that seemed very authentic regarding what I would think it would be like in a post-apocalyptic world.
A - It’s hard to envision the end of the world or predict what it might be like. Most of my research indicated that if some apocalypse occurred— disease, famine, or zombie scourge— society as we
know it would likely break down within a hundred years. I read a number of articles, including this one: Science Ponders Zombie Attack. (Full study details are available
here: here) In the nebulous future described in Enclave, biological weapons and manufactured plagues were to blame for the swift deterioration of modern life. To aid in that depiction, I watched Life After People, an informative and entertaining show on the
History Channel.
I also investigated what products might still be functional after such a calamity, what scavengers might be able to pluck from the wreckage of a lost world. Plastic has a long, long shelf life - one article I read said certain plastics will never break down in a land- ll— so the buckets, bottles, and sunglasses make
sense in that context. I also determined that such a catastrophe would preclude the use of motor vehicles, so nothing more advanced than a bicycle can be found in Enclave.
I also came across fascinating information regarding the longevity of canned goods. One anecdote relates that a can of veal, which was more than a hundred years old and had gone on an Arctic expedition with William Parry in 1820, was opened in 1938 and fed to a cat. In a similar case, the steamboat Bertrand sank in the Missouri River in 1865 due to excessive weight of its provisions. It was recovered north of Omaha, Nebraska, in 1968. Among the goods were cans of brandied peaches, oysters, plum tomatoes,
honey, and mixed vegetables. Chemists analyzed the food for spoilage and nutrition; though it wasn’t fresh anymore, it was still all as safe to eat as when it was canned.
Finally, the inspiration for the heroine’s underground tribe stems from my fascination with the folks who dropped out of modern society and developed their own counterculture, right below New York. You can read more in this fantastic book, The Mole People: Life in the Tunnels Beneath New York City by Jennifer Toth.
K - All your research really paid off. These little details helped it feel like our world and kept me fully immersed in the story. I found my self smiling when they opened something like a can of Comstock Cherries, it made the story more relatable to me.

K - I’m getting way ahead here since Enclave doesn’t even release until April, but the book read like it was a movie to me. Has there been any interest or is that all too soon?
A - There have been some nibbles, actually, but no bites yet. If the book does well, however, that could change.
K - *crossing my fingers* I totally see this book as a YA version of Alien - except with zombies and the Deuce reminds me so much of Ripley and the tension from that movie feels the same to me.

K - You have TEN books coming out this you have time to sleep? Eat?
A - Yes, actually. I also take weekends off to have fun and hang with my family. I approach this as my job -- the best job in the world, granted, and my dream come true-- but it is work. And so I work, at least forty hours a week at this. Sometimes that's revisions, edits, and writing new words, all on different projects in the same five days. Sometimes it means an overload of promo work and answering emails. Whatever it takes, that's what I do. Sometimes I work fourteen hours a day when deadlines demand, but it's so worth it. It all comes down to managing your time well, and I am very self-driven. I don't need anyone telling me to get to work or my book will be late. In the last three years, I've had over 45 deadlines (that's book, revisions, edits and galleys combined on all my various projects) and I've never once missed a deadline. So I think my motivation speaks for itself.
Karen - For a complete list of Ann's upcoming 2011 releases click here

K - What inspires you?
A - Weird things. Random things. Everything. The world is pretty awesome when you get right down to it. True story, I was driving to pick my kids up from school and I saw a man trudging down the sidewalk. He was dressed up, but disheveled, as if the day hadn't gone as he'd planned. In his hands, he carried a mixed bouquet of pink and red roses. He paused for a second outside a house, but he didn't ring the bell. Instead his shoulders slumped and he put the flowers in the rubbish. Then he walked on. Watching that, I thought, that's a story.
That's kind of how I operate. I get ideas from snippets of conversation, from a vignette I see, from the way people dress and talk. Sometimes books come to me in incredibly vivid Technicolor dreams. I pretty much always have an incredible backlog of ideas that I haven't gotten to write yet. It's enough to keep me busy for the next ten years.

K - You often describe yourself on Twitter as a geek who loves video games and Dr. Who. What is your favorite video game?
A - I worship at the altar of BioWare. I loved the Mass Effect games. I also love Dragon Age. I am counting down the minutes until I can grab Dragon Age 2 in March. But I also loved the old Baldur's Gate games and the KotOR series as well. (BioWare had a hand in all of those, so I guess you're sensing a pattern.) The only games I play right now that aren't BioWare are the Fallout series by Bethesda. For me, the story is paramount.

K - And what actor has been your favorite incarnation of the Dr.? Who has been your favorite of his travelling companions?
A - Christopher Eccleston (I know, everyone else loves Mr. Tennant, and while he was goofy and adorable, Mr. Eccleston had an irresistible dark and rugged vibe with his black jumpers and leather jackets and shorn hair.) Rose Tyler. Nothing has touched the magic of that first season for me, though Amy Pond is a very close runner-up. I loved that Rose got to live happily ever after with a version of the doctor.
K - I'm with you - no one beats Christopher Eccleston as the Doctor and Rose Tyler as the sidekick. David Tennant is a close second though. I still haven't been able to warm up to the new guy yet.

A -Thanks for having me.

Thanks so much for taking time to stop by today Ann!
You guys have to wait a bit for Enclave but in the meantime be sure to check out her Sirantha Jax series, starting with Grimspace (Sirantha Jax, Book 1) If you're not sure if you like sci-fi this is a good one to start with. Plenty of action and romance! I'm starting her Skin series next (under the pen name Ava Gray)She has so many books out that it *should* keep me occupied until Outpost - book 2 in the Razorland series comes out in 2012.
Yikes!! I might not make it!


  1. Oooh a YA version of Alien!? I'm in! I've been hearing such good things about Enclave. Thanks for the great interview.

  2. She has 10 books coming out!? Wow, wow, wo

  3. Holy Crow! 10 books! Amazing.

    I've heard so many great things about Enclave, and I love dystopian, so I can't wait to read it.

    Fun interview. It is great to know more about where the author picks up inspiration. She is right, the world is an interesting place and full of untold stories.

  4. Awesome, AWESOME interview. I fully intend on having a full "Ann Aguirre/Ava Gray" shelf by the end of the year. Yay!

  5. Thanks so much for this interview, I'm dying to read this book1 I love the Sirantha Jax series as well so I'm excited to read her take on a YA dystopian. Love how she described dystopian as uplifting as well, I never really thought about it that way but she's absolutely right. And 10 books releasing this year? That's craziness, but so wonderful for all of us readers:)

  6. Great interview!
    I like how you get inspired by small situations in life, you see these things as opportunities. You can never have too many opportunities in life.

  7. @Alisha - She also writes as Ellen Conner so expand that shelf!

    Yup - 10 books! Two of them are upcoming anthologies - so not full books but still. Great if your a fan though!

    @Jenny - I love the Jax series even though I didn't think I owuld like sci-fi. I loved that answer as well - we always think of the apocalypse bringing out the worst but she brought up a great point and her attitude really shows in Enclave.

  8. Can't wait for Enclave as well as the rest of Ann's releases this year!

    Thanks for the interview!