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Today I’m excited to interview Adam Jay Epstein and Andrew Jacobson about their second book in THE FAMILIARS series SECRETS OF THE CROWN. Remember how I confessed about a month ago that I don’t really like stories with animals as main characters? Well, SECRETS OF THE CROWN proved me wrong again. I loved Aldwyn (a favorite name of mine), the telekinetic cat, Skylar, a blue jay who can create illusions, and Gilbert, an insecure tree frog that can see visions in water.
Here’s a description from Goodreads:
A curse befalls Vastia, eliminating human magic. Only animals are able to cast spells, and it is up to Aldwyn, Skylar, and Gilbert to save the queendom from the evil threatening it. In addition, Aldwyn discovers the truth about his past, embarking on a journey that brings him closer to the father he never knew.
Hi Adam & Andrew. Thanks so much for joining us.
1. Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you became friends. I’m dying to know how you became friends from reading how you met on the book jacket.
Everyone knows how we met... it's written on the back flap of our book... we were both living in the same apartment building and started chatting in the parking lot. What people don't know is that we didn't really become friends until the next year, when we lived in temporary housing up in the Hollywood Hills. We spent our days writing and our nights hanging out at the pool with Hillary Duff, Frankie Muniz, and Megan Fox.
2. I just knew that you met in the parking lot. That is amazing how you connected again and then became friends and writing partners. How did you decide on Aldwyn’s, Skylar’s, and Gilbert’s magical powers and the whole mythology about the creation of Vastia and change of who governed it?
Aldwyn's power of telekinesis was chosen because we needed a power that Aldwyn could fake while he was pretending to be magical...Skyar's power was something incredible that wouldn't be too powerful and make them too easy to succeed. (We always wanted to maintain the idea that our familiars were the underdogs.) As for Gilbert, we needed a character who could tell the future so that the Grey Hair Witch storyline could come to pass.
The world itself was created with a secret history that would later empower the animal heroes of our story. It is revealed that animals first ruled this land before humans took control. This conflict plays out through the whole series.
3. So interesting how the plot dictated their magical abilities. Tell us a bit about Aldwyn and Skylar’s secret longing about their families that drives some of their character development throughout SECRETS OF THE CROWN. How did you plot this out?
We're always striving to have strong emotional arcs in our books and there's no better way to conjure that than with family. We really made sure that Aldwyn, Skylar, and Gilbert had familial journeys that played out in the first two books. It continues through book three and will through every Familiars book that we write.
4. I could never figure out which one of you wrote what parts of the story. Tell us about your writing process and how you make the story seem like it is told by only one author.
(Andrew's) mom wonders the same thing. She always wants to know which lines (Andrew) writes. And he tells her the same thing we're going to tell you. We don't know. That's because we sit in a room from 9:30 am to 5:00 pm across from each other and write every paragraph, sentence, and word together. Because of our process, the singularity of voice remains constant.
5. Ha! That's so mom-like to want to know. You must be incredibly good friends to be able to sit in a room with each other everyday. I hadn’t read the first book in your series but I could totally understand what was going on by the bits of backstory you fed us throughout the book. What are your tips for creating a series and figuring out how much backstory to share in the second book of the series?
We were really figuring this out ourselves, and continue to figure it out in subsequent books. It's a very fine balance. The bits of backstory we put in are more like reminders for people who read the first book than trying to acclimate a reader to the series mid-stream.
6. I’ve read that you also write for television and film together. Can you tell us a little bit about that and how that’s helped in your writing a novel?
Writing for film has definitely helped us be visual storytellers... using language to show action. There are very few scenes of characters just sitting around talking without something else going on to keep the scene exciting and a reader engaged. Pacing is another tool from our screenwriting kit that we're able to bring to our novels.
7. Yes, it's so easy to make the mistake of having characters just sit around and talk in a book. But you're right, it's better to weave it in with action. Tell us about how you got your agent at Regal Literary and your road to publication.
Our road was not a typical one for most authors. For eight years prior to writing our book, we had a literary agent for film and television. When we decided to write a book, we contacted an agent at our agency in Los Angeles who specialized in selling books to film companies. He helped guide us through writing our initial proposal for The Familiars. Then he passed it along to Joe Regal and Markus Hoffman at Regal Literary in New York, and we were fortunate enough for them to sign us off that proposal. From that point we worked with Markus for nine months before completing a revised proposal. It was then sent out to the major publishing houses and we were lucky enough to have Barbara Lalicki at HarperChildrens read the material and get very excited about it. A book deal was made for a trilogy and then a few weeks later we sold the film rights to Sony Animation!
8. Awesome. We all wish we had those type of connections. I read that THE FAMILIARS is going to be produced for film and that Sam Raimi is the producer. I love his work. How exciting! Tell us how that came about and what your role is in the movie. When is it coming out?
We sold the film rights to Sony Animation and Sam Raimi came aboard as producer. We adapted the book into a screenplay and worked on about a half dozen drafts. We received incredible input from Sam and it was certainly a career highlight for us to collaborate with. Because the film is going to be a 3D animated movie, it is not slated for release until 2014.
9. Can't wait to see it. Most authors don't have the experience like you do to write the screenplay. What are you working on now?
We are finishing up book three of The Familiars, Circle of Heroes. We are working on a screenplay at Paramount with the producer of The Transformers called Lions, Tigers, and Bears. And we are excited to begin a brand new book series (STARBOUNDERS) for the spring of 2013. It is a middle grade sci fi fantasy about regular kids who go to space camp and find out that it is not an ordinary space camp, but one that trains them to save the galaxy.
Good luck with your book and movie. Thanks Adam and Andrew for sharing your advice with us.
You can find Adam and Andrew at their website. Like them on Facebook too.
Adam and Andrew's agent generously offered a copy of SECRETS OF THE CROWN for a giveaway. All you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment by midnight on November 19th. I’ll announce the winner on November 21st. If your e-mail is not on Blogger, please list it in your comment. International entries are welcome.
If you mention this contest on your blog, Twitter, or Facebook, please let me know in the comments and I’ll give you an extra entry.
Marvelous Middle Grade Mondays was started by Shannon Whitney Messenger to spotlight middle grade authors. Check it out here.
And check out these other Marvelous Monday Middle Grade Reviewers:
Hope to see you next Monday!