If you haven’t yet read THE FARM by Emily McKay (the 2013 RITA Award Winner for Best Young Adult Romance), you’re in for a creepy treat, and the 2nd book in the series, THE LAIR, just came out today! Emily stopped by to answer a few of my questions about the series, and more, so please welcome her to the blog!
Also, wanna win an advanced copy of THE LAIR and an Escape the Farm backpack? See details below the interview!
Emily, for those that haven’t yet read THE FARM, will you tell us a little bit about the Ticks and the post apocalyptic world you’ve created?
First off, thanks for having me here today!
In The Farm, terrifying mutated humans called Ticks have spread across the U.S. causing the collapse of civilization. The Ticks will eat any human they come across, but they find teenage hormones uniquely yummy, so people sent their kids off to camps called Farms, to protect them from the Ticks. Except life on the Farms is pretty tough. Twin sisters Lily and Mel have been living on a Farm for about six months and they’re both convinced that when they turn eighteen, they’re going to be harvested for their blood. They’ve figured out how to escape the Farm, but their plan becomes complicated when a friend from their past shows up to help and brings along a vampire friend who just might betray them all. There’s lots of action, romance, betrayal, sacrifice. All the good stuff.
What can readers expect from Lily and her twin sister Mel, in the next installment, THE LAIR?
I don’t want to give any spoilers (for either book), but there are lots of changes for both of them. We get to see more of the world outside the Farm system. We meet the other people in the rebellion and other vampires too. Plus, we learn some terrifying information about how the Tick virus was developed and released into the world.
What have you enjoyed most about writing Mel and Lily’s story, and the series in general? Why do you think readers will connect with the sisters?
I’ve loved writing their relationship. I love how devoted they are to each other. Also, there are a couple of fun romances in the book and I’ve enjoyed working on those. Of course, I love writing the romances! I love all the relationships in the books: Lily’s and Mel’s, Lily’s and Carter’s, Joe’s and McKenna’s. To me, those are the important part of the story. Yes, the vampire apocalypse is an interesting backdrop, but for me the meat of the story is how we take care of the people we love.
I was sitting in a writing workshop … oh, probably four years ago. The workshop was on world building and the presenter talked about how important it is for all the elements to make sense. At the time, I thought, “Well, Twilight’s world building is crap, because that world doesn’t make any sense. If the vampires are really smarter, faster and stronger than us, then why are they in hiding? Why haven’t they taken over the world and started farming us as food.” (Btw, I mean absolutely no disrespect to Twilight. I really enjoyed those books. This is just what went through my head at the time.) And then I thought, “Someone should write a book where that happens. I’d totally read that!” And then I had that aha moment. “Hey, I should write a book like that!”
Ever since the vampire craze started (again), I’ve been missing scary vampires. So I knew I wanted to write scary vampires.
You’re also an accomplished romance author, in addition to the Farm series, so you’re a writer that wears some very different hats! What made you decide to take the plunge and write your first novel?
I’ve just always wanted to be a storyteller. I think I wanted to be a writer before I even knew that there were people who wrote novels. I had a couple of story ideas I toyed with in high school, but then I didn’t really start writing until I’d graduated college.
Do you think your teaching background has helped you in your writing? If so, how?
Yes, I suppose it has. For one thing, it taught me not to underestimate teenagers. You hear a lot about how teenagers are lazy or self-involved or whatever, but that wasn’t my experience with teenagers when I was a teacher. I taught in a pretty poor part of town. Those kids were tough. They were gritty and determined. Sometimes they were rude and they didn’t respect you unless you’d earned it, but they were never lazy. They were never self-involved. They didn’t have time for that. They were already working hard to take care of younger siblings or family members. Everything they had, they fought for.
Someone asked me once why I wrote about strong teenage girls (for some reason that’s a very popular question). Here’s my take on it: I don’t know any weak teenage girls.
So, my experience teaching helped with that. And here’s the other way it helped: writing is hard. Sometimes the work is grueling and the hours are crazy and I just want to give up. When I hit rock bottom as a writer (and I do at least once a book), that’s when I ask myself, “Okay, then, you want to go back to teaching? No? Then get back to work!”
What novels or authors have influenced you the most, in your writing, and in life?
I’m sure a lot of writers say this, but Jane Austen, definitely. She basically invented the story structure of the modern romance. The interpersonal conflict between Darcy and Lizzy. The physical attraction that leads to emotional involvement. The way their growing affection for one another leads to character growth. That’s basically the plot of every romance in book and in movies and it all starts with Jane Austen.
As for more recent authors, I love how complex and well thought out the Harry Potter books are. I think they’re the gold standard for modern story telling. I also really love Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files. His stories and character relationships are complex and compelling. Things are always getting more complicated and layered. And his writing style is terse and simple, but really elegant, too.
What are you reading now?
I just finished Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, which was amazing! It was just fun and delightful and delicious. But realistic too, you know? The character’s father is bi-polar. My mother is bi-polar and I was amazed at how well she nailed it. Without being over the top, either. It was just an element of the story. The book was really well done. And not dreary. I don’t do dreary literary type books. (Sorry if that sounds prejudice. I’m just a genre girl at heart.)
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
I have to quote Winston Churchill on this, because he said it best, “Never, never, never give up.” It’s as simple as that. Never stop writing. Never stop believing you can do it. Never stop trying to be a better writer. Never stop believing the readers deserve the best story you can write.
I have to ask…did you do anything special for Halloween?
We go all out for Halloween at my house. We spent weeks making elaborate costumes. And spent a fortune on fabric and wigs and face paint. It’s oodles of fun and a holiday we all love. Plus, I love to bake, so I made homemade caramel apples (which were much harder than you’d think) and popcorn balls. Next year, I’m totally making homemade candy corns!
What’s next for you, this year and beyond?
Right now, I’m working on the follow up to The Farm and The Lair. I’m calling it The Vault, but that’s just a working title. I’m enjoying diving back into this world and I’m eager to see how this all plays out. On the side, I’m also working on an Urban Fantasy book I’m really excited about, but that’s still in the new idea stage. My agent hasn’t even seen it yet, so who knows what will come of that.
2.) Giveaway is for 1 copy (arc) of THE LAIR by Emily McKay + Escape the Farm backpack to 1 winner
3.) Giveaway is open US residents (or those with a US mailing address)
4.) You must enter before 11/13/13
5.) Please see my Giveaway Policy.
About THE LAIR:
In the battle against the vampiric Ticks, humanity was slowly but certainly headed for extinction. For months, twin sisters Lily and Mel had been “quarantined” with thousands of other young people being harvested for their blood—food for the Ticks. Finally escaping with a few friends, the twins are separated—and must continue the fight on their own . . .
After making it to a resistance base camp in Utah, Lily learned to survive at all costs. But when a Tick attack decimates the fighters, Lily and her pregnant friend, McKenna, decide to make the hard trek north to Canada—and safety.
Meanwhile, Mel is being taught how to survive by the very vampire that turned her. Living without her sister is hard, but dealing with the fact that her autism was cured by the vampire bite is an even bigger challenge.
But when a monstrous betrayal places Lily in mortal danger, Mel must set out to find her, save her, and begin to unravel the empire of destruction that the Ticks have built.
About THE FARM:
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…
About Emily McKay:
Nationally bestselling author and winner of the prestigious Rita award, Emily McKay got her start writing romance novels. After ten years of writing books with babies and billionaires, Emily decided to try her hand at something different–Young Adult horror. Hey, she just really missed reading about scary vampires.
When she’s not devising new ways to kill vampires, Emily lives in the hill country with her husband, The Geek, her two great kids, two cats and two dogs. In her spare time, she raises organic vegies and chickens and tries to hide the fact that she’s secretly prepping for the apocalypse.