I really enjoyed Seth Fishman’s new novel, THE WELL’S END (out tomorrow), and Seth was kind enough to
submit to my interrogation answer a few of my questions about the new book, and more!
Congrats on your new book, THE WELL’S END! Have you always wanted to be a writer? Will you tell us a little about yourself and your background?
And thank you for reading! I have not always wanted to be a writer. As a kid I had this weird idea about being an architect. But, from maybe 7th grade on I started dreaming in letters and have been writing ever since. I wrote bad stories for contests, for magazines (my first published piece was LOTR fanfic) and then ended up at Princeton which had, as a major reason I applied, a ridiculously wonderful creative writing program. I took classes there, got rejected from some classes there, then ended up writing this historical fiction thesis (cause I also majored in history, Roman). Honestly, that wasn’t the first book I wanted to write, so I went to get my MFA from the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England, the ‘big’ program in the UK. I went cause it was only one year, cheaper, and was IN ENGLAND. I love England. I love castles. And lamb. And then I just kept writing. It took four books to get one good enough, but it’s been worth it.
Part of the inspiration for your heroine’s background is the true story of Baby Jessica (Jessica McClure), who, in 1987, fell down a well at 18 months old in Midland, TX, where you grew up. I’m from the DFW area, so I certainly remember the case well. What made you decide to incorporate that into your book, and into Mia’s story?
That’s a good question. I’m not sure what made me think of it, what the genesis of the idea was, but throughout my life I’d think of her, or I’d see her in a restaurant or something. Most recently I was in the hospital in Midland and saw the article about her from the day she was rescued framed on the wall. The thing is, I’m not trying to tell or take over her story. I just found myself wondering what it would be like down there. I remember what happened up top, how it felt, and I wanted to take that national emotion and see what the character would grow into, and how such a crazy event would shape Mia. It is almost like cheating, as she comes with these ‘issues’ preplanted.
Why do you think readers will root for Mia, and what did you enjoy most about writing her character?
I hope they root for Mia, and I hope they do it because she’s a real teen. I wanted to try to make her fallible yet strong, the type that actually messes up and needs friends and needs others, like all of us. I had such a great time writing her trying to pick up on what Brayden was putting down. Because, well, I’m a guy and I kept writing Brayden as what I knew from highschool, but my editor wasn’t catching the flirting. Suddenly I realized that I had been doing it wrong in highschool forever. And that’s why I didn’t have a girlfriend.
In THE WELL’S END, the entire town of Fenton, Colorado begins to succumb to a deadly illness. What kind of research did you do for the book?
Well, I did lots of research for the swimming aspect, Mia’s talent. But otherwise I let it go. Base stuff, like aqueducts, masks, prep schools, sure I did research. But the virus is something new and different, and I wanted to treat it as such.
What made you decide to write a book for a young adult audience?
I’ve written three books for ‘adults’ and this was a new thing. It was a challenge. I was in a funk, having just come close but failing to sell a book, and my agent – the great Kirby Kim— suggested we brainstorm and try YA. I had not had such fun writing in years. I knew it was the right place for me.
What are a few of your biggest literary influences?
I read so much that I’d say I’m all over the place. Lord of the Rings remains high on the list but that series is so flawed in terms of teaching you how to write that it wasn’t the focus. Enders Game by Orson Scott Card, or The Painted Bird by Jerzy Kosinski were big. I loved Murakami for a bit. All over the place!
If you could experience one book again for the first time, which one would it be?
Wow great question. How can I even answer that? Cry with Where the Red Fern Grows? Hard work paying off with The Sound and the Fury? The pure adrenaline of Hunger Games or Andromeda Strain? The epic effort of The Gunslinger and the Dark Tower series? Did I just cheat?
What are you currently reading?
I just finished Hild by Nicola Griffith, a great historical fiction about a young seer/saint in pre-England, and am reading Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence (good but relentlessly dark) and Vorrh by B. Catling (genius). I’m aching for a strong YA to dip into and have never read Patrick Ness so I think I’m heading that way.
When you manage to find some free time, how do you like to spend it?
What free time? Ha. I play soccer still, which I really love. I love to travel and read and watch good TV.
What’s next for you?
I just turned in the sequel to The Well’s End and am very sure I’ll have to do lots of edits (ugh). I have ideas for more sequels, but these two are going to have to do well enough to merit any. If not, a book with poisons seems fun.
About THE WELL’S END:
Sixteen-year-old Mia Kish’s small town of Fenton, Colorado is known for three things: being home to the world’s tallest sycamore tree, the national chicken-thigh-eating contest and one of the ritziest boarding schools in the country, Westbrook Academy. But when emergency sirens start blaring and Westbrook is put on lockdown, quarantined and surrounded by soldiers who shoot first and ask questions later, Mia realizes she’s only just beginning to discover what makes Fenton special.
And the answer is behind the wall of the Cave, aka Fenton Electronics, of which her father is the Director. Mia’s dad has always been secretive about his work, allowing only that he’s working for the government. But unless Mia’s willing to let the whole town succumb to a strange illness that ages people years in a matter of hours, the end result death, she’s got to break quarantine, escape the school grounds and outsmart armed soldiers to uncover the truth.