Honestly YA welcomes debut author T. Michael Martin - an author to watch!
THE END GAMES
Seventeen-year-old Michael and his five-year-old brother, Patrick, have been battling monsters in The Game for weeks.
In the rural mountains of West Virginia, armed with only their rifle and their love for each other, the brothers follow Instructions from the mysterious Game Master. They spend their days searching for survivors, their nights fighting endless hordes of “Bellows”—creatures that roam the dark, roaring for flesh. And at this Game, Michael and Patrick are very good.
But The Game is changing.
The Bellows are evolving.
The Game Master is leading Michael and Patrick to other survivors—survivors who don’t play by the rules.
And the brothers will never be the same.
I had the pleasure of meeting T. Michael Martin during last year's SCBWI Winter Conference and he said I can call him Mike, so I will :) He impressed me so much and was so personable, I thought, "I hope he'll come visit with us over at Honestly YA before his debut novel releases." Then, keeping tabs on him like the professional stalker I am, I saw THIS on the amazon page for THE END GAMES:
“This is one of the sharpest, most unexpected zombie novels I’ve read in a long time.” (Mira Grant, bestselling author of the Newflesh trilogy )
WHAT!? I am a total Newsflesh fan! I'd always planned to buy Mike's book, but that little blurb initiated instant pre-order! That was enough for me. For you, maybe:
“The End Games is my favorite kind of zombie story: utterly thrilling, deeply moving, beautifully written, and entirely unputdownable. A must read!” (Carrie Ryan, author of The Forest of Hands and Teeth )
“It’s full of both jaw-dropping action and heart-twisting beauty. It’s a thrill ride that makes you think and feel: terrifying and joyful, funny and moving.” (Sara Zarr, National Book Award Finalist for Story of a Girl )
Or maybe, all it will take to sway you is a visit with Mike. So, it is with great pleasure that I welcome T. Michael Martin!
Mike, thanks for taking the time to answer some questions for Honestly YA today. I promise, it will be painless (or, less painful than surviving an apocalypse, anyway). Ready, set, dish!
1. We start simply: What book or film spoke to you most during your teen years?
I think the film that most captured my emotional experience of being a teenager was Rushmore: It has a kind of beautiful, Charles Schultz-melancholy about it, and back then, I identified with the film's odd over/under-achieving protagonist.
But really, I'm mostly a child of blockbusters: Movies like E.T., Back to the Future, Jaws, and T2 were meaningful to me in different ways. And I fell in love with the way they tell “huge” stories on a very emotionally intimate scale.
As for books, as corny as it might sound, I found Letters to a Young Poet an enormous comfort to my (inretrospect-kinda-sweet) teenage anxieties. Also, I remember reading Nick Hornby's books and wondering how that thirty-something Brit had found the back door into my brain.
2. I think a lot of us have suspected authors can tap into our subconscious. Do you have a book (or books) or film that you reread regularly? If yes, what book or film and why?
I read The Stand about once a year, which I genuinely think is a pop masterpiece. I revisit everything by John Green and Sara Zarr a lot, too, because their (gorgeous, complex, generous) books showed me what YA could do.
The film I most revisit is E.T.: It's my favorite movie—its mix of joy/despair/wonder/terror is everything I'd like my own work to be—and even though it's one of the most popular films of all time, I still kinda feel like it's my movie.
3. Okay, we'll give you E.T. as your movie. What about books? What YA novel or novels have you read recently that you most want all your friends to read?
Sara Zarr's The Lucy Variations! It's Sara's best book, I think, and (no joke) one of the best contemporary YA novels ever.
4. How have those earlier book/film-loving years impacted your decisions as an author? In other words, did love of those stories make you want to write teen fiction?
In a way, definitely! Film is singularly powerful at conveying the awe and wonder of fresh experience, and one of the reasons I love YA is that it inherently deals with fresh experience. I think one of the reasons for the recent surge in adult YA readership is that YA's protagonists are people experiencing a vital kind of direct contact with life--an experience that can sometimes feel sadly absent in adulthood. So for me, wonder and mystery are two of the great joys on planet Earth, and both films and reading/writing YA reacquaint me with those feelings in a way that few other things can.
5. I don't think I have a question that cold possibly top that answer. Let’s talk about THE END GAMES now! What inspired you to write this story? Was there one (or more) particular thing(s) that captured your creativity?
Well, not to risk my ultra-manly persona, but: I wrote the book for my little brother.
I'd been wanting to write a story with zombies for years (I have on my hard drive an unfinished screenplay I wrote in eighth grade titled -- don't judge me -- Planet DEAD), but it wasn't until 2008 that I found a door into the story emotionally.
My real-life little brother, Patrick, and I were visiting Pennsylvania's Monroeville Mall then (the mall was the shooting location for the original Dawn of the Dead), and a random thought occurred to me: Why not write a post-apocalyptic book about two brothers, separated by ten years or so in age, trying to survive Armageddon in my home state of West Virginia?
I love my little brother so much, and owing to our age difference, I acted as both sibling and semi-parent to him as he grew up. So when I started writing THE END GAMES—which is about two brothers named Michael and Patrick—I was also writing about this question: How do you protect innocence during the apocalypse? Or, maybe better put: Can you?
6. That's something that will require deep thought to answer, I think. While I'm pondering that, would you share with our readers how the characters of Michael and Patrick developed? Are they very much you and your brother or does the similarity end with the names?
They started out as us. After awhile, though, as the characters grew, they became so different from me and my brother that I didn't feel weird about using the names (which I'd originally intended only to be placeholders until I could come up with something better). But even though they wound up being so different from me and my real-life brother, the one thing that never changed, in life or the book, is the love the brothers share.
7. You live in West Virginia. Curiously, THE END GAMES is set in West Virginia. How much on-the-ground research did you do? Was there hiking, biking, camping involved?
First, the Non-Embarrassing Answer: There was a lot of hiking and biking. The scenery in West Virginia, which can be so beautiful as to seem almost otherwordly, always inspired me. (One of my favorite scenes in The End Games came to me while I was on a hike and saw a hot-air balloon rise from a nearby treeline.)
By far the most memorable (read: embarrassing) research came during my visit to the West Virginia State Capitol building—which is where the book's “Safe Zone” is located. I was alone on a tour with one (unlucky) Capitol Guide, and I started asking questions that were, for my novel's subject matter, totally appropriate, and were, for a person in a government building, totally, inappropriate to ask in a government building. Questions like: “Hey, is this window bulletproof?”
(When the Guide started looking panicked, I realized my error and rapidly explained that I was writing a book.)
8. If I've never read a zombie book or watched a zombie movie, what's a good 'primer'? Or can I leap right into THE END GAMES without knowing any of the lore?
You can leap right into THE END GAMES for sure! This might sound funny, but I don't actually consider THE ENDS GAMES a “zombie book”; I've always thought of it as a psychological thriller that happens to takes place in a living-dead world. More importantly, though: The book has its own fully-explained mythology, so readers will be okay even if they'd never heard of Night of the Living Dead.
9. Oh, that's super good to know! I like a story that presents its own mythology. But that's me. For our readers, what books or films would you say “if you liked XYZ, you’ll love THE END GAMES”?
Early readers have compared it a lot to Stephen King, The Road, and I Am Legend (which is, of course, really really really flattering). In a recent starred review of the book, Booklist also compared it to Patrick Ness's amazing The Knife of Never Letting Go.
Because of the book's warmth and humor, though, I think John Green and Sara Zarr readers will enjoy it, too. (My agent has always described it as “The Stand meets John Green.” Which, of course, is my favorite sentence ever.)
10. What’s next on your author horizon?
Right now, I'm working on my next book for Balzer + Bray, due out in autumn 2014. It's another YA thriller, and although we're keeping the plot a secret at the moment, I will say that it's not a sequel to The End Games, and doesn't have any zombie-ish creature in it.
I'm also excited to be working on a new screenplay with a filmmaker whose work I really love.
And I'm looking forward to growing my YouTube channel (www.youtube.com/tmikemartin), which I started in November and hope your awesome readers will check out!
Thanks so much for having me, y'all, and for all the wonderful questions!
Thank you, Mike, for being with us today! And I'm sure our readers will check out your vlog (won't you all? you will, right?) and keep hurry and pre-order Mike's book from one of these retailers:
Barnes and Noble
or pick it at your local bookstore on May 7