Thursday, December 13, 2012

BIR 2012: The Farm by Emily McKay - Interview and Giveaway





I received a copy of this book at BEA back in June. After a few weeks, I decided to pick it up and read it even though the release date wasn't until December. It has been high on my list of faves ever since.
I haven't actually written a review for this book yet (although one will go up after all of the BIR goodness), but I don't need a review to tell you this book is amazing! I could not put it down.
I have a great interview with Emily McKay (which she thought might be too wordy, but I think is just perfect) as well as two prizes to giveaway.

A little bit about the book:
Life was different in the Before: before the Ticks began devouring humans in a deadly swarm across America; before the surviving young people were rounded up and quarantined “for their own protection.” These days, we know what those quarantines are–holding pens where human blood is turned into more food for the 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.

This book is Emily McKay's debut in the YA world. You wouldn't know it by reading The Farm. Not that Emily is a novice when it comes to writing. She has a number of Romance genre books published. But she makes the transition from Contemporary Romance writer to YA dystopian-type/Vampire apocalypse so flawlessly, it is hard to believe that she hasn't done it before.

Emily writes such edge of your seat grab you and hold on scenes, that you feel like you are right there experiencing with the characters. And speaking of characters, McKay's are so real and multi-dimensional, she makes them come alive. And the story itself, although dystopian/apocalyptic as are so many other books out there, is unique. McKay has found a way to keep things fresh and interesting, and not like any other book out there.  I have been waiting with bated breath for the sequel since July. And since The Farm just came out recently, I have a long time to wait. *sigh*

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BCM:  Being a romance writer, and having many books out in that genre, what made you decide to write a YA novel? And not just a YA novel, but a dystopian urban fantasy type YA novel? That is a far cry from romance. And you do a wonderful job. I love it when authors step outside of their safety zone, or what they are known for, and do something completely different. 

EM: Okay, don’t laugh, but I think there are actually a lot of similarities between romance novels and the kind of post-apocalyptic novel I wrote. Romance novels are all about hope, about love. They are the most optimistic of all genre fiction. Yes, some dystopian and post-apocalyptic novels are super grim, a lot of them have an underlying message of hope for the future. The very idea that there will a post apocalypse, that there will be anything after, is a very hopeful and optimistic idea. So at their core, romance novels and my little post-apocalyptic YA have that optimism in common.
Having said that, it was still a big stretch for me as a writer. The whole time I was writing the book, I was terrified that I wouldn’t be able to do justice to the story and to the characters. It took several drafts of the book (all of which my agent read  and then sent back to me saying, “No, we’re not there yet.”) before I reached the point where I realized, “Yes, this is different than anything I’ve ever written. But it’s still just a story and I know how to tell a story. Just do what you know and trust yourself and your process.”


BCM: How did you come up with the idea for The Farm? Did a lot of research go into the scientific part of the story? 

EM: I first had the idea for The Farm while in a writer’s workshop on world building. The presenters were talking about how a fictional world needs to be consistent to be believable. That every detail in the world needs to make sense. I thought about all the vampire novels in which the vampires (who are stronger, faster, smarter and tougher than humans) are the ones living in hiding. I thought, “Why don’t they just take over and farm humans as food?”
That was the spark of the idea for the book. That was almost four years ago. I worked on the proposal for almost two years, ironing out all the details of the world where The Farm takes place. One of the big problems for me was that I couldn’t just accept Vampires as mythological creatures. I wanted their existence to make sense to me in a scientific way. I needed to understand how a vampire would be biologically possible in a way that made sense to me.
One day, about a year after I had that initial idea, we were watching this show on Nova (love Nova!) about epigenetics. (In my very unscientific understanding, epigenetics are like the instructions attached to every creatures genetic code. They tell genes when to turn on an off. This is how you can have a human and a cow with an almost identical genetic code.) So, I was sitting there watching this show and thought, “This is how my vampires change from humans into vampires. This could make sense to me.” Now, of course, in real life, epigenetics is way more complicated than I make it seem and it takes a couple of generations for changes to take place as opposed to a couple of days.
But one other interesting thing came about from that show. Some of the studies that are helping researches understand the causes of autism involve epigentics. They look at identical twins one of whom has autism and one doesn’t, but who (obviously) have identical genetic code. 
I had already decided that Mel was on the autism spectrum when I saw the show, so it was just a case of several things coming together all at once. It’s really nice when that happens.

BCM: Your characters are so multidimensional and real. Are any of them based, even slightly, on anyone you know, or did they just make themselves known to you? I am sure you get a lot of questions about her, but Mel – she is just so compelling, and I love the insight into her thoughts even if I didn’t always understand them.  Can you tell us how becoming a Vampire will affect her with her being so severely autistic?

EM: Thank you for the lovely compliment about my characters!
I usually don’t have a very romanticized view of character development. My characters don’t really “just come to me.” To me, the characters have to serve the story and the plot. Having said that, with this book, these characters seemed more fully formed right out of the box than in any other of my books. For example, they all just came to me with names already attached. Usually when I start a book, I’ll have one or two characters who come to me with a name and I just know that’s right. This time, it was everyone. No one had to be “Sue (***maybe. Or maybe Suzy?***)” for half the book because I hadn’t settled on a name yet. 
Strangely, the only character who is really based on a someone from my life is Stoner Joe. Back when I was in high school, there was this guy in my neighborhood who was kind of like Joe. I didn’t know him that well. I don’t even remember his name (Tony maybe?). But every scene with Joe in it, I thought of that guy. 

I’m so glad you enjoyed Mel’s chapters. They were difficult to write. I’m sure there will be people who say, “Well, she doesn’t seem like an authentic autistic person to me.” But, she’s not strictly autistic. That’s not her only characteristic, you know? With in the context of the book, I tried to honor her as a character and to do justice to the story. So far, a lot of people have responded well to her. People seemed to be left wanting more of her. That was a big concern for me when I was writing the book. Because her chapters are a little harder to read, I never wanted people to feel like they were a chore.
To answer the rest of your question, yes, things will be extremely different for her in the next book. The way she experiences the world has changed. She’s capable of more and less than she was before. Plus, she’s been separated from everyone she loves. Yikes! Lots of changes for her. But one thing that is for certain, she’s still at the heart of the problem. Both she and Lily are more determined than ever to fight the good fight, but they have to do that in different ways.

BCM: Ticks vs. Vampires: obviously there is a large population of Ticks out there seeing as just about everyone alive turned into one. Where to the vampires fit in? How large of a vampire population is there in this world, and will they be playing any other major roles in future books?

EM: In my world, Ticks are like hyenas. They’re pack animals. They hunt and live in social packs. Vampires, on the other hand, are solitary creatures who are very territorial, much like the big cats. So while there can be a lot of Ticks in the world, there’s only so much territory for the Vampires to share. So there are only a couple hundred vampires in the whole world. Each vampire is fiercely protective of his or her hunting grounds.
In terms of origin, the vampires evolved naturally, but the Ticks were made. The virus that caused them was genetically engineered under the guidance of the vampire Roberto. When he did that, he created problems not only for the humans, but for the vampires also. So far, we’ve seen the repercussions of his actions in the human world. We’ve only seen the ripple on the surface of what’s going on in the vampire world. So, yes, the vampires will very much play a part in the coming books.

BCM: Will The Farm be a trilogy? And how long do we have to wait between books. I, personally, am dying here. I read The Farm soon after returning home from BEA, and then realized I had to wait what seemed like forever before the book was even released. And now I have to wait even longer for the sequel. *sigh* LOL

EM: My plan is for The Farm to be a trilogy that’s supplemented by on-line content. Starting in January there’s going to be fun Twitter campaign, which will give readers a glimpse into how the virus spread. How we get from where we are now to the events in The Farm. If you want to start following the handle now, it’s @EscapeTheFarm https://twitter.com/EscapeTheFarm. But the posts won’t start until sometime in January.
Also in January, I’m going to release a short novella that shows Lily and Mel arriving at the Farm. I’m hoping to do other shorts for Carter, Sebastian, and maybe a few other characters as well. As for the sequel, that won’t be out until November of 2013. But like I said, I’m going to keep offering little tidbits of the world to help pass the time.

BCM: Once you are done with that story, will you continue to write YA along with Romance? Do you have any other ideas for future YA books/series? 

EM: I have so many YA ideas! I also write YA under the name Ivy Adams with two friends of mine, Tracy Deebs and Shellee Roberts. Ivy Adams is working on a contemporary YA called The Charmed Life of Bailey Rhodes that’s about a girl making peace with the death of her best friend. Then I have a couple of ideas for other contemporary YA rom-coms (one that’s a re-telling of Pride and Prejudice, but set in the world of competitive high school robotics), as well as another big, urban fantasy type YA series.
I feel so blessed that I have so many ideas. Finding the time to write them is the problem. 

BCM: You are currently working on the sequel to The Farm, which I am extremely ecstatic about. Are there any sequels to any books you are looking forward to?
Or excited about, or want to see written?

EM: I recently read The Host, which I know you've said you read [I did read it, numerous times, and love it! - Kendra] and loved it. I can't wait for the sequel to that book! How about the rest of you, what are you excited about?
(Enter a comment with what you would like to see as a sequel, or are waiting on - It could just help in your entries for the prizes. ;)

BCM: Did you always want to be a writer? If you were not writing, what do you think you would be doing?

EM: Yes, I pretty much always wanted to be a writer. I think I wanted to do this before I even knew that all those books I loved were written by people. 
I did have a brief stint as a middle school teacher. I enjoyed teaching (and still love doing workshops and speaking in public), but I’m an introvert, so that’s not an ideal fit. Being around all those people all day long was exhausting to me. I felt like I had nothing left at the end of the day.
If I had to give up writing now, I’d …. Well, first I’d cry. A lot. Then maybe I would try to get a job  somewhere else in the industry. I love books too much to walk away completely.

BCM: Who are some of your favorite authors? Favorite books? Female and male characters? What type of books do you like to read/favorite genres?

EM: Oooh, great question! Who doesn’t love talking about their favorite books?
Obviously, Harry Potter is one of my favorite series. The books are brilliantly plotted and so complex. I think I could geek out about Harry Potter for hours and hours. To me, one of the coolest things about the series is how Rowling brought it every time. I think each book is a little better than the last. Each book is a little more complex, a little more layered. There are side characters who are relatively minor but who have these beautifully complex character arcs. It’s just brilliant. I think she’s the greatest genre writer alive today.
I just love Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody mystery series. I think she’s just one of the greatest genre writers of all time. I love every character in that series. I love watching Amelia and Emerson’s relationship develop and progress. I love watching Ramses start out as a baby and grow into a man and a romantic lead in his own right. (Does it sound creepy when I say that?)  My daughter and I have been listening the series from audible when we’re in the car. She just loves them, so it’s fun that we can share that.
I also adore Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden books. It’s another series where I feel like he brings it over and over again. The world is complex and scary, but you desperately want the characters to fight and win against incredible odds. He’s a writer who’s no afraid to make you really care a character and then kill that character if it serves the story. He’s brilliant.
If you’re talking strictly romance (‘cause that’s my background), I love Suzanne Brockman, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, and Mary Balogh. If you’re talking straight YA, I really like Kody Keplinger, Jenny Hahn, and Simone Elkeles. Oh, and Ann Brashear. I thought her book, My Name Is Memory was fantastic (and highly underrated). I also just read The Host by Stephanie Myers and really loved it. That’s another book that was underrated.

BCM: What types of things do you like to do in your spare time (do you actually have any, with deadlines and children and such? LOL)?

EM: I don’t have a ton of spare time. Lol! But I love to bake! My sister and I joke that it’s our way of managing our OCD. Also, I’m kind of an eco-nut. So we do some organic gardening, composting, etc. And we just got yard chickens this past spring. We have four Buff Orpingtons. They’ve been laying eggs for about a month now and that’s fun. It’s an excuse to get off the sofa, go out in the yard and interact with other living creatures for at least a few minutes every day. 

BCM: Before we go, is there anything else you would like to tell your readers about, well, anything?

EM: Nope. Just be sure to follow me on Twitter and Facebook. Oh, and be sure to check out my lovely new website: www.EscapeTheFarm.com and just for kicks, my ancillary website www.NPDCO.org (for more information about the events leading up to The Farm.) I love to get mail from readers. You can email me at Emily <at> EmilyMcKay <dot> com. Also, if you want to win great swag, sign up for my Green Team at http://www.escapethefarm.com/green-teams/

BCM: Thanks so much for taking the time  to do the interview, and for writing one of my favorite books not just of the year, but ever. 

EM: Thank you so much for having me and for loving The Farm! I really appreciate it!
Also, I’ll be giving away a signed copy of The Farm and a Vampire Apocalypse Survival Kit today, so be sure to comment! [Emily has also offered a Vampire Apocalypse Backpack to be included in the giveaway. Check out the pic. Isn't it super cute!]


 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

27 comments:

  1. I am looking forward for quite a few of them:
    "The Elite"
    "Sever"
    "The Essence"
    And the one I am most looking forward to is:
    "The Gates of Paradise"

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    1. LIsa, I hadn't heard of any of those. They look good!

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  2. I'm super excited for Scarlet, the sequel to Cinder :D

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    1. Kirsten,
      That is a gorgeous cover, isn't it? I haven't read Cinder yet, but I've heard amazing things about it.

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  3. Scent of Magic and Scarlet. Thanks for the awesome giveaway! I'm so looking forward to reading The Farm, it sounds awesome!

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    1. Alina, oh, I'm always excited about a Maria V. Snyder book. And isn't the cover for Scarlet awesome?

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  4. The only sequel I can think of right now that I'm waiting on is Deception, the sequel to Defiance by CJ Redwine. I think most of the other books I'm waiting on (besides The Host sequel) are the third book in the series.

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    1. Hi Crunchy Stay at home Mom -- (love that handle btw! Did you see my comment about the chickens?) Yes, Deception looks great, doesn't it? So what books are you waiting on the third one?

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  5. I'll second Maria Snyder's Scent of Magic. I'm also looking forward to Katie McGarry's Dare to you & Richelle Mead's Indigo Spell. Lots of books to look forward to in 2013! :)

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    1. Ooo ... I love Maria V. Snyder and Richelle Mead. Aw-some!

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  6. Oh I'm waiting, very impatiently, for Requiem by Lauren Oliver. MUST. KNOW. WHAT. HAPPENS! Also, I'm waiting on Indigo Spell by Richelle Mead. I love that Adrian!

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  7. I can't wait for the Clockwork Princess and Requium

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  8. The next book of PARTIALS and the third from Rae Carson.

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  9. I'm impatiently waiting for Requiem, Sweet Peril and The Elite! Thanks!

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  10. Sweet Peril and the third Divergent!

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  11. I cannot wait for the third Divergent book!

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  12. The Hunt. I can't wait to read read the next book.

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  13. I'm dying for the sequels to GRAVE MERCY (Robin LaFevers) and CROWN OF EMBERS (Rae Carson). Both will be out in 2013!

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  14. I am in agony waiting for Shades of Earth by Beth Revis! I want to know what happens to all my favorite characters!!!

    Thanks for the giveaway!

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  15. There are a lot, but for now I'll go with the final book in the Divergent series.

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  16. There are many I have read that I look forward to seeing a sequel to in a book series. But, one that comes to mind is The Host by Stephenie Meyer. I also look forward to the final books of Cassandra Clare's book series The Mortal Instruments and Infernal Devices. There are so many... Thank you for the awesome giveaway!

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  17. I'm waiting on Scarlet (Cinder book #2). Cinder was my fave of 2012. Maybe Scarlet will be my fave of 2013!

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  18. i just finished reading Opal by Jennifer Armentrout... and im reaaallly cant wait for the Lux #4 :)

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  19. I'm waiting on the third Divergent book!

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  20. The rest of the Raven Boys series, the rest of the Unwind series, the rest of the Cinder series....what else? Those are the ones I'm most anxious about. :)

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  21. First of all can I say HOORAY for you Emily! So excited to here of an author still waiting for the continuation of "The Host"! That book and it's subsequent (soon to be written, right Stephenie?)sequels needs to be celebrated! soo many sequels I am waiting on right now! Can't wait for the sequel to "The Immortal Rules". Also eagerly anticipating/dreading the final books of Cassandra Clare's series'. Thanks for this giveaway and the fun things in it!

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