(Video) The Page Turners: Economy of Fear Author Interview

The following interview was originally included as part of The Page Turners: Economy of Fear bonus package for people who pre-ordered the book back in the Spring of 2015.

Now that the book has been out for almost a year, I thought I’d make the video available to all.

Enjoy!

You can grab your copy of Economy of Fear on Kobo here or on Amazon here.

Interview Transcript

Catherine:           You are getting some behind the scenes bonus footage for having pre-ordered Kevin’s upcoming book, Economy of Fear. I guess I’ll introduce Kevin T. Johns. Kevin is my friend and he’s an amazing author. We’re going to be kind of chatting beyond the book today. Right Kevin?

Kevin:                   Yeah, Barbara Walters style.

Catherine:           Barbara Walters style.

Kevin:                   Catherine’s going to make me cry. She has one of those dolls, right? Like, “Show me where they touched you.”

Catherine:           Oh god.

Kevin:                   No?

Catherine:           This is the kind of stuff we cut out in the podcast. Anyway, I guess we’ll just dive into the book?

Kevin:                   Let’s do it.

Catherine:           Let’s dive in.

Kevin:                   First off, I’ve got to say, it’s cool to be talking about the book because not that many people have read it yet. I gave Catherine an advance copy, and a couple other people. I haven’t really had a discussion, too much, with anyone about it yet. I’m curious to see what parts of the book jumped out at you, or what parts you want to talk about.

Catherine:           The thing with me is I’m thinking this is for people pre-ordering the book. Right?

Kevin:                   Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Catherine:           You guys haven’t read the book yet, I’m assuming. Unless you’re one of the special, magical people.

Kevin:                   Maybe they’ve held off.

Catherine:           Right. I want the questions to be relatable to the world, The Page Turners world.

Kevin:                   Right.

Catherine:           A little bit of Economy of Fear but I want to dig into the world and how you see it.

Kevin:                   Let’s do it.

Catherine:           First of all, just The Page Turners story, where does that come from?

Kevin:                   It came out of my university degree, the time when I was doing my master’s degree. I was reading a lot of the comic book The Invisibles, by Grant Morrison, which talks a lot about constructing reality through language. Then I was also doing my master’s thesis on this author and painter, David Mack. He had this story line in a Daredevil comic book with this character called Echo, who was a deaf superhero. David Mack uses collage to tell his comic book stories.

I was very interested, at the time, in the relationship between words and images and silence, and how our understanding of language, in terms of the signifier and the signified, is actually much slipperier … Slipperier, is that a word?

Catherine:           More slippery?

Kevin:                   Yeah, than we think. For example, in that comic book David Mack would have Echo, the character, speaking but her speech would be in a word bubble. Then the word bubble would be communicated with images from sign language.

Catherine:           Interesting.

Kevin:                   It becomes what, in a comic book, is language? What is story? Is it words?

Catherine:           Okay, but how does this apply to The Page Turners? I’m asking where did the story come from.

Kevin:                   This is where it came from. It came from an interest in language and how language formulates our reality, or our concept of reality. The initial thinking about the story was what if these stories that we tell ourselves, fictional genre stories, entered our reality?

Catherine:           Okay.

Kevin:                   At times, people can argue that what is reality is formulated through language. There’s a real interest in the book about exploring this concept of what is real, what is fiction, and what happens when the two intermingle. As the series progresses, that relationship between fiction and reality is going to become increasingly vague. You can already see it Economy of Fear. Where in The Page Turners: Blood, the first book, it was much more of a contained, kind of typical, story where adults don’t really know what’s going on.

The big change at the end of that book is the adults do know what’s going on and this thing is starting to spread. You see it continuing to spread in The Economy of Fear.

Catherine:           Yeah, okay, interesting. That is not what I expected in the answer. I thought you were going to be like, “As a boy growing up, I read a lot of comic books and I lived in a small town.” What part of the story relates to your personal story?

Kevin:                   I guess, for me, the story … I’m like you, you’re a character focused author. You might think, right?

Catherine:           Sure, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Kevin:                   When you come up with one of your stories you’re probably starting with character?

Catherine:           Yeah.

Kevin:                   I’m starting with a concept, like this idea of language forming reality and what would happen if a fictional character came into the real world. That’s my starting point. Then, when it comes time to fill that story in, that’s when I draw from my own life. It’s set in a small town, I grew up in a small town. They go through, perhaps, similar experiences, to a certain extent, that I’ve been through. I certainly didn’t say, “I grew up in a small town so I want to write a story about a small town.”

Catherine:           Right, okay, yeah.

Kevin:                   I wanted to write a story where a character riding a unicorn could shoot a laser gun at a vampire. You know?

Catherine:           Right.

Kevin:                   It took a trilogy of books to get to that point.

Catherine:           Is that something we can expect?

Kevin:                   This is a hint of where things are going. Like I said, this idea of …

Catherine:           Will Diana be on the unicorn shooting the laser from her arrow?

Kevin:                   We’ll have to wait and see, we’ll have to wait and see.

Catherine:           That’s what I’m hoping.

Kevin:                   That was really my starting point, I guess. This concept of really throwing together a bunch of different genres and being able to do that.

Catherine:           Okay. Interesting. It’s a fiction but, obviously, some of it is pulled from reality to fill in. Are there any scenes in the novel, of either The first Page Turners: Blood or The Economy of Fear, that actually reflect things that happened to you in real life?

Kevin:                   There’s a couple scenes that are straight out of my life. I won’t say which ones.

Catherine:           What?

Kevin:                   There’s people who are in them who would probably recognize them, who have read the book.

Catherine:           Right.

Kevin:                   Most of it is not straight from my life, I would say. I think The Page Turners is much more a collection of feelings I’ve had filtered through stories I’ve read. It’s really an homage to the stories that I love and these comic books that I’ve read, these films that I’ve watched. It was always meant to be a tribute to the stuff I grew up reading and the stuff that kept me going through the hard times. I guess Spenser’s parents, their relationship dissolving and them getting divorced, would kind of be the closest to something I personally dealt with, because I did come from divorced parents.

In the first Page Turners book there’s a moment when Spenser comes home and his mom is like, “We’re getting divorced.” You know?

Catherine:           Yeah, yeah.

Kevin:                   That’s kind of like a literary moment. Life doesn’t happen like that. A divorce is kind of a slow thing and as a kid you don’t even realize it’s happening. Right?

Catherine:           Yeah. You have to pick the beat up a lot faster in novel.

Kevin:                   Yeah, exactly. Perhaps Spenser’s parents getting divorced is something that certainly resonates with me but it’s not ripped out of my life in any sense.

Catherine:           Oh good, that’s very interesting. I think it’s very interesting you said it’s kind of a compilation of your feelings that you’ve experienced. It’s so interesting that fiction and novels can translate your world into something completely different.

Kevin:                   It’s funny, I have much difficulty with my stepfather, which translates in the book into this abusive, alcoholic horrible monster of a stepfather. It’s funny, because my stepfather was none of those things. He wasn’t an alcoholic, he wasn’t abusive, but I never got along with him. That’s kind of like that fictional filter, where it’s like, “Me and my stepfather never get along.” You take that, when it becomes a fictional story, everything gets ratcheted up to 1,000.”

Catherine:           Because it’s an entertaining.

Kevin:                   It becomes a monster, yeah. Also, the story is very interested in archetypes. In these fairy tales we have these evil stepparents. In book one we have Nate’s stepfather, who’s kind of the evil stepparent. Then, in The Economy of Fear, we have another evil stepparent story where Morgan tells a story about his evil stepmother. That’s kind of how I take my experience of divorce, and my experience of the difficulties of stepparents. Then filter that through archetypes and through the history of this genre fiction and fairy tales, and all of those sorts of things.

Catherine:           Interesting. Okay, I’m going to dive into some character questions.

Kevin:                   Okay.

Catherine:           Who’s your favorite character in the series?

Kevin:                   I guess it’s like, they’re all special to me. You know what I mean? No? Do you have a favorite character?

Catherine:           Yeah, obviously but I was wondering if you could pick your favorite character. I think mine would be an obvious choice. I bet you could guess my favorite character.

Kevin:                   Diana?

Catherine:           Yeah.

Kevin:                   Yeah. I love writing Diana. She comes to me so easily and she’s so clear and distinct, and so different from me. It’s funny, people think you write yourself and that’s, maybe, easy. I actually find someone like Diana, who’s so different from me, easy to write because she’s so well defined in my mind. She’s strong and she’s resilient. I would say that’s her key characteristic. Everyone else in the story is kind of broken down by the events of it and she isn’t. Then she’s a girl.

All those things are kind of different from me. Then a favorite character, I guess it’s got to be Nate.

Catherine:           Okay, yeah.

Kevin:                   Because I’m a very angry person and I have a lot of violence and rage within me. I’m able to filter that through Nate so it’s a bit of a … I don’t find it cathartic. I thought it would be. I thought I’d write this story that would have all these feelings about my teenage years and I’d feel good about it and it would all be out. All it did was kind of stir it up and make me more angry about it.

Catherine:           Right.

Kevin:                   It’s nice to go write an angry Nate scene instead of punching a wall or something I might otherwise do.

Catherine:           Right, that should be a quote on the back of the cover. I didn’t punch a wall, I wrote a book.

Kevin:                   Yeah.

Catherine:           That’s actually really some coping right there.

Kevin:                   Yeah.

Catherine:           Does that help you? does writing help you cope with all you go through?

Kevin:                   I don’t think the writing process does but I think the idea that it might help someone else makes me feel better. This dream that there’s some kid out there who’s going to find this book and feel a bit better about themselves, that’s the joy for me.

Catherine:           How do you want your readers to feel? The teens and kids, or whoever reads The Page Turners series.

Kevin:                   Just that life sucks and that it’s not just their life, it’s other people’s lives as well. There is no secret answer. I’m not going to come in and say, “Hey kids, life sucks, here’s how you fix it.” I don’t have the answer. The only way to fix it is by making connections with other people, I guess. This book is kind of my effort to be … I grew up listening to Nine Inch Nails, which is this angry, dark music. I remember my mom at one point was like, “Why do you listen to this dark music? Doesn’t it just make you more depressed?”

It doesn’t. Anyone who likes horror movies or heavy metal or punk rock, or all these things, you feel alone in the world. You feel isolated and you feel like no one understands you. Then you hear a Nine Inch Nails song and this guy’s yelling and this guy’s passionate and this guy’s angry. You’re like, “Hey, that’s how I feel.” There’s a connection there. You feel just a little less alone in a world that’s kind of difficult, and a world that kind of sucks.

Just making that simple connection can get you through another day. I remember in high school when the new X Files movie was coming out. Those are the types of things that … I don’t want to be overly dramatic and say that’s what kept me going, that’s what kept me from killing myself. At the same time, those are the things I looked forward to in life. I felt like my life was not happy most of the time but these things, these feelings or songs or stories, gave me something to look forward to and get excited about. Then I made some sort of connection there that made me a little happier, I guess. Or a little less angry.

Catherine:           Okay, so talking about connection, because it makes sense, you’re in a hard situation, it’s really good to know other people are also in hard situations. I get that. I’ve been there. In the book, The Page Turners, three boys, they’re together throughout the first novel but they lose that connection and that community in the second novel. It’s, literally, three separate journeys and a crumbling of relationships, essentially. Spenser, not so much, but Danny and Nate, they have at it together so they are separated. Is there a reason you separated them?

Kevin:                   Originally the three books were going to be called Blood, Space and Magic. It was Blood, to evoke horror, and Space, to evoke sci-fi and Magic, to evoke fantasy. I always try to take these titles and make them themes. I try to explore these themes from every possible angle. I went into the writing of this novel that ended up becoming Economy of Fear. The working title was just Space, because we obviously have this space opera element to it.

I also wanted it to be about physical space because the first book was a horror book. I think horror is often about claustrophobia. Horror is about being trapped in the haunted house. It’s about being unable to escape the killer at your window. It’s about these very closed in spaces. In the second book I wanted to spread the story out and explore wider spaces. Rather than just having this small town and these basements and these dark rooms, we have a vast open galaxy. Nate leaves Maple and moves out into this bigger world.

I wanted to put space between the characters. I wanted there to be a physical distance between them. Which is also, obviously, an emotional distance.

Catherine:           Okay, so you were considering that too.

Kevin:                   Absolutely.

Catherine:           You’re purposely kind of giving it to them in Economy of Fear?

Kevin:                   I try to give it to them always.

Catherine:           I know, but I felt like when they were together, working together, they were a little more powerful. They find their sense of power throughout the book, for better or for worse. It seemed as though they were stronger together. Which makes me suspect they’re going to have to come back together in the third book. I’m suspecting. Or battle against each other. I don’t know, I don’t want to give it away.

Kevin:                   My experience with growing up is that we …

Catherine:           Grow apart?

Kevin:                   No, but we become more damaged. This idea that we lose loved ones, in my experience, if someone dies this black hole opens up within you and it never heals. There’s no healing, there’s just moving on. I feel like adults are ultimately just more damaged young people. I wanted to reflect that in my characters. I wanted to show that they didn’t just have an adventure in that first book, they were broken. Their bodies and their minds and their emotions were damaged by the violence and horrors they experienced.

I was really influenced by this concept in Lord of the Rings. There’s a moment in the books, I think it’s kind of in the films too, where Frodo comes home. Early in the first Lord of the Rings book he gets stabbed with a sword. Then, over the course of the books, he gets more and more possessed by the ring. Then he comes home and you’re like, “Oh, he’s home. Everything’s safe.” Then Tolkien’s like, “No, he’ll never recover. He’ll never be able to come home. He’s damaged and broken and the adventure he went on ruined him.”

Catherine:           I have to disagree with you. He’s not ruined. He’s a better person for the journey he went on. He is more than a hobbit now. He will never be able to go home. Absolutely I agree. He will always be traumatized by what happened but he will also be changed into a bigger, more worldly, more daring, stronger person.

Kevin:                   Certainly.

Catherine:           Ughh.

Kevin:                   No, and that’s what happens …

Catherine:           I can’t even argue with you because I’m supposed to be interviewing you.

Kevin:                   No, no, please do.

Catherine:           I won’t, I won’t.

Kevin:                   That’s the journey. I think that happens to some people. I think some people do overcome and some people do take the bad experiences and and learn from them and become stronger, better people.

Catherine:           That’s the same for The Economy, right?

Kevin:                   No, but I think that’s the journey Spenser’s on in The Economy of Fear.

Catherine:           Oh right, yes, yes, yes.

Kevin:                   I think in the three characters, in the journey that they’re on, the three male characters, with Danny, Nate and Spenser, you’ll see how the events of these stories change them and how they react in different ways. Some people grow stronger through adversity, like Diana being the most obvious example.

Catherine:           Spenser too, is a really good …

Kevin:                   That’s true.

Catherine:           Spenser’s pretty broken at the beginning.

Kevin:                   Yeah.

Catherine:           Okay. You used Diana’s name as a substitute for Nate just a second ago. I’m not saying that’s anything you were planning to do but I was actually thinking …

Kevin:                   You think that’s Freudian?

Catherine:           No, this is what I was thinking. I think I obviously resonate with Diana. In the first book she’s awesome and predominant and in the second book she’s, literally, kept in her bedroom the whole time. She’s stifled. I was wondering, is that because she would be the hero otherwise? There was a scene in the barn with her and Nate arguing. I think she is equal to Nate, in terms of leadership and being the one who could solve the problem. There they were arguing, butting heads.

What is that about? Is there something there between them? I don’t mean chemistry-wise. I mean in terms of you can only have one hero or there can only be one leader. What do you think? Nate versus Diana.

Kevin:                   I think Diana’s story line in Economy of Fear is this experience of are you kidding me. I’m still not part of the group. I think we’ve talked about this before but I don’t really go into a feminine mindset so I don’t know if this is necessarily a story that women can relate to.

Catherine:           Oh yeah, being kept in your bedroom and not allowed to play with your brothers.

Kevin:                   Right. That’s kind of Diana’s story in this book. What the hell do you guys want from me? I saved the day already and I’m still not part of your little club? I terms of Nate and her butting heads, I think Nate and her are kind of like the opposite ends of the spectrum, in every way. He’s a force that’s fueled by negativity and she is a force that’s fueled by positivity. They’re both going to be great leaders but they’re both going to butt heads.

Catherine:           Can they lead in the same book?

Kevin:                   Yeah.

Catherine:           Interesting. I look forward to seeing what happens in the third book. I thought it was really interesting in the end. I was like, “Why is Diana in her room all the time?” Then I realized it was up to Diana to get out of her room. It was up to her. She wasn’t waiting for permission from her brother Danny. Speaking of Danny, how come you kept the vampire thread going? Oh, spoiler, that’s a spoiler.

Kevin:                   No.

Catherine:           The vampire thread continues into Economy of Fear and, I’d say, Danny’s journey continues too. He kind of takes the route of Nate, in that … Can I talk about this?

Kevin:                   Yeah.

Catherine:           He kind of takes the route of Nate, in that he’s shaken off those around him. He’s going to do it by himself. He’s going to these vampires by himself. That doesn’t work out for him. I can’t remember what else I was going to say.

Kevin:                   Danny’s journey in this story is that he’s lost someone. Anyone who’s read the first book knows they don’t save the princess in the end, she dies. Like I said, my experience with death is it’s not like that sucks and then you get over it. It’s this ongoing horribleness. Danny’s decision is that rather than draw people in closer to him, like Nate and Diana, he’s going to push them away. It’s a classic trope in superhero comics. Spiderman, or any superhero, they’re often kind of pushing their girlfriend away because they don’t went them to get hurt.

That’s the journey Danny’s on. How do you continue to move forward with the knowledge that people might die, that people you love might leave forever? How do you continue to stand up to this evil and try to be heroic in the knowledge that you might lose your sister or your best friend?

Catherine:           Do you think there’s some pressure on guys to be the hero? I know Nate’s trying to be the hero, in a sense, Danny’s definitely trying to be the hero, for better or worse. Spenser, again, being the hero to his girlfriend who doesn’t even want to be rescued, in a way. What’s that about? What do you think? Guys in the role of being a hero. I know you probably didn’t think about this but your book made me think about it. Danny’s trying to be the hero so he pushes away Diana. Spenser’s trying to be the hero in rescuing somebody who actually didn’t want to be rescued. Nate, well, Nate’s another story but he’s on a journey. Is he going to be the hero? That’s the really big question for me right now. Is there pressure for people to be the hero? Especially for guys.

Kevin:                   I’m telling adventure stories.

Catherine:           Do they have to be the hero?

Kevin:                   I’m sitting down to write this stuff, I’m not thinking do men in today’s modern world need to play hero?

Catherine:           No, this is what’s coming out.

Kevin:                   I want to tell an adventure story about …

Catherine:           Okay. I know.

Kevin:                   It’s a young adult book, it’s a book about teenagers. Any book about teenagers, to a certain extent, is going to be a coming of age story. I guess the big question of the whole thing is who are these people going to become as adults. If you look at the traumas they go through, they’re these kind of histrionic, archetypal, big genre traumas. You could think of them as just the metaphors of the traumas we all go through in high school. The question is whether you want to think of it as a hero’s journey or think of it as just growing up.

How do we go through all the crap we go through in high school and turn out a good person? Or are we? When you say they all want to be heroes, it think they all just want to do the right thing.

Catherine:           I don’t even know if they want to be heroes but that’s their journey, in a way. I think it’s really interesting because you take the typical save the situation scenario but you make it really complex. There’s the woman who doesn’t want to get rescued. There’s the lady who could be the better hero if she just got out of the bedroom, Diana.

Kevin:                   No, I think, obviously, the books are a tribute to genre fiction but the idea was that if we took these genre fiction tropes and brought them into the real world, suddenly things are going to become a lot more complex.

Catherine:           That’s a good word for your book. It is complex because you take these alien abductions and vampires, which is all really campy and fun, it’s heavy stuff. There’s some serious story line happening there. Which, I think, makes it far more rich, personally.

Kevin:                   Thank you.

Catherine:           Yeah, it is genre fiction but it’s literary. I’m not saying one can’t be the other. I find it interesting that there is this sort of divide between kids and adults in The Page Turners. The adults don’t get it. At least in their perception. Particularly in Nate’s perception, the adults just don’t get it. They aren’t the answer. These kids are becoming adults. What’s this thing, kids versus adults? In the end, adults and kids actually get together in one story line. I think in the overarching story these kids are mature. They are entering adulthood. What’s that about?

Kevin:                   I think there’s different worlds. I think teenagers kind of exist in this different world where things have different meanings and different levels of meaning. I just remember I used to obsessively videotape the TV shows that I loved. These were in the olden days, you have VHS tapes.

Catherine:           Yeah, that’s the olden days?

Kevin:                   You had to estimate how much time you had left on the tape. I’d say, “That looks like 44 minutes,” and then it wouldn’t be I’d lose the last 15 minutes of show. These were the things that really upset me. I just remember my stepfather just being like, “You’re an idiot. Why would you even care about some TV show?” It’s just when you’re a teenager there’s certain … Or when you’re OCD, obsessively [inaudible 00:26:46].

I think there’s things that happen to you as a teenager that seem so much larger than life than they do when you’re an adult. If you’re an adult and you’re dating someone and you break up, it’s a different experience than breaking up when you’re dating someone when you’re 16. Right?

Catherine:           Yeah, absolutely.

Kevin:                   I don’t think adults can really travel back and understand it. I think, as an adult, you’re so wrapped up in your own realities of crappiness of life. I think life sucks, probably worse for adults than it does for teenagers.

Catherine:           No.

Kevin:                   In a different way.

Catherine:           Life is wonderful. Sometimes I think you’re Nate and I’m Diana. I’m self-imposing myself into the book. Speaking of Nate, Nate’s scaring me a little bit.

Kevin:                   Sure.

Catherine:           What’s going to happen? Can you tell me what’s going to happen? No, you can’t because this is only bonus material and people can’t get to see the real thing.

Kevin:                   no, but I think Nate’s journey in Economy of Fear is one towards becoming a more powerful hero, or character.

Catherine:           I’m hoping. That’s what I’m really hoping but I’m just a little afraid. Maybe this is me reading into it too much, and obviously you would know the answer, you don’t have to tell me. At the beginning of the Page Turners series, Blood, you have those three books. In one book the bad guy wins. Then in the Space book I don’t even know what happened. I know in the Vampire book the bad guy always comes back. The vampires are coming back and I feel like it’s totally possible for Vlad, or whatever his name …

Kevin:                   Vlan D is how I pronounce is.

Catherine:           Vlande, whatever, to come back. I’m wondering if these books at the beginning of the series are foreshadowing the end of the series. Therefore, I’m scared of Nate.

Kevin:                   Sure, okay. It’s funny, people ask me sometimes, I love this, this is probably one of the coolest things ever, people will be like, “Are the dark wedding books real? Is Paradise Fields a real book?”

Catherine:           Actually I wanted to ask you that because you have books within books. This is a complex thing. They’re rich. Keep going.

Kevin:                   No, I just love that because it’s funny because people will say, “You should write a dark wedding book.” I’m like, “I did, it’s called The Page Turners: Blood.” In that scene Danny is like, “There’s a vampire and then there’s a couple. The vampire steals the wife and the husband can’t understand what’s going on.” The entire story of The Page Turners: Blood is told in that scene.

Catherine:           Right, I understand.

Kevin:                   It’s the same with Economy of Fear.

Catherine:           Now I’m extra scared of Nate.

Kevin:                   I just find it funny when people are like, “You should write Paradise Fields.” I’m like, “I am, it’s called The Page Turners Three.” You know?

Catherine:           Right, right, right. I’m looking forward to that. That should be interesting. Nate’s journey is particularly interesting. Danny is, he’s all right. He’s kind of like the guy I would date, probably, in high school. Nate is particularly complex and interesting and disturbing. He’s more like you. Right? You used to always say that Nate’s like you.

Kevin:                   They’re all like me.

Catherine:           Okay, that’s good. How are they all like you? I’m curious.

Kevin:                   I think of Danny as a romantic. I’m a very … It sounds so cheesy to say I’m a romantic. Like you said, I feel things powerfully. Emotionally, I love people a lot. I feel like that’s how Danny feels too. I felt like that was right because I think of the first book, to a certain extent, as being his book. It’s a vampire story, which are generally a romance story. I think of Danny as being me in that sense. I think of Nate as being me in my angry side but also my leadership qualities. I don’t back down from anyone, Nate won’t either.

There’s a line in the beginning of The Economy of Fear where it says something like Nate would take on the whole town if he had to. That’s how I feel as well.

Catherine:           Then Spenser.

Kevin:                   Spenser’s my kind of … all my food, my eating disorders, or whatnot. My obsession with my body and with eating. That’s reflected in Spenser. I also think Spenser is kind of like my fun nerdy side. I play hockey and I get in fights and I’m angry but I also love comic books and I dedicated this book to Star Wars makers. I have a really strong traditional geek side to me, at least to a certain extent. I think of Spenser as that side of me.

Catherine:           Spenser really changes in this book.

Kevin:                   Literally, right?

Catherine:           Literally. Beyond that, he’s really messed up. They, all three, are pretty messed up at the beginning of the book. I feel like he’s one, perhaps the only one, who really gets through it by the end. In that he is forced to face his nightmare over and over. Then he breaks free of it, in a way. Tell me about Spenser’s story.

Kevin:                   I was writing Spenser’s story … Like I mentioned, originally it was a big long book and this middle portion of the book I was writing early in my career at the government so a lot of the stuff that Spenser goes through is me dealing with life in a cubicle job. Especially, most literally, there’s a point in the book where they herd Spenser onto this crushed public transit and take him to work.

Catherine:           Right.

Kevin:                   That was really where that story was coming from for me. The best years of my life were grad school. I never felt more confident, I never felt more happy. I met Sarah, my wife, and fell in love. I felt so confident and my intelligence, and what I was meant to do in the world. Then I graduated and suddenly I had this horrible soul crushing government job. Spenser’s story was really about me, to a certain extent, trying to deal with is this my life now. Is this adult life? What does that mean and how do you deal with this? How do you strengthen yourself against it? How do you get on that public transit every day and go to this cubicle you hate? How do you do that again an again and again and not be broken by it or worn down by it?

Catherine:           He’s pretty remarkable because he gets out of that situation. He gets a get out free card from his alien buddy. He chooses to go back for someone he loves. Is there something there?

Kevin:                   I guess this’ll bring it back to your question about being a man and being a hero. I think part of this story, this adventure that Spenser goes on, is that he’s kind of a mama’s boy. When he first is abducted he kind of has a supplicant, a replacement mom, in Amy, who’s taking care of him. Saying everything’s going to be okay. This is what’s happening to you and you’re going to get through it.

He grows up a bit and he becomes a man, to a certain extent. Matures. We’ve talked, I think on the podcast, about his physical transformation could be seen as a puberty metaphor. Maybe he evolves into a more sexual male, or a romantic lead who wants to go save his girlfriend. That’s the journey that he goes on.

Catherine:           I looked at the end of the book. I can’t tell what happened.

Kevin:                   Go ahead.

Catherine:           I was going to say before, there’s this division between kids and adults. I’m wondering as I’m reading, how can these adults not be realizing their town is falling to bits. How can their kids not be realizing? You actually bring it in towards the end. I feel as though a bridge is crossed, in a way. I’ll see what happens in the next book. There’s the possibility of working together, in a way. I’m not really sure and I can’t decide, is it running to your parents to get help or is it growing up and realizing you guys can work together?

What do you think? How do you feel about this reconciliation between Danny and his parents?

Kevin:                   I didn’t want all the parents to be horrible. I’ve had good experiences with my parents as well. I hope, I pray, that I have a decent relationship with my children. Danny and Nate’s parents were just supposed to be okay parents. You have great parents, right?

Catherine:           Diana and Danny, right?

Kevin:                   Yeah.

Catherine:           You keep saying Nate and Diana. You keep interchanging Nate and Diana, which is so fascinating to me.

Kevin:                   That’s weird. That is weird. Parents make great villains, especially in a teen book, but there’s a lot of awesome parents out there. There’s a lot of happy couples who don’t get divorced and who have good relationships with their kids. That was what Danny and Diana’s parents were always supposed to be. Where the story’s going and where things were by the end of Economy of Fear, it was time we bring the parents in. It’s time to say, like you said …

I think any kind of genre fiction you are constantly walking that tightrope of at what point is it … how long can you hold the suspension of this belief? I think by the end of Economy of Fear the story line had reached a point where we couldn’t pretend anymore that people aren’t going to notice.

Catherine:           Right. Oh my god, now I’m scared again that the final book is going to reflect Paradise Fields to the point where the bad guys win. I am an eternal optimist. I just hope. I know you said this book is about how hard life is and isolation and struggle. As a reader, I’m desperately hoping for hope. I have seen it in Economy of Fear and in The Page Turners: Blood. I’m hoping it’s in Paradise Fields. How do you feel about that idea of hope?

Kevin:                   There’s a line in an episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer that has kind of characterized my entire approach to literature. There’s a line where a character is describing … it’s an episode where a character is videotaping Buffy.

Catherine:           I remember that one.

Kevin:                   Yeah, it’s called Story Teller.

Catherine:           I loved that one.

Kevin:                   Andrew is videotaping Buffy and he’s narrating her adventure. I’m paraphrasing here but he says something along the lines of, “There’s Buffy, enjoying the taste of victory but always tainted by what’s been lost along the way.”

Catherine:           Right.

Kevin:                   Those are the types of stories I want to tell. I want to tell heroic stories about people who do overcome but that victory is tainted by what’s lost along the way.

Catherine:           Absolutely. I think that’s kind of beautiful. Let’s end with a quote from Buffy.

Kevin:                   There we go. It’s a good ending.

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