Interview: Emily McKay on Her Books, YA, & the Apocalypse

November 27, 2013 Author Feature, Interview 10

Emily McKay the author of The Farm and The Lair (and many other titles) joins us today for a personal interrogation by yours truly.

The Farm series

Read my review of book one:  The Farm

Read my review of book two: The Lair

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Welcome welcome Emily to my humble…lair hehe – yeah I know I’m so cheesy – cut me some slack. Thank you for joining us and agreeing to be interrogated!

Thank you for having me!

Onto the fun shall we?

Young adult fiction is a hot genre to be writing in currently. Not only are teens devouring it but adults as well. Indeed, I don’t know many female readers that don’t read YA. With that in mind, tell me your thoughts! Do you think it is mostly female readers that gravitate towards YA? And why do you think adult women enjoy it just as much?

There certainly are a ton of fantastic YA novels being published right now, aren’t there? It’s a great time to be writing it.

I’ve found that The Farm has a lot of female readers, but some male readers too. I’ve had several guys find me on Facebook or twitter and let me know that they’d read and enjoyed the book. It always gives me an extra thrill to hear from a male reader, because I think fewer books are marketed to them. So I’m glad when they find mine and it appeals to them.

Which is not to say I don’t appreciate my female readers! I do! It’s just fun to have male readers too.

As for why it’s such an appealing genre right now … YA is such an emotionally fraught time. Those teen years are all high emotion, they’re all the search for meaning and identity. Those are things we wrestle with all our lives, but those issues seem especially huge in the teen years, before we get caught up in the day grind of just living our lives.

With the sea of post apocalyptic YA books that are currently on the market, what do you think makes The Farm & The Lair stand out among the herd? yeah I know you want to throw some dung at me with my lame jokes. *maniacal laughter*

Oh that’s a tough question! Especially since there are so many great books out there. It’s a good herd to be in! 🙂

I guess if I have to find an answer to that, I’ll say that they’re different from a lot of post-apocalyptic books, because in The Farm and The Lair the apocalypse happened recently–like in the past year. In most post-apocalyptic fiction, the apocalypse was decades ago or even generations ago. For example, Katniss has no knowledge of modern day America (or very little). Aria and Perry (from Veronica Rossi’s fab Under the Never Sky series) are only vaguely aware of our world and lives. My character’s Mel and Lily are of our world. They’re us but thrust into an unimaginable situation.

Care to give us your 140 character or less pitch for The Farm and The Lair?

The Farm:
Twin sisters fight to survive in a brutal camp where teens are pitted against one another & farmed for their blood to feed vampiric mutants.

The Lair:
Loyalties are tested & betrayed as Lily, Mel & Carter fight to unravel the truth behind the Tick virus while protecting each other.

The truth is in the details as they say, and I have to admit I loved the spattering of little details throughout the books. What kind of research did you do for them?

I’m actually not much of a researcher. I only research what I have to. For me, that’s just filling in the wholes at the end. Of course, there were plenty of things I had to research as I was going. To get into Mel’s head, for example, I read several books about autism, including Born on a Blue Day, by Daniel Tammet. I also watched the extraordinary documentary Wretches and Jabberers, which for me really influenced the way Mel feels about her autism. Then there are other details that just came about organically. For example, in The Farm, when I needed them to head for Canada, they just naturally took the same roads I used drive to go my grandmother’s house. It just made sense to send them through territory I was familiar with.

And in The Lair when they’re driving through west Texas, those are the roads I drive now to go to my in-laws in Lubbock. On the last trip my family and I took out there, the whole drive back, my husband and I talked about the geography and the towns we were passing through. It was all, “Yes, this is exactly like plateau near El Corazon.” and “Oh, this town is the perfect size for …”

Would you mind giving us a short character dossier on your main characters? I’ll use myself as an example, I know I’m not as exciting as a fictional characters folks, bear with me.

Tabitha: Mean and vicious when hungry, never without a book hidden somewhere on her person. A Klutz supreme, chipotle addict and little miss thinks she knows it all 90% of the time.

Ok your turn!

Lily: Smart, protective and strong-willed. She never backs down from a fight, but still has trouble believing the people in her life are going to have her back. She loves Rolos and Dr. Pepper.

Mel: music-lover and slinky addict. Observes everything, from human frailty to the failings in the Farm’s security system. She’ll never use ten words when one with do.

Carter: rich, rebellious bad boy. He never had anything to live for until he fell in love with Lily, now he’s determined to protect her, even as he struggles to do the right thing.

Sebastian: old beyond imagining. He has seen it all and is sure humanity isn’t worth saving … until he meets a ragtag group of human teenagers who are determined to save the world.

In the event of the apocalypse – where are you headed first? That’s right I’m out to steal your game plan.

Well, in my real life, I’m the eco-freak green girl, so our house has all kinds of apocalypse-friendly features, like rain-water collection and solar panels, so as long as my pantry goods hold, I’m staying home. There’s only one problem, I can’t get crap to grow in my yard. I keep trying to “live closer to the land” but it always ends badly. Bugs ate our tomato plants. Deer ate our herb garden. The drought killed our pecan trees. A couple of weeks ago, I tried to make prickly pear jelly. Total disaster.

So after the first wave of the apocalypse, I’m heading to somewhere wetter … like Oregon. Somewhere things grow.

Did you use any of your own fears while writing these books? I know you definitely gave me new things to fear.

Well, so much of the Farm is about the fear of being unable to protect the people you love and the exhaustion that comes from always being the one in charge. My kids were small when I was writing that book, so it definitely taps into that.

With The Lair, once Carter and Lily got to Base Camp in Utah, I became obsessed about how to feed all the imaginary people living there. I mean, it’s the apocalypse! How do you feed two hundred people without shopping at Costco? I did all kinds of “prepping” research and it really got into my head. Pretty soon, I was buying ten pound bags of beans every time I went to the grocery store. And did you know you can make a candle from a can of Crisco? Yeah. I know that. I wish I didn’t, but I do. That crap really messes with you. My friends always tease me. They say they don’t want to survive the apocalypse. They want to go in the first wave. But I know for a fact that one of my friends bought a gun after reading The Fifth Wave. Then she said, “You should read it! It’s really good!” Are you kidding me? You think I’m not crazy enough as it is?

An oh so fun one. Do you have a special death you sometimes wish you could write into your books for your worst enemies – you know like Barney or those awful nightmare causing telletubbies…they need to go! Lets have it!

Hmm … a horrible death for my worst enemies? Not really. I guess I’m just not that blood thirsty. (All evidence to the contrary.) I prefer for my enemies to suffer horrible public humiliation. I hate intellectual snobbery (probably because I started as a romance writer and we tend to be on the receiving end of a lot of that.) So watch for snobby characters to get their comeuppance. 🙂

I appreciate you being a sport, but now comes the hard part. As we are all about confessions here *rolls eyes towards the blog title* do you have one for us? Preferably something blush worthy, it doesn’t necessarily have to be book related. What I have to share first you say? Ok…I once ate a bug, it had a gooey center, that’s right….a real one.

I admitted to stockpile Crisco. Do you really need more than that?

Hmm … okay, let me think. How about this: I’m a snotty cryer. When I cry in movies, I produce like four tears and eighteen ounces of snot. It’s so bad that in last Harry Potter movie, I had to time blowing my nose with the big explosions. I didn’t want to creep out the people sitting near me.

Oh, and I think Neville is extremely sexy now that he’s all grow up. Oh and … Omg, why can’t I stop confessing things? Stop me now! Please!!!

Thanks again so much for dropping in Emily. Best of luck with your latest release and I know we all can’t wait to read the next!!

Thank you so much for having me!

To all our subscribers/readers – Emily loves keeping in touch and when fans reach out to her. You can do so via any of her social links below!

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.

The Lair (The Farm #2)

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Tabitha (Pabkins)

When I'm in the zone I can flip book pages faster than the eye can see - screaming "More Input!" I'm a book, yarn, & art supply hoarding goblin who loves to draw, make toys and craft all sorts of creepy cute things. My current habit is to listen to audio books while I'm arting it up!
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10 Responses to “Interview: Emily McKay on Her Books, YA, & the Apocalypse”

  1. Pamela D

    Lovely interview. I never really thought about it before, but there are so many dystopian YA books out there! It must be challenging to be unique in the herd, even if the herd as a whole is quite popular.

    • Tabitha the Pabkins

      This isn’t considered dystopian, (that’s something set in a future or even a present time that has a society structure much different than our own) – The Farm / The Lair is considered a apocalyptic or post apocalyptic book.

      Both of those subgenres though are hugely popular and definitely have some crossover. I could imagine it would be difficult to stand out among the many YA books in the genre.

      • Pamela D

        My apologies for saying dystopian. I did mean post-apocalyptic. This is what happens when you don’t reread what you write! In any event, I can imagine it is hard to stand out in either the dystopian or post-apocalyptic genres. They are the current favorites. 🙂
        Pamela D recently posted…A Feast for Crows by GRR Marting: ReviewMy Profile

        • Tabitha the Pabkins

          Completely agreed! I send the weirdest things in text sometimes because of my auto word/correct on my swype for my phone. I once meant to say Community pools and said instead communist poodles – weird right???

          Personally, there is only so much I can read of either genre before I get burnt out and have to switch to something else. In cases like that I often wonder if I rate something higher because I felt refreshed after reading it only because I’d overread in another genre recently. An interesting topic – I think I’ll post on it muwuhahahaha

  2. Diamond

    *giggles* Hilarious review, Tabitha! Lol I loved it 🙂 This wasn’t on my radar before, but now it is. Sometimes I feel like I avoid dystopian books but this one sounds different and I think I might like it!

    😀 PS: how do you make a candle out of Crisco? *googles it* 😉
    Diamond recently posted…Waiting on Wednesday #6My Profile

  3. Cali W.

    Cool interview!!! I love reading interviews like this with awesome authors. 🙂