Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Emily Skrutskie: The Abyss Surrounds Us

Welcome, Emily Skrutskie, author of The Abyss Surrounds Us (Flux 2016) http://skrutskie.com/   to It's All About Story.

1)Describe The Abyss Surrounds Us in one paragraph.

The Abyss Surrounds Us is the story of Cas Leung, a seventeen-year-old who trains genetically-engineered sea monsters to fight pirates. When pirates kidnap her and force her to rear a beast of their own, Cas must decide whether taking vengeance on her captors is worth becoming even more monstrous than the pup she's raising.

2)What inspired The Abyss Surrounds Us?

I came up with the idea for The Abyss Surrounds Us on a bus ride from Bethesda to Ithaca. We were passing some shipyards around Philadelphia and I was thinking about my time out on the West Coast, and the idea just sort of coagulated--sea monsters escorting ships and protecting them in the Pacific Ocean.

3)Is this your first work of fiction?

Nope! I had two novels under my belt before I got to TASU, the first of which I finished when I was fifteen. I had been querying for five years by the time I was ready to jump into the ring with this book, so it was absolutely mind-blowing when it got snapped up right away.

4)What song or music piece would you put on a soundtrack for The Abyss Surrounds Us?

Oh man, I have a whole playlist, but if I had to pick one, it'd be Angel With a Shotgun, by The Cab. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rQKMLmXc0xo It's dramatic and bombastic and all about  people throwing away their core values and precepts to defend each other, so it's perfect for TASU.

5)Which character was easy to write? Which was the most difficult?

The easiest to write was the villain, the pirate queen Santa Elena. She was born from the idea that she was "the Beyonce of the sea," and I never had any doubt about what she was. She's vicious, fiercely defensive of the people she cares about, and has a flair for the theatrical--basically, a villainous twist on everything I aspire to be. Writing her came naturally.
Cas was the hardest. This was the first manuscript I have ever written in first person, so I was exploring this new world inhabiting the thoughts and feelings of a character on a level that was way different from what I was used to. Add that to the fact that Cas is at a point in her life where she's still trying to figure out who she is, and you can see how I struggled.

6)What is your writing space like? Or can you write anywhere?

As a Busy College Student (TM), I'm always on the move, which means my writing space is always on the move too. TASU was written and edited in lectures, in libraries, in airports and on planes, at my summer internship out in Santa Monica, and basically everywhere else I could slip my laptop or my sketchbook out and start scribbling. But of all those places, my favorite is my editing desk that I worked from this winter in the Rockies. It has a spectacular view of Boulder Canyon, and it's the warmest place in the house, especially when the woodstove is going.

7)Any odd writing habits?

I solve things by moving. I brainstorm while walking from place to place, and sometimes I'll run up against a problem in a story that I need to work past, and I won't be able to break it until I get up and physically start moving. In the editing process for TASU, I had one scene that was giving me so much trouble that I got up from my chair, cranked up Fall Out Boy's Immortals, and started physically going through the same motions as the characters until I had a clear idea of how to write my way through it.

8)Do you outline?

Absolutely. I don't have pantsing in me--I have to go into a story knowing exactly where the story is going. It took me eight days of pacing around the house to break TASU's story, and I didn't write a word until I had a detailed outline in place.

9) What is your favorite fairy tale, myth, or folk tale?

I was a huge Greek myth nut in high school, so almost all of my favorite stories are from that tradition. I really like the Odyssey. It's such an interesting text, because it's all about the transition of the Greek world from one where gods directly intervene to the modern world where the gods are distant. Also because there's this guy on Odysseus's crew named Elpenor who gets drunk, climbs up on the roof of Circe's house, falls off, and breaks his neck,and everyone forgets about him until they see him in the underworld and are like, "What? You're dead?" and then they have to go back and bury him.

10)What is your favorite fictional world, one you'd want to visit?

In another world, in another life, I was meant to be an Old Republic Jedi.

11)What is the best writing advice you've ever received?

"The first draft of anything is shit." Whether or not Hemmingway actually said it, it's such a critical mindset to have in the drafting process. Not because you should be devaluing your work, but because in order to get anything done, you have to give yourself permission to suck. Getting words on the page is the most important thing. Perfection comes in the edit.

12)In The Abyss Surrounds Us, are there any hidden acknowledgements to friends, places you've lived, favorite writers, etc;?

If you squint at TASU, you can make out hints of my tempestuous relationship with the computer science major. There are also lots of references to the aforementioned Greek myth, especially the story of Persephone.

13)Can you tell us what we have to look forward to after The Abyss Surrounds Us?

Yeah! So The Abyss Surrounds Us is the fist part of a two part story. Cas's journey continues in the sequel, which I'm currently working on. When I finish that, I have a standalone YA sci-fi novel in the oven that I'm describing as something like Battlestar Galactica meets Edge of Tomorrow. Its nickname is Cyborg Space Jam and it's REALLY COOL.

Thank you, Emily!

You can add The Abyss Surrounds Us to your GoodReads lists now: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/24790901-the-abyss-surrounds-us

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