These are some of the questions I’m often asked. If I haven’t answered your question here, email me and I’ll add it below.
Where did you get the idea for Dark Life?
I came up with the idea during a writing exercise. My oldest son was 11 at the time, and I decided to try combining three things that he loved to read about into one story: the ocean, Old West pioneers, and the X-men. Suddenly, the world of the story took shape in my mind and the plot came together fairly easily after that.
Did you have to do any research for Dark Life?
So much so, I had to cut myself off on a regular basis. I’d get on the Internet to find the answer to one small question and two hours would zip by without my noticing. There’s just so much to learn about the ocean! I read up on everything from marine life and subsea geography to future technology. Every creature mentioned in Dark Life and Rip Tide is real and can be found in the ocean today.
Are any of the technologies, like Liquigen or the underwater architecture, possible in reality?
Because I wanted to write science fiction and not fantasy, I didn’t want to stray too far from the possible. Therefore I tried to base all the technology in the story on some prediction or theory posed by an engineer, scientist or architect. In some cases, the science has been developed but is still in the experimental stages. For example, liquid breathing (which was my inspiration for Liquigen) is currently used to help premature babies and coma patients who are in respiratory distress, however, it is a long way from being something people use for scuba diving. If you go to You Tube and type in “liquid breathing” you can find videos of mice being submerged in the stuff.
Would you describe Dark Life as a dystopian novel?
The Topside is definitely dystopian with its overcrowded stack-cities, but the story really takes place out on the ocean frontier, which is still a wilderness. Certainly the word “dystopian” never entered my mind while I was writing. The two genres that I intentionally mixed were science fiction and the western. So I have pioneers and outlaws, but the story is set in the future. It’s like a space-western… underwater. I had a lot of fun with the western clichés/tropes – trying to find their subsea equivalents.
Also, one of the themes I explore in both books is that the survival of a group depends on the individuals’ willingness to accept one another and work together. It’s a theme straight out of one of my favorite westerns, Stagecoach, and an idea that I feel is still relevant today on a global scale.
Why did you decide to have Ty narrate the story, rather than Gemma?
I did briefly consider having Gemma narrate the book because as a writer, it’s much easier to describe people and places if a character is new to the environment. But after trying it in her pov, I realized quickly that Gemma’s reactions to the subsea world were similar to ours and that her thoughts weren’t surprising. Getting inside Ty’s head, however, forced me to think like someone who has spent his whole life underwater. The things he doesn’t say — his feelings and reactions — often surprised me as I was writing and that’s always fun.
Are your characters inspired by people you know?
Travis, the 14 year-old protagonist of Old Yeller, served as my inspiration for Ty. Travis hunts with a rifle to keep his mother and little brother fed and must work the family’s farm when his father leaves on a cattle drive. He has to grow up much faster than kids today and I wanted the same to be true for Ty, though his family’s homestead is on the ocean floor and he hunts for dinner with a harpoon gun.
Ty’s little sister, Zoe, was based somewhat on my daughter who was eight when I wrote Dark Life. The way she interacts with Ty – well, let’s just say it’s a lot like what goes on in my house every day.
Gemma is based on a character type you find in western films — the easterner who is a fish out of water in the old west. When that character is male, he’s usually portrayed as a slick con-man or a dandy. When the visiting easterner is female, she’s usually refined and humane – sometimes a pacifist — and often ends up being the lawman or pioneer’s love interest. Gemma is my eastern girl, though she’s from the Topside. She’s the newcomer who knows very little about life subsea. As Ty shows her around, we get to learn about his world along with her.
She is Ty’s opposite in many ways: she’s a freckled, forthright orphan who is comfortable in glaring sunshine, crowds and cramped spaces. Ty glows-in-the-dark and has gown up in the subsea wilderness, surrounded by a caring family and close-knit community. However, they share many core characteristics. They are both brave and loyal and willing to risk everything for the people they love.
Does Dark Life have a book trailer?
It has two! The US version: http://bcove.me/dcwboxhq
And the UK version: www.youtube.com/watch?v=8iiQSwmd_gs
Will there be a sequel?
What is your favorite sea creature?
I’ve always loved whales, but after all my research I’ve also fallen hard for sea slugs. They are unbelievably beautiful little creatures and so varied. Go — punch “nudibranch” into your web browser — you’ll see what I mean.
Topsider or subsea pioneer? What would you be and why?
As much as I’d love to visit the homesteads of Benthic Territory, I don’t think I’d be very good at farming kelp and seaweed. But I know I’d be miserable living in a stack-city where there’s no nature or wildlife so, I think I’d be a floater – someone who lives on a houseboat on the ocean’s surface.
Will there be more books in the Dark Life series after Rip Tide?
I have more books outlined for the Dark Life series, but am working on a different series right now. Someday, I intend to dive back into Ty & Gemma’s adventures subsea.
Will there be a movie of Dark Life?
I hope so! It’s currently in development at Disney with the Gotham Group producing.
Are your books in any other formats?
There’s an audio book of Dark Life. Keith Nobbs is the narrator and he does a great job.
What will you write next?
I’m working on a new book right now. It’s called Inhuman and is the first book in a YA scifi-adventure trilogy, which Scholastic Press acquired for publication beginning in Fall 2013.
The series is set in the near future after a devastating epidemic has divided America – literally. A sheltered sixteen-year-old girl must sneak past the giant quarantine wall that splits the country in order to fetch something from the east, a place now called the Feral Zone.
Did you always like to write?
For as long as I can remember, I’ve told myself stories – a habit that my teachers called “day dreaming.” I used to get in trouble for it. I’d stare out the window, not paying attention to what was happening around me, and weave some exciting adventure in my mind… Actually, I still do that.
I started writing down my daydreams in elementary school and have kept a journal since fifth grade. But I didn’t think about getting paid for writing fiction until I was in college. It was just something that I did for my own amusement.
How and where do you write?
I have a desk in a spare room that I’ve turned into a home office. I try to write when my kids are at school though, when I’m working on a first draft I usually end up writing late at night — after my inner critic has gone to sleep. Also, I like to be surrounded by pictures when I’m writing. It keeps me immersed in my story world. I make collages of images and prop them on an easel that faces my desk. I’ll swap them out, depending on which scene I’m working on.
Why the ocean and not vampires, witches or werewolves?
I love supernatural stories, but love science fiction just as much and it seemed to me that there were lots of fantasy books written for middle graders but very few scifi books. Scifi and fantasy are often lumped together because they both take the reader into new worlds – places that are significantly different from present day earth. However, fantasy stories rely on elements that are impossible in our world – things like magic and vampires and other supernatural creatures. Science fiction stories are based on the possible – the strange elements within the story might not exist in our world right now, but they could be conceivably invented someday or could occur as the result of some future innovation.
Do you have any advice for writers looking to get published?
Know your audience. As obvious as that sounds, knowing that I was writing for tweens helped me every time I was faced with a creative choice. I’d seen how ruthless my children could be about books, especially my oldest son. To this day, if a story doesn’t grab him on page one, he’ll toss it aside and never give it another try. So, I wrote Dark Life and Rip Tide with kids like him in mind. I kept my prose lean and loaded on the action and imagery to make it feel like a thrill ride.
Is Kat Falls your real name?
My full name is Kathleen Moynihan Falls. Since my friends call me Kat, I put that on the book cover. Plus, it’s easy for readers to remember.