Monday, 4 March 2013

Author Interview: Jesse Karp


I'm really psyched to have Jesse Karp on the blog today, as part of Books That Glow: YA & MG 2013, which I'm co-hosting with Rabiah @ Confessions of a Readaholic! Jesse Karp is the author of Those That Wake and What We Become, a dystopian duology. You can read my review of What We Become here.


Interview with Jesse Karp


Without giving away too much, as What We Become is a sequel, what does this follow-up to Those That Wake contain?

From a story perspective, we have the two main characters from Those That Wake, Mal and Laura, split up for reasons that go much deeper than they first appear. Both of them, however, are pulled into the agenda of an incredibly powerful figure known only as the Old Man (who was very briefly foreshadowed in Those That Wake – on page 206 to be exact).  The Old Man knows a great deal more about Mal and Laura than he possibly should and he wants to use this to acquire the one thing he stills needs in the world.

From a more abstract perspective, in a sequel, you want to take your characters to places that both grow out of what we know about them and at the same time help them grow to new places; take them on a journey, as it were, that starts with the old them and ends with the new them. There is also some obligation, I think, to pay off the ideas introduced in the first story, so both the Librarian and the Global Dynamic are explored a bit more deeply and, hopefully, readers will be surprised and satisfied by certain revelations about them.    

Will this be the last book in this series?

Well, I did write it that way. The characters fulfill themselves, the plot threads are sewn up and the themes are brought to fruition. However, I confess that the characters live on and things are still happening to them in my head.

What I'd do to get inside your head! How did you come up with the initial storyline for this series?

I’ve been fascinated with by the paranoia thriller movies of the 1970s and early 1980s, like The Parallax View and the first Invasion of the Body Snatchers remake, since I was a child, so the idea of a hidden machinery secretly running the world that we can see was something I wanted to explore. I had also heard about Richard Dawkins’s theory of memes, which introduced me to the concept of thought viruses. I ran with those two elements for Those That Wake. For What We Become, I could see the world actually becoming more like those paranoid fantasies, with the manipulations perpetrated by banks and other corporations coming to light, so I created a fitting antagonist and pulled the story a bit more in that direction. Naturally, the story also had to grow out of my characters, so that meant having Mal in a relentless fight for his life, while Laura has to make a decision about being true to her instincts or true to the way the rest of the world wants her to be.

What is your favorite writing food?

It’s hard to eat while I write; got to keep both those hands moving on the keyboard, you know. But I do take breaks at opportune moments, like after I’ve finished a chapter, or if I need to think something through. What I want to eat then is chocolate, of course, but I usually end up with an apple. The snap of a crunchy apple seems to get my mental juices flowing. Plus, if they’re tart, that helps wake you up, too.

Fill in the blanks:

If I was a candy or chocolate, I would be solid milk chocolate (simple but reliable).
One song I wish nobody ever caught me singing would be Believe It or Not (theme song to The Greatest American Hero) by Mike Post.
One book that everyone NEEDS to read is I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew by Dr. Seuss.  There has never been a more honest, compelling and fun book about facing your fears.

You are a tribute in the Hunger Games! If you could pick 5 of your opponents (and they can be ANYONE– living, dead, fictional), whom would you pick and how would you defeat them?

One - Mr. O'Shannon, my high school science teacher. I've been wanting to get even with that guy for a long time.
Two - H.P. Lovecraft, the great horror writer. He was a gaunt, depressed and very paranoid fellow. I'm pretty sure I could take him hand-to-hand.
Three - Mr. Spock. He would take out some of the other tributes, but I know if I left him alone, he wouldn't come after me.
Four - My wife, so that, as star-crossed lovers, we would both be spared the customarily lethal conclusion of the game.
Five -  Suzanne Collins. I’ve got to see if she can put her money where her mouth is. 

I'm loving your answers to that! What book(s) are you currently reading?

Why Does the World Exist? An Existential Detective Story by Jim Holt, a philosophical search for the nature of reality, and, because I'm thinking of writing a mystery soon, The Chill by Ross Macdonald, one of the great mystery writers; he re-defined the genre.

When you aren't writing, what can you be found doing?

I'm a school librarian in New York City, so I read to and work with little kids; I teach a class on the history and analysis of graphic novels for graduate students; I jog and box; I read lots and watch movies (mostly older, darker-toned ones). Every other spare moment I spend with my wife and two daughters. 

What do you have planned next for us?

I'm just now starting the editing process on a book about a really badly behaved teen who is taken away by a secret organization and turned into a killing-machine. After that, I'm going to get started on a very dark mystery with a female teen protagonist. 

They both sound awesome, I can't wait to read them! What advice do you have for aspiring authors out there?

I wish there were some magical secret I could offer that would help pave the path to publication, but if my own history is any proof, there is no such thing. What I can say is that I was writing for twenty years before anyone considered publishing one of my novels. Do not give up. You can do it.

Thanks so much to Jesse Karp for taking the time to answer our questions! :)

About Jesse Karp

I am a librarian at LREI (Little Red School House and Elisabeth Irwin High School), a progressive school in Greenwich Village.
I am a professor at Pratt Institute, where I teach the graduate course 
Graphic Novel: Narrative and Sequence.
I am a writer and reviewer for 
Booklist, the official magazine of the American Library Association.  Several of my articles are available on the Articles page.
I continue to write non-fictionshort stories and novels and live in Manhattan with my wife Maren Berthelsen (producer of Yank! The Musical) and our two daughters, Zoe and Verity.
Find Jesse on:


About What We Become









"There is a mind out in the city. It is more powerful than any mind before. I want it."

The Old Man wants absolute power. He knows Mal can give it to him.

"Fight me."

Mal will fight to the death to keep the Ole Man form getting what he wants. Somewhere, Laura, the girl that Mal loves, is safe. He will not let the Old Man take that away from her.

"Tell me, Laura, what is your life like now?"

Laura's life is hollow, as if the best part of her is gone. She must find what she lost. If she doesn't, there is no more her.

Mal and Laura are on a collision course: with each other, with the Old Man, with the end of a battle begun two years earlier.
They will probably lose. They will probably die. Bu not to try, to give up now, would be worse.

In this haunting companion to Those That Wake, Jesse Karp brings us a story of love, memories, and what it means to fight, even when you know you can't win.

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