Interview with author J.M. Kay
Under the Shadow: Children of the First Star, Vol. 1
Can you give us a summary of your book?
Under the Shadow is a story of self-discovery. Two thirteen-year-old boys, Jason Swann and Daniel Elliot, are forced into friendship as they are accidentally abducted by the Archivist, a robotic being created by an ancient alien race known as the Shantar Anar for the purpose of studying the universe. But of course, things that seem like coincidence reek of deeper mystery as the boys and the Archivist find themselves lost in an adventure on a foreign world, Ranis Anjiran. What they discover there only further dismantles the myths surrounding their accidental abduction and their connection to the Shantar Anar.
While the boys are in far off worlds, their respective families in the small town of Ashton, in the American Midwest, desperately seek to find them, thinking the worst. Their search uncovers a hidden history with ties to the events surrounding Jason and Daniel’s journey.
What was your inspiration for writing Under the Shadow – Children of the First Star, Vol. 1?
I wanted to write a story that wasn’t just about good versus evil but about an evolution and about the ability to become a better version of oneself by looking within. In that sense, it’s my homage to T.S. Eliot, whose poetry I fell in love with in high school and has always made me want to better understand who I really am as a person.
When did you know you wanted to become a writer?
I don’t know if there was ever a “light going off” moment, but the need to put my thoughts down onto page has been with me since probably late high school. Writing was a way for me to empty my anxiety and my stress, to literally take it from my own body and put it on a page and I would always feel better afterwards. From then, my desire to write evolved into a love of bringing my imagination into the world in a way where it would have a home and not be forgotten. From there it was just a natural progression to thinking, wouldn’t it be amazing if this were my job?
Have you always been interested in science fiction?
Science fiction and fantasy were without a doubt my favorite genres growing up and in many ways they still are. I have always been very fond of astronomy and physics and if my math skills were better I definitely would have pursued a career in a hard science. Some of the best science fiction I have read isn’t just about spaceships and aliens but builds on a platform of real scientific research and imagines potentials based upon these theories.
Name your favorite book and author from when you were the age of the characters in this book and explain why it appealed to you so much.
That’s tough, a lot of choices, but maybe The Seventh Gate, which is the final installment of The Death Gate Cycle (Fantasy not Sci Fi) by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. I read the series for the first time at around fourteen. The world was very original, it employed a great magic system, and the depth and range of the characters they imagined into being were really amazing.
How long did it take you to write your book from start to finish?
I think it took me about two and a half years from first word to final draft, though that doesn’t include a stretch of about a year where I had to set it aside for work related issues.
What was the most challenging part about writing your book?
The most challenging part was not throwing it in the garbage and going to look for something else to do with my life after the first time I had a real editor do coverage. I was used to having writing critiqued but not to the extent where I knew I was going to have to spend months and months tearing apart and writing a new story, which I was already happy with.
What are your writing goals for the next 12 months?
In the next 12 months I hope to be able to finish my outline for A Moment in the Glass: Children of the First Star, Volume II and be well into writing the first draft. If I have the time, I’d love to keep working on a series of humorous short stories I started a little while back and some poetry here and there always seems to find a way into the mix.
Are you working on something right now? If so, can you tell us more about it?
I’ve started working on the plot points and the outline for Children of the First Star: Volume II which will continue the adventure of Jason and Daniel on the home planet of the Shantar Anar and will find those searching for them on Earth closer to the boys than they might ever have imagined.
If you could meet three authors, which authors would you choose?
Really tough question and I’m not sure how I could even pick so I’m just going to choose three authors who’ve written books that changed the way I look at life.
Joseph Heller – The sardonic humor of Catch 22 is melded so perfectly with a profound understanding of the human condition and it inspired the title for my first collection of poetry, which I wrote during college Snowden’s Secret.
Milan Kundera – While I’ve read many of his books, The Unbearable Lightness of Being broke my heart during a time when I had lost a close friend.
Alexandre Dumas – The unabridged version of The Count of Monte Cristo is simply and without doubt the best book I have ever read in my entire life.