Ten Questions About Arclight, By Josin McQuein

It’s really exciting when I meet someone on this blog as a commenter and, a couple-few years later, they’re here with a book about to hit shelves. Josin McQuein is one such person, and here she’d like to drop by and give you the news about her newest, Arclight:

TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF: WHO THE HELL ARE YOU?

I am me and you are you. Together we are we, which is far too close to being a “them” for my taste, which probably accounts for my anti-social tendencies and total lack of humor. 😉

I’m human, the last I checked. More specifically, one of the female variety, but for the purposes of your question, I’m a writer who did that thing people kept saying was impossible – I got someone to publish my stories.

I live in tiny Texas town you’ve never heard of, which is on the outside of a large city that you most likely can hum the theme song to. There are three dogs in my house that think I’m their boarder / chef, and I am hopelessly addicted to ellipses…

GIVE US THE 140-CHARACTER STORY PITCH:

Arclight’s about playing God when you don’t have the credentials, and choosing if you will define yourself by your rules or someone else’s.

WHERE DOES THIS STORY COME FROM?

Ants.

Army ants, to be exact.

The first kernel of what became the Fade started with an interview I saw as a kid. A group of hikers had been trekking through the rainforest and stopped at a hotel for the night. In the middle of the night, they woke to the sound of screams, but couldn’t see anything because the generators had to be shut off after a certain time to conserve fuel. The hiker said that in the moonlight, the wallpaper seemed to be “moving.” He grabbed a flashlight and discovered that army ants were marching down the walls of the rooms, devouring everything in their path – including the scorpions that started leaping from the ceiling beams onto the people below to get away from them.

That idea of something so small, yet unstoppable for its number, combined with a bit of pseudo-scientific theory and fermented in my brain. And the fear of the dark is fundamental.

HOW IS THIS A STORY ONLY YOU COULD’VE WRITTEN?

Ha! That one’s easy. Only I could have written Arclight because before it was Arclight, it was “the Franken-novel,” with bits cut and pasted from other books, but mostly the screenplay I wrote when I was a teenager. Interestingly enough, not a single one of the component pieces was YA. They all had adult casts and heroes.

WHAT WAS THE HARDEST THING ABOUT WRITING ARCLIGHT?

Getting all of the pieces to line up.

It’s difficult getting a story to work under the best of conditions, but when you’re in the head of a girl whose memory only accounts for a few weeks, and then you’ve got another major character who’s non-verbal for several chapters, things get complicated.

It’s like someone being born full-grown. You’re working with instincts, rather than experiences, and the character’s having to learn to interpret movement, language and tone the way an infant would, in a way. How do you connect to someone who’s been severed from everything she’s ever known?

WHAT DID YOU LEARN WRITING ARCLIGHT?

Fanfic habits die hard. Seriously.

I was the kind of fanfic writer who liked to give backstories or alternate histories to the less featured characters. It’s now translated into me wanting to give elaborate histories to every character, no matter how integral the details are to the plot. I could probably write five novels based on different characters at this point.

Also, I cannot do hard copy edits. I just can’t, and I think I may have driven my poor editor nearly insane figuring that out. I’ve got some sort of perceptual glitch that refuses to acknowledge that words struck through on paper have been deleted; I can’t read it that way because I can still see the words. I have to see my edits in Track Changes so that I can “delete” sections and then put them back if I don’t actually want to cut them.

WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT ARCLIGHT?

Can I say the fact that it got picked up for a movie option? Because that’s right up with my favorite things. No? Okay, fine, I’ll give you a serious answer –

The ambiguity of everything.

I *hate* stories where things are so rigid in the idea of “good” and “evil” that the characters should come into each scene wearing white hats and black hats. No one makes hard choices. No one gets their hands dirty. In fact, no one does much of anything other than swoon.

On the surface, ARCLIGHT looks like it’s set up that way, with the world clearly divided between light and dark. But I wanted to write the exact opposite, so that maybe you end up in a situation where there are no absolutes. Good guys can be jerks and villains can have moments of compassion because in their minds they aren’t the villains.

WHAT WOULD YOU DO DIFFERENTLY NEXT TIME?

I probably wouldn’t write in 1st present. It gives you an inside look at what’s going on with the main character, but you miss some of the background action because she’s not there to see it, and I refuse to have scene after scene of her being told what happened when she left the room, or some such nonsense.

GIVE US YOUR FAVORITE PARAGRAPH FROM THE STORY:

The amorphous swath of no-man’s land called the Dark is literally the stuff of nightmares. When the Arclight’s citizens put heads to pillows at dawn and close their eyes, it’s the Dark that lays behind them. Phantoms and ghosts of fears which have compounded on top of each other for generations churn in a new primordial soup that gives birth to the worst. It creeps like the misty fog beyond our boundaries, and it’s into that void I’ve now traveled.

WHAT’S NEXT FOR YOU AS A STORYTELLER?

Edits for Arclight 2 – things are going to get a lot darker, both literally and figuratively.

October 8th, I’ve got another novel coming out from Delacorte – PREMEDITATED – which is another YA, but contemporary.

I’m polishing up a dark Red Riding Hood retelling/fantasy – most likely to self-publish. (No werewolves, though. I’m not sure when the wolf in RRH became synonymous with werewolf, but people make the assumption.)

I’ve got a slightly steampunkish YA fantasy series about to make the rounds, along with a MG ghost story in-progress. Ideas are not something I lack in any capacity.

Josin McQuein: Blog / Twitter

Arclight: Amazon / B&N / Indiebound