Diving Beneath the Waves: An Interview with Kat Falls

An Interview with Kat Falls

Kat Falls

Kat Falls received her MFA from Northwestern University and now teaches there. She is the author of Dark Life, the first in a great new series set in the near future where climate change has caused the seas to rise, and her characters live in underwater towns, except some of those who were born underwater and know only of this ocean world seem to have developed some unusual abilities.

In the interview, Kat Falls talks about how she got started writing, where she got the idea for Dark Life, what sort of research it required, how many books there will be in the series, what she likes to do in her spare time and more. To read the interview on the photo or title above or CLICK HERE.

Dark Life

“Dark Life” by Kat Falls (Scholastic, 2010)

Dark Life
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Dark Life, the first in a series from debut author Kat Falls, is another example of the growing genre brought about by the success of Hunger Games, about a dystopian future where things are bleak, but everything is certainly not as it seems.  In this particular doomed future the ocean levels have risen, leaving a small amount of high altitude land on each continent that is now filled with very high rise buildings and large populations living in very small spaces.  Then there are those groups who are looked down upon for living beneath the waters in undersea homes.  This is the story of those ocean dwellers.

15-year-old Ty was born underwater and has spent his whole life beneath the waves; it’s the only world he really knows.  Everyone lives in simple homes that look like jellyfish filled with air, attached to the sea floor; the trapped air inside prevents the water from entering.  The people live here normally, growing underwater vegetation for consumption, as well as running farms of different types of fish.  They are dependent on the Commonwealth for certainly supplies, such as machinery and medical supplies; in return they give the Commonwealth various types of fish in large amounts.  Only now a group known as the Seablite Gang is terrorizing them, attacking and taking their supplies so that the Commonwealth stops sending it, telling them they have to get rid of the Seablite Gang before they will send anything else, otherwise they’re on their own.  As the people of the underwater town grapple with how they’re going to do this, Ty meets Gemma, a girl close to his age and a topsider who has escaped from her school in search of her brother who went subsea in search of hope and wealth.  Then there’s the rumors of the “Dark Gifts,” supposed special abilities those who spend their lives underwater develop, but it’s a tightly kept secret, because if people found out that children were developing unique and powerful marine life abilities, it would change everything.

Readers will get sucked into Dark Life quickly, as Kat Falls has a knack for telling a fun and interesting story, keeping things simple, but action packed.  At the same time she has done her research, with the machinery and technology that is used, as well as the detail of sea life of both flora and fauna.  In addition to enjoying a great story, you will find yourself learning a lot about the underwater world and its many strange but very real inhabitants.

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Originally written on March 5, 2011 ©Alex C. Telander.

An Interview with Kat Falls (May, 2011)

An Interview with Kat Falls

Kat Falls

Kat Falls receive her MFA from Northwestern University and now teaches there. She is the author of Dark Life, the first in a great new series set in the near future where climate change has caused the seas to rise, and her characters live in underwater towns, except some of those who were born underwater and know only of this ocean world seem to have developed some unusual abilities.

Alex C. Telander: When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

Kat Falls: I’ve always run intricate stories in my head for my own amusement, which is a nice way of saying that I’ve always been a daydreamer. My mind automatically shifts into that mode when I’m driving, cleaning and as I fall asleep.  In high school, I started writing them down and quickly realized that’s what I wanted to do full-time, write stories, though I wasn’t sure for which medium.

Alex: Who are some of your influences?

Kat: So many.  But to name a few… Ira Levin, Ray Bradbury, Nancy Farmer, Jack Finney, Suzanne Collins, and Kenneth Oppel.

Alex: Do you remember the first thing you wrote?

Kat: Yep.  I was in third grade and it was a rip-off of Baby Island by Carol Ryrie Brink and Helen Sewell. I jettisoned the lead characters and inserted myself, which is probably how a lot of writers get started.

Alex: What was your first story or book to get published and how did it happen?

Kat: Dark Life is my first published book.  Before that, I wrote screenplays. I’d never thought about writing a book for kids, even though I have three children and read aloud to them almost every night—usually middle-grade novels. When I came up with the premise for Dark Life, I’d been searching for an idea for a screenplay, but since the story takes place underwater, I knew it would require an astronomical budget. So, I decided to write it as a middle-grade adventure novel. The lovely irony of it – after Scholastic bought Dark Life in a two-book deal, The Gotham Group and Disney optioned the film rights.

Alex: Where did the idea for Dark Life come from?

Kat: The premise for Dark Life came out of a writing exercise. My oldest son was 11 at the time and I’d set myself the task of 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.

Alex: What sort of research did it require?

Kat: A lot, but then, I’m a research junkie.  I read up on everything from marine life and geography to undersea architecture and future technology. While I wrote, I kept one particular reference book close by: Ocean: The World’s Last Wilderness Revealed. The pictures are glorious and it has information on just about everything ocean related: tides and waves, subsea flora and fauna… It was my go-to book. I also printed out pictures of sea creatures that I’d downloaded from the internet and made a large collage of them, which I kept propped up near my desk.

Alex: What do you hope people get out of reading Dark Life?

Kat: One of the recurring themes in Dark Life was inspired by old western movies and that’s the survival of the group depends on their willingness to accept one another and work together.
Also, I’d be thrilled if kids gain a new appreciation for the ocean because, to quote Jacques Cousteau, “People protect what they love.”

Alex: How many books do you plan to have in the Dark Life series?

Kat: I’ve outlined three more, for a total of five.

Alex: Can you tell us a little about what Rip Tide (available August, 2011) will be about?

Kat: When Ty’s parents are kidnapped by a savage group of ocean dwellers known as surfs, he and Gemma make a desperate alliance with the Seablite Gang in order to get them back. I like to think of it as “The Searchers on the ocean.” I know that pitch won’t work for middle-graders.  How many of them have even heard of John Wayne? Forget a 1956 western. But hopefully their parents and teachers will get it.

Alex: Do you have any other projects you are working on?

Kat: As a matter of fact I’m working on a new one right now. It’s called The Fetch and is the first book in a YA trilogy, which Scholastic Press acquired for publication beginning in fall 2012. It’s near-future sci-fi as well, though it takes place on terra firma.

Alex: Do you have any advice for writers looking to get published?

Kat: Know your audience. I know that sounds obvious but knowing that I was writing for middle-graders helped me every time I was faced with a creative choice. I’d seen how ruthless my own 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 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.

Alex: Who do you like to read?

Kat: I’ve loved YA for years, but now that I’m writing one, it’s all I’ve been reading. Especially YA speculative fiction, of which there’s a lot. This year, I binged on zombies with Carrie Ryan’s fabulous Forest of Hands and Teeth trilogy and World War Z. I love dystopias –The Hunger Games trilogy, of course, and more recently Matched by Allie Condie.  Now, I’m halfway through Peeps by Scott Westerfeld and thoroughly enjoying it.

Alex: What do you like to do in your spare time?

Kat: Spare time? Not sure that’s the phrase I’d use, however, if my kids are asleep, my husband is out and I can’t bring myself to look at my To Do list or write or even read, I’ll happily settle in front of the television. I usually have several Tivo’ed shows – mostly of the sci-fi and paranormal variety — and at least one Netflixed film waiting for me.

Alex: If you could live in the world you’ve created in Dark Life, what special ability would you like to have?

Kat: Being able to emit an electric shock could be useful in certain situations…

2/6 On the Bookshelf . . . “Welcome to the Greenhouse” & “Dark Life”

Welcome to the Greenhouse Dark Life

Two arrivals with a commonality.  The first, Welcome to the Greenhouse, is an interesting anthology of fictional stories on the subject of climate change, featuring great authors like Bruce Sterling, Gregory Benford, Paul Di Filippo, Alan Dean Foster, and Jeff Carlson, as well as a foreword by Elizabeth Kolbert.

The second is a young adult novel — the first in a series — about a future world where the oceans have risen and life is now conducted under the waters.  Definitely looking for to Dark Life by Kat Falls.