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Wednesday, May 11, 2016

An Interview with Bart King, author of The Drake Equation

Bart King's first novel, The Drake Equation, is in stores now! Check out my interview with Bart below, in which he shares his inspiration for his main character's hobby, things that inspire him, and more!

I love that your MC, Noah is an avid bird watcher. Why decide to make this Noah’s hobby? Is it an activity that you enjoy as well or did it require research?
Two years ago, I read a book about a fascinating bird called the black swift. Not only is this bird arguably “cute,” it also flies at incredibly high altitudes. But the most remarkable thing about the black swift is that it nests behind waterfalls.

Yes, this bird finds a mossy ledge with a rushing wall of water in front of it an ideal home. How cool is that?

Because black swifts go out of their way to be out of the way, it’s not widely agreed upon whether they’re an endangered species or simply elusive and mysterious.

Shortly after learning this, I went for a hike in Portland with my nephew, Noah. Though he’s a youngster, is already an accomplished naturalist. And because Noah’s knowledge of the outdoors was so impressive, I wondered if other kids had similarly profound birding expertise . . .

And so the story began with the premise: What if a young birdwatcher thought he’d spotted a black swift? And what if that birdwatcher was, in turn, being watched himself?

As for me, I am a wildlife enthusiast, but not a birder. So writing The Drake Equation did require quite a bit of very interesting research! As it’s my first work of fiction, I even invented a few bird species along the way, but my editor at Disney quickly disabused me of that bad habit.

Tell me a little bit about your writing process: Do you outline? Start at the beginning? The middle? The end?
I started with ideas for my protagonist, and an opening scene. This opening was completely redone several times, but nevertheless, everything else flowed from that.

I also had an idea for a funny scene about halfway through the story. And that gave me an idea for the ending, which I wrote next. Of these three things (opening, middle, end), only the middle scene survived into the book’s final draft.

So I can say that if a writer has three lynchpin scenes to work with, it’s possible to work out from there to create the whole tale.

In a more brass tacks vein, I write every day. It may not be for very long, but by doing it EVERY day, the words add up.

Inspiration comes in many forms. Share three people, places, or things that inspire your creativity.
I’m a prodigious reader, and this spurs my imagination like nothing else. Our home is liberally sprinkled with library books and recent purchases from the bookstore. There’s nonfiction and fiction, memoir and even some poetry. I set aside one to two times to read each day, and often find myself jotting down ideas while I do.

Now that I’m trying my hand at fiction, being around people (especially kids) helps me immeasurably. I try to notice the personalities, tics, and behaviors of others to help me understand the rich tapestry of Homo sapiens. So whether I’m in a conversation or just observing others, I’m more mindful now.

Finally, I like to take our dog, Augie, on walks and hikes in and around Portland. And I’ve learned to bring along a notebook, because more often than not, someone will come to me as I’m trudging along, breathing fresh air, and trying to stop our hellhound from putting EVERYTHING in his mouth.
My blog is dedicated to my personal hiding spot, books. Name a notable book that provided you with a hiding spot.
After finishing The Drake Equation, I found myself fondly remembering a book from my childhood, The Goblin Reservation by Clifford Simak.

Oh, good grief, my title is similar, isn’t it? :P

My subconscious might have been up to something there. You see, I read a lot as a child, but it was almost all nature oriented. For example, I absolutely wore out an illustrated field guide to newts. But The Goblin Reservation was a funny science fiction novel set in a future where Earth has become sort of like the United Nations for the universe.

The menagerie of aliens in The Goblin Reservation really fired up my imagination, and I was so sad when the book ended and my “friends” didn’t have anything more to say.

What can readers look forward to next?
Well, The Drake Equation was conceived with a large story arc. That arc has a natural halfway point, and that’s where the novel ends. If the novel attracts sufficient interest, then I’ll get a chance to finish the tale I envisioned!

In the interim, I’m finishing up a funny novel called Three Weeks to Live (Give or Take). Among other things, the book’s a “SickLit” satire. It’s about a teen girl named Jackie who nearly gets hit by a meteorite in her PE class. (Her tennis partner is not so lucky.) Jackie is thrust into the world’s spotlight, and she finds herself becoming a reluctant celebrity—but she may not be around long enough to eventually enjoy it.

And finally, I recently accepted the offer to write a book of poetry about some well-known teenaged franchise characters who must—for the moment—go unnamed.

About the Author
I write funny--and educational--books for younger readers and immature adults. My debut novel, a humorous science-fiction adventure called "The Drake Equation" (Disney Hyperion), just came out! Pretty cool, right? RIGHT?

About the Book
Noah Grow is a bird-watcher. If you're picturing some kid in a big floppy hat, peering up into trees through giant binoculars . . . well, good job. That's exactly what he does. Right now, Noah is on a quest to find a wood duck. According to his calculations, aka the Drake Equation, the odds are good-really good-for spotting one.

That's why he gets off the bus at the wrong stop. And that's how he ends up running down a hill, crashing into a fence, and landing right next to a strange, glittery disk.

Noah and his best friends, Jason and Jenny, soon discover that the mysterious disk is, well, mysterious. It gives Noah peculiar powers. As things go from odd to outrageous, Noah is swept up in a storm of intergalactic intrigue and middle-school mayhem. There's much more at stake than Noah realizes.

Bart King delivers a hilarious sci-fi adventure with just the right mix of heart and humor that will have readers looking out for birds-and strange alien objects.


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