Sunday, August 9, 2020

Q&A with Laura Martin

Laura Martin is the author of Glitch, a new middle grade novel for kids. Her other books include Float and the Edge of Extinction series. A former seventh grade English teacher, she lives in the Indianapolis area.

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Glitch, and for your characters Regan and Elliot?

A: I taught seventh grade language arts for six years prior to taking a break to stay at home with my kids and pursue writing full-time. (Well, as full-time as one can be as a stay-at-home mom!).

One of the research projects my seventh graders did involved a book by Life magazine called The 100 Pictures that Changed the World. I had my students each pick a picture and then research and write a paper about whether or not they though the picture had actually changed the world.

I posted these pictures on a bulletin board, and one day I asked my students how our world would be different if Abraham Lincoln hadn’t been assassinated. It was an interesting question.

We went on to ponder what a world without a man on the moon would look like and shuddered at the thought of a world where Hitler had won World War II, and I realized that history was fragile. If you change one key event, things could spiral in a totally different direction. And so, the idea for Glitch was born.

I’m not sure where the characters came from. I just knew I wanted a boy and a girl who really disliked one another, and I started writing the book from Regan’s point of view. The idea to write part of the story from Elliot’s perspective didn’t come until later, but I loved both of their perspectives.

Q: In your Author's Note, you write, "Shouldn't we want to right the wrongs of history? Wouldn't it make sense to correct the injustices of the past and prevent pain? The answer, in my humble opinion, is no." Why do you think that, and what do your characters believe?

A: Unfortunately, the catalyst for change is often awful, and I think that if you take the catalyst away, the change either doesn’t happen or takes longer to happen.

Another way to put it is that the human race often has to learn lessons the hard way. The injustices of the past are there for a reason, which is why I firmly believe you shouldn’t fix the past, even if by some miracle of science, you have that ability. 

However, I think my characters really struggled with this, Elliot especially. It would be incredibly hard to watch some of the atrocities of history play out in front of your eyes and NOT want to make things right. However, my characters also could see the big picture of history and see how changing a single event might have catastrophic consequences down the line.

Q: The book alternates between Regan's and Elliot's perspectives. Did you write the book in the order in which it appears, or did you focus more on one character before turning to the other?

A: I wrote a good chunk of the book from Regan’s point of view before I decided Elliot needed to have a say, and then I went back and worked his chapters in.

Q: Did you need to do much research to write the book, and if so, did you learn anything especially surprising?

A: This was my first book other than Edge of Extinction where a lot of research was involved. Dinosaur research is pretty forgiving since science has left a lot of gaps I was allowed to fill with my imagination.

However, America’s history is a whole different ballgame. I enjoyed researching the details of the different historical events that appear in the book, but I think the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire was my favorite. Even though the event was horrible, it still had a hero.

There was an elevator operator named Joseph Zito who took his elevator back up to a horrible fire over and over to save lives, despite the fact that the panicked women stabbed him multiple times with their shears. He’s an unsung hero, and I made sure he appeared in the book. 

Q: What are you working on now?

A: I just put the finishing touches on my book for 2021 called The Monster Missions. It’s a little bit like Waterworld meets 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. I’m also working on a new book that I’m hoping will land me another book contract with HarperCollins!

Q: Anything else we should know?

A: Yes. Time Traveling books are incredibly fun to read, but a headache and a half to write. When you start having your characters pop in and out through time, things get really complicated really fast. I dabbled a bit in time travel in Float, but I think Glitch did me in. I’m not sure I’ll mess around with time travel again! 

--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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