A few weeks ago I posted about one of my new favorite novels, ALIEN INVASION & OTHER INCONVENIENCES by Austin author Brian Yansky. Today I have an interview with Brian, in which we discuss everything from Kurt Vonnegut to The X Files. Also, I’ll be announcing the winner of my ALIEN INVASIONS ARC giveaway at the bottom of this post! Enjoy!
E. Kristin Anderson: In the past, you’ve written contemporary YA. So when I heard you were writing an alien invasion book, I was psyched, but surprised. Why the move to aliens?
Brian Yansky: I was writing contemporary YA but it always had an aspect of the fantastic. I’ve always been drawn to fantasy. My Master’s Critical Thesis was on Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Mr. Magical Realism. I think though that I kept myself from going all the way until this alien novel. Really letting the fantastical elements be at the center of the story freed my writing. And, of course, who wouldn’t want to make the move to aliens?
EKA: You set ALIEN INVASION AND OTHER INCONVENIENCES in Texas, though it really could have been set anywhere. What made you put the characters in Austin?
BY: Au Contraire, Ms. Emily. What better place to set an alien novel than a town whose motto is “Keep Austin weird”?
EKA: I love that your aliens are so ridiculously polite, and yet I still want to punch them in the face. What made you approach the antagonists from this angle?
BY: My weird sense of humor. I thought it was kind of funny that these very deadly and murderous aliens would be so polite. Also, this contradiction made them more vivid to me. Also, I’ve met a few people in my time who will smile very politely while they cut your throat. I speak metaphorically, of course.
EKA: I had total plot envy while I was reading this book. How did it occur to you to have the alien take over happen in ten seconds via mind-control? Because, seriously, if I could go back in time and mind-control you into giving up this idea to me, I totally would.
BY: Thank you. Who wouldn’t want to give another plot envy? I can’t remember exactly how this novel started. I can remember thinking that I didn’t want to write the alien story that had been written many times before, an invasion story that focused on the invasion. Then I thought why give it any time at all? Why not just get the invasion part over in the first chapter? Then that became ten seconds and I had my first line of the novel and I was off.
EKA: Lord Vertenomous, or “Lord Vert,” as some of the humans call him, is an interesting character. We get to learn a lot about him through letters he writes to his father. Why did you want to give your villain “daddy issues?”
BY: Here’s a vicious and despicable character in many ways, but I think his daddy issues make him a little sympathetic. In short, it made my alien more human.
EKA: It’s also really interesting that the aliens have a secret political conflict over the idea of enslaving Earthlings. Their idea of what makes a creature evolved is clearly different from ours. Why was it important for you to include alien politics in ALIEN INVASION?
BY: It’s different but the same, too. They value what has made them evolve and what has given them power over other creatures. We are the same. They think that a being must have telepathic powers to be evolved. Even their religion is centered around a God they think links with the universe telepathically. So their definition of a being evolved enough to not be thought of as “product” is one that has some telepathic power. The way of thinking seems very human to me and I wanted to play with the parallels.
EKA: What are some of your biggest influences in the sci fi world?
BY: Kurt Vonnegut, George Orwell, Star Trek, Firefly. I’m probably more influenced by fantasy though: Philip Pullman, the light touch of Harry Potter, Ursula Le Guin, and the great myths, of course, which read a lot like fantasy to me. Not to mention comic novels, which I love.
EKA: The world of ALIEN INVASION breaks down from being life as we know it to a complete dystopia in the blink of an eye. Do you think this is how things would go in the event of a real world catastrophe?
BY: Too many variables. It could go so many ways. If we run into aliens that can conquer us in ten seconds though this is exactly the way things would go.
EKA: I’m not going to spoil anything. But let’s just say that you made some CHOICES that made me want to write you angry emails. Was it difficult for you to make these CHOICES, or did you just want to mess with your readers, like the evil, evil author you are?
Honestly, the story takes you where the story takes you. As the author you revise for all kinds of reasons and make choices at every step of the revision process. But I always try to make choices that remain true to the story. Sometimes they are hard ones.
EKA: Spill it. Do you believe in extra terrestrials? Are they here?
BY: Of course I believe in the possibility of other life out there. It’s a big universe. Are they here? I’ve been getting asked this a lot lately. I’ve also been asked if I’m an alien? Here was my answer: I’m adopted. I was adopted by a very nice human couple from Iowa. That’s all I can say.
EKA: And since no one who writes books about aliens could possibly not be a Mulder and Scully fan, what’s your favorite episode of The X Files?
BY: I have a soft spot for their own spoofs of The X Files.
EKA: Science fiction is often pushed aside and called “genre writing,” categorized outside of “literature” by the snooty overlords of the book world. I, however, think your book is quite literary. What do you think is the key to producing literary science fiction?
BY: Thank you. The same as producing any literary fiction, I think. It has ideas but it’s character driven. A love of language comes through, a playfulness if the work is comic. Attention to words in a Mark Twain kind of way, “The difference between the almost right word and the right word is the difference between the lightening bug and the lightening.”
EKA: If you were an alien ruler and you were going to come and take over Earth, how would you do it? Would you be anything like Lord Vert?
BY: I hope not but I did create Lord Vert. Where do our characters come from? Maybe every character a writer creates has a little of himself. Look, if I’m Brian the Writer I’m not going to take over the Earth in the first place. But if I’m an alien ruler, well, I’m most likely going to be pretty ruthless.
EKA: What are you working on now?
BY: More alien novels. Why? I don’t know. I just know I want to LET THE ALIENS speak. I’m not saying I’m on a mission or anything and I have nothing against vampires, werewolves, or zombies BUT, as I’ve mentioned before, the literary landscape is filled with them. Isn’t it about time aliens had their say?
Thanks so much, Brian! If y’all haven’t gone out and picked up a copy of ALIEN INVASION & OTHER INCONVENIENCES yet, what are you waiting for? It’s completely awesome, and, I promise, even if you don’t usually read sci fi, you’ll love it!
And without further ado, I’d like to announce that the winner of the ALIEN INVASION ARC is…..
Jay, aka Twitter user @memnalar! YAY! The random number-generating fairies have spoken!