The Familiars: Interview with Adam & Andrew (Part 1)

Posted March 17, 2010 by Sara | Novel Novice 1 Comment

All this week, we’re talking about The Familiars — the upcoming release from authors Adam Jay Epstein and Andrew Jacobson. Today we begin our exclusive three-part interview with Adam & Andrew!

What’s the story behind The Familiars? How did you come up with the idea/concept?

The two of us have been writing for film and television for the last 10 years. Several times a year, between projects, we brainstorm new ideas. During one of these particular sessions, Adam asked Andrew, “Do you know what a familiar is?” Andrew said he didn’t. Adam explained, “A familiar is the animal companion to a witch or wizard, like Hedwig in ‘Harry Potter.’ They’re always in the background, doing very little. What if we told a story where the familiars were front and center? And they were the ones going on the adventure.” Andrew immediately took to the idea. “But it sounds like a book,” he said. We shared a collective “A-ha!” moment. Why not write the book then? We had always wanted to expand our writing beyond screenplays. Now seemed like as good a time as any! It was from that simple question that Adam asked: “Do you know what a familiar is?” that quickly led to the creation of Vastia and all the magical animals inhabiting it. We didn’t have to look very far for our inspiration for Aldwyn. In fact, he was right in Adam’s backyard. There was a stray black-and-white alley cat named Ben, missing a chunk of his left ear, who visited there every day. The rest seemed to just flow effortlessly.

Who is it for? What kind of readers would enjoy The Familiars?

The Familiars is targeted at middle readers, ages 8-12, but we really believe it will appeal to anyone who loves animals, magic, or fantasy. It takes inspiration from “Harry Potter” and “Lord of the Rings” and hopefully puts its own unique spin on the classic hero’s journey.

If you met someone in a bookstore, and they were thinking about buying your book, what would you say to convince them?

We would say, “Hi, we’re the authors of this book. My grandmother needs a very expensive life-saving surgery, and it would really help if you bought a copy.” No, we wouldn’t say that. We’d say, “Did you love ‘Harry Potter?’ Well, this is kind of like that, only it’s told from the animals point of view. It’s exciting and funny and filled with a lot of heart. And my grandmother needs a very expensive… Oh, just buy it. You won’t regret it!”

What do you hope readers take away from your books?
Well, for one, even if you’re small and sometimes feel like you’re insignificant, you can accomplish great big things. Another would be that you don’t have to be extraordinary (ie magical) to be special. A third take-away is that even when things are scary and overwhelming, they’re never as bad when you have true and honest friends by your side.
Many of our readers are young writers and teachers. Can you tell us about your writing process? (Do you use an outline? Do you know how it ends before you start?)
One of the unique things about this book is that we co-authored it. The two of us literally sat in the same room for months and months writing every word, sentence, and paragraph together. Andrew is the typist (because he’s frankly a much faster typer), while Adam sits beside him, or across from him in a nice, comfy chair, or sometimes paces around. After our initial conversation about the idea, we loosely outlined the first few chapters and just dove in. Then after writing about 45 pages, we meticulously plotted out the rest of the story. Of course we discovered many details along the way, but we had a basic sense of the major plot points and where the first book would end. Neither one of us were English majors in college or had any book writing experience previously, but we’ve both read a lot, watched a lot, and lived inside our imaginations since we were little kids. We both think research is procrastination, and writing what you know is kind of boring. Andrew played with his Star Wars and GI Joe action figures for hours on end as a kid (probably until he was way too old to be playing with them), and Adam grew up on Dungeons and Dragons and video games and comic books. Writing fantasy is like bringing all of those childhood daydreams to life, and the best part is, it’s our job!
What’s it like writing a book together, rather than individually?

A lot less lonely, that’s for sure. Oliver Stone (writer and director of “Platoon” and “Wall Street”) says his best advice to writers is “butt plus chair.” Honestly, that’s the hardest part when you’re writing alone. Having a partner/co-author eliminates that challenge. We also like to think that having another person to bounce ideas off of is kind of like an instant sanity check. If two people agree that it’s good, you can’t both be crazy, right? And the old saying is true, sometimes two heads are simply better than one. Besides, if Adam didn’t have Andrew, he’d still be struggling to type through the first book.

Sara | Novel Novice

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