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.
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.
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!”
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.