On Monday, September 26th, 150 third to fifth graders at my school had a special treat. Andrew Jacobson and Adam Jay Epstein, co-authors of The Familiars series, came to visit. They shared some fun videos they had created to promote their books and told about how they created the series.
The Familiars 2 is now available for sale.
There was some impromptu acting going on.
Some questions and answers.
And even books being signed and many happy fans.
Thank you Andrew and Adam for sharing with my students and getting them all excited about reading.
What gave you the idea for writing The Familiars 1 & 2?
Back in 2008, when we hatched the idea for The Familiars, it all started with Adam asking 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.’” Andrew immediately took to the idea. We loved that familiars were 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. And Adam’s simple question quickly led to the creation of Vastia and all the magical animals inhabiting it. Our three main characters are an orphan alley cat named Aldwyn who is mistaken for being a young boy wizard’s familiar; Skylar, a know-it-all blue jay with the ability to cast magical illusions; and Gilbert, a bumbling tree frog who can see visions of the past, present, and future in puddles of water… sometimes. 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 and The Familiars: Secrets of the Crown are targeted at middle readers, ages 8-12, but we really believe it will appeal to anyone who loves animals, magic, or fantasy. They take inspiration from “Harry Potter” and “Lord of the Rings” and hopefully put their own unique spin on the classic hero’s journey.
How do you guys communicate (when writing together)?
One of the unique things about The Familiars and its sequel is that we co-authored them. The two of us literally sat in the same room for months and months (we pretty much put in banker’s hours, 9-5 Monday through Friday) 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 books 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.
Where do you come up with all the names and mythical creatures?
Honestly we just make them up! We chose Aldwyn because it had an English flavor and we always imagined him as a little bit of an Artful Dodger/Oliver Twist type character. Skylar took inspiration from the prefix Sky which is of course what birds do. And Gilbert has the word Gil in his name, which frogs have! This is one of the most fun parts of our job. Especially all the fantastical creatures and places.
Did you always want to be authors?
Adam actually thought he might become a video game developer. He absolutely loves video games. Andrew's dad was a lawyer so he thought he'd be good at that. But he was also writing stories as early as in the second grade.
Which are your favorite characters?
Adam would say Gilbert because he has such a fun voice to write. Something unexpected always seems to come out of his mouth, even for us while writing it. Andrew loves Grimslade and his villainous ways!
How did you meet each other?
Adam grew up in Great Neck, New York, while Andrew spent his childhood in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, but we actually met in a parking garage out in Los Angeles. True story.
Stopping by Kid Lit Frenzy today are authors Adam Jay Epstein & Andrew Jacobson. Their first book, The Familiars, will be released on September 7, 2010. Thanks guys for stopping by the blog.
Distractions. Every writer knows that their biggest enemy to putting words on the page each day is their own mind wandering. It's so easy to find yourself staring down at your iPhone or Googling that it's a miracle you get anything written at all. Take a sample morning for the two of us. First, we discuss if either of us saw any good movies this past weekend. Oh, you saw Inception? Who was that guy playing Eames? I'm not sure, let me IMDB it. Tom Hardy. Ooo, he's going to be Mad Max in the Mad Max remake. And he has a dog named Max! Let's wiki him and learn everything about his entire life.
Fifteen minutes later. Back to the book writing. But before getting through even a paragraph, the topic wanders to whether either of us has purchased Rick Riordan's The Red Pyramid yet. No, but it's at the top of Andrew's to-read list. I wonder how many copies he's selling of this book. Twenty minutes pass, as we don't find the answer to that, but instead are led to browse Publisher's Weekly's list of 100 top selling books from 2009. How is PC Cast selling so many books? Who is PC Cast and why have we never read any of her books? Back to Riordan. Somehow we find ourselves on his official home page, learning everything there is to know about him. Did you know that in high school, he wrote an underground newspaper that criticized his school and especially its losing football team? But the football team got their revenge by egging his car.
Maybe we should get some writing done. No can do, it's time for a snack. Many delays will arise during out 9 to 5 workday. And many delays will arise for you as well. Let's be honest, you're reading this blog post right now! You should be writing. But we know how it is. We're probably doing something other than writing, too. Reading a tweet or watching a Youtube video. The key is just to stay focused. We have to cut through the swath of information we're constantly being bombarded with. For a couple hours a day, unplug the Internet. Turn off the wifi and put your iPhone on airplane mode. Adam's asking me right now how to get on Dooce.com some hot new blogger and tastemaker. I just want to finish this guest post and get back to writing.
ADAM JAY EPSTEIN spent his childhood in Great Neck, New York, while ANDREW JACOBSON grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, but the two met in a parking garage out in Los Angeles. They have been writing for film and television together ever since. The Familiarsis their first book.
One day, Adam asked Andrew, "Are you familiar with what a familiar is?" And from that simple question, Vastia was born, a fantastical world filled with the authors' shared love of animals and magic. They wrote every word, sentence, and page together, sitting opposite each other.
Adam Jay Epstein lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Jane, their daughters, Penny and Olive, and a black-and-white alley cat who hangs out in their backyard. Andrew Jacobson lives with his wife, Ashley, and their dog, Elvis, four traffic lights away.
The Familiars will be produced for film by Sam Raimi and Sony Animation.