Emmy: I’m terrifically excited to be here with my dear friend and fellow author, Anna Banks, the New York Times–best-selling author (She loves it when I call her that.)
Anna: No, I don’t. I love it when you call me Peaches.
Emmy: Peaches and I met in 2012. Macmillan started a new campaign: Fierce Reads. They picked four debut young adult authors and sent us out on a two-week tour together. Each of us a total newbie and all strangers to each other.
Anna: Cut to three years later and we’re the best of friends.
Emmy: Very good friends.
Anna: Pretty sure I said the best of friends.
Emmy: Sorry. Yes, dear. The best of friends.
Anna: Anyhoo, Emmy and I are going to ask each other a question about heroes and heroines in fiction today, and I get to go first. So Emmy, in Monument 14, the main character Dean is decidedly average—that is, until the apocalypse hits. Is it difficult to write a hero, put him through so much, and then allow him to make unheroic decisions?
Emmy: Yes, Monument 14 tells the story of fourteen kids who get trapped in a superstore while civilization collapses outside the gates. And I wanted the situation and the responses of the kids to feel utterly grounded and realistic. That means Dean, the 16-year-old narrator, had to make decisions informed by his instincts. Not the lofty, selfless acts of a hero, but the hard-scrapping, survival tactics of a kid in a jam.
In the end, I was aiming for the most truthful responses possible from all the characters. That leaves them looking heroic at times, selfish at times . . . just like all of us, they are brave and cowardly, and lost, then found. I tried to make them real.
My turn to ask a question. Let’s take a look at Emma, the central character of your Syrena Legacy series. One of the things I love about the trilogy is that Emma starts out as a regular high school girl, but is transformed, both physically and spiritually, by her experiences with the Syrena. What do you think is the most courageous moment in the series for her?
Anna: Well, Emma has several moments, I think. She did uppercut a shark at one point, so she’s a tad feisty. But there IS one moment that really stands out to me as being truly courageous. It happens in Of Triton, where Emma is faced with the decision to either keep her identity a secret, or risk her life by revealing who—and what—she really is in order to save her loved ones. She definitely makes a gutsy move here. Also, more sharks are involved, in a surprising way.
In Of Neptune, I think her true courage shines through when she sets out to determine who she really is, and how she really wants to live her life. In fact, I think that for all of us, it takes courage to be ourselves and to truly accept who we really are, no matter how the world views us.