Do you know where the Animorphs live? If so, can you tell us?
I have a definite area in mind for where the Animorphs live. However, I treat the matter with some flexibility. In other words, I am using a fairly large area, drawing several features together into a smaller, more usable setting. So yes, I could name a particular state and a particular area within that state. I'm just not gonna.
Which of the Animorphs was the most fun to write? Which is your favorite?
It changes from book to book. Usually I find Marco the most fun to write because I like his rather complicated world view, the mix of humor and ruthlessness and fundamental decency. As for a favorite character, I like and dislike them all at different times. Sometimes they get on my nerves. Just like real people. There will be times I can't stand Jake or Cassie or Ax, and other times I think they're the best. Depends on how much trouble I'm having writing their scenes.
Lately, Jake has been getting on my nerves because I haven't been as pleased with the two most recent Jake books. So, I blame him. If my next Jake book is really good, I'll love Jake again. I haven't been "mad" at Marco yet, but each of the others has caused me trouble at one time or another. Cassie is the character I use to get into deeper issues, so I tend to like her for that reason.
How did you pick Jake to be "the leader" of the group?
He applied for the job, filled out the application and everything and . . . Well, okay, no, he is the leader because we needed a leader. I created Jake to fill the slot.
Out of all your characters, why did you give Rachel the "killer instinct" instead of Jake or Ax?
Because it was incongruous, which made it more interesting. Everyone expects the guy like Jake to be a little out of control. But a fashion-model-type, mall-crawler? Who expects her to be the one suffering from post-traumatic-stress syndrome and getting a little too into the whole thing?
Do you like the way the Animorphs characters have developed and seem real? Are there any tricks to creating characters that seem real?
I'm glad you think they seem real. Tricks? Well, I start with what we call a "series bible." In that I detail everything I can think of about the series, including, naturally, the characters. I start with a lot of superficial stuff: looks, for example. Move on to their background story, their family, etc. Then I start coming up with detailed info on how they dress, what music they like, their favorite foods, whatever. By the time I'm done, I have a character.
How did you come up with the idea to write Animorphs?
It started out as a smaller idea. First, I thought I'd like to write about animals. Then it occurred to me that what would be really fun would be to put the reader inside the animal's mind and body. Only then did it occur to me that I needed a science fiction setup to make it work - and a unifying, overarching plot. I needed a way for the kids to use their morphing powers. It was either fight aliens or morph to bust whoever stole the sandwich from the locker. That seemed kind of dull. I started down the alien road and never looked back. So, rather than being one big idea, it was a series of small ideas, like building blocks.
How long did it take you to write the first Animorphs book?
Book 1 took about a month. Now I take a bit less than that. I seldom take more than three weeks on any book. Generally, I write about 6 pages a day for 23 or 24 days. Then I take a couple of days to rewrite. Then I write an outline for a future book, and then it's time to start all over again.
Do the Animorphs need to be read in a sequential order?
Not really. I think it's best that way because I don't recapitulate the entire back-story each time. But you could read them out of sequence if you were patient with the occasional confusion.
How do you make up the names of aliens?
Sometimes I come up with names just by playing with letters and sounds till I get something I like. Sometimes I'll take a word I see around me and alter it or reverse it. For example, the Andalite word nothlit came about because I happened to see the hotel name "Hilton" through my window. I just kept rearranging the letters until I got the word nothlit. Sometimes a word is deliberately evocative, meaning that it is supposed to make you think of other words. Visser is like that. It sounds a little like "vicious" and a little like "viceroy," and even a little like "viscous."
How do you pronounce the following names: Hork-Bajir, Visser, Tobias, Elfangor-Sirinial-Shamtul, Ket Halpek, Andalite?
Here's how I pronounce them: Hork rhymes with "cork," and Bajir sounds like "buh-JEER"; Visser rhymes with "kisser"; Toe-BYE-us. Oh, good grief, you asked me a tough one. Okay, it's "ELF-un-gore Sir-RIN-ee-ul Sham-TOOL; Ket Hal-PEK; and finally, AN-duh-lite.
Where did you come up with the word yeerk?
That is a conscious and deliberate "homage" as we say, to J.R.R. Tolkien. In The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien writes about "orcs," or goblins, which are called "yrchs" by the elves.
What does K. A. stand for? Is that your real name?
The "K" stands for Katherine and the "A" for applesauce. Or possibly Alice. In the past I have used a lot of pen names. When I wrote romances for Harlequin, I was Katherine Kendall. I wrote various books for Disney as A. R. Plumb and Nicholas Stevens. I wrote a horse series called Silver Creek Riders as Beth Kincaid. I was also one of the many writers who wrote Sweet Valley Twins, which are all published under the name Francine Pascal.
Are you proud of what your Animorphs books have grown to?
More amazed, I think. I have an odd take on the word proud. I feel I should be proud of things that are especially difficult. In other words, if I did something for which I have no talent or innate skill, and nevertheless managed to do it, I'd be proud. But writing is basically easy for me.
How did you get the idea for Everworld?
I felt it was time to come up with a follow-on, or companion series for ANIMORPHS. I knew I didn't want to do straight science fiction. I felt I should try my hand at fantasy, but I wanted contemporary characters. In other words, I didn't want the characters to belong in the fantasy environment, I wanted them to be from our own world. And I wanted them to continue to be part of the real world. So from there I just had to come up with a device to allow me to do that.
EVERWORLD is a story of five high school kids. One of them is Senna Wales, a strange, disturbing girl who appears to set the other four up to be dragged along with her into an alternate universe. This alternate universe, Everworld, was created by the gods of myth and legend - Norse, Greek, Aztec, Egyptian, and so on - a long time ago. But now mythological deities belonging to alien civilizations have begun to intrude into this cozy universe.
How different is Everworld from Animorphs? Are there any similarities in the two series? And, more specifically, what are the similarities and differences between the main characters of each?
Pretty different, I think. I mean, there are only so many writing tricks I know, so it can only be so different. But there's no morphing, no space ships. This series is less about technology and more about magic.
As for the characters, it's hard to compare because the ANIMORPH characters have had a long time to evolve while the EVERWORLD characters are brand new, out of the oven. I've told my editors that the difference between Jake and David is the difference between George Washington and Bill Clinton. Jake is the classic leader. David is a bit more ambiguous. Beyond that, the only real parallel is between EVERWORLD's Christopher and ANIMORPH's Marco. They both have a sense of humor, but Christopher is a more troubled person with a certain narrow-mindedness complicated by a nascent drinking problem. April and Jalil have some small similarities to Cassie and Ax respectively, but not a lot.
How long does it take to write each book? Is one series more difficult to write than the other?
I write about ten pages a day. Sometimes more, sometimes less. Each series is easy or difficult in its own way. I know ANIMORPHS so well by now that sometimes it's almost an unconscious process. EVERWORLD is still new, I'm still figuring it out, so it's challenging, which makes it easier in some ways, harder in others. But with EVERWORLD I keep having to go back over scenes and remind myself, "No, no, it's more like this."
After reading the first Everworld book, it is obvious the story continues. Did you always plan for both Everworld and Animorphs to be open-ended series? Do you have any plans on how you would end either series, if and when that time should come?
Yes, both were conceived as series. Of course I had no idea ANIMORPHS would go to this many books, but my thinking was always that I'd better be prepared for it to last a while. I liken series writing to being marooned on a desert island: all you have is what you brought with you. So in designing a series you have to make sure you have plenty of plot and character possibilities right from the start.
Eventually both series will end. Of course the ANIMORPH characters may be sixty by then. Maybe they'll buy adjoining condos in Boca Raton and wander up and down the beach muttering, "These kids today, what do they know from morphing? In my day..."
There is a fair amount of detail behind the descriptions of animals and their habits, characteristics, etc., in the Animorphs books. What kind of research do you do in writing these series, especially in creating the mythically-based people and places of Everworld?
Oh, I research very carefully by going to the mythology section at Barnes and Noble or Borders, plopping down with a cup of coffee, and pretty much looking at pictures. Seriously, I do not want to over-research, otherwise I'll become a prisoner of existing stories. I dip in, get what I need, then run away before anyone else's ideas become fixed in my mind.
I'd love to be able to really research things deeply and thoroughly, but there are time constraints in writing a series.
How do you come up with all those other, "made-up" names, places and things that help make your books so intriguing (and your fans so fanatical)?
Nine times out of ten I take an existing word, something I see around me, and start playing with it. The word "nothlit" as I've mentioned before, is from "Hilton." I used to live where I could see a Hilton sign. "Visser" is sort of the child of "vizier" and "vicious." Other times I just play with nice sounds till I get something I like. It's basically me sitting at my computer going, "Endolium, endril, tendril, andrils, ugh this coffee's cold, andalese . . . Andalites."
What hopes and expectations do you have for Everworld?
I hope and expect that EVERWORLD will crush all competitors, ah hah hah HAH! Or not. Actually, I thought ANIMORPHS would be a sort of small-scale cult hit. I expect the same of EVERWORLD. It always amazes me when I see ANIMORPHS on bestseller lists. Of course I'm not complaining.
Are you surprised to see a substantial audience of older kids (12-16), as well as a number of adults, enjoying Animorphs? What do you anticipate the audience to be for Everworld?
Actually, I'm not surprised. I never wrote ANIMORPHS to be age-specific. I almost never think "Oh, that's too complicated or sophisticated for nine year olds, so I better cut it." I'd rather write over the heads of some younger kids and let them work to get it. Of course the characters are middle school or junior high characters so I keep the situations appropriate to them. They don't have jobs or get involved in serious dating. I'd like to think EVERWORLD will also appeal to a fairly broad age spectrum. However, because these are high school age characters I would be uncomfortable with very young kids reading EVERWORLD. I know it's a platitude to say that parents should know what their kids are reading, but personally, as writer, I do hope parents pay attention.
You keep a very low and quiet personal profile. Why?
I have worked hard to remain anonymous and invisible and unrecognized. I'm a writer, not an actor or a comedian or a politician. I'd infinitely rather have my privacy than the shallow rush of being recognized. I think this society is neck deep in "look-at-me!" types. Someone has to balance them off a bit by being a "go-away!" person.
You write about such exotic locales. What are the most exciting places (on earth) that you have visited? Is there any place you could see yourself living in the future?
I have not been able to travel all that much. I've only been to Europe once. But I've lived in odd places. I spent a summer in a beach town room the size of a walk-in closet with a bathroom down the hall and a carnival outside my window. Sadly I was an adult, not a college kid.
In the future I see myself travelling to every last place on Earth that has decent room service.
Do you believe in a parallel universe?
Sure. Let me check with Alternate-Katherine and see what she says. Yep, she agrees.