Today, author Graham Wood chatted with Olivia about his epic sci-fi tale, ZEIN!
It has been one-hundred years since the Zein Expeditionary Force first located the rich deposits of precious zinithium on planet Earth. With the indigenous species too numerous to conquer and too aggressive to ally with, the Zeinonians had secretly settled in the skies. After a century of peacefully mining the rare mineral, their colony dwindles and coexistence with the Earthlings continues to elude them.
Now, as a power-hungry rebel leader advances a sectarian army against the remaining settlement, young Kabel Blackstone travels from his home on Zein to the colony on Earth. Determined to prevent a devastating interplanetary war, Kabel gathers a small band of unlikely human companions to his side. Among them is Tyson Mountford, who has begun experienced disturbing new powers and abilities.
Kabel and Tyson—two strangers from different worlds—team up to overcome the forces threatening their lives, their families, and the future of their races. If they fail, they know that the Zeinonian rebel leader and his army will begin conquering the universe starting with their home planets.
Olivia with YA-Mag: Graham, welcome to the Young Adult magazine!
Graham Wood: Thanks, Olivia, for the interview.
YA: Tell us more about how you first met Kabel? What made him the perfect protagonist for this story vs. any other character?
GW: We are all vulnerable in some way and especially so in our teens and early twenties. Some say that this never fully goes away whatever age you are. I wanted my central character to embody someone you could look up to but at the same time see that he is struggling with his place in the world. For instance he does not know what has happened to his parents, he is adopted and on the outskirts of society. All of a sudden, he is thrust into the limelight and how he handles that and his increasing abilities is why it was fun to develop him through the story.
YA: What sets Kabel’s story apart from other YA sci-fi epics, like THE 5TH WAVE by Rick Yancey or Pittacus Lore’s I AM NUMBER FOUR? What will readers find here they can’t anywhere else in YA books?
GW: The book brings together an established alien colony with present day Earth. In certain other YA sci-fi epics I have seen the primary focus on how dangerous the aliens are or how they threaten our very existence but in the Zein trilogy that is only one aspect of the situation, and I try to put across that humans are just as dangerous as a race than any potential alien race out there. Our latent aggression is there for all to see and in books two and three this becomes much more centre stage. Who are the persecuted is the question I raise. On the relationship front I focus on the interplay between the main characters in what I hope is both engaging and moving to the reader.
YA: I read that you were inspired by your daughter Becky’s bravery as she fought off a potentially life-threatening illness. Do future tales in the ZEIN world include a strong female protagonist inspired by Becky, or is there already a character in the novels who most embodies her?
GW: I am surrounded by very strong minded and intelligent female friends and family, both at home and work. There are definitely a number of strong female characters in book one and this develops in books two and three. None of my female characters are shrinking violets and though they have vulnerabilities, like my male characters, I try to steer away from relying on just my perspective of Becky’s characteristics. I lean on a whole host of attributes gleaned from people I have met in my life. Saying that, it is natural for elements of Becky’s nature to come across in some of the female characters in the books.
YA: What non-book influences (films, television shows, music, plays, etc) helped spark this story?
GW: I am an avid film buff. When I was growing up my dad had a library full of classic films, from westerns to musicals. I can picture the scenes of ZEIN as a film and this is one of my next, pretty ambitious targets. Coincidently when I was on a recent train journey from London, I started talking with the people who were sharing my table and one of the men was very interested in the story. The week after he asked for a copy as it transpires three of his friends are Hollywood directors! I was at first skeptical, but I will of course send him a copy when it’s launched and ask him to see if there is any interest for further discussions. You never know….
YA: When you were a teen, what was your favorite book (YA or otherwise)? Now that you’re an author for teens, what is your favorite modern YA?
GW: Lord of the Rings. I not only loved the story but the whole wrapper of another time and world. The struggle of good vs evil is just so timeless and to weave such an elaborate back and supporting story was incredible. Today I read a wide range of different genres; however for YA I have recently read Suzanne Collins (HUNGER GAMES Trilogy) and George RR Martin (Game of Thrones).
YA: What is the story behind the title ZEIN?
GW: It was strange. I thought I would have the title before I started writing but I didn’t. The title changed a few times and I bounced ideas off my family. I was looking for a four or five letter word for a planet, that would be suitably different to other everyday names and of course that had not been used before. This was easily the most difficult task I faced. Until I settled on ZEIN I could not immerse myself in the story. One day after walking the dog the name just emerged and as I developed ZEIN and how it is different from Earth, the plots came thick and fast. Each day I added to what ZEIN stands for and it started to become real in my imagination. After that, everything else slotted into place.
YA: ZEIN is the first in a trilogy. What can you tell us about the raised stakes in the forthcoming second installment? When can readers expect that release?
GW: Well, in book two the story explodes further to include ZEIN and the planets in the same galaxy. You find out what has become of the people left behind on ZEIN and more on the mysterious and violent indigenous race who are attempting to wipe out the settlement. I don’t want to give too much away but the battle scene in chapter one is definitely worth waiting for – I certainly enjoyed writing that. Mixing new characters with some of the old ones from book one was great fun and it is fair to say sparks fly in the relationship stakes. I am well progressed on the book and my original plan was to release book two in October next year, however I feel I should be in a position to release earlier in 2014.
YA: If you could cast the Dream Film Adaptation of your work, who would you cast as Kabel, Tyson, Zylar, and the rest?
GW: Good question. Both Kabel and Tyson are tall, good looking guys in early twenties so I would probably have Rob Pattinson as Tyson and Liam Hemsworth as Kabel. Zylar needs to look mean without trying so Christian Bale is the right actor for that role. For the female leads – Jennifer Lawrence for the spiky Gemma, Rachel Hurd-Ward for the fiery Evelyn and Emilia Clarke as the beautiful Amelia.
YA: Do you have any pet projects you’re eager to work on?
GW: Lots but I think this is going to take up all my time for the near future.
YA: All right, last one! If you could spend one day with Kabel and Tyson, what would you do? What would you want to tell each while you visited?
GW: Well one of the scenes is set at Manchester United’s ground in Old Trafford and without divulging what happens they fail to see the match between Man United and Man City so I would take them to see that game. Same message to both of them – hey guys you have special abilities that other people would die for, relax and enjoy them!
YA: Thank you very much, Graham! And again, from YA Mag, congratulations on ZEIN!
Readers, be sure to check out Graham Wood at his website www.GrahamJWood.com. Or follow him on Twitter @ZeinTheBook.
ZEIN is now available for order at your favorite online retailers and local independent bookstores!
Olivia Hennis is a transplanted New England girl dropped by a tornado into the magical Land of Jersey. For more info, follow her on Twitter.