Courtney Summers answered a few questions for us about her book “This is not a test” and upcoming projects. Brought to you by OBS member, Dawn.
1) I was engrossed in This Is Not A Test right away. How do you go about creating an atmosphere of suspense?
I’m so glad to hear that! Most people like to have options–they like to be able to escape, to physically remove themselves from certain situations if they’re able to. I think there’s an overall feeling, especially in survival scenarios, that if you can literally keep moving, there’s still hope. So I knew right away I wanted to deny my characters that. I decided to set the book in mostly one place and hopefully that made it feel a bit claustrophobic. Another thing that was important to me was to take a safe and familiar setting–in this case, a high school–and make it feel unfamiliar and unsafe by virtue of the circumstances surrounding it. I think these choices helped create the suspenseful atmosphere and add to the tension.
2) Each character is layered and interesting. How did you flesh out so many characters? Are they based on people you know?
Thank you! I never base characters on people I know–it keeps me out of trouble! Fleshing out my characters is a definite process. I usually start out knowing their goals and where they need to end up. Giving them nuance, making them multi-faceted enough to feel real (hopefully) comes with revision. With each pass, they tend to grow, to become more dynamic. A lot of the time, they end up surprising me!
3) What is your next project?
I’m currently working on my fifth YA novel, a psychological thriller for St. Martin’s Press called ALL THE RAGE. It’s about a girl who wakes up on a road with no memory of how she got there. It should be out sometime in 2013.
4) What are you currently reading?
As of my writing this, I’m dividing my time between The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson and The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler. The last book I finished was non-fiction, it was Imagining Canadian Literature: The Selected Letters of Jack McClelland.
5) What is one thing you’d like for fans to know about you?
I know some zombie aficionados would disagree with me, but I think it’s totally okay if zombies are fast moving like in the Dawn of the Dead remake. I think it’s okay if they mutate too, like in the Resident Evil movies! But I feel VERY strongly that zombies in books and movies should never, ever be able to talk! It just makes them less scary in my humble opinion!
Thank you for the interview, Courtney!