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Sunday September 8, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Sunday September 8, 2013 MYT 8:04:27 AM
by terence toh
Prol ific writer : Michael Grant is the co-creator and coauthor of the Animorphs and the Everworld book series, as well as the creator and author of Gone and The Magnificent 12 series. – Pansing
Animorphs. Gone. Magnificent 12. Enter the wonderful worlds of bestselling young fiction author Michael Grant.
AUTHOR Michael Grant has written about shape-shifting aliens, super-powered teenagers, and battles fought in the human brain.
The man is a juggernaut of the young adult (YA) fiction market, being the creator of bestselling titles such as Eve And Adam, the Gone, BZRK, and Magnificent 12 series, as well as co-creator of the Animorphs, Remnants and Everworld series with his wife, fellow author Katherine Applegate.
Many of his books feature fantastical adventures, with characters caught in unbelievable scenarios forced to do unbelievable things. Little do most people know, however, that Grant’s life is also pretty unusual.
For example: he has lived in almost 50 different homes in 14 US states, and been a law librarian, cartoonist, bowling alley mechanic, restaurant reviewer, waiter, documentary film producer and political media consultant, among other things.
“I think they (the jobs) taught me not to take myself too seriously. And it’s given me some insight into different parts of society than some writers may encounter. I don’t, for example, know much about professors, but I know waiters and fast food workers and store clerks,” Grant, 59, says in an e-mail interview.
“Edilio, from the Gone series, is an example of a character that grows out of that experience. He’s an undocumented worker who becomes one of the most influential characters in that society.”
Grant frequently works with his wife, who he has been with for over 30 years – not a bad outcome, considering they decided to move in together after just 24 hours of getting to know one another! He credits her for encouraging him to write young adult fiction.
“We had accomplished nothing, were doing dead-end jobs, and Katherine lost patience with my rather dull and un-ambitious lifestyle. She said: ‘It’s time to get careers and have kids.’ So, being by that point an experienced husband, I knew to do what my wife told me,” Grant says.
Applegate is a prestigious author as well, having written titles such as Roscoe Riley Rules and the Making Out series, apart from Animorphs and Everworld, of course. Her most recent YA novel, The One And Only Ivan, won the 2013 Newberry Medal.
So what was it like, collaborating with his wife?
“It was all just peace and co-operation. Can you tell I’m lying?” Grant quips. “Actually it could get tumultuous at times. We can be operatic, with lots of declaiming and denouncing, but we always make peace before we go to sleep.”
While most writers struggle to finish one book, Grant has completed a whopping 150 books so far, most in collaboration with Applegate. How did he do it without burning out?
According to him, the answer lay in variety. “I change my routine from time to time. At the moment it involves sitting on my deck, looking out over the San Francisco Bay and working under the sun. Working out of doors, or in coffee shops, or in bars, or in my car, means I can switch environments and circumstances. That, plus we’ve moved house many times. So while it’s always me and a laptop, everything else around me can be changed,” Grant explains.
One of the hallmarks of Grant’s work is that it often contains complex themes and dark subject matter: for example, his Animorphs series touches on war, torture and mental health.
“As we were writing it (Animorphs) we never got feedback about some of the deeper and darker themes. Now, though, we’re getting letters from college kids; long, passionate letters, talking about all they learned, crediting Animorphs with teaching them philosophy. Teaching them about morally complex issues. It’s incredibly gratifying.
“On the surface Animorphs or Gone or any number of other kid’s books may be all about intensity and action, but there’s often more there. Trust writers a bit, and trust the kids even more.”
Grant continued with dark themes in Gone, a series about a town from which all its inhabitants aged 15 and over suddenly disappear with some of those remaining developing superpowers.
“One of my favourite scenes was early on, the infamous dead baby scene in the first book. I knew every adult in the world would hate that scene. But I was either going to be true to my premise or not. I decided not to back off,” Grant says.
Of course, not all of Grant’s work is doom and darkness: the author is also writing The Magnificent 12, a more light-hearted series for younger readers.
“I had more fun writing Magnificent 12 than just about anything I’ve ever done. In the last book I got to make a joke about the Epic Of Gilgamesh (a poem from Mesopotamia that is one of the world’s earliest surviving works of literature). How often do you get the chance to make a Gilgamesh joke? It’s very different from other stuff I’ve written in that I decided it would be humour first, adventure second. It’s still intense, but we’re having fun,” Grant says.
So what is next for this seemingly unstoppable author?
“Messenger Of Fear is up next, in 18 months or so. It’s a Grim Reaper trilogy. I’m telling people it’s The Seventh Seal with fewer Swedes and more teens. Which only works for people who’ve seen the movie. And of course, I’m writing a sequel to Eve And Adam with Katherine,” Grant says.
For those who don’t know the 1958 movie, Swedish auteur Ingmar Bergman wrote and directed The Seventh Seal, which is famous for its unrelenting grimness and a chess match between a knight and the Grim Reaper.
Looks like it’s back to the deep and dark for Grant!
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