Stowaway very quickly made my most anticipated middle grade list and I’m so excited to share my interview with John David Anderson today!
Welcome! Thank you for allowing me to interview you! Can you start off by introducing yourself?
Sure! My name is John David Anderson and I’m the author of eleven (is that right?) middle grade novels. I’m married, have sixteen-year-old twins, a floppy cat named Smudge, and a somewhat costly Lego habit. I’m fairly certain my heart actually pumps chocolate and Diet Coke at this point and I think books are still the greatest treasures in the world.
How has the publication experience been for you?
I’ve been blessed, actually. My first book didn’t even make a ripple, but I kept at it and landed an agent for my second. I’ve been with that agency ever since and have had the fortune to work with the same editor–the incredible Jordan Brown–over and over again. Of course it took me over a decade of solid writing before I even got that first book on the shelf, and I still struggle with the craft on a daily basis, but at least I can list “writer” as my profession on my tax forms (I imagine the tax reviewers look at the numbers and say, “Ah, that explains it.”)
Was there any differences in how you approached writing Stowaway compared to your previous books?
Stowaway is my first foray into science fiction, so a little different. I was pretty well immersed in the genre from my reading and viewing past, but there was still a learning curve when it came to conventions and world building and balancing a very personal, family-oriented story against a huge backdrop of galactic-level conflict that I wasn’t used to. When you gravitate towards writing novels that take place in a single town, writing one that hops from world to world presents a new set of challenges. Like how to explain faster-than-lightspeed travel. Hint: the aliens figured it out.
How would you describe Stowaway in one sentence?
Young hero gets stuck with eclectic band of space pirates and must convince them to rescue his family from the clutches of alien terrorists–action and drama ensue.
Can you introduce us to the main character(s) of Stowaway?
Leo is the protagonist. Smart kid, introspective, but naive to the ways of the wider universe–his beliefs get shaken more than once, but he’s resilient and bounces back. Then there are the pirates. The captain, Bastian “Baz” Black, overconfident but also haunted, always hiding behind his sense of humor. First mate, Katarina Corea, street smart, combat ready, distrustful, and an equal match for Baz’s verbal sparring. Boo, the four-armed fuzzy alien who refuses to carry a weapon and prefers to lay around in his robe, and Skits, the temperamental droid whose personality matrix is kind of stuck in her teenage angst years. It was a fun band to get to know and love and I hope my readers connect with them all like I did.
Do you know from the beginning how your books will end or do you let your characters decide their journey?
I never know the specifics. I only know what emotional baggage they’re carrying, and I hold out hope that somewhere along the way they will evolve the necessary tools to deal with it. The purpose of the journey is to struggle, and through struggle, to strengthen. So I know that my characters will always be scarred in some way by what they’ve gone through, and some sacrifices might be made along the way, but there will be value in that process. There will be epiphany and personal growth. Plus, hopefully, the bad guys get what’s coming to them–though in this particular novel, even good and bad are up for grabs.
Do you have a favorite scene, moment, or quote from the book?
I have so many. The book is riddled with tense moments, space battles, shootouts, narrow escapes, but my favorite moments are the quiet ones where two characters make a personal connection or confront some shady corner of their past. I also like pulling the rug out from under my hero, and poor Leo gets his share of startling revelations, which I hope are fun for the reader as well.
What are three books you would recommend if someone enjoyed Stowaway?
Probably my favorite science fiction novel when I was my readers’ age was Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card, followed by A Wrinkle in Time, though Stowaway shares little with these novels, plot wise, I wanted it to have a similar richness and complexity. It owes much more to Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Guardians of the Galaxy with its eccentric cast of characters. But honestly there are hundreds of books I could list here, everything from Ursula K. Le Guin to Zita the Space Girl. I think science fiction resonates even more powerfully when we are uncertain about our own future, and I’d be lying if I said the long-view of humanity hasn’t been on my mind of late.
What’s next for you? Anything you can share?
In the interest of always trying new things, I have a ghost story coming out next year (2022) called Riley’s Ghost, about a girl who gets trapped in her middle school with a couple of potentially malevolent spirits. It’s definitely darker than Stowaway, but at its heart it’s a coming-of-age story that focuses on the power of empathy to dispel the demons that haunt us. And Stowaway is planned as a duology, so I suppose one of the books you might like if you liked Stowaway would be…the sequel to Stowaway.
Of course also what’s next for me is making milkshakes and going hiking and spending time with my family–because you never know when the aliens are going to show up and change everything…
Thanks so much for hosting me, Felicia, and happy reading all!
ABOUT THE BOOK
The beloved author of Posted and Ms. Bixby’s Last Day returns with the first book in a coming-of-age sci-fi duology about Leo, a kid trying to navigate the galaxy in order to save his family—and, possibly, the planet Earth.
When scientists discover a rare and mysterious mineral buried in the Earth’s crust, they have no idea that it just happens to be the most valuable substance in the entire universe. It’s not long before aliens show up to our little corner of the galaxy offering a promise of protection, some fabulous new technology, and entry into their intergalactic coalition—all in exchange for this precious resource. A material so precious that other alien forces are willing to start a war over it. A war that soon makes its way to Earth.
Leo knows this all too well. His mother was killed in one such attack, and soon after, his father, a Coalition scientist, decides it would be best for them to leave Earth behind. It’s on this expedition that their ship is attacked, Leo’s father is kidnapped, and Leo and his brother are stranded in the middle of space. The only chance they have is for Leo to stow away on a strange ship of mercenary space pirates bound for who knows where and beg the captain to help him find his father.
But the road is dangerous, and pirates, of course, only look out for themselves. Leo must decide who to trust as he tries to stay alive and save his family, even as he comes to understand that there aren’t many people—human or alien—that he can count on in this brave new universe.