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The Resisters: Q & A with Eric Nylund and his Editor

May 27, 2011

I read The Resisters several months ago and was thrilled because I thought it was the perfect summer read, reluctant reader read, boy read and all around fun, fast paced middle grade. I asked the book’s editor (Diane Landolf, editor at RH Children’s Books for over 10 years) to write a little introduction and was also able to ask Eric a few questions about his work.  

Diane: When I found out I’d be working with Eric Nylund on THE RESISTERS, I was so excited. Here was a true professional, a bestselling adult science fiction novelist and a creator of some of the most popular video games out there. His concept was spot-on for reluctant reader boys—action-packed science fiction, fast pace, and a plot that put kids right in the pilot’s seat, fighting an alien race in souped-up insect armor. How cool is that?

The only thing I wasn’t sure of was whether he could write for kids. We’d signed up THE RESISTERS based on a proposal, something we rarely do, and there was a tiny part of me that wondered if he could pull it off. Some adult authors talk down when they try to write for kids. And some just seem off somehow, like it isn’t where their comfort zone is.

With Eric, I needn’t have worried. He nailed it. THE RESISTERS is exactly what I wanted it to be. The first line from my first editorial letter to him was, “Are you sure this is your first book for middle readers?” He got the reluctant reader pace, he got the voice, and I already knew the plot would be awesome. What few comments I had were dealt with quickly and neatly. Working with Eric has really been an editor’s dream.

I am so happy to introduce you to THE RESISTERS and to its tireless author, Eric Nylund.

Deanna: The Resisters begins with action and never lets go! Do you think your work in the gaming industry helps with your action sequences? Did your degree in chemical physics help in the imagining of the giant bug fighting machines (love those!)?

Eric: I love those bugs, too. Thanks. I’ve always had an ear and eye for action, even my first novels.  Working for the video games industry (now Director of Narrative Design for Microsoft Game Studios) has honed that to a razor’s edge–especially my work for the HALO series.

Having a few science degrees helped in imagining and designing the fighting insect machines. 

What really influenced their creation, however, was when I was 15 years old I was lucky enough to get an internship at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center. For an entire summer I was exposed to exotic experimental jet aircraft, the super stealthy SR 71, and of course, at that time, the then-new space shuttle, Enterprise.

Deanna: What made you want to write for kids and how did you find the transition from writing adult books to writing kids books?

Eric: A long time ago, I wrote a video game prequel novel called HALO: The Fall of Reach.

Soon after I got a few e-mails from kids who said they never like to read, but they liked HALO, and they picked up and fell in love with my HALO books.

A “few e-mails” became dozens, hundreds, and then thousands—and I found myself pleasantly surprised as being a gateway for a new audience into the world of reading.

After reading the HALO novels, these fans would  write back, asking what else they should read. I’d suggest Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card and then the Robert Heinlein juvenile series, but found there was a shortage of good science fiction for kids. That’s why I started writing Middle Readers books. I wanted them to have more good science fiction. I wanted to get them hooked on reading.

Writing for the middle readers is certainly different than writing for adults. It’s economical: you have to tell a story with a minimum of heavy-handed techniques that you might use in adult fiction. Kids have an excellent year for dragging, ponderous prose and they won’t put up with it. My favorite fiction for the last few years has been middle reader fiction because it’s such an engaging experience.

Deanna: The Resisters put me in mind of the Tripods Trilogy and other classic kids sci-fi. What were your favorite reads as a kid?

Eric: A Wizard of Earthsea, by Ursula K. Le Guin

Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card

And most important to me, the “juveniles” by Robert Heinlein. These are dated, but so cool, and unfortunately getting harder to find. Some of my favorites are: Citizen of the Galaxy; Farmer in the Sky; Have Space Suit—Will Travel; Rocketship Galileo; The Rolling Stones; Space Cadet; Tunnel in the Sky, and Podkayne of Mars.

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