Before long, Emmett discovers that he is one of ten recruits, all of whom have troubled pasts and are a long way from home. Now each recruit must earn the right to travel down to the planet of Eden—a planet that Babel has kept hidden—where they will mine a substance called Nyxia that has quietly become the most valuable material in the universe.
But Babel’s ship is full of secrets. And Emmett will face the ultimate choice: win the fortune at any cost, or find a way to fight that won’t forever compromise what it means to be human.
According to your website bio, you have a teaching background, explicated through the following quote: "He strongly believes that every student who steps into his classroom has the right to see themselves, vibrant and victorious and on the page." How does this principle translate to both your teaching and your writing?
I have brilliant, diverse students who the system treats like afterthoughts. In spite of their boundless potential, the system has already taught them to act like side-characters in their own stories by the time they reach high school. That's wrong, and I've tried to teach and write against that mentality from the very beginning. My students are main characters. They can be heroes. They can launch into space and fight dragons and conquer empires. I always want to teach and write that truth as a reminder to them.
A wonderful reminder. In NYXIA, Emmett goes on a voyage to provide enough money for his family. How did Emmett come to you, and in what ways, if any, did he surprise you?
Emmett's personality is based on several of my students. He's the kind of kid I spent full semesters with, day in and day out, learning from. And Emmett definitely surprised me. I wanted to write him as this cutthroat competitor who was reaching for glory, and willing to do anything to achieve his goals. Emmett refused to be that character. Time and again, I watched him build bridges of connection toward his competitors.
I love when characters blaze their own paths. NYXIA's cover is amazing, and I'm sure you've received many compliments on it. What, in your opinion, are the necessary elements of a book cover?
That's a great question! I think you want a cover that is aesthetically pleasing, captures the core of the book, and offers expectations to the reader. I'd say that this brilliant cover does all three. First, it's a pretty cover, especially when you see it in person. Those raised bubbles splashing out and the reflective design? Just lovely. Second, it's meant to be nyxia (a very important substance in the book) as it transforms shape. I think the cover captures the idea of possibility as we see something new taking form. Finally, it offers expectations. There's some clear science fiction to the cover, but more importantly, I think it's a relatively mysterious image. You kind of get drawn into that central portion of the image and want to know what journey you're about to begin. I definitely think our team at Penguin Random House hit a home run with this.
They definitely did! What are some of your current projects?
I'm working on a lot of things that I can say very little about. Nyxia is a trilogy, and book two is complete. I'm slowly dipping my toes into book three as well. I've already written the first book of what might be my next YA series. Beyond that, I'm dabbling in some middle grade and adult fantasy as well. I've been quoted saying I have 23 planned projects at the moment and that number still stands.
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