Q&A with #YA Author J. Barton Mitchell (& W*n MIDNIGHT CITY)

Today, I’d like to welcome debut YA science fiction author J. Barton Mitchell to Preternatura! His new SF YA novel, MIDNIGHT CITY, is the first in the new Conquered Earth series, published by St. Martin’s Press. He’s also a screenwriter and has created the POE comic book series. You can learn more about him at jbartonmitchell.com.
In the meantime, want to win a copy of Midnight City? (You really do…it sounds faboo.) Read on…

ABOUT MIDNIGHT CITY:  Earth has been conquered. An extraterrestrial race known as The Assembly has abducted the adult population, leaving the planet’s youth to fend for themselves. In this treacherous landscape, Holt, a bounty hunter, is transporting his prisoner Mira when they discover Zoey, a young girl with powerful abilities who could be the key to stopping The Assembly. As they make their way to the cavernous metropolis of Midnight City, the trio must contend with freedom fighters, mutants, otherworldly artifacts, pirates, feuding alien armies, and perhaps most perilous of all: Holt and Mira’s growing attraction to each other.


Give us the “elevator pitch” for your latest work?

I keep hoping to someday actually do an elevator pitch. For MIDNIGHT CITY, I’d go with: WAR OF THE WORLDS meets LORD OF THE FLIES. Aliens have conquered the planet, enslaved the adult population, and only its children are left to fight them. The story follows a bounty hunter trying to get his captive back to the subterranean metropolis of Midnight City, when they stumble upon a crashed ship which just might contain the key to defeating the alien invaders: a little girl named Zoey.
What is your favorite scene in the book?
That’s a tough one, I like a lot of them. If I had to pick one, it would probably be the moment where Zoey reveals her most relevant power at the end of part one. When that happens, it changes everything because you get a glimpse of why she’s so important to the Assembly, though it definitely poses more questions than it answers. I love the transition from having a really pivotal, revealing moment…into a desperate action scene. The river battle there is one of my favorites, as well.
Hardest scene you’ve ever written:
I don’t know about hardest ever, they all have their unique difficulties. As far as MIDNIGHT CITY goes, I would say the hardest scene to write was the dance between Holt and Mira. The writing itself wasn’t overly tough, but figuring out how to give those characters a moment like that, and have it be non-verbal and yet still resonate was hard. I think actions speak louder than words, and it’s much more engaging to go through something with two characters than it is to listen to them just speak their feelings. Besides, at this point, neither of them is really able to make sense of their feelings, much less talk about them, which makes the ideas harder to get across, but also the moment more meaningful, I think. That scene, unexpectedly, has become a very important moment, not just for the first book, but for the series as a whole. What happens there is constantly recalled for various reasons, and it sets a whole host of things in motion. I’m proud of that scene.

What’s on your nightstand or top of your TBR pile?
I usually read three things at once: A comic book, a non-fiction book, and a novel. I don’t like to read more than one of each with my limited attention span. Right now, comic wise, I’m reading the Chris Claremont/Frank Miller WOLVERINE storyline they did where he goes to Japan and fights the Hand. I wanted to check it out because the new movie is based on those issues. Non-fiction, I just started THE THREE PILLARS OF ZEN. And I wanted to reread William Gibson’s NEUROMANCER, which is probably my favorite novel, and one I continually find new things in every single time I read it.

Favorite book when you were a child:
Terry Brook’s THE SWORD OF SHANNARA. My mom bought it for me, and I think it was the first real book I ever read. I read it over and over, the whole SHANNARA series. I even read it before LORD OF THE RINGS for some reason. It was one of the first books where I was really aware of “world building”, and it was a major influence on me wanting to make my own. 

Your five favorite authors:
Only five? That’s tough. Probably William Gibson, Michael Chabon, Robert Jordan, Ernest Hemingway (it’s a cliched choice for a reason), and H.P. Lovecraft.

Book you’ve faked reading:
Given the fact that you’re asking the question, I guess it must be a little odd that I rarely “fake read” anything? However, I did once pretend to have read Jack London’s THE SEA WOLF in order to meet a very cute “Lit” major who worked at my gym. I feel marginally bad about that, because I really would like to read THE SEA WOLF. I have a copy, someday I will.

Book you’ve bought for the cover:
That hasn’t happened in a long time, but when I was a kid I do remember being drawn to Larry Elmore’s awesome cover art for the original DRAGONLANCE CHRONICLES trilogy, by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. I think I read every DRAGONLANCE book there was up until about 1995, and I always loved Elmore’s art style on each one.

Book that changed your life:

THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV by Dostoyevsky. It changed the way I looked at literature, and also how I thought of spirituality and life and the idea of free will. It’s an amazing experience.

Book you most want to read again for the first time:
I already mentioned NEUROMANCER, so I’ll pick something else. Probably AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS by H.P. Lovecraft, which is my favorite story of his. Lovecraft was very interested in suspending disbelief in his horror fiction, and one of the ways he did that was by writing most of them as if they were journal entries or letters from actual people. It gives the stories a very realistic feel as you move through them. MOUNTAINS was no exception, it unfolds as an account of someone’s journey to Antarctica, and the frightening, hidden evidence he finds there of a dangerous, sleeping, alien civilization. After awhile, it feels like you’re on the expedition with them, and you’re dreading what you’re going to find next. I wish I could have that experience for the first time again.

Favorite book about books or writing:
I’ve read a lot of these, but for me I think the most useful is Dean Koontz’ book on writing called HOW TO WRITE BEST SELLING FICTION. Strangely the book is out of print and can be hard to locate without paying through the nose, but it’s well worth it. His advice on structure, voice, prose, and technique is very down to earth and blunt; it’s not vague theory, it’s very detailed. He also goes through a list of all the different genres of fiction and offers his insight and tips for each one, which is enlightening. The market/business aspects of the book are definitely out of date, but the writing ideas presented by Koontz are just as relevant today as they were then. Pretty awesome book by a pretty awesome (and pretty darn prolific) writer.

What’s next?
A few things, but most notably book two of CONQUERED EARTH, called THE SEVERED TOWER, which I’m writing right now, and am really liking. The second book really opens up the world and increases the epic feel of the story, while adding some cool new characters, one of which I think may be my favorite in the series.

Thanks..now, aren’t you ready to win a copy of Midnight City? Just leave a comment and, if you’re in the U.S., tell me you’re voting today—don’t tell me who you’re voting for, just that you’re voting. It’s one of the greatest privileges we have, regardless of whether or not “our” candidates win the election. I plan to have finished voting before this blog posts at 8:30 a.m. CST.
Up to five entries possible: +1 for comment, +1 for blog follow, +1 for Twitter follow, +1 for a Tweet or RT about the contest, +1 for a Facebook follow. Contests end at midnight CDT U.S. on Saturday.

Quick note: my apologies for putting the word-verification for comments back in. I’m trying to reduce the recent flood of spam coming to my email address. I’ll take it down once the spambots have moved on!

21 thoughts on “Q&A with #YA Author J. Barton Mitchell (& W*n MIDNIGHT CITY)

  1. Voted at 6:15 this morning, needed to get it over with early, now we wait. Midnight City sounds very interesting. WAR OF THE WORLDS meets LORD OF THE FLIES. Love it!

    +1 comment +1 blog follow +1 Twitter follow

  2. Oh, I have been wanting to read this book! Did not vote because I’m Canadian.

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  3. The book sounds really intriguing.. and I would love to give it a try! 🙂

    I’ve voted. The guy at my polling place said there was an extremely high turnout which makes me very happy.

    +1 comment,+1 blog follow, +1 twitter follow (@Readsalot81)

  4. Midnight City sounds fantastic, I’d love to win a copy. Just in case I don’t, I’m adding it to my wish list. 😀
    I already voted, we have early voting in Florida, so I got it out of the way so I didn’t have to stress about voting on election day.
    Barbed1951 at aol dot com
    GFC: Barbara E.
    Twitter: @BarbaraElness
    Facebook: Barbara Elness

  5. Wolverine! Neuromancer!! Robert Jordan!!! Dragonlance!!!! Larry Elmore’s art!!!!!

    …and then NOT Stephen King’s On Writing. That was a very quick, one-sided bromance we just had.

    The interview alone would have me interested in Mr. Mitchell’s work, and then the great cover would pull me in. Sounds good, too!

    I voted. 🙂

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  6. not voting, i’m not a US citizen too

    I read the excerpt of this book and love it, hope to have a chance to win and read this book 🙂

  7. Ohh! This book sounds amazing 😀 Would so love to win a copy of it. <3 Also, amazing interview :) Thank you for sharing. <3

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    Love, Carina

  8. I have been watching this book also for quite a while. I love YA and this sounds like such a unique alien book. I love that Earth has already been conquered and we don’t just fight off the aliens and we are done. I like that it is after they have already beaten us and we fight back. I would love, love, love to win this book!!!! Thanks so much for having the interview and giveaway Suzanne!

    pefrw at yahoo dot com

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  9. Not in the US but I was cheering for a certain candidate 😀

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