Friday, March 15, 2013

Author Interview - Zarconian Island by Aja Hannah

Zarconian Island
Today I have the pleasure of sharing an interview with Aja Hanna, author of Zarconian Island and fellow Marylander. (Gotta have love for the home state).  I had the pleasure of reading Zarconian Island and let me tell you, it is AWESOME!  So full of action from the get go.  I loved it.  Expect my review soon, but in the meanwhile, here's a description:

My stomach knotted tighter, winding so hard it hurt.
Kate watched me, rubbing a piece of her hair between two fingers.
I bit my tongue, trying to work the words out.
"The boat …we're going under.”

Possessing powers that are feared and shunned, eighteen-year-old Alexandra “Attie” Hotep is no virgin to attacks. Her ancestors, the Zarconians-- mixed-blood inhabitants of Atlantis--were rumored to be the English fairies who kidnapped children, the Caribbean sirens that sunk ships, and the dream-like apparitions who broke into psyches. By the 1850s, they were hunted to near-extinction, leaving the existence of Atlantis and Zarconians little more than myth.

When a class trip turns deadly, Attie and her friends become stranded on an uncharted tropical island in the middle of the Pacific, and Attie finds herself targeted once more. With a jungle full of extinct and prowling animals, she struggles to find a compromise between keeping her friends safe and keeping her family's secret.

Enter Doug Hutchinson—the school’s soccer star, and a handsome boy with his own secrets. But Attie and Doug soon realize the animals aren't the only threat. There is a traitor amidst the group, one that plans to turn all Zarconians into permanent myths. And Attie is next on the list.
And now, for the interview...  Allow me to introduce Aja Hanna!
Sus: First I want to know a little bit about you, before we get into your book.  If you could have dinner with one other writer, living or dead, who would it be and why?

AH: When choosing a dinner partner, you must have:
1. Someone you admire
2. Someone you are attracted to
3. Someone you are comfortable with (because food can get messy).
For me, it's like this: When I was in gymnastics (and--no vanity--I was good), I was frequently asked which gymnast was my favorite. The only problem was, I didn't really admire anyone. I never set out to go to the Olympics or be just like "name a gymnast." I just did it for fun. Just like my writing.
Sure, there are writers I admire, writers whose works I enjoy, and writers whose blogs I will peruse. But I know very few writers by name, and even fewer by their attractive back cover photo. Finally, I can say confidently, I know none I would be comfortable eating with.

Sus: What's your favorite song, tv show and movie?
AH: Jurassic Park is my all-time favorite movie. Right now, I like New Girl, Adventure Time, MLP: FIM, and Community on TV. I don't have a favorite song at the moment, but I love listening to the Kane Show on weekday mornings. I also get into the Funk and my brother's band Davey Jones and the Sailors of Funk.

Sus: Cats or dogs?  Or (god forbid!) neither?  (No judgement here...)
AH: Cats. They are more independent.

Sus: Were you always jotting down stories as a kid, or did you come to write as an adult?   

AH: I've been writing ever since I found out that writing stories was a profession. So second grade, I think. From silly chapter books to novels, I have journals full of ideas that I still need to start or finish.

Sus: And do you put any of your own life experiences into your writing?  I mean, your book is set on a prehistoric island, so obviously it can't be 100% life experience.
AH: Ha! Well, I love dinosaurs. Being a paleontologist was my number 2 career choice as a kid so I wanted my first book to have a little pre-history in it. My other works mostly come from dreams. I dream up stories like someone watches a film. Sometimes I'll stop and go back to try a new ending. Very frequently, I will remember names of places, dialogue, and characters.  Then I wake up and write it down.

Sus: Considering the characters are shipwrecked, the book takes on a Lost or Castaway feel.  Did that tv show/movie inspire the book or help form any of its concepts?
AH: I actually started writing the book before Lost came on. I was inspired by another book called "Dr. Franklin's Island" but I've never heart of Castaway before.

Sus: Your book involves the story or myth of Atlantis.  Are you a big fan of Atlantean myth?
AH: I'm actually not big into Atlantis, though I have always liked the idea of exploration and uncharted, unfamiliar territories.

Sus: The main character, Attie, is very smart and knows a lot about prehistoric animals.  How much did you have to research to learn about the era (and forgive me but I've forgotten which era it was) and can you actually pronounce the animals names?
AH: I pulled from what I know about prehistoric animals already, and gave that knowledge to Attie. I had to reference my books a few times, but I had a general idea of the scenes and the animals I wanted on the island. A few times I even visited the Smithsonian to gauge the size of the 20-foot tall sloth.

Sus: What was your favorite scenes to write, the love scenes or the action?
AH: I like action better. Though romance plays into most of my stories, I am somewhat uncomfortable writing it. (It's just so private!) My friends and family joke that I hate romance because I will cover my eyes during kissing scenes in movies, or I will say "Gross" when two people confess their love on-screen. My editors actually told me to beef up on the romance scenes so I got out my "sexy-time" music and a bit of rum.

Sus: Why did you chose to make the castaways (with one exception) teenagers, rather than adults?  They are very smart for teenagers. Or at least smart in comparison with how I remember my teenage years.
AH: It's all about personality. The teens are supposed to be the "Best and Brightest" of the whole state so that gives them a leg up on the average student. Michelle is a genius, Kate is the Class President and has outstanding grades, and Bryan and Doug can hold their own on and off the soccer field. Then there is Attie who has "street smarts" rather than "book smarts." This combination makes them successful.
Sidenote: As a kids and teenagers, my sisters and I were very much in the same line of thinking. We were reckless but never without a plan. We were prepared for the worst, but we always took it as a challenge or adventure. We had elaborate plans to run away, detailing down to which roads we would take. If the world fell into dissaray, we knew what necessities we would need and how to get them. I suppose this excitment for adventure prompted me to keep the characters young. I started writing Zarconian Island in high school actually. While there have been a slew of edits since then, the characters' basic knowledge and personalities haven't changed.
Alright guys and gals, there you have it!  Now go and check it out for yourselves!  The expected publication date is March 25th, so you have 10 days to get yourself excited for it.


  1. Great interview, thanks for shraring Suz. :)

    Congrats On your release Aja! It sounds like a great read. On a side note I can relate to the resistance to writing romance scenes :)

  2. Thanks Suz! Your questions were very interesting.

    And Emilyann, it's just so personal. I feel embarrassed for the characters. I hope you read the scenes though and like them.