July 16, 2012 by Alice in Readerland
“Space germs wipe out virtually everyone who has passed through puberty…
Abby Leigh and her younger brother, Jordan, are looking forward to seeing a purple moon. For months, astronomers have been predicting that Earth will pass through the tail of a comet. They say that people will see colorful sunsets and, best of all, a purple moon.
But nobody has predicted the lightning-fast epidemic that sweeps across the planet on the night of the purple moon. The comet brings space dust with it that contains germs that attack human hormones. Older teens and adults die within hours of exposure.
On a small island off the coast of Maine, Abby, Jordan and other teens and children struggle to survive in this new world, but all the while they have inside them a ticking time bomb — adolescence.”
Look below for my interview with Scott Cramer, author of Night of the Purple Moon!
Alice: How did you become interested in writing?
Scott: I’ve always loved stories. I love to read adventure stories. I love the NPR radio program, This American Life. I remember all sorts of stories that people tell me. I might forget their names, but I remember incredible details about their stories, even years later. I also find myself gravitating to people who tell good stories or who “are stories” themselves. One result is to have a rather diverse and strange collection of friends.
In the eighth grade, my career as a writer did not seem very promising when I got a D minus in English. I think it had a lot to with Mr. Hitchborn’s incredibly boring teaching style, but I also must take some responsibility for the poor grade.
In my senior year of college I started writing poetry, and I found it much more exciting than the prospect of being a chemist (I was a chemistry major). A year later, I was working as a roustabout on an offshore oil drilling rig (so much for the chemistry degree) one-hundred miles off the coast of New Jersey, and a storm blew migrating birds off course. They were attracted to the drilling rig’s lights and the rig was inundated with thousands of tiny birds, and big white birds (cranes or egrets) flew in a circle around the rig throughout the night. When the sun rose, they flew off. I wrote a story about that incredible scene and sold it to a magazine. I went on to write many more feature articles for magazines and newspapers. Then I wrote screenplays and about three years ago I started writing YA novels.
Alice: What is your writing process like?
Scott: I used to be 100 percent spontaneous. That is, I would sit down and literally type and type and sooner or later a story would take shape. There’s something to be said for that method, but it takes a lot of brute force. After working on screenplays, I gained a better appreciation of story structure and character arcs. When I sit down to write now, I largely know the big elements of the story. It is still a spontaneous process, though. A story takes lots of unexpected twists and turns.
I try to write every day. I find writing the first draft the most tedious. After that, I have a good sense of the story and the characters and subsequent drafts go much faster. Quite often the characters take over the story. My job then is to get out of the way and let them go.
Alice: How did you come up with the idea for Night of the Purple Moon?
Scott: Two YA novels always stayed with me. Number the Stars by Lois Lowry and Homecoming by Cynthia Voight. In each book the young main characters faced incredible odds and took dangerous journeys. In Night of the Purple Moon, I tried to increase the odds and raise the stakes. Rather than have one or both parents die, all parents die. Also, modern civilization depends on the collective efforts of specialists. If those specialists disappear, the infrastructure (running water, electricity, communications, food production) will cease to function. That is a gut-wrenching, perilous situation for young teens and children to find themselves in.
Alice: In the book description, I saw that this story was set on a small island off the coast of Maine. How did you come to choose this particular setting?
Scott: I chose to use an island as one of the settings in NOPM for several reasons. The plot plays out on a grand scale…after space germs wipe out the adult population, Earth becomes a planet of children virtually overnight. One way to examine a sweeping catastrophe is to shrink the scale and make the story very personal. I thought an island off Maine, with a small winter population, offered an ideal setting. Later on, I was able to examine life on the mainland.
Alice: Have you been to Maine? Did you have to do any research for your book?
Scott: Yes, my grandparents came from Maine and I have visited many parts of the state. The coastal area, including several islands, is a very beautiful and magical place.
I always find myself doing research when writing fiction. NOPM is written in third-person limited from three different points-of-view. The main character, Abby, is a thirteen-year old girl. I asked my daughters lots of questions about what it’s like to be thirteen. (They are both used to me and answered most of my questions!)
I also researched the physical changes the body undergoes during puberty, and the role of the growth hormones, estrogen and testosterone. Those hormones are what the space germs attack.
Alice: What advice can you offer to other writers?
Scott: Write. Write. Write some more. Then write. If you have expectations of fame and getting rich, you will either quit very soon, or you will adjust your expectations and continue to write. It is a solitary, laborious endeavor with fleeting moments of great joy.
Reading a lot helps, too.
Be very nice to your beta readers. Treat them well. Reading an early draft is not as much work as writing it, but it can inflict the same amount of pain.
Finally, if you ever find someone who is on your wavelength and who loves to edit, then you have found it all.
Night of the Purple Moon on Goodreads
Night of the Purple Moon on Amazon