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S. A. Bodeen Talks Doomsday Seeds, Writerly Inspiration, and THE TOMB

Middle-grade and young adult readers know and love S. A. Bodeen for her imaginative stories of adventure and survival—shipwrecks, doomsday bunkers, and dystopian human experiments abound. The Tomb, her tenth novel, follows 13-year-old Kiva after she emerges from virtual reality and finds herself aboard a spaceship. Earth is gone, and she traverses space with some surviving humans. I spoke with Bodeen about her latest novel, out today from Feiwel & Friends.


ELEANOR ROTH: Where did you get the idea for The Tomb?

S. A. BODEEN: I was reading the science section of the Sunday paper, and there was an article about the designs of the next generation of spaceships. I’ve [also] always been obsessed with the doomsday vault with the seeds in Norway, and always really liked movies and books where there’s an end-of-the-world scenario and everyone has these secret places to go hide. Then I read an article about how the future of long-range space travel will be torpor chambers. It was just one thing built on another, and it ended up to be Kiva’s story. I wanted plausible science: stuff that doesn’t exist right this moment but chances are [will exist] 30 years from now.


Your first published novel, The Compound, began as a National Novel Writing Month project. Is that something you’d recommend?

I love NaNo because I love the accountability and the competition. It spurs me on, and I think it’s nice knowing all these other people are going through it with you.

I like to fast draft because I know that my first draft is going to suck no matter what I do, so why spend six months on it? Why not just power it out in 30 days? Then you can move on to the next step. It’s like building a pile of clay so you have something to work with. I used to go out of my way to pad the word count, adding random elements and spelling out contractions. Now my ultimate goal is to finish a draft.


During the other 11 months of the year, are you in a writing group or do you have other writer friends that you talk about or share your work with?

I used to be in a critique group, but I’m not anymore. I think it’s because I work with the same editor, and when you do that, you get to know how they think. If I were to take my manuscript and give it to five friends, they would give me all these ideas and then I would revise based on their ideas, but what if those were totally opposite of what my editor likes? She’s really the only voice that I want in terms of telling me what I need to do. I learn something new with each novel, so to have the consistency of the same editorial voice has been really helpful, just like having a mentor.


I like the idea of learning something new with each book. What did you learn writing The Tomb?

Writing had become really—I don’t know if painful is the right word, but it had become super difficult. I didn’t want to do it. I felt like it was strictly business, just something that I had to do. Of course, I wanted to do it, but I wasn’t enjoying it. I actually had about six months where I considered quitting.

Then I had to submit some ideas for the second book of my contract; one of them was The Tomb. It was a story I had been thinking about for seven or eight years. I knew it had a really big scope, but I had been too lazy to sit down and figure out what it was. I passed a brief premise to my editor and she was like, “Oh that’s the one!” And I was like, “Oh boy! Now I have to figure this puppy out!”

I remember I wrote it that summer, so about two years ago right now, and I just loved writing it: I loved Kiva, I loved Seth, and I loved the story. Writing was fun again for the first time in a long time. I learned the importance of loving what you’re writing. When you find something you really, really want to write, it’s going be fun.



About the Author:

A former Booklist intern and current Booklist reviewer, Ellie is a reader and writer based in Chicago. She holds a BA in writing from Wheaton College (IL) and is the assistant to the president at Browne & Miller Literary Associates.

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