Q & A: Rick Yancey
The 5th Wave is a trilogy of dystopian Young Adult novels by Rick Yancey that has drawn comparisons to The Hunger Games and Twilight. The Sunday Telegraph said the books are 'a cut above anything else in the genre', while The New York Times commended the series for walking the line between adult and YA fiction brilliantly; creating a world that is as appealing for those on either side of the divide.
This is an important week for fans of the trilogy, ‘Wavers’ as they are known, because not only has the film adaptation of part one The 5th Wave been released on DVD and Blu-ray, tomorrow also sees the release of the hotly anticipated final novel The Last Star .
Were you familiar with the previous films of the director, J. Blakeson? And were you excited to see how the director approached your books?
I didn’t know J. before Sony hired him, but saw his film, The Disappearance of Alice Creed, before principal photography began on The 5th Wave. I was very impressed how he was able to craft a compelling film with only three characters. Since my book relied on suspense and action to propel the story forward, I was very excited that he was at the helm.
The new novel, The Last Star, is the third instalment in your 5th Wave series (released in paperback this week) – for the uninitiated, can you introduce the series and reveal just a little of what is in store for Cassie and Ben in part three?
Humanity has been pushed to the edge of extinction by an unseen alien intelligence by means of a series of attacks or waves. The first book, The 5th Wave, tells the story of Cassie Sullivan’s search for her brother after they are separated and the story of Ben Parish, a young man being trained to fight the invaders. The second book, The Infinite Sea, continues their stories as well as deepens the mystery of why the aliens have come and their ultimate goal in conquering the Earth. The final volume, The Last Star, explores the fate of the major characters as the final battle for survival begins. There’s lots of action, a dash of romance, and some heartbreak for all, but courage, faith and love endure.
The 5th Wave is an alien invasion narrative – What unique challenges did you face in creating the aliens in your books? Which depictions from the rich heritage of extra-terrestrials in literature and film were the most influential when creating your ‘aliens’?
I enjoyed playing with well-established tropes and concepts that have imbedded themselves in our popular culture since Wells penned War of the Worlds. Science fiction has a long, rich tradition of using these concepts to make statements about the human condition – the best of these stories have more to say about us than them – more about humans, really, than aliens. That was the most interesting aspect to me. For centuries we fancied ourselves at the centre of the universe. Modern science has demonstrated that could not be farther from the truth. Many times while writing these books I had the very weird sensation of being in the Others’ shoes, seeing us through their eyes. The experience was creepy and exhilarating at the same time.
Did you encounter any difficulties writing material that remained ‘suitable for a YA audience’ and yet was still frightening enough? What are your opinions on suitability of material when it comes to YA fiction?
It’s hard for me to think of anything that’s off-limits anymore. Drugs, violence, sex...all are discussed – sometimes quite frankly – in YA fiction. The challenge for me was maintaining an entertaining, action-oriented adventure story that is set in a post-apocalyptic landscape – where hopelessness seems the most logical and practical conclusion. Rather than glossing over that uncomfortable outcome, I address it directly through the feelings, thoughts and actions of my characters. That’s the struggle I find interesting. Existence itself is a losing proposition – we all die – so how do we deal with that? What’s the answer to that fundamental aspect of life, the fact that it ends?
Thrillers for teens are currently thinking big, with brave and sometimes disturbing new worlds and totalitarian agendas, whereas adult thrillers are drawing in, making us focus more on the home and domestic space in the real world. Do you think these two trends are connected?
Maybe it’s the nature of human development. As we age, we understand more completely those things which we really should be frightened of. Insecurity bores into us, becomes part of us as opposed to something outside of us. Teens are naturally distrustful of the world we adults have created, with some justification, I think.
What was it like writing in the first person as teenager Cassie? What did you learn from the experience?
Well, I was never bored. I also found more faith in myself as a writer, to trust my instincts, and to relax in the skin of someone very different from me – and I’m not talking merely about biology.
What is next for you? Will you continue to write YA fiction?
I can’t see why not. It’s fun.
The Last Star is out May 24th and The 5th Wave is out on DVD, Blu-Ray and Digital HD now.