Sweet Sixteener Marisa Reichardt recently spoke to Fearless Fifteener Susan Adrian about her YA science fiction/thriller debut novel, TUNNEL VISION (January 20, 2015 from St. Martin’s Griffin). Fun fact: Susan and Marisa are agency sisters at kt literary.
Susan Adrian is a 4th-generation Californian who somehow stumbled into living in Montana. As a child she danced in a ballet company and read plays dramatically to blackberry bushes. Later she got a degree in English from the University of California Davis and worked in the fields of exotic pet-sitting, clothes-schlepping, and bookstore management. She’s settled in, mostly, as a scientific editor. When she’s not hanging out with her husband and daughter, she keeps busy researching spy stuff, traveling, and writing more books.
Jake Lukin just turned 18. He’s decent at tennis and Halo, and waiting to hear on his app to Stanford. But he’s also being followed by a creep with a gun, and there’s a DARPA agent waiting in his bedroom.
His secret is blown.
When Jake holds a personal object, like a pet rock or a ring, he has the ability to “tunnel” into the owner. He can sense where they are, like a human GPS, and can see, hear, and feel what they do. It’s an ability the government would do anything to possess: a perfect surveillance unit who could locate fugitives, spies, or terrorists with a single touch.
Jake promised his dad never to tell anyone about his ability. But his dad died two years ago, and Jake slipped. If he doesn’t agree to help the government, his mother and sister may be in danger. Suddenly he’s juggling high school, tennis tryouts, flirting with Rachel Watkins, and work as a government asset, complete with 24-hour bodyguards.
Forced to lie to his friends and family, and then to choose whether to give up everything for their safety, Jake hopes the good he’s doing—finding kidnap victims and hostages, and tracking down terrorists—is worth it. But he starts to suspect the good guys may not be so good after all. With Rachel’s help, Jake has to try to escape both good guys and bad guys and find a way to live his own life instead of tunneling through others.
Marisa: Congratulations on your exciting debut and the wonderful reviews you’ve received so far. What was the “ah-ha” moment for TUNNEL VISION? Did you hit the ground running once you thought of it or let it marinate?
Susan: TUNNEL VISION had an unusual start—it was born out of quitting writing. I was so frustrated with ten years of writing and failing that I stopped entirely. But my brain wouldn’t leave me alone: every night, I told a story to myself to get to sleep. Eventually the story was keeping me up until 3 a.m. with twists and turns, and after two months, I decided to go ahead and write it down. It poured out in about ten weeks, and that’s TUNNEL VISION.
Marisa: I love your use of song titles for each of your chapters and enjoyed trying to reason out exactly how each one related to what I was reading. What was the process behind that? Was it a collaborative effort with your editor or did you do it on your own from the beginning? Were some titles easier to come up with than others?
Susan: Not long after I started writing, I realized how very cinematic the story was, probably because I had visualized it all in my head first, so I decided it needed a soundtrack. I started adding songs to each chapter as I wrote, and listened to the whole thing over and over to get me in the writing mood, or to help with sticky parts. Some chapters definitely were more difficult to choose than others, but I’m really happy with how it turned out, and how each song fits the chapter’s action, theme, or mood. You can listen to the whole soundtrack on Spotify, here: TUNNEL VISION soundtrack
Marisa: TUNNEL VISION is such a fast-paced, heart thumping read. Did you feel that energy when you were writing? If so, how did you wind down after an intense writing session?
Susan: I did! But my writing time is very partitioned—I have a full-time job and a family, so I write only in the mornings before work (5:30 am), on weekend mornings mostly. So after a session I’d just have to carry that energy with me to the next day.
Marisa: The sibling relationship between Jacob and Myka Lukin in TUNNEL VISION is so lovely. Did you enjoy writing them? Might we see more of them one day?
Yes! I am working on a sequel now, which features both Jacob and Myka, as well as a few other surprises. I absolutely loved writing those parts. Some bits of Myka are inspired by my now 12-year-old daughter (though most of her is entirely her own), so she’s one of my favorite characters too.
Lightning Round Questions:
Pen and paper, computer or typewriter?
Computer! With Scrivener, please.
Ability to tunnel or ability to fly?
Fly. Tunneling is not entirely useful unless you want to spy.
Planner or pantser?
Mostly pantser. I did try to outline for the sequel, and I stuck to it for about one-third of the book…
What were you reading in high school?
Jane Austen, VC Andrews, Clan of the Cave Bear, Shakespeare…an odd mix.
What is your favorite place and time of day to write?
The only time I can fit in to my day, 5:30 am. Though I like the 6:30 weekend days a little better!
How many manuscripts in the drawer?
TUNNEL VISION was my fifth book. I’m currently working on seven and eight.
Captain Kirk or Captain von Trapp?
Kirk! James T. Kirk was my first crush, believe it or not.
Your cover inspires mass purchases of Converse. How many pairs do you have for your book tour?
Four! So far.
The ones with cupcakes on them, I think. Me on both levels!
About the Interviewer:
Marisa Reichardt is a SoCal native and high school writing instructor. She has a Master of Professional Writing degree from the University of Southern California and dual undergraduate degrees in literature and creative writing from UC San Diego. She spent her college years shucking oysters, waiting tables, and peddling swimwear. She has spent her post-grad years writing, tutoring, and teaching. She currently lives in Los Angeles and can usually be found huddled over her laptop in coffeehouses or swimming in the ocean. In her YA contemporary debut, UNDERWATER (FSG/Macmillan, Winter 2016), the aftermath of a deadly high school shooting leaves 17-year-old Morgan an agoraphobic trapped in the apartment she shares with her mother and brother; when surfer boy Evan moves in next door, she has to face the life she’s been missing.