Tag Archives: Life in Outer Space

Interview with Life in Outer Space author Melissa Keil

If you’ve read my review of Life in Outer Space you’ll know how much I loved it.  Life in Outer Space is Melissa Keil’s debut YA novel and Melissa was lucky enough to have it published as part of the Ampersand Project.  I’m incredibly thankful to the Ampersand Project and Hardie Grant Egmont for publishing Melissa’s wonderful story, as I still can’t get it out of my head.  Melissa kindly answered some of my questions about Life in Outer Space.

  • Sam’s voice is so authentic that I’m sure you have a teenage guy trapped inside you.  Did Sam’s voice come to you easily?

Thanks – that is very flattering (in an odd way!) Sam’s voice was really the catalyst for the novel – one of those weird writing moments where one second he wasn’t there, and then he just was. In the back of my mind I was always aware that I was writing the experience of a person who I had never been, but I chose early on not to let it hamper me. I did make some conscious decisions about certain ‘boy’ things – the way he would interact with his friends, for instance (and writing conversations between teenage boys was lots of fun!) But Sam always felt like a real person to me, and his voice was the driving force behind the story.

  • Which of your characters are you most like?

I guess there are little parts of me in all of these people; Sam’s befuddlement about the world around him was quite familiar to me in high school! I never had Camilla’s confidence or self possession, but perhaps a little of her optimism. I guess in a weird way I even relate to Adrian social awkwardness – but to me they were always people in their own right.

  • Do you have a hidden talent, like Sam’s screen writing or Camilla’s song writing?

I definitely have no musical abilities (I have mastered a few chords on guitar, but that’s about it). I do have a talent for storing useless trivia. I suppose writing was my ‘hidden’ talent for a long time; I was with my writing group for almost a year before I worked up the courage to actually bring some writing to workshop. It took quite a bit of prodding to send Life in Outer Space out to a publisher! If it wasn’t for my writing group, I think my ‘hidden’ talent would have remained hidden for quite a while longer.

  • If a movie were made of your book and you had an unlimited budget who would you want to play Camilla?

Wow, that is a very cool thing to be thinking about. One of the things I love doing when I’m writing is creating ‘mood boards’ for my characters – I have pages and pages of images of the clothes that they wear and the minutia of their bedrooms, right down to their jewellery and books – but in all my research, I’ve never found a real-life person who I think is right for either Sam or Camilla. I have her voice and face so clearly in my mind that it’s hard to equate her with anyone in the real world – I guess she would have to be an unknown! With, you know, musical ability, and great hair.

  • Sam says that everything useful he knows about real life he has learnt from the movies.  What’s the most important lesson that you’ve learnt from the movies?

Never ignore the quiet, bespectacled person in the corner; they’ll always turn out to be the most fascinating (and gorgeous) person in the room. Or they’ll turn out to be an insane serial killer. But most often, the first one.

  • Like the best movies Life in Outer Space is full of great, witty dialogue.  Did you find your characters having conversations in your head even when you weren’t writing?

Absolutely. I spent a lot of time ‘researching’ (read: procrastinating) by hanging out at the places they visited in the book and just imagining them chatting. It really did feel like they were with me all the time – I was that vague-looking person standing in the middle of the Astor Theatre or Minotaur just staring into space, usually with a note book in hand.

  • Camilla has an obsession with 80s movies.  What’s your favourite movie era and why?

As a film buff with wide and weird tastes, that is a very hard call. My favourite movies come from pretty much every era; I love those great Film Noir movies of the 40s and 50s, and I am a little obsessed with contemporary superhero movies. And I love Star Wars, though the first film was made before I was born. Even though I was a teenager in the 90s, I do have a soft spot for the teen movies of the 80s (The Breakfast Club gets a periodic re-watch every few months). There is something in the tone of 80s teen movies that I really wanted to capture; I love that the good ones can take what are, on the surface, stock characters, and imbue them with personality and warmth and heart.

  • Were there any scenes in the first drafts that didn’t make the final cut that would make your blooper reel?

Or directors cut? There were a few! One of the bits I had to lose was the scene where Sam asks Allison to the dance. In the first draft, right before he asks her, he mentions that he sometimes tries to frame uncomfortable conversations as pieces of a screenplay – I had a lot of fun writing that ‘screenplay’ dialogue between them, but it really was superfluous to the plot so didn’t make the final draft. And because these characters were always nattering in my head, I have lots of half-finished scenes which were only ever intended to be for me, for the purposes of character building and fleshing out the time between chapters – for instance, at some point in the book, Sam mentions in passing that he spent a few hours on the phone with Camilla talking about the screenplay of Alien – I may have this conversation between them somewhere in my notes as well.

 

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Life in Outer Space by Melissa Keil

Ever since I’d read that Melissa Keil would be the first author to be published as part of The Ampersand Project I was curious to read it.  The goal of the project is to help debut YA authors get published.  Life in Outer Space sounded wonderful and exactly my sort of book.  I was lucky enough to get to read it back in December and I fell in love with it from the first line.  I loved it so much that I’ve read it twice, and I loved it even more the second time around.

Sam Kinnison is a geek, and he’s totally fine with that. He has his horror movies, his nerdy friends, World of Warcraft – and until Princess Leia turns up in his bedroom, worry about girls he won’t. Then Camilla Carter arrives on the scene. She’s beautiful, friendly and completely irrelevant to his plan. Sam is determined to ignore her, except that Camilla has a plan of her own – and he seems to be a part of it! Sam believes that everything he needs to know he can learn from the movies. But perhaps he’s been watching the wrong ones.

 

I love absolutely everything about Life in Outer Space! It’s full of cool characters that you want to be friends with, great dialogue, pop culture references galore, and hilarious moments that will have you laughing out loud.  Reading Life In Outer Space made me feel like I was at a comic book convention or a book conference, because I felt totally surrounded by people who were just like me.

Melissa’s characters feel totally real and you can imagine seeing them walking down the street or waiting outside the cinema to catch a movie.  Sam’s voice is so authentic that I’m sure Melissa has a teenage boy trapped inside her.  Sam is an incredibly likeable character, from his extensive knowledge of movies and his ability to relate them to real life, to his loyalty to his friends. He’s got a great sense of humour, but he’s also quite awkward.  He says that ‘everything useful I do know about real life I know from movies,’ and I love the way that he proves this frequently throughout the book. All of the other characters stand out too, especially Sam’s friends.  Adrian is the clown of the group, Mike is Sam’s gay best friend, Allison is their tom-boy female friend, and then there is Camilla.  Camilla is the cool new girl who arrives at Sam’s school at the start of the story and quickly becomes part of his group of friends.  She has an unusual name, a British accent, a tattoo, she’s from New York, she has a great smile, and she’s objectively attractive, all of which means she scores highly in Sam’s ‘mental social scorecard.’ Not only this, but she also knows a lot about movies and she wants to be friends with Sam.  I found myself falling for Camilla and I just wanted Sam to hurry up and kiss her.

Melissa’s writing is witty, heartfelt and incredibly funny.  I clicked with Sam straight away and I loved his point of view.  I loved Melissa’s description of characters through Sam’s eyes, like this one of Sam’s dad,

“My father likes Harvey Norman, the Discovery Channel, and for some reason, lizards.  He last smiled in 2008, which is one of the few things we have in common…My dad also looks like me – i.e. sort of like a storm-trooper.  And not the cool Star Wars kind.”

The dialogue is witty and I had to put the book down a couple of times because I was laughing so hard at some of the conversations between Sam and his friends.

I loved all of the pop culture references in Life in Outer Space.  I’m a huge movie geek so I loved all of the references to Sam and Camilla’s favourite movies and their debates about the merit of different movies.  Everything from Superman and Star Wars to Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Night of the Living Dead gets a mention. Every time they would mention a movie I hadn’t seen I wanted to write it down so I could add it to my list of to-be-watched movies.

Life in Outer Space will make you think, feel, laugh and leave you wishing that Melissa’s characters were real.

5 out of 5

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My Most Anticipated February New Releases

life-in-outer-spaceLife in Outer Space by Melissa Keil

Sam Kinnison is a geek, and he’s totally fine with that. He has his horror movies, his nerdy friends, World of Warcraft – and until Princess Leia turns up in his bedroom, he doesn’t have to worry about girls.

Then Sam meets Camilla. She’s beautiful, friendly and completely irrelevant to his life. Sam is determined to ignore her, except that Camilla has a life of her own – and she’s decided that he’s going to be part of it.

Sam believes that everything he needs to know he can learn from the movies … but now it looks like he’s been watching the wrong ones.

 

Night School LegacyNight School: Legacy by C.J. Daugherty

In the last year, Allie’s survived three arrests, two breakups and one family breakdown. The only bright point has been her new life at Cimmeria Academy. It’s the one place she’s felt she belongs. And the fact that it’s brought the dreamy Carter West into her life hasn’t hurt…But far from being a safe haven, the cloistered walls of Cimmeria are proving more dangerous than Allie could’ve imagined. The students, and faculty, are under threat and Allie’s family – from her mysterious grandma to her runaway brother – are at the centre of the storm. Allie is going to have to choose between protecting her family and trusting her friends. But secrets have a way of ripping even the strongest relationships apart.

 

Back to Black Brick by Sarah Moore Fitzgerald

Cosmo’s brother Brian died when he was ten years old. His mum hides her grief and Cosmo lives with his grandparents. They’ve been carefree days as Granddad buys him a horse called John and teaches him all he knows about horses. But the good times have to come to an end and although he doesn’t want to admit it, Cosmo knows his Granddad is losing his mind. So on one of the rare occasions when Granddad seems to recognise him, Cosmo is bemused that he gives him a key to Blackbrick Abbey and urges him to go there. Cosmo shrugs it off, but gradually Blackbrick draws him in… Cosmo arrives there, scared and lonely, and is dropped off at the crumbling gates of a huge house. As he goes in, the gates close, and when he turns to look, they’re rusty and padlocked as if they haven’t been opened in years. Cosmo finds himself face to face with his grandfather as a young man, and questions begin to form in his mind: can Cosmo change the course of his family’s future?

 

Book of DoomThe Book of Doom by Barry Hutchison

There’s panic up in Heaven. They have mislaid the BOOK OF DOOM – the most important object in existence. Oopsy.

They think Satan might have stolen it, the sneaky little devil, so to save the world – plus, you know, quite a lot of embarrassment, fifteen year old Zac and his angelic guide Angelo are sent to retrieve it.

Sadly directions aren’t Angelo’s strong point and they soon find themselves just as lost as the book, wandering through Afterworlds such as Valhalla and Hades and encountering some colourful characters along the way…

Can the hapless pair make it to Hell and back?

N.B. Released 23 March in New Zealand

 

The Phantom of Terawhiti by Des Hunt

It’s the school holidays and Zac thinks he might go crazy with boredom. He’s living in exile with his disgraced father on the remote Terawhiti Station on Wellington’s wild southwest coast. Then Zac and his dad witness a boat sink during a storm. Investigating further, Zac finds a set of unusual animal prints on the beach. Whose boat is it? And what creature could have made the prints? Soon armed men are prowling the coast, and threatening Zac, his friends and his family. He must do all he can to protect the Phantom of Terawhiti from those intent on hunting it down.

 

Hysteria by Megan Miranda

Mallory’s life is falling apart. Her boyfriend was stabbed. He bled to death in her kitchen. Mallory was the one who stabbed him. But she can’t remember what happened that night. She only remembers the fear …When Mallory’s parents send her away to a boarding school, she thinks she can escape the gossip and the threats. But someone, or something, has followed her. There’s the hand that touches her shoulder when she’s drifting off to sleep. A voice whispering her name. And everyone knows what happened. So when a pupil is found dead, Mallory’s name is on their lips. Her past can be forgotten but it’s never gone. Can Mallory live with that?

 

Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

Cinder, the cyborg mechanic, returns in the second thrilling installment of the bestselling Lunar Chronicles. She’s trying to break out of prison–even though if she succeeds, she’ll be the Commonwealth’s most wanted fugitive.
Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit’s gran­dmother is missing. It turns out there are many things Scarlet doesn’t know about her grandmother or the grave danger she has lived in her whole life. When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother’s whe­reabouts, she is loath to trust this stranger, but is inexplicably drawn to him, and he to her. As Scarlet and Wolf unravel one mystery, they encounter another when they meet Cinder. Now, all of them must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen Levana, who will do anything for the handsome Prince Kai to become her husband, her king, her prisoner.

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