{Blog Tour} Interview + Giveaway: Life in Outer Space by Melissa Keil

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

To end the Life in Outer Space PH Tour, here's an interview with Melissa Keil, author of Life in Outer Space. I'm so pumped to share her answers. The questions are divided into four, about the novel, her publishing story, her writing style and about Melissa herself. Check them out below!

About the novel

How did you come up with the title "Life in Outer Space"? Some of us thought it was a sci-fi book. What is the title's significance? (Asked by Tricia of In Lesbians with Books)

It wasn’t the original title of the manuscript! My editors and I brainstormed for months to come up with the right title, but we really weren’t happy with anything on our very long list. We hit on ‘Life in Outer Space’ very late in the process, and straight away we knew it was the right title for the book. It reflects Sam’s sci-fi nerdiness, but also captures something about where he is at the beginning of the book –disconnected from his life, floating on the margins. And (for trivia buffs) it is also the title of a Grand Funk Railroad song, a band that Camilla mentions briefly early in the book.

How did the idea for Life in Outer Space come to you? or What inspired you to write Life in Outer Space?

I really wanted to write a romantic comedy – I love YA of all genres, but was finding most of the books I was ready very dark and bleak. I guess I really wanted to write something that would make me smile. One day I was at my usually writing cafe, which also hosted screenings for a horror film club – I saw one of the film club posters on a wall, and Sam’s voice just jumped into my head. It was one of those very strange, wonderful writerly moments – one second he wasn’t there, and the next, he was.

Where did you base your characters? I read that you once dabbled as a high school teacher.

I did dabble as a high school teacher, but not for very long! None of my characters are based on any one person though – when I was writing them, it always felt like I was getting to know real people in their own right. But I suppose they all probably have little pieces of people I’ve met in my life in them. Particularly Sam and Camilla – lots of amazing, creative people who don’t always have the greatest time in high school, but flourish afterwards when they have the opportunity to meet like-minded people.

How did you name the characters? Are there special reasons to Sam and Camilla?

Sam, Mike and Adrian just appeared on the page with their names as they are – when I started writing the first few paragraphs of the novel, with no real idea what their story was going to be, that was just who they were. Sam’s surname, Kinnison, was inspired by a comedian of the same name (different spelling though). I guess I liked the idea of naming a perpetually grumpy character after a comedian! Camilla was inspired by an artist that I like, Camilla d’Errico – I had a painting of hers hanging near my writing desk and I snaffled the name from that. Allison was named after my favourite character in The Breakfast Club. There are a few other movie references in the other characters names, some probably quite obscure though!

Is there a song/playlist that inspired you while writing Life in Outer Space?

I had so much LiOS music on my iPod – I love music for setting mood and tone, so my playlist really varied depending on which part of the manuscript I was working on. I had a couple of ‘movie-themed’ songs on repeat though – Cigarettes in the Theatre by Two Door Cinema Club, Our Life is Not a Movie or a Maybe by Okkervil River, and Kill the Director by The Wombats. Lots of Sarah Blasko when writing Camilla – she does an amazing version of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, which I listened to a lot.  

On publishing and reviews

Was it hard to get Life in Outer Space published? Can you tell us your publishing experience?

I’d previously published a picture book, a short story and some non-fiction, but had never sent a longer piece of fiction out to a publisher. My writing group actually encouraged me to send LiOS to the Ampersand Project, so I did, but only ever expected a ‘thanks but no thanks’ letter. Luckily for me, my manuscript landed on the desk of some editors who just ‘got’ it – they got the nerdy references and the characters, and they fell in love with the story. I was offered a contract a couple of months after I submitted the book. My experience is probably pretty atypical though – I know lots of great writers who are yet to have work published. I can’t discount how much luck was involved in getting the manuscript in front of the right people at the right time.

Do you read reviews of your book?

It’s probably not healthy to obsessively check your own reviews, but I do look on Goodreads every now and again! People have been so incredibly positive and supportive of the book – and I still do get a buzz hearing that people have as much affection for these characters as I do. Obviously not everyone is going to love what you write, but that’s okay too. I’m just trying to keep Camilla’s mantra – everything is useful – in mind. 

On writing

Have you always wanted to be a writer or did the idea just came to you?

I’ve always wanted to be a writer, and have always written books since I was a kid, but never really took it seriously until I was a little older and started working in publishing (my day job is as a children’s editor). To me, it never seemed like something that an ordinary person could do, and I didn’t know any other writers until I started at a publishing house. It took a long time to work up the courage to approach it as a career!

What is your writing style - how do you write a novel? (plotter/pantser)

A bit of both! I start with an idea of my main turning points, but I don’t write in sequence, and I don’t tightly plot out my story before I begin (I keep copious amounts of plot notes though). I guess my writing is really character driven, and I love that process of getting to know characters, learning things about them that you can’t know when you start out, and seeing how their story evolves.

Are you interested in writing for a different genre or audience?

At the moment, YA contemporary is where my heart lies. I’m always interested in playing with genre conventions though, so who knows what the future will bring.

About *you*

What's your favorite movie? You can name five in each genre/subgenre like Sam, we don't mind. :P

Ha, I think breaking it down by subgenre would take quite a while! I do love Star Wars. Old screwball comedies. Double Indemnity. I have a soft spot for superhero movies (and am overly excited by the next Avengers). The Breakfast Club is a given. Some of the earlier Hal Hartley movies, though not his later ones. Really great rom-coms like When Harry met Sally. The list goes on…

What is/are your favorite book/s?

I have a list of recent YA and adult fiction that should make my top five all time favourites list, but my favourite favourite book, and the book that I think I’ve re-read more than any other is The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. I read it for the first time as a kid, and fell in love with humour and the voice. I still re-read it every now and again when I’m in need of a ‘comfort’ book.

Do you play karate like Mike?

I used to – I trained and competed for years – but I haven’t been inside a dojo in a while. I have a brown belt (I lost the motivation to attempt a black belt grading though!)

Thank you so much, Melissa! Your answers are so fun to read and we definitely learned a lot!

Wanna learn more about Life in Outer Space? Check it out below!

Life in Outer Space
Title: Life in Outer Space
Author: Melissa Keil
Date of Publication: February 1, 2013
Publisher: Hardie Grant Egmont

‘Full of energy, wit and tenderness; this is one big-hearted and unique book.’ - Leanne Hall

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.

‘Hilarious and heartfelt.’ - Sally Rippin

Purchase from Amazon

The giveaway is still on! Win an ARC of Life in Outer Space! This giveaway is ppen to Philippine residents only until April 22. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Once again, thank you to Jen of Hardie Grant Egmont for the ARCs and to Melissa Keil for writing this wonderful book and supporting the tour. You girls rock!

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