Dan Krokos, author of the YA thriller False Memory, enjoys watching TV, playing MMORPGs, and drinking coffee (um, who doesn’t?). He was a gas station attendant for nine years to put himself through college, until one day he decided to drop out and write full-time. He’s been nice enough to chat with us at Figment about video games, movie soundtracks, and advice for young writers.
Describe your novel in five words.
Girl loses memory, kicks ass.
Why did you decide to write about a female protagonist? Did you have any difficulties channeling a teenage girl?
I really wanted to challenge myself. I’ve written seven previous novels, and only one of them had a female point of view (and in third person, no less). This was my attempt to step outside my comfort zone and grow as a writer.
It was extremely difficult, but I had lots of girl help along the way.
We’ve read that you were a big fan of World of Warcraft. How do video games influence you writing in general, and more specifically, False Memory?
I think video games have pretty epic stories to make up for the fact that you’re only getting a little bit of story at a time. But video games are a different beast entirely [from books]. I think a lot of that epicosity (a word I made up just now) [in video games] rubbed off on me, but other than that, I’m not sure.
Depending on what game it is, they dole out the rewards in pieces. Do a level, get an item at the end, or a great cutscene that moves the story forward. That doesn’t work in books, I don’t think. I don’t want people to have to slog through a “level” to get to the reward. My ADD will not allow that.
On your website, you mention listening to certain songs while revising your novel. What kind of music do you listen to while writing? Does what you’re listening to influence your writing or do you pick the music based on the story?
I listen to A LOT of movie soundtracks. My favorites include the Dark Knight trilogy, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and The Social Network. Trent Reznor’s stuff has been invaluable. Same with Hans Zimmer. I actually planned the climaxes of my first five books to “Injection” off the Mission: Impossible 2 score. Listen to it. It is incredible.
When I’m writing I might turn on a soundtrack very low, but I mostly listen when I’m not writing. I brainstorm and puzzle through stuff with pen and paper a lot, and music helps.
Probably. I love Bourne a lot. I’ve always had a problem with X-Men, but I see where the parallels could be drawn. Actually now that I think about it, a cross between those two is a perfect description.
I love the fast and furious action of Bourne, but how it manages to feel real at the same time. And I love the family aspect of X-Men. These people are so different from us, but they have each other. I definitely see that in False Memory.
Miranda has a very unusual super power: the power to induce mass panic. How did you come up with that idea?
I read an article once about alarm pheromones. All mammals have something in their noses called the Grüneberg ganglion. It detects alarm pheromones. For example, if a deer becomes startled, it can release these pheromones and the other deer in his or her crew will perk up and be alerted to the danger without witnessing the stimulus for themselves. I thought that was about the coolest thing in the world.
I originally made the idea magic based in a previous urban fantasy I wrote, but then I used the pheromones in the first draft of False Memory. These people had figured out how to manipulate the ganglion in humans. For various reasons, this changed to a kind of psychic energy Miranda and her friends can emit from their brains.
Can you give us a hint of what Miranda has in store for her as the series continues?
It’s going to get a lot worse. Not all of them are going to make it through the next two books. I really can’t say more without spoiling the end of Book 1. Okay I’ll say this: Miranda is going to discover she’s part of a bigger world, one she is not equipped to fight without making extreme sacrifices. I’m a huge fan of impossible choices, so we’ll be seeing some of those. Wow, that’s vague.
After the False Memory series, do you have another book in the works?
I do! The Planet Thieves comes out from Tor/Starscape next May. Here’s the little blurb: When the crew of the SS Egypt gets massacred by an alien race, Mason Stark, a thirteen-year-old cadet in the Earth Space Command, must lead his fellow cadets in a daring surprise attack to retake the ship, and recover a stolen technology that could spell the end of planet Earth.
It is a pure adventure story.
What advice would you give to young writers working on their first novels?
Quickly! Don’t put everything you have behind one book. There is no one book. You can write another one. You haven’t failed until you quit. If you tie your identity as a writer to that one novel you think is so great, you’re gonna crash. Hard. Or maybe not. But probably. Just stay flexible. AND HAVE FUN.