Monday, February 16, 2015

Author Interview: R.S. Mellette (Billy Bobble Makes a Magic Wand)

Billy Bobble Makes a Magic Wand is an enchanting upper middle grade novel that will make you believe in the power of magic. 

Here’s the official blurb:

"E = mc2 is no longer the most powerful force in the universe. Your wand is." Twelve-year-old Billy and his best friend Suzy Quinofski didn't mean to change the universe. Billy, a quantum physics prodigy, just wanted to find a way to help his hoarding, schizophrenic mother – and maybe impress a coven of older girls in high school. Suzy, his intellectual equal, wanted to help her friend and cling to her last remnant of childhood, a belief in magic. Together they made Billy a real, working, magic wand, and opened a door to the Quantum World where thoughts create reality, and all things – good and bad – are possible.

Author R.S. Mellette’s career trajectory spans film, television and theater, in addition to fiction writing.  He worked on Xena! Let me repeat that: HE WORKED ON XENA! 

I am thrilled he agreed to join us today to introduce us to the smartest kid in the universe!

(By the way, there's a Rafflecopter giveaway at the end of this post. Xena fans for sure will want to check it out.)

Tell me about Billy Bobble Makes a Magic Wand.

This book is the story of a 12-year-old kid, Billy, who is into quantum physics, and his best friend, Suzy Quinofski, who is into microbiology.  Together they make a real, working, magic wand… but have no idea how to use it.

I've tried to make this a science-fiction book for the whole family.  I can't wait to find out from readers if they feel that I've succeeded.

What inspired you to tell Billy’s story?

There were a lot of little things that inspired Billy's story, which is to say, if fans read or hear different stories, don't fret.  They are all true.  One of the things that got me started was spending time in the Science-Fiction section of bookstores.  They are packed with vampires, werewolves, witches and wizards.  Don't get me wrong, I love those stories, but they aren't sci-fi. 

My inner 12-year-old got into a huff about it, so I started thinking, "if you want witches and wizards in the Sci-Fi section, then have them come from a scientific source."

About that time, the movie The Craft reran on TV.  It's a great movie to watch on a rainy day, or a late night.  This time, my inner 12-year-old asked me why I didn't hang out with girls like that coven when I was their age.  I laughed.  "Yeah, like those girls would give you (me), a kid totally into science, the time of day."

The idea of a science nerd like me having a crush on a coven of witches joined with my desire to see more Science in the Science-Fiction section got the creative juices flowing.

Can you bring us into your world a little bit? Billy and his best friend “made” a magic wand. How does the real world change for them? 

For one thing, they get two new friends from the Quantum World.  It turns out that Billy knows a ton about quantum physics, but it's aware that beings live in that reality.  Where we are mostly mass, with a tiny bit of energy, they are mostly energy with a tiny bit of mass.

It turns out that Billy's wand opens a connection between these two worlds, which have had a symbiotic relationship as long as life as existed.

When Billy first uses the wand all he wants to do is escape the ridicule and bullying from the entire school, so he disappears.  For real, totally, disappears from the universe.  That scares him so badly that he and Suzy use the wand sparingly from then on.  They only have a vague idea how it works, and are a little freaked out by the power of what they have made.

In writing this book, I think I've spent more time asking myself, "How would our world change if we could make real magic?"  It then gets more complicated when that power is in the hands of kids.  Still, I approach the question from an adult perspective.  This isn't a "silly" book.  I hope it will make the reader think as much as I have had to.

How did they pull off creating this wand? What was the “science” behind it?

That's the question of the first half of the book.  Let's see if I can explain it without giving away too many secrets.

Einstein tells us that Space and Time are connected, and that nothing can travel faster than the speed of light.  But… paired quantum particles – which, when you change the spin of one, the other one changes its spin instantly – change their spin faster than a single could move from one particle to the other.  So, something is able to break the universe's speed limit.  That's all real science.

Billy puts all of that together, to figure out that there are multiple timelines, so many that pretty much anything you can think of exists somewhere in an alternate time/space connection.  He thinks that something locks us in our linear time, and if he can break that link, he can create magic, which he defines as "seemingly unrelated cause and effect."

Suzy figures out what the key is that locks us in our timeline.  Billy then figures out how to use that to create magic.

Billy’s mom is mentally ill (specifically schizophrenic). How does this effect Billy’s world outlook?  

Billy wishes more than anything that his mother would be "normal."  It is a big driving force in what makes him want to create magic.  Later, he learns that her paranoid belief that the neighbor's yard gnomes are spying the family is actually true and that the universe is a much more complex place than he ever imagined.

You’ve worked a great deal in film/television/theater. How different is the experience of writing a novel from these other mediums? 

The biggest thing about writing a novel is that there's no crew.  I have to make all of the decisions about clothes, hair, makeup, props, sets, etc.  I don't want to do all of that.  I just want to say, "Int. Billy Bobble's Room – Day" and get on with the story. 

Plays, for either stage or screen, are like an orchestra score.  It's not the finished product, the performance is.  Novels are the final version, so they require as much energy as making a movie or staging a show – not just writing the script.

What skills from TV/film writing did you use while writing Billy Bobble? Anything you had to completely throw away? 

What I had to throw away?  The word "suddenly."  That's used in screenplays all the time, but in a book if you say, "suddenly" such-&-such happens, then it's no longer sudden.  When I cut the word, the reader gets the shock value that I'm looking for.

Of course, the basics of storytelling doesn't change – and that's a major part of all writing.  I would have to say that my acting training comes in handy with dialogue.  Having performed words by Neil Simon, David Mamet, Shakespeare, etc., and having written plays for stage and screen, where dialogue is the major way of getting the story out, it helps a lot when writing novels.  I know dialogue is a difficult thing for a lot of novelists, so they try to avoid it.  I revel in dialogue.  I hope my readers do, too.

Do you have any writing rituals?

For the longest time, I was a catch-as-catch-can writer, stealing time whenever and wherever I could.  Often during my day jobs.  I used to love showing up to a temp job with a notebook and hear, "oh good, you brought something to do."

Now, I write more at home.  When I need to build up the energy to write, I'll watch something I like on TV, like Dr. Who or anything by Aaron Sorkin.  Good writing gets me excited to do my own.

Where is your favorite place to write?

My office at home.

What inspires you to write? 

Mostly boredom.  If my mind isn't entertained, then it starts to entertain itself – which I then write down.  I know that's counter to my good writing comment above, but that's life.  It's complicated.

What 5 books are on your bookshelf right now?

This sounds like a shameful plug for my publisher, but it's the truth, anything from Elephant's Bookshelf Press.  I just finished Battery Brothers, which I recommend to anyone, but especially writers.  The first chapter of that book should go into a how-to textbook.  It's brilliant.

Cat Woods just edited a collection of short stories for EBP called Tales from the Bully Box, and I can't wait to dig into that.  I'm also looking forward to her novel in 2015.

I've also gone through the first two books of the Maze Runner series, a few Artemis Fowl books, a couple of Percy Jacksons, etc.

I'm also reading a lot of biographies of artist from the 16th century for another project.  So I go from kid-lit to stories about Popes and their courtesans, it's a bit of a mind trip.

What do you recommend people see/read/hear?

Whatever they enjoy. Become an unabashed fan of whatever makes you happy.  When you've learned everything about it, you can make something like it that makes you just as happy – and that will make other people who like what you like happy, too.  That might lead you to making a living at something you love – and that can make for a great life.

You can find  R.S. Mellette on Goodreads, Twitter and Facebook

Here's the giveaway details:
1st Prize- *signed* copy of Billy Bobble Makes a Magic Wand
2nd Prize- Season two of Xena: Warrior Princess
Open to US only; Ends 2/25/15

a Rafflecopter giveaway

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful interview! And also, I think he did a good job in writing a book for the whole family. :)

    Thank you for hosting a tour stop!