Sometimes it’s not enough to figure out how to navigate through high school, crushes, grades and perhaps a little acne. Sometimes you might have to save the earth from an apocalypse at the same time.
That’s the problem of the characters in The Children of the Noah: Barren Earth, a novel written by our youngest-ever published author, Evan DeCarlo, of Branford. DeCarlo is a college student, and he wrote this novel during that delicate transition from high school to college in Manhattan, knocking out at least 2,000 words a day. (Which proves that the rest of us who whine about not having time to write should just be quiet about it.)
Here is the delightful Evan, to tell us just how he did it, what it all means, and what comes next.
Welcome, Evan, to Books New Haven. Tell us about your book,Children of the Noah- Book 1: The Barren Earth.
What do most fourteen year old boys have to worry about? Baseball tryouts? Girls? That Algebra final? And then there’s Franklin Freeman, who’s just been tasked with preventing the apocalypse by any means necessary. His only companions on this impossible mission? Try an amnesiac cyborg from the future, an insect obsessed nerd, a tomboy from down the block, and a malfunctioning time machine that could take them all to who knows what year. By no choice of his own, Franklin Freeman is sucked into the greatest and most bizarre adventure of a lifetime, one in which he’ll travel across time and space from his little home in southern Connecticut, meet a dystopian tribe made up of the last humans on earth, do battle with a race of monsters living just under the planet’s surface, and – most daunting of all – try not to make a total fool of himself in front of the girl he’s been hopelessly crushing on all along! And he thought it was going to be a relaxing summer break…
Where did the germ of the story come from? How did you first know you were going to write this story?
It seemed at first like the story would only be a very short one. It was my intention to write no more than twenty or pages about a couple of boys who go fishing by day and stargazing when the sun goes down; a simple piece about the joys and freedoms of summer in Connecticut. Then, as I grew fonder of and more attached to the characters with each passing day, it became increasingly apparent to me that I would not be willing to let them go after a mere twenty pages, nor would I be content to limit their adventures by the constraints of the real world. My favorite stories, after all, are often fantastical in nature. Children of the Noah- Book I: The Barren Earth became not just a story about two boys dealing with problems like girls and social anxiety, but a story about a group of friends saving the world and struggling with all their usual teenage problems at the same time.
Did this book come to you easily, or did you have to wrestle it to the ground once or twice? Did you ever give up on it?
Initially, the book came in spurts, few and far between. I’d write a few pages, get stuck, and then give up. But after a few weeks (or months in some unfortunate cases) I’d always pick it back up again. I was too hopeful for the characters to ever let them go entirely. And so the story was written in this clunky sort of way from December of 2011 to July of 2012. When I graduated from high school and began to attend college in Manhattan, however, the massive transition from quiet Connecticut to big noisy NYC jumpstarted something in my brain. Suddenly, I needed the characters more than I ever had, to help me cope, to remind me of home. They were on a journey and so was I. After I realized as much, I began writing 2,000 words a day (except on Sundays). I haven’t stopped or given up again since then.
Do you have a writing process you could share with readers, a way you like to proceed when you’re writing a book? (Some authors say they write the first draft out in long-hand, on yellow legal pads, with a special, sacred pen, after throwing salt over their shoulders and repeating an incantation…while others say they write the first draft in a two-week-long fever and then spend the next two years revising. Others don’t even begin until they know the whole story).
I’m a college student. Some people say that, being in college, you can only choose two of three options: a social life, good grades, or sanity. As things stand, I have a novel in progress on top of those three options out of which I can only select two. A tricky situation. I’d like to think I can balance all four, but some people might say my “sanity” is questionable. I would agree with those people. In any case, I only ever sit down to write once my homework (and my socializing) is completed. When I do sit down to write, however, I don’t stop till I’ve banged out at least 2,000 words. Then I can go to sleep. Sweet, neglected sleep. Believe it or not, I write everyday.
Are you a “pantser” (writing by the seat of your pants, discovering the story as you go along), or do you have the entire plot outlined before you begin? Or something in between?
The entire trilogy is, at this point, outlined in a very basic way (with Book Two’s rough draft nearing completion). But it is only a very rough outline. I know where I’m going, but not precisely how I aim to get there. It’s like planning a trip. I’d like to end up in England, for example, but to get there I can fly, take a boat, or even swim!
When did you first know you were a writer?
I still don’t know that for certain.
If you weren’t a writer, what job would you like to do?
I would love to make animations, cartoons and comics, but I can’t draw for the life of me. So I make comics without the pictures, AKA books.
What’s your favorite, and least favorite, part of the writing process? One writer describes the “sticky phase,” when everything you see and hear seems destined to slip into your novel somehow. Does that happen to you? Do you love the first draft, or prefer the last revision?
My least favorite part of the writing process is probably when I feel like everything I write is garbage and that I’m really much too young to be writing in the first place. I get stuck or end up writing a lot of fluff because I can’t think of anything important to say. It’s terrible. But it’s temporary.
What’s your process of revision? Do you have readers who give you advice? At what point do you enlist their aid?
The manuscript passes through some trusted hands before it ever makes its way to an editor. My parents, my grandmothers, my illustrator, the list goes on. They critique, I modify, remove, or add, and then it all starts over again. A vicious cycle, but an extremely useful one.
Have you ever written a character who’s close to someone you know, and have you worried that that person will be furious with you?
Joey Jensen, one of the central characters in The Barren Earth, is a photorealistic portrait of one of my very best friends. I didn’t need to tell him as much, he just figured it out when he read the novel; that’s how alike the two are. My friend didn’t seem to mind. In fact, he had ideas and suggestions!
Have you ever gotten up in the middle of the night to write a scene that simply will not let you rest?
I do all of my writing in the middle of the night. I never rest anyway.
Do you procrastinate? What’s your favorite mode of procrastination when you’re supposed to be writing?
Ever hear of the website Reddit.com? The ultimate procrastination tool. Otherwise I’ll read books, but I don’t like to identify reading as procrastination. Reading the stories of others is, perhaps, the most helpful method I have to improve my own writing.
What about being a writer has made you truly happy?
Honestly, seeing the stories illustrated made me giddier than it should have. I guess I like connecting with people through my books, and seeing someone connect on that extremely visceral level by actually rendering the stories in a visual medium really did the trick for me.
What do you tell people who want to be writers, too?
Write. I know an awful lot of “writers” in NYC who rarely, if ever, put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard, as it were). Just write till something sticks. I can’t say much more than that. Writing and reading in America are privileges and, thankfully, rights that everyone is entitled to, regardless of class, race, or gender. We’re very lucky in this country. So write! And read, too! Especially my book!