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"I laughed, cried, felt the urgency . . . the story will take you to another dimension of 'ahhh' moments of reflection and insight that will 'gotcha.' I could read this book again and again and get something more. I enjoyed i from the second I began to read."
"A thick slice of MaryAnn Easley pie. Oozing UFOs, sweet on science, and warm with fantasy. This veteran children's writer's many young fans should be satiated.....for now!"
Thursday, September 3, 2015
Q&A: MARYANN EASLEY
An Interview with MaryAnn Easley, author of CHANGED IN THE NIGHT now available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle.
Q: You've mentioned that CHANGED IN THE NIGHT is an allegorical tale of grief and redemption. What do you mean by that?
A: Allana has been suffering from guilt and grief ever since she accidentally killed her twin brother Jack more than a decade before. She's unable to move on in her life and is unwilling to let go. She holds Jack in a symbolic place called Abeyance. I think anyone suffering from grief is in a similar situation. There is never any closure when it comes to grief. There is only the grief and our relationship to it. Eventually, we must let go, but it doesn't mean there's closure.
Q: She must have been very young when she killed her brother. What happened?
A: On December 7, 1941, Japanese planes bombed Pearl Harbor. It was a Sunday and time stopped on that day that will "live in infamy." That particular Sunday also happens to be Allana's sixth birthday. She makes play swords out of yardsticks while her parents gather at the church to discuss the horror of the day. Once released to play in the park, the children duel. Allana lunges, Jack loses his footing and falls, striking his head. His death is the backstory of CHANGED IN THE NIGHT. Nothing is the same after that day. The inciting incident is when she is visited in 1952 by aliens and marked.
Q: UFOs appear over the White House in your story. This is 1952 and five years after the Roswell incident. Is the White House event fact or fiction?
A: Fact. You can look up the newspaper headlines. Harry Truman was President at the time. I pored over the newspaper articles, eyewitness accounts, the air traffic controller's comments and the followup interviews of pilots who tried to chase the UFOs. Every UFO incident in the book is based on fact. I didn't make any of that part up. Even when Allana is abducted and taken to the moon, I based the event on eyewitness accounts of abductees.
Q: Have you ever seen a UFO?
A: Yes, while traveling north along the coast on my boat. It was night and I saw at least four unidentified flying objects and they flew in ways no airplanes or helicopters could possibly fly. I know a pilot who chased a UFO while in the military, just as Allana's ace pilot uncle does in the story. UFO encounters are more common than anyone thinks.
Q: Do you honestly think there's a government coverup?
Q: If UFOs are so common, why don't more people report seeing them more often?
A: People don't look up. We are all too busy studying the screens on our devices. We're heads down, focused on the mundane things in life. We need to look up at the sky more often than we do. Those who do see them are reporting them on social networking. People are aware of what astronauts have seen on the far side of the moon and seen the photos from NASA.
Q: All your other books are for children or young adults. What audience is this book for?
A: For the intelligent young person who thinks, I suppose, but also for adults. The book can be read on several levels. Like Judy Blume, I really never intended to write for young audiences. I AM THE ICE WORM just happened and many adults as well as young people read the book. The same is true for many of my books that followed. This book is by far the most complex and difficult I've ever written.
Q: It seems many of your other books are based on some of your real life experiences. How about this one?
A: That's true. I taught in the Alaska bush and three of my books are based on living there. I lived on a sailboat and fished commercially for salmon and one book is based on that experience. I taught on a USMC base and one book is based on that part of my life. The stories are all fiction, but the facts behind the stories are based on actual events that have happened in my own life.
Q: But not this book?
A: No, it's not based on my life, but it's filled with all sorts of ideas that have been marinating in my head for a long time, ideas about science and religion and the interconnectedness of al living beings and how humans don't seem to be fully evolved as yet. I had three teen readers in Chula Vista look at portions of a draft, and I was amazed by their insight and intelligence. If thirteen and fourteen-year-old kids are anything like Alondra, Priscilla, or Ambar, then they can handle the subject matter and the other complexities in the book. I'm grateful for the feedback and suggestions from my teen readers. So when you ask what the audience I'm aiming for, I would say the book is for teens and adults. I used to teach middle school and I've put discussion prompts in the book for classes and book clubs. I would use this book in eighth grade. Maybe seventh. There's a lot to consider and discuss, and the prompts tie in with the state standards and common core. And I think adults would find it of interest too.
Q: What did you learn during the research and the writing of CHANGED IN THE NIGHT?
A: Oh wow, I learned a lot! I learned about the space-time continuum, about the nuclear devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, about E=mc 2 and Einstein's theory of relativity. I learned about the Cold War and arms race and how UFOs were seen in the Korean conflict. I learned how everything is energy, you and me, the table we're sitting at, the chairs we're sitting in, and how everything is energy and interconnected. That interconnectedness of all living things should bring about peace. We should be living with compassion every minute of our lives. Unfortunately, it seems we're more divided than ever.
Q: What's the most memorable thing you learned from doing all that research?
A: By far, the increased awesomeness of nuclear power. I was sickened when I discovered details about the devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I viewed film from that time, read eyewitness accounts, and listened to testimony of survivors. This knowledge affected me tremendously because I tutor Japanese students now, and they are the grandchildren or great-grandchildren of the Japanese people who endured that devastation. I want to apologize to them over and over. How can we be so cruel to one another? We are all one. When will we realize that? Always before, the easy answer to dropping the atomic bombs in Japan has been "well, it ended the war and saved thousands of lives, didn't it?" Maybe so, but I'm totally opposed to nuclear weapons now. Even some of the creators of the bomb regretted opening that horrible Pandora's box that will lead to the end of the world. Some suspect nuclear bases on the moon and the ramifications of that is too much to even think about. I have a Japanese boy in the story, Eiichi Nakamura, who spent part of his childhood in Manzanar during the war, and I put him in the story on purpose. In 1952, the residue from tha war still remained even though we were in the Korean "conflict" and our former enemies were considered "alien." There's an attraction that cannot be denied between Allana and Eiichi, and yet there's that lingering doubt. Is my enemy really my friend? In killing my enemy, do I slay myself? We are all part of the human race, all interconnected. Why do we insist on killing one another?
Q: Sounds serious, but you've compared your book to ALICE IN WONDERLAND. In what way are the stories alike?
A: Both books are pretty serious, if you really think about it. Both are about the time-space continuum. Lewis Carroll was brilliant in the creative way he demonstrated how time works. I had no clue back when I first read the book as a child or even during later reads. I was only interested in memorizing Jabberwocky, the "'Twas brillig" bit and really didn't understand the events at all. I've had to live this long to really figure it out, and believe me, I went down the rabbit hole when I got into the time-space-other dimensional-quantum physics stuff. Whew! My head is still spinning. I am so grateful to Lewis Carroll for the story and for the title CHANGED IN THE NIGHT that I dedicated my book to Alice. And to my brother Jack, of course.