Waiting on Wednesday: Week 10

WOW is hosted by Breaking The Spine.

I have a very special WOW for today. I have had the recent pleasure of speaking with Adam Jay Epstein & Andrew Jacobson, authors of the upcoming children’s fantasy, The Familiars. The Familiars debuts from Harper Collins Children’s in September 2010. Adam and Andrew join us today to tell us a little bit about the book!

This is the unofficial summary and the work-in-progress cover.


Running to save his life, Aldwyn, the street-wise orphan alley cat, ducks into a strange store. Moments later Jack, a young wizard-in-training, comes in to pick out his familiar – a magical animal companion. Aldwyn’s always been clever. But magical? Apparently Jack thinks so—and Aldwyn is happy to play along. Anything to get out of town!

Once home with Jack in Stone Runlet, Aldwyn thinks that he’s got it made—a life of ease with a boy who loves him. He just has to convince the other familiars—the know-it-all blue jay Skylar and the friendly tree frog Gilbert--that he’s the telekinetic cat he claims to be.

Then, after the sky lights up with an omen, the unthinkable happens. Jack and the other young wizards are captured by the evil queen of Vastia. Together Aldwyn, Skylar and Gilbert must save them—but how?

On a thrilling quest across the land, the familiars face dangerous foes, unearth a shocking centuries old secret, and discover a mysterious destiny that will change them all forever. Their magical adventure--an irresistible blend of real heart, edge-or-you-seat action, and laugh-out-loud humor--is an unforgettable celebration of fantasy and friendship.

Welcome, guys!
First things first, what is a familiar?

Familiars are the animal companions or assistants to a witch or wizard.

On you’re blog, I noticed you are doing something you call The First Official Familiar Madness Tournament! You’ve listed some excellent contestants so far. Competition for the greatest familiar from literature, film and television has never been tougher! Can you tell us a little about some of the more popular familiars in literature and film?

If you're a fan of Harry Potter, no doubt you're familiar with his owl companion, Hedwig. In Middle-earth, Gandalf was accompanied by Shadowfax, the lord of all horses. Merlin had his pet owl, Archimedes. There's the Wicked Witch of the West's winged monkeys, Lyra Belacqua's shapeshifting familiar, Pantalaimon, and Ursula's evil minions, Flotsam and Jetsam. (Just to name a few!)

Can you tell us how the familiars in your story differ from those in Harry Potter, The Golden Compass, Lord of the Rings, etc?

The biggest difference is that the familiars in those stories are often relegated to the background. You rarely see Hedwig at the forefront of the action. In THE FAMILIARS, our three animal companions become the heroes of the adventure. They come off the shoulders and out of the pockets of their wizards and go on an epic quest on their own. Another difference is that in previous lore, while familiars do possess unique and special talents, they don't have the ability to cast magic. Our heroes are magical.

Aldwyn, the alley cat, looks remarkably similar to the one who lives next door to me and often sleeps on my motorcycle. We’d love to get the skinny on your characters! Who are The Familiars?

Aldwyn is an alley cat who believes himself to be ordinary and magicless. As far back as he can remember he’s lived on the streets of Bridgetower, with no parents, no family and no humans looking out for him. He’s had to rely on his wits and wiles to survive. Then one morning, while being chased through the back alleys by a vicious stray hunter, Aldwyn ducks into an unusual pet store to hide. Moments later, Jack, a young wizard in training, comes in to choose a magical animal to be his familiar... and he picks Aldwyn, mistaking him for a telekinetic bicolor.

Skylar is a head strong, know-it-all blue jay fascinated by all aspects of magic – even the darker ones. She was raised at the Nearhurst Aviary, a crystal-domed building hidden on the northern border of Vastia behind the illusion of a mountain. Birds of all kinds were schooled there by the human keepers to master their innate talent of casting illusions. Their education was strict and formal; an eliteness bred in them, of both intellectual and magical superiority. She can come off harsh and abrasive, but always has her companions’ backs, loyal to the end.

Gilbert is a lovable but hapless tree frog with a spotty track record of divination - the ability to see visions of the past, present, and future in pools of water. He grew up in the Swamps of Daku, the eldest of 65. He felt the pressure of being the first born and never lived up to his father’s expectations for him. In fact, he was a fairly big disappointment and it’s always hung over him like a cloud. He just wishes he could make his dad proud of him.

A lot of us love movie adaptations. The rest of us love to hate them. Can you tell us if there will be a movie adaptation of The Familiars?

The movie rights to The Familiars were optioned by Sony Animation and producer Sam Raimi (director of Spider-Man). We will be adapting the book into a screenplay for a CG, 3-D animated movie to be released in 2013.

Cool! I love that you are writing the screenplay!

What made you want to write a Children’s Fantasy?

We've both lived inside our imaginations since we were little kids. Andrew played with his Star Wars and GI Joe action figures for hours on end as a kid (probably until he was way too old to be playing with them), and Adam grew up on Dungeons and Dragons and video games and comic books. Writing fantasy is like bringing all of those childhood daydreams to life, and the best part is, it's our job!

How did the two of you meet, and what made you decide to write the book together?

Adam is from Great Neck, New York. Andrew is from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. We met in Los Angeles in a parking garage. The two of us have been writing for film and television for the last 10 years. Several times a year, between projects, we brainstorm new ideas. During one of these particular sessions, Adam asked Andrew, "Do you know what a familiar is?" Andrew said he didn't. Adam explained, "A familiar is the animal companion to a witch or wizard, like Hedwig in 'Harry Potter.' They're always in the background, doing very little. What if we told a story where the familiars were front and center? And they were the ones going on the adventure." Andrew immediately took to the idea. "But it sounds like a book," he said. We shared a collective "A-ha!" moment. Why not write the book then? We had always wanted to expand our writing beyond screenplays. Now seemed like as good a time as any! It was from that simple question that Adam asked: "Do you know what a familiar is?" that quickly led to the creation of Vastia and all the magical animals inhabiting it. We didn't have to look very far for our inspiration for Aldwyn. In fact, he was right in Adam's backyard. There was a stray black-and-white alley cat named Ben, missing a chunk of his left ear, who visited there every day. The rest seemed to just flow effortlessly.

Is this your first novel? If no, is it your first together?

We have written several produced screenplays for film and television, but this is our first novel.

Awesome! One of my critique partners, Valerie, is an Indie film maker turned YA writer.

Did you find it difficult to collaborate when writing?

One of the unique things about this book is that we co-authored it. The two of us literally sat in the same room for months and months writing every word, sentence, and paragraph together. Andrew is the typist (because he's frankly a much faster typer), while Adam sits beside him, or across from him in a nice, comfy chair, or sometimes paces around. After our initial conversation about the idea, we loosely outlined the first few chapters and just dove in. Then after writing about 45 pages, we meticulously plotted out the rest of the story. Of course we discovered many details along the way, but we had a basic sense of the major plot points and where the first book would end.

As for your question, writing together has never been difficult for us. In fact, it makes the whole process easier, more fun, and a lot less lonely, that's for sure. Oliver Stone (writer and director of "Platoon" and "Wall Street") says his best advice to writers is "butt plus chair." Honestly, that's the hardest part when you're writing alone. Having a partner/co-author eliminates that challenge. We also like to think that having another person to bounce ideas off of is kind of like an instant sanity check. If two people agree that it's good, you can't both be crazy, right? And the old saying is true, sometimes two heads are simply better than one. Besides, if Adam didn't have Andrew, he'd still be struggling to type through the first book.

Thank you both for allowing us this opportunity! Where can we find the book, and where can we find out a little more about the two of you?

The book will be coming out September 7, 2010. You can pre-order it now on Amazon! In the meantime, please come follow us on Twitter @the_familiars and come by our blog, too. The official Familiars website, thefamiliars.com, will be up and running very soon.


Ladybug said...

This story sounds so, so good! I really like the idea of the familiars being the heroes of the story. Love the cover by the way.

Thank you so much for the great interview. Great to get to know the authors and the characters from their book a bit better.

L.J. Boldyrev said...

Thanks, Lady! I love the cover too. Can't wait to read it!

Jan von Harz said...

I am excited about this novel too, and by the way I love your blog title. So true so true.

katarinas mama said...

Love this story. My kids and I have been wondering about it for a while. Awoesome interview. Thanks for posting the link in MMs comments so I could read it.

Jessica Kennedy said...

I'm looking forward to reading this too! The cover is amazingly cute.

Tahereh said...

hey great interview!! i didn't even know about this book! thanks for sharing and best of luck with your work!!

Lori said...

Looks like a cute story. I hope that you will enjoy it.Here's mine

Carrie at In the Hammock Blog said...

Awwww!! This looks so awesome!!! Great interview! I'm adding this to my to read list :)

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