“To inspire a new generation with the thrill of space travel, a young adult novel that adults can also enjoy. The first in a trilogy.”
Today I have the honor of posting an interview with Adam Holt, author of The Conspiracy Game.
I know Adam from another lifetime, from what I now call the “under-just-grad” days, when we had just graduated from college and were setting our path towards adulthood. We worked in the same educational center, and even though we only worked together for a few months, I remember many of our conversations quite clearly. Adam is one of those inherently wise people who really listens to what other people have to say, making it possible to have meaningful discussions despite fundamental differences in belief or opinion - a rare treasure in life. He is also the kind of person who inspires thought and self-reflection through the way he leads his life, the questions he asks, and now, the book he has written. It has been great to reconnect with Adam and get a chance to hear what he has to say about The Conspiracy Game!
Your book, The Conspiracy Game, came out December 4. Can you tell us a little about it?
Yes. First, The Conspiracy Game and I share a birthday (December 4), so that was a great present this year. In The Conspiracy Game, 14-year-old Tully Harper recounts his first adventure in space. Tired of his dad's near-death experiences on Mars and inspired by a strange vision, Tully sneaks on board his dad's spaceship and begins the adventure of a lifetime. His best friends, Tabitha and Sunjay, accompany him on this trip, which will change the fate of the solar system. It's the first in a science fiction trilogy.
The style is accessible enough for young adults, but the story seems to appeal to adults. My readers tell me it's funny and meaningful. They'd better be telling us the truth.
Tully sneaks aboard the space shuttle without his dad father's knowing. What kind of challenges does Tully face in his relationship with his dad?
First of all, he's fourteen years old. It's a natural challenge for adolescence--they're subjected to so much change, and so are their relationships with their parents. For Tully, that's compounded by the fact that he is withholding some enormous secrets from his father, his only parent. He loves and respects his dad but finds himself caught in the midst of secrets and lies. I remember some of those episodes in my own adolescence.
I know that faith is a, or perhaps, the driving force in your life. How has your faith influenced your story?
My faith in Jesus Christ underpins the things I do, whether writing, reading, or teaching. Faith has a powerful thematic impact on the story, though it's not always intentional. Many of The Conspiracy Game's themes are drawn from my life experiences with my faith: learning to love someone in difficult situations; forgiving yourself, your friends, even your enemies; trusting your parents' wisdom; trusting your childrens' insights; sacrificing for those you love.
Also, Jesus was an amazing storyteller. He told wonderful parables, such as the prodigal son or the dishonest steward, and then gave his listeners some room to debate over their meanings. We're still debating thousands of years later, and the better for it. I love that about him, and I wanted to tell a story that captivated my readers with some important, deep truths, but left open some big questions. If you read the novel, you will see this happen between Tully and the Harper Device.
Your protagonist is a 14-year-old boy. What inspired you to tell a story about this often difficult time of life from the perspective of the child?
Adolescence is just built for storytelling because there's such daily upheaval. For a writer, the protagonist can have the best and worst day of his/her life in a six hour period, and that's good for moving a story along fluidly. That certainly happens to Tully, and those experiences shape him noticeably by the end. His motivations shift from a fear of losing his father to a desire to help his father succeed at any cost. I love that shift in responsibility that comes at this age, particularly when circumstances make teenagers take on a larger role in their families.
Some of my students made that transition when their families went through tough times, and I always admired them for it. At the same time, many of them were getting braces, falling in love, and watching ridiculous Youtube videos for fun. It's such an interesting slice of life.
Tell us a little about the setting of the novel - outer space. What does the landscape of outer space add to the story?
Great question. I want my readers to appreciate and understand that magnificent landscape. Space is a beautiful place where you can float weightlessly and stare into a field of a billion, breathtaking stars. It's also a place where a paint chip flying through space at 15,000 miles per hour could crack that window and end your life in a split second. It's a beautiful, rugged, surprising landscape.
But part of traveling away from the Earth is looking back. I love this thought from Neil DeGrasse-Tyson: "We went to the Moon and discovered the Earth." Tully experiences such a moment as well, where he appreciates the lovely blue gem that we call home. The perspective of space travel often gives astronauts that sense of just how connected we are to one another, and how valuable and delicate our entire civilization is.
How has Tully evolved as a character from your conception of him to his adventures in this novel?
I developed the idea of a teen space explorer first, and then envisioned what kind of person he might be. If he wanted to sneak into space, he would need to be clever and curious like Harry Potter or Odysseus.
However, he also needed deep motivation to travel into space. After all, Tully puts his life and his friends' lives on the line to go into space. Why would someone do that? Once I began to develop Tully's backstory, it became clear. Tully is from a single-parent home, and the minute I discovered that, his motivation to stay near his dad, who he deeply reveres and fears losing, told me how he would react in most every situation.
Will we get to read more about Tully in the future?
I couldn't give up on him or his friends now! Things just got interesting. He'll be returning in book two, The Rathmore Chaos, though I can't disclose his location. The Conspiracy Game introduces characters that will play central roles in the coming series, which covers more ground in our near solar system.
Is there anything else you would like us to know about either your novel or your experience writing it?
I gave up a great teaching job to write this series, and it felt terribly risky at the time; however, it has been so rewarding. If I find myself teaching ten years from now, I can imagine sitting in my classroom and saying, "Boy, I'm glad I took that risk. Tully Harper was worth it." But I could not imagine it the other way around--sitting in that classroom and saying, "Well, I'm glad that I stuck with this job and never tried to write those Tully Harper novels." Life is too short to leave opportunities on the table.
The world is a better place when we make the most of our skills and opportunities. When they have a sense of purpose, humans do amazing things, like feed the hungry and send people to the Moon...or at least dream up ways to inspire others to do those great things.
The Conspiracy Game is available at createspace, and you can contact Adam on twitter @adamholtwrites with any questions about the novel. Adam is available for speaking engagements--in person or virtual--to discuss the writing/publishing process, human space exploration, and run writing workshops. You can also follow his writing and travel adventures at adamholtwrites.blogspot.com and on Facebook at facebook.com/theconspiracygame.