Marissa Slaven and Michael Muntisov discuss their new thrillers

Two of our members, Marissa Slaven and Michael Muntisov, have both written about a near-future world suffering the effects of climate change. Even though Marissa lives in Canada and Mike in Australia, they were able to catch up over Zoom to talk about their books. Here’s an extract from their conversation.

MARISSA: You know, as I read your book, I had to smile whenever I came across some of the same details in your climate-changed world as mine.

MIKE: Me too! It felt like we had written companion pieces set at the same time but in different parts of America for slightly different audiences.

MARISSA: We should back up a bit. Why don’t you go first and give us a summary of your novel’s story.

MIKE: Okay. Court of the Grandchildren is set in 2050’s America. The climate is ruined and now the young want the old to pay.

The underlying story follows the journeys of the two main characters, 29-year-old Lily and 96-year-old David.

David has been called to appear before the Climate Court to judge whether his decisions of today bear any responsibility for the climate situation of this 2050’s world. That’s the climate part of the story. Artificial intelligence features as a major theme as well.

What about your story?

MARISSA: Code Blue is also set in the not-too-distant future where rising temperatures and sea levels have dramatically reshaped the planet. I wanted to write a book where the hero was a young woman who used her intelligence to save the world. I created 16-year-old Atlantic “Tic”.

She’s empathetic, hardworking and impulsive. She attends a boarding school whose focus is climate science. While there she discovers that her father’s death at sea doing research may be more complicated than it seemed. Not only that but her own research project suggests that life on Earth might be more precarious than anyone suspects.

But the main thing for me was having a young woman as the hero and taking the fight to climate change. That was the core of my idea. What about yours for Court of the Grandchildren?

MIKE: My motivation came from my failure to make any headway on the climate agenda through the use of science and information. So instead, I decided to tell a story which draws on emotions; one where interesting twists and turns are possible thanks to the potential of technology, especially artificial intelligence.

MARISSA: Yeah, there were quite a few twists I wasn’t expecting.

MIKE: Oh good! I’m glad you were surprised. And I have to say the clever way you started each of Code Blue’s chapters took me by surprise. Was there anything that surprised you about Code Blue?

MARISSA: I was very surprised to learn from my publisher that I had used the “F” word 13 times in Code Blue as I never ever swear in real life. I was also shocked when I did a podcast interview and the interviewer told me that Code Blue reminded him of the Harry Potter books. I quite literally didn’t know what to say!

MIKE: That’s quite a compliment!

MARISSA:   In Court of the Grandchildren, the reader is on edge as the judgment of your David character approaches. Have you given any thought as to how your children/grandchildren might judge you?

MIKE: My goal is to do the best that I can on climate action. That means leveraging my strengths to influence as many people and policies as possible. I think (fingers crossed) that my children and grandchildren will recognize that.

MARISSA: I hope my kids think the same of me.

MIKE: Which raises the question: “What does success look like for your book?”

Both of us independently answered that question in preparing for this conversation. I was bemused by our answers.

MARISSA: You said Court of the Grandchildren would be a success if it got in front of one thousand people and changed ten. That’s a low bar isn’t it?

MIKE: Wait on! You said 423 sales for Code Blue!

MARISSA: I suppose neither of us is very ambitious.

MIKE: Okay, well let’s multiply those numbers by ten! In any case, I think we recognise that influencing even a small number of people can make a difference.

MARISSA: I agree!

So, who do you most want to read Court of the Grandchildren?

MIKE: The people who won’t!

How about yours?

MARISSA: Hmmm….Oprah? Reese Witherspoon? I would be so happy for anyone to read and enjoy Code Blue. I think it does lend itself well to readers of all ages and especially people who might not know a lot about the climate crisis already.

MIKE: Reese Witherspoon…could she feature in a movie version of Code Blue?

MARISSA: Actually, I’ve thought quite a bit about that. I would love to see Lana Condor as Tic, Drew Barrymore as her mother, Harrison Ford as Uncle Al and Jude Law as Chris.

What about Court of the Grandchildren – the movie?

MIKE: Oh…I would probably cast Soairse Ronan as the 29-year-old Lily battling through an impossible dilemma. And for the aging former bureaucrat, David – there are quite a few candidates – Anthony Hopkins, Donald Sutherland, Alan Arkin, just to name a few.

MARISSA: Tell me what’s next for you after Court of the Grandchildren.

MIKE: Court of the Grandchildren doesn’t stop with the novel. I wrote a stage adaptation and, okay it’s not a movie, but The Magnetic Theatre in North Carolina performed a public virtual reading of the play this past April. They will perform it on stage in their 2022 season. I also maintain a website dedicated to the novel’s themes.

What are your plans?

MARISSA:  Code Red, the sequel to Code Blue will be released in July.

MIKE: Wow! Two books coming out within months of each other. That’s impressive!

MARISSA: Thanks Mike, and best of luck with your play too. Or should I say “Break a Leg!”

Marissa Slaven was inspired by her daughter to write Code Blue, an eco-fiction thriller, where a teenage girl and her friends battle climate change. Marissa took courses at Humber college where she honed her writing skills. In the process of writing the novel, Marissa taught herself about the climate crisis. She became a passionate climate activist and continues to both write and try to do her part to make the world a more sustainable place for all living things. Marissa loves interacting with her readers and speaking with young people about the environment. She recently completed Code Red, the sequel to Code Blue, and is working on a screenplay account of her great-uncle’s involvement in the Spanish Civil War.

More about Marissa at her website: https://marissaslaven.com/

Mike’s professional expertise was in making drinking water safe. He was the editor of a non-fiction book on water treatment, sales proceeds of which were donated to Water Aid. After a global consulting career spanning 35 years, Mike finally got around to writing his first work of fiction, Court of the Grandchildren. Among Mike’s other interests are college basketball, film, and working with start-up entrepreneurs.

More about Mike at his website: https://courtofthegrandchildren.com/

Published by Lauren James

Lauren James is the twice Carnegie-nominated British author of many Young Adult novels, including The Reckless Afterlife of Harriet Stoker, The Loneliest Girl in the Universe and The Quiet at the End of the World. She is also a Creative Writing lecturer, freelance editor, screenwriter, and the founder of the Climate Fiction Writers League. Her upcoming release is Green Rising, a climate change thriller. Her books have sold over a hundred thousand copies worldwide, been translated into five languages and shortlisted for the YA Book Prize and STEAM Children’s Book Award. Her other novels include The Next Together series, the dyslexia-friendly novella series The Watchmaker and the Duke and serialised online novel An Unauthorised Fan Treatise. She was born in 1992, and has a Masters degree from the University of Nottingham, UK, where she studied Chemistry and Physics. Lauren is a passionate advocate of STEM further education, and many of her books feature female scientists in prominent roles. She sold the rights to her first novel when she was 21, whilst she was still at university. Her writing has been described as ‘gripping romantic sci-fi’ by the Wall Street Journal and ‘a strange, witty, compulsively unpredictable read which blows most of its new YA-suspense brethren out of the water’ by Entertainment Weekly. The Last Beginning was named one of the best LGBT-inclusive works for young adults by the Independent. Lauren lives in the West Midlands and is an Arts Council grant recipient. She has written articles for numerous publications, including the Guardian, Buzzfeed, Den of Geek, The Toast, and the Children’s Writers and Artist’s Yearbook 2021. She teaches creative writing for Coventry University, WriteMentor, and Writing West Midlands, providing creative writing courses to children through the Spark Young Writers programme.

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