Creatures and pirates: An Interview with Emily Skrutskie

by - 6:54 PM

I (Silvana) have just finished The Abyss Surrounds Us recently. I fell in love with this book really hard, and really fast. After finishing the book I didn't know what to do because I wanted so badly to have the second book *cough* but to feel the story again,  I went on a search for my fancasts for Cas, Swift and Santa Elena and did something really fun to tell the world I'm such a fan of these characters and this story. I posted it here 

So the next day we had this idea to interview the author of TASU, Emily Skrutskie. We really wanted to do it SO BADLY, so we asked her. We want everyone (*in the whole world*) to know about the badass main character, Cas Leung; the epic adventures on top of the pirate ship; and the moments between these two girls that want everything but can do nothing. So enjoy the interview and hopefully (YOU HAVE TO) you will add TASU to your tbr!

Title: The Abyss Surrounds Us
Author: Emily Skrutskie
Publisher: Flux
Publishing: February 8th, 2016
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Kobo

Goodreads synopsis:
For Cassandra Leung, bossing around sea monsters is just the family business. She’s been a Reckoner trainer-in-training ever since she could walk, raising the genetically-engineered beasts to defend ships as they cross the pirate-infested NeoPacific. But when the pirate queen Santa Elena swoops in on Cas’s first solo mission and snatches her from the bloodstained decks, Cas’s dream of being a full-time trainer seems dead in the water. 

There’s no time to mourn. Waiting for her on the pirate ship is an unhatched Reckoner pup. Santa Elena wants to take back the seas with a monster of her own, and she needs a proper trainer to do it. She orders Cas to raise the pup, make sure he imprints on her ship, and, when the time comes, teach him to fight for the pirates. If Cas fails, her blood will be the next to paint the sea.

But Cas has fought pirates her entire life. And she's not about to stop.
TBV:  Hi, Emily! So great to have you here with us. Let's start off with you telling us three words that best describe your book!
Emily: Hi guys! I’m gonna have to go with…Word 1: Awesome. Word 2: Complex. Word 3: PIRATES!!!!

TBV: Tell us about the inspiration behind The Abyss Surrounds Us.  
Emily: So The Abyss Surrounds Us started when I combined two things I’ve been passionate about since I was a kid. The first was science fiction—I saw Star Wars at eleven and it slowly turned me into a story-obsessed aspiring filmmaker. The second was marine biology, which I believed I was ~destined for~ between the ages of nine and thirteen. This was one of those stories where the world came first—by pairing those two ideas, I got to the concept of Reckoners, massive genetically-engineered sea monsters that escort and protect their companion ships. World in hand, I went looking for a story, and I found Cas Leung.

TBV:   Like Silvana told you before she would really want a giant turtle as her pet! If you could choose to have an giant animal as a pet, which animal would it be? (note: It doesn't have to be only the creatures in your book!) 
Emily: I don’t think it’s any secret that I really love the idea of giant turtles. My editor actually suggested changing one of the turtles in the book to some other kind of creature, and I rejected it outright because I loved my turtles too much. But if I had to pick any other giant animal, it’d probably have to be an elephant. When I was a little kiddo, the first job I ever wanted was to be a zookeeper that worked with elephants, and the notion is still rattling around in my head.

TBV:   Cas Leung aka the most badass girl you don't want to be enemies with. We wanted to know something: Which song would she choose to be - like - her Boxer Entrance Song? 
Emily: Cas Leung would absolutely enter the ring to Fall Out Boy’s My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark. The chorus of “Light ‘em up” is particularly fitting, given her weapon of choice. ;)

TBV: Onto the pirates *eeeep* Pirates are so cool and there aren't a lot pirate stories in YA these days. If you could have any trait of a pirate (of your pirates or movie, TV pirates, etc.), which one would you choose?
Emily: My own Santa Elena is a villainous twist on everything I dream of being, so it’s no wonder the pirate trait I’d choose is her theatricality. She doesn’t just put on a show—she is the show. I wanna be the show.

TBV:    Santa Elena is such a symbol. She emits this deadly energy of command in the ship. But then again, we think she would like Captain Jack Sparrow really well and they would hit it off and go drink in some floating city. How would you describe Santa Elena? And if she was to be in a Hogwart's House, which one would she be in?
Emily: Santa Elena is one of my favorite characters to write. My first concept of her was as “the Beyoncé of the sea”—someone who bled confidence and theatrical flair. She’s a criminal and a leader, a mother and a mentor, a force of nature in her own right. And she’s maybe a little less villainous and a little more noble than she seems at first blush. Hogwarts house-wise, she’s a Gryffindor. Daring and Nerve could be her middle names. Chivalry… well maybe she’ll work on it.

TBV: Swift is another character that has so much to say in this book. We think she catches you by surprise. Was there a time you wanted to write something for her and you didn't because it didn't fit her personality/character? 
Emily: Swift is definitely the kind of character who catches you by surprise—she caught me by surprise while I was writing her. She started out as a counterpoint to the “Tattooed Bad Boy YA Love Interest With Secret Soft Center” that we all know and love, but she moved past being simply that and became this character who was really complex and engaging to work with. I never wanted to write something and then realized it wouldn’t work for her character, but I had the opposite experience, where little things surfaced that I realized were a part of her character—like “Oh hey, so this pirate girl is actually a big nerd about Greek mythology? Who knew?”

TBV:  And one of my (Sil) many favorite moments is definitely the romance. It's so cute and it kind of broke me apart - as it will also break you guys when you read it. Why do you think these two characters fit together so well?
Emily: I think my favorite thing about Cas and Swift is how they challenge each other. They come from two radically different worlds—Swift from piracy, Cas from an industry dedicated to combating piracy. When they end up stuck together as prisoner and guard, they naturally conflict, but they also naturally start working towards a middle ground where they can both survive. They’re two people with very strong wills and very strong convictions, and in some ways they’re two sides of the same coin.

We decided to turn one of our questions into a "game" and decided to make it look like a pinterest board [ahem, there might be a real one in the future and we may possibly pin more if Emily allows it] but for now:

TBV: Ok. So we're going to play a game *yay!* This is what we're going to do: We're going to give you three quotes from TASU and you will have to share with us one picture for each quote that represents best what you feel the quote embodies. 

the quotes: [in order]
  • "I'm a pirate queen. I don't make promises."
  • "Come back alive and victorious, or don't come back at all."
  • "But here the monsters we made our Reckoners to fight have faces and smiles and souls, and that makes them even worse."

TBV: Thank you so much Emily for doing this interview with us! We cannot wait for The Abyss Surrounds Us to come out ∩(︶▽︶)∩
Emily: Me neither! Thank you so much for having me!

Emily Skrutskie is six feet tall. She was born in Massachusetts, raised in Virginia, and forged in the mountains above Boulder, Colorado. She holds a B.A. in Performing and Media Arts from Cornell University, where she studied an outrageous and demanding combination of film, computer science, and game design. 

Her short fiction has been published by HarperTeen, and her debut novel, THE ABYSS SURROUNDS US, will be published by Flux on February 8th, 2016!

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