The Qwillery | category: The Unnamed Press


The Qwillery

A blog about books and other things speculative

Interview with Adam Nemett, author of We Can Save Us All

I can't think of a better way to end 2018 than with a Debut Author Challenge Interview! Please welcome Adam Nemett to The Qwillery. We Can Save Us All was published in November by The Unnamed Press.

Interview with Adam Nemett, author of We Can Save Us All

TQWelcome to The Qwillery. What is the first piece you remember writing?

Adam:  My father used to bring me along to art museums (he’s a painter and professor at Maryland Institute College of Art) and I remember writing bad, earnest poems about different works of art when I was about seven or eight. Early ekphrastic experiments.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Adam:  Probably a hybrid. I have a sense of the structure, but especially since this book deals with the nature of time, I spent many years moving around chapters and scenes into nonlinear arrangements. I have a sense of where the narrative is going but I try not to plot everything out and allow the story to steer itself in unexpected directions.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Adam:  The most challenging this is finding the time—I have a fulltime career at History Factory ( writing books and other content for Fortune 500 companies, I help run a music education nonprofit, and above all I enjoy being a husband and a father of two kids. So figuring out how to carve out the time in odd hours isn’t easy.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Adam:  Everything, I guess? My life, the stories I hear and details I steal from others, the books I read and movies/TV I see, fiction, nonfiction, poetry, the news, history, the current state of our world.

TQDescribe We Can Save Us All using only 5 words.

Adam:  Student superheroes start a revolution

TQTell us something about We Can Save Us All that is not found in the book description.

Adam:  It took about 12 years to get it written, revised and published.

TQWhat inspired you to write We Can Save Us All?

Adam:  Again, too many things to list, but I went to college during a particularly transitional time—from 1999 to 2003—which spanned Columbine, the Bush/Gore election, September 11th, and the war that followed—so I think some of this book was inspired by an increasingly uncertain world and how one group of students might respond to it.

This is far from an exhaustive list, but here are a few books that were influential:

White Noise by Don DeLillo
The Secret History by Donna Tartt
Geek Love by Katherine Dunn
A Paradise Built in Hell by Rebecca Solnit
Witness to the Revolution by Clara Bingham
Soon I Will Be Invincible by Austin Grossman
The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem
All the Sad Young Literary Men by Keith Gessen
The Gospel of Anarchy by Justin Taylor
The Girls by Emma Cline
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Walden by Henry David Thoreau
The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

TQWhat sort of research did you do for We Can Save Us All?

Adam:  More than I can recount, but I read all kinds of fiction and nonfiction, studied cults and communes, and studied both the practical and overblown versions of doomsday prepping, along with plenty of research into superheroes—mythical, fictional and “real.”

TQPlease tell us about the cover for We Can Save Us All.

Adam:  The beautiful cover, designed by Jaya Nicely at The Unnamed Press, is more impressionistic, but I guess you could make an argument that the small white bits symbolize pills, a blizzard, or rice kernels…

TQIn We Can Save Us All who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Adam:  I’m not sure that any of the characters were particularly “easy” or “hard,” but David was the probably the closest character to my own personality (with some major exceptions). I think there was a period when I was especially conscious that with the characters that were farther away from my lived experience—the non-white, non-male characters—I had more of a responsibility to write them in realistic, complicated ways, and not fall into tropes or stereotypes, but these characters all took on lives of their own pretty swiftly and I tried to not police myself and let the characters do their thing.

TQDoes We Can Save Us All touch on any social issues?

Adam:  The book deals with, among other things, class privilege, climate change, spirituality/mutual aid societies vs. cults/authoritarianism, the value of liberal arts education vs. knowledge of trade skills, polyamorous relationships, hero worship, and sexual assault. On that last issue, I had no idea the book would be published during the #MeToo movement and while a trigger warning is warranted, I believe the assault that occurs in the book is confronted in a substantial and significant way.

TQWhich question about We Can Save Us All do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!


Q: How hard was it to write and publish this book as a working father? How do you balance your home/family life and work life?

A: It’s hard! Both my wife and I are committed parents, and we both have fulltime careers, and we both have personal/creative projects that we pursue. It’s tough to juggle—between those three major roles and between what each of us needs to prioritize at a given time—but we’re making it work. I do my best, write in odd hours and when the kids are asleep, and try to be present when they’re awake, realizing that a huge part of writing is about observing and considering life from unexpected angles, and the earnest innocence with which children approach the world is a great teaching tool for this.

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from We Can Save Us All.


On the protagonist’s lack of knowledge about comic books:
“My relationship to superheroes is mystical, not fundamentalist.”

On fireworks exploding:
“David found it fascinating to watch this refuse, these ashes, and wondered if this was the reality of the Big Bang: trillions of years ago, all that far-flung carbon was merely a worthless by-product of an infinitely pretty explosion; now, they were all merely star farts.”

TQWhat's next?

Adam:  I don’t feel like the We Can Save Us All work is over just yet. I maybe had the naïve misconception that once the book was published everything was out of my hands, but my publisher (The Unnamed Press) has been a terrific partner and helped me see that there’s a lot I can be doing to help my novel be successful and reach a wider audience—being available for press and participating in interviews, writing personal essays, being active on social media, keeping my website current, reading colleagues books, planning and attending book events, etc. Some of this is orchestrated by my publisher and some of it is really proactive stuff that I’m working on and almost all of it is a collaboration between myself, my publisher and my agent. That work will continue early next year when I do more touring on the West Coast (feel free to keep track at, but once this phase is in the rearview I have some ideas for the next book(s)—children’s books, and two ideas for novels—and would be interested in certain ancillary offshoots for We Can Save Us All, such as a graphic novel or film adaptation.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Adam:  Thank YOU! And thanks for supporting debut novels!

We Can Save Us All
The Unnamed Press, November 13, 2018
Trade Paperback and eBook, 363 pages

Interview with Adam Nemett, author of We Can Save Us All
"Nemett's wondrously fresh novel positively bursts with charm, heart, and invention." ―Booklist, Starred Review

Welcome to The Egg, an off-campus geodesic dome where David Fuffman and his crew of alienated Princeton students train for what might be the end of days: America is in a perpetual state of war, climate disasters create a global state of emergency, and scientists believe time itself may be collapsing.

Funded by the charismatic Mathias Blue and fueled by performance enhancers and psychedelic drugs, a student revolution incubates at The Egg, inspired by the superheroes that dominate American culture. The arrival of Haley Roth―an impassioned heroine with a dark secret―propels David and Mathias to expand their movement across college campuses nationwide, inspiring a cult-like following. As the final superstorm arrives, they toe the line between good and evil, deliverance and demagogues, the damned and the saved.

In this sprawling, ambitious debut, Adam Nemett delves into contemporary life in all of its chaos and unknowing. We Can Save Us All is a brave, ribald, and multi-layered examination of what may be the fundamental question of our time: just who is responsible for fixing all of this?

About Adam

Interview with Adam Nemett, author of We Can Save Us All
Adam Nemett graduated from Princeton University and received his MFA in Fiction/Screenwriting from California College of the Arts. He serves as creative director and author for The History Factory, where he's written award-winning nonfiction books for Lockheed Martin, Brooks Brothers, City of Hope Medical Center, and Huntington Bank, and directed campaigns for 21st Century Fox, Adobe Systems, HarperCollins, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, New Balance, Pfizer and Whirlpool. An excerpt of his debut novel, WE CAN SAVE US ALL, was anthologized in The Apocalypse Reader.

He is the writer/director of the feature film, The Instrument (2005), which LA Weekly described as, "damn near unclassifiable." At Princeton Nemett co-founded MIMA Music Inc., a student organization that grew into an educational 501(c)3 nonprofit that has operated in 40 countries worldwide. Adam's work has been published, reviewed and featured in Variety, LA Weekly, The New Yorker, Washington Post,, The Brooklyn Rail, Cville Niche, C-Ville Weekly and Cornel West's memoir Brother West: Living and Loving Out Loud.

He lives in Charlottesville, Virginia, with his wife and two kids.

Website  ~  Twitter @NemoAuthor  ~  Instagram

Interview with Bethany C. Morrow, author of MEM

Please welcome Bethany C. Morrow to The Qwillery as part of the 2018 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. MEM was published on May 22, 2018 by The Unnamed Press.

Interview with Bethany C. Morrow, author of MEM

TQWelcome to The Qwillery. What is the first piece you remember writing?

Bethany:  The first thing I remember having written (versus literally remembering the writing of it) was what we'd call a piece of flash fiction in (I think) second grade, about a deer named Faline, which I thought was the most beautiful name ever and I have no memory of what the story was about but my teacher taped it to my desk for Back To School night, and I thought, "I've made it."

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Bethany:  I'm definitely a plotser. Typically I know the first line, the inciting incident, the first half of the first act, probably, and likely, the climax before I start writing. Once I get to the end of what I know - in a skeletal way, not a chapter-by-chapter plotted ahead of time way - then I stop, plot organically based on how the first act has developed, again in a skeletal way, and start from the beginning, reading and continuing drafting.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Bethany:  Getting over the hump and actually writing, lol. It's so lovely to have just written or to be energized to write... and then you actually have to do it. Repeatedly. And in particular once the third act starts, it's very much a feeling of, "Get this out of me!" Like labor. I'm so done at that point. Just want it to be OUT.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Bethany:  Music, music, music. I write with music, I muse to music, it's everything. It's the way I establish the tone of the story I want to write. I have to find the sound that captures what I'm trying to portray. James Horner, Thomas Newman, Hans Zimmer, Koda, playlists of ambient post-rock, chill-step, etc.

TQDescribe MEM in 140 characters or less.

Bethany:  In an alternate 1920s Montreal, scientists can extract memories. Elsie is one such Mem, but the first sentient of her kind. (I think the conflict is inherent in that description, so I just made the cut!)

TQWhat appeals to you about writing speculative fiction?

Bethany:  What I love about speculative fiction is how easily the truth about life comes through when you try to talk about worlds that aren't.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for MEM?

Bethany:  I spent a lot of time reading online, finding resources like the Art Deco Society of Montreal or the Quebec Family History Society, and then cross-referencing, studying pictures in online collections through museums and universities, always looking for a source that went into slightly more detail than the last one. What is infinitely frustrating about historical research - at least in my experience - is how readily available information seems once you've located it once. Like suddenly, that information is everywhere, despite how long it took you to find it.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for MEM.

Bethany:  Jaya Nicely is responsible for the cover, and it is absolutely gorgeous. I didn't see multiple concepts and choose between them, I saw the vault door (which is something I had on my pinterest board for the project, but had never imagined as the cover) and immediately it was haunting, sad, beautiful, everything that I felt set the perfect tone for beginning the story. She nailed it.

TQIn MEM who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Bethany:  I think Elsie must've been the easiest character to write, because I was in her head. Nurse Ettie too, maybe, because she's almost like a non-Mem version of Elsie. The most difficult character to write was Dolores, firstly because I didn't originally know we'd spend time with her, and then because she wasn't ordinary, or the logical conclusion of everything we come to know about Sources, so it took a while to find her in a way that showed that individualness.

TQWhich question about MEM do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Bethany:  I wish people asked about the story of Dolores, the Source. But I won't answer it now.

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from MEM.


"When I lost hope that she could live with the loss, I began to wonder whether she could forget, whether I could help her to."
   From there, I knew the rest. The wonderings of a brilliant man had already yielded so great a number of impossible feats, to the good of friends and strangers alike.

TQWhat's next?

Bethany:  Next is a young adult contemporary fantasy novel about literally magical Black girls, and the beauty and strength of their sisterhood.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

The Unnamed Press, May 22, 2018
Hardcover and eBook, 192 pages

Interview with Bethany C. Morrow, author of MEM
MEM is a rare novel, a small book carrying very big ideas, the kind of story that stays with you long after you’ve finished reading it.

Set in the glittering art deco world of a century ago, MEM makes one slight alteration to history: a scientist in Montreal discovers a method allowing people to have their memories extracted from their minds, whole and complete.

The Mems exist as mirror-images of their source — zombie-like creatures destined to experience that singular memory over and over, until they expire in the cavernous Vault where they are kept. And then there is Dolores Extract #1, the first Mem capable of creating her own memories. An ageless beauty shrouded in mystery, she is allowed to live on her own, and create her own existence, until one day she is summoned back to the Vault.

What happens next is a gorgeously rendered, heart-breaking novel in the vein of Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go. Debut novelist Bethany Morrow has created an allegory for our own time, exploring profound questions of ownership, and how they relate to identity, memory and history, all in the shadows of Montreal’s now forgotten slave trade.

About Bethany

Interview with Bethany C. Morrow, author of MEM
A California native, Bethany C. Morrow spent six years living in Montreal, Quebec. Her speculative literary fiction uses a focus on character and language to engage with, comment on and investigate worlds not unlike our own. MEM is her debut novel. She currently resides in upstate New York.

Website   ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter @BCMorrow

Interview with Adam Nemett, author of We Can Save Us AllInterview with Bethany C. Morrow, author of MEM

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