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The Secret Sea Blog Tour – Interview with Barry Lyga

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Author Barry Lyga has a new middle grade novel, The Secret Sea, coming out August 23. It is a complex and fascinating story of three friends who travel to a parallel universe. From the publisher:

Twelve-year-old Zak Killian is hearing a voice. Could it be a guardian angel? A ghost? No, that’s crazy. But sometimes the voice is so real. . . . It warns him of danger.

One day Zak is standing on the subway platform when the tunnel starts to fill with water. He sees it before anyone else. The voice warns him to run. His friends Moira and Khalid believe this is more than a premonition, and soon all three find themselves in an alternate universe that is both familiar and seriously strange. As Zak unravels the mystery behind the voice, he faces decisions that may mean the end of their world at home—if they can even get home!

In his most propulsive and heartfelt book yet, acclaimed author Barry Lyga explores the depths of friendship, the bonds of family, and the nature of the universe itself.

I really enjoyed this book and would recommend its purchase for the Middle School audience. Today, as a part of his blog tour, Barry joins us to answer a few questions.

You’re back to middle grade! How is it after writing your YA novels? Do you find one or the other easier or more rewarding, or is the writing experience fairly similar?

Neither is any easier or more rewarding than the other, but the experiences are different. There’s more of a reader reaction to YA, since middle grade readers don’t always have social media accounts or access to email, for example. Each has its own complexities and difficulties that may be different, but in the end, they still add up to roughly the same sense of “Can I really do this?”

The Secret Sea is a very complex novel with many societal issues being addressed. Do you find that people are surprised by the complexity of your writing for middle grades?

It’s funny you ask that — there were a couple of conceptual and vocabulary issues in the book that I worried would be too much for the age range, but my editor didn’t flag a single one. I think she knew better than I did that the kids attracted to this book would be the ones who could either handle that stuff or look it up and keep following along. I really try not to write down to readers of any age, but especially in middle grade — these kids can totally sense when you’re doing that and they’ll never forgive you for it!

How long have you been interested in the concept of parallel universes, and what made you want to write a story featuring them?

I’ve loved parallel universes since I was a little kid reading Justice League comics co-starring the Justice Society from Earth-2! (And then they would team up to fight the Crime Syndicate from Earth-3 — bliss!) I’ve been obsessed with parallel universes since then; I absolutely adore a good alternate world story. So, I’ve wanted to write my own since forever, really, and I finally sat down and did it with The Secret Sea!

9781250072832You delve into a lot of gender equality issues in this novel. Did you do a lot of research for this, or was it prompted by any particular experience?

There was no particular experience, other than just living in this world of ours and observing its steps toward a theoretical future of gender equality. I wanted the alternate universe to seem like the best place ever to be lost as a kid, with a dark side that isn’t immediately obvious. And I have to admit: I love the idea that the alternate universe has all this amazing technology and sophistication… and their worst nightmare is a super-smart, fiercely independent 12-year-old girl.

Do you have any particular memories of middle school you’d like to share with our readers?

I didn’t have a great time in middle school, honestly, but I met my best friend there, so that worked out all right! 🙂


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