Posts Tagged science fiction

It’s the End of the World and I’m in my Bathing Suit: Interview with the Justin A. Reynolds

It’s the End of the World and I’m in my Bathing Suit. Doesn’t that title say it all? From the start, we know we are embarking on a sci fi story—and a funny one at that. I am so glad to have gotten to read the newest book by Justin A. Reynolds as I find science fiction such an intriguing genre.

About the Book

Hi Justin! Thank you for sharing It’s the End of the World and I’m in my Bathing Suit with us. Can you give us a short summary about the book?

Eddie’s spent half a summer waiting for this one day: Beach Bash, his town’s annual awesome beach party. Except on the morning of, Eddie’s told he can’t go…unless he does his least favorite chore of all-time, LAUNDRY. Yuck. But when the power goes out mid-washing cycle, Eddie, along with a few friends from the neighborhood, soon discover that not only are they probably not gonna make it to Beach Bash, their families and friends (and entire town) may never come back.

When did it come out?

April 5th, 2022!

About the Author

Did you always want to be an author? Tell us a little about your writing journey.

Absolutely. In kindergarten I wrote on green construction paper, I want to be a writer when I grow up. It was a long, windy road to get to this point, and there were a lot of times I didn’t know how it was ever gonna happen, but it was well worth the journey.

You have a great cast of characters. Who do you relate to the most?

This is gonna seem like a cop-out, but the truthful answer is, all of them. They’re all composites of people I know, of myself, of random experiences, of chaotic creative energy—and I love all five of them. But I’ll pick one for the sake of the question and I’ll say Eddie, because his brain is much like mine, kind of all over the place, and rather than accept it as a weakness, for Eddie it’s his superpower.

I have to ask: Did you have to wash your own clothes growing up (and did you try Eddie’s brilliant plan to save it all to do at once)?

My mom did most of my laundry until I was probably 15 or 16 and then I voluntarily took it over from there. And unfortunately, when I was growing up, I did not try Eddie’s brilliant plan. Not because I don’t believe in it, I do, but because I wasn’t smart enough to come up with it back then. Man, how kid justin would’ve loved that idea though, haha!


Would you say you’re more of a plotter or pantser?

Plantser. 100% a plantser.

Can you tell us whether a sequel is coming out (and when!)?

I can neither confirm nor deny there’s a sequel in the works. That said, there is definitely a sequel in the works. Or is there??

I see your books Opposite of Always and Early Departures are also science fiction. Is that your jam? Did you grow up enjoying science fiction?

I love science fiction, yes. It’s for sure my jam. I love how it wrestles with life’s big questions. I love the breadth and scope of its imaginative powers. And I love the hope it so often provides.

Your chapter titles crack me up (I was hoping someone would catch me reading and be impressed I was on chapter 3600!). Any tips for writing humor?

I actually don’t set out to write jokes in my stories. I imagine if I did they’d be awful because in real life, whenever I try to be funny, my jokes land with a thud, ha. But I find when I’m letting the story come to me, when I’m not trying to steer it any one direction, even in the most serious of moments, there’s always a natural levity there, waiting for a laugh.

Information for Teachers

Are you doing school visits related to this book? Tell us more!

Yes, this story is classified MG by the good folks that classify things, and so far I’ve done school visits from 4th grade and up. It’s been a lot of fun.

How can we learn more about you?


Twitter: andthisjustin

IG:  justinwritesya

TikTok: andthisjustin

My mom

Thank you for your time, Justin!

Thank you for having me! 😀


Attack of the Killer Komodos: Author Interview + Giveaway

Teachers and librarians: I am excited to interview Summer Rachel Short, the author of Attack of the Killer Komodos, which will be coming out September 14! It is a great book for students who love adventure, mystery, and STEM. Be sure to read to the end on what to do for a chance to win a copy.

About the Book

Hi Summer! Thank you for sharing Attack of the Killer Komodos with me. Can you give us a short summary about the book?

Of course! Here’s the official blurb: This is the second book in the Maggie and Nate Mystery series and follows the friends to Yellowstone National Park where they must track down a deadly creature amidst a series of natural disasters. While Maggie comes up with scientific solutions as they battle earthquakes, landslides, wolves, and other unusual creatures, Nate focuses on conspiracy theories and getting stellar footage for his YouTube channel. But only by combining their skills will they have any hope of saving Yellowstone or each other.


Tell us who would especially enjoy this book?

Kids who enjoy survival stories and like surprises will have a great time with Attack of the Killer Komodos. It also has plenty of action, humor, and mystery to keep the pages turning. Any kids who like reading about strange creatures will also have fun with the book.


About the Author

Photo by Bryan Cole

Tell us about you—what other jobs did you have that were or were not related to writing?

I majored in Journalism in college, so most of my professional life has been spent at jobs related to writing or editing. I’ve worked as a newspaper reporter, a public information officer for the department of transportation, and a corporate communications specialist at a staffing company. Before that, I had a number of part time jobs like waiting tables and driving the beverage cart at a golf course.


How did you end up becoming an author?

I wrote short stories here and there when I was younger, but it wasn’t until college that I thought writing might be something I’d want to do professionally. In addition to journalism classes, I took a number of creative writing classes that I really enjoyed. There was one in particular that operated sort of like a critique group. It was small, maybe 10-12 people, and we’d all bring our stories to class, read them aloud, and then get feedback from the room. I loved it. I loved hearing the other students’ stories and at the same time finding out what other people thought about my work. I think that was the first time I really thought seriously about wanting to be a writer. That class lit the spark, but it wasn’t until years later that I got serious about the pursuit. Every now and then, I’d toy with a story idea and write a few pages before abandoning the whole thing. Then, about five or six years ago, it was like a switch flipped and all of a sudden, I got very passionate about wanting to see a novel-length project through. That first manuscript sits in a proverbial drawer where it will stay, but finishing it was an important step in my journey to becoming an author.


What authors and/or books would you say influenced your writing style?

I really enjoy books that have a bit of humor, a quick pace, and characters who feel like friends. A few authors whose style I particularly admire are: Kate DiCamillo, Sheila Turnage, Jennifer L. Holm, and Suzanne Collins.



I have read both this and The Mutant Mushroom Takeover (also a great book!). Was it hard to write a sequel? Any tricks you have for writers as to how to tie the two books together?

In some ways writing a sequel was a challenge but in other ways it was perhaps easier than writing something brand new. With the sequel, I already knew my characters, how they spoke, and how they’d react to different situations. So, in that regard it was a little easier. But it also presented the challenge of coming up with new ways for the characters to grow. In The Mutant Mushroom Takeover, Maggie and her family go through some pretty big challenges and Maggie has to decide how she’s going to respond. In Attack of the Killer Komodos, I had to figure out a way to let the characters continue to grow without going over the same ground. I’m not sure I have any advice that will make drafting easier. First drafts are hard and messy. So, maybe my best advice is just to keep slogging through even when you can’t see the end in sight. You can fix things in revision. Also, get other pairs of eyes on your work. When you’ve read your story too many times to see it clearly, it’s time to get feedback from some trusted critique partners. I’ve got some great CP friends who I can count on to help me see my stories with fresh eyes and that’s always incredibly helpful.

Summer’s last visit to Yellowstone National Park

What’s your connection with the topics you choose to write about?

I love books that surprise me. I think I’m a little like my character Nate, Maggie’s YouTuber best friend, in that I’m intrigued by the weird and unexpected. I might not be on the hunt for Bigfoot like Nate, but strange happenings in nature definitely fascinate me. Anything that sparks my sense of curiosity is likely to grab my attention. I wanted my readers to experience that same sense of wonder and curiosity about the world. That’s where some of the strange but true science comes in.


What was your original spark for the book?

A number of years ago, my husband and I did some backwoods camping in Yellowstone. At that time, a park ranger told us that we had a seventy-five percent chance of a run-in with a grizzly bear as one had recently killed a moose on the trail we’d be taking. For some reason, we decided to trek on anyway. I remember clapping my hands and calling “no bears!” all the while terrified that something menacing was lurking in the woods. I think that experience was simmering at the back of my mind as I worked on Attack of the Killer Komodos. Yellowstone’s beautiful but it can be dangerous, too. That backdrop seemed like the perfect setting to drop my characters into for an action-packed survival story.


What research did you need to do?

I did a lot of research on Yellowstone’s thermal features, the park’s native species, and backcountry maps. I studied extremophiles (species that can live in conditions that would kill other creatures) and their habitats.  I also read up about gene editing technology and bio-hackers.


You do a seamless job of tying real (but unusual) science with fantasy (or possibly science fiction!) (be sure to read the Author’s Note—so fascinating!). I’d love to know more about your process for this. Did the real science shape the fiction, or did the fiction sometimes cause you to do research for the facts and find that it all fit together?

I think they influenced one another. Sometimes, there was a real world element I wanted to include, like CRISPR––the real-life gene editing technology. In that case, I had to think about how the technology could come into the story in a fun way. Other times, there was something I needed to have happen and I had to go looking for a possible solution. Some of my research about the thermal pools and how different creatures might react to their pH levels fell into that category. But, my first goal was simply to tell a fun story and I always tried to keep that in mind and not get bogged down with the nitty gritty of too many details. The author’s note gave me a great opportunity to include more information for those who are interested in separating scientific fact from fiction.


For Teachers

There is so much potential for using this book in the classroom, teachers! My suggestion: have students research the interesting facts: tardigrades, CRISPR technology, geysers, Bigfoot, and, of course, Komodo dragons. Summer, any suggestions you have for ways to use Attack of the Killer Komodos in the classroom?

Those are all great ideas! Studying Yellowstone National Park and its thermal features would be another great tie in with the book. Also, wilderness exploration and survival, as well as conservation efforts and protecting our national parks. For my first book, The Mutant Mushroom Takeover, teachers could easily tie in lessons on botany, the scientific method, and mycology.


Are you doing school visits related to this book? Tell us more!

Yes, I am doing school visits, both in-person and virtual. The presentation would be great for grades 4th-7th and touches on both the writing process as well as some of the real-life science in the books. Educators who’d like to book a visit can find out more on my website.


How can we learn more about you?

You can find me online here:






Thanks for your time, Summer.

Thanks so much for having me!


Summer Rachel Short will be giving a copy of Attack of the Killer Komodos to a lucky reader. Enter the giveaway below for a chance to win a copy. (U.S. addresses only)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Interview with Chris Swiedler: The Orpheus Plot

Interview with Chris Swiedler

Dropping June 25, 2021! What a great cover!

The Orpheus Plot

I grew up loving science fiction in every form, and my tween self would have disappeared into The Orpheus Plot (HarperCollins, 2021), so I jumped on the chance to interview Chris Swiedler about his book The Orpheus Plot.  Just in time for summer, Chris takes us on a great MG spacesuit adventure to the asteroid belt, where pre-teen Lucas Obadayo must bridge dual identities to prevent war. This is Swiedler’s second title with HC, following last year’s In the Red.

Welcome to Mixed Up Files, Chris!

Interview with Chris Swiedler

Sean McCollum: Lucas Abadayo is such a great protagonist, with a complete menu of internal and external conflicts to deal with. How much of your own young self is in his DNA?

Christopher Swiedler: Not enough, in the sense that I wish I’d had his internal strength when I was his age! I went to a new school for third grade and it was enormously difficult for me. Looking back I wasn’t really all that different from any of the other kids, but those differences were so magnified in my head that I felt as if I’d never be able to be friends with anyone. I can’t even imagine how I would have handled it if I’d been born in the asteroid belt!

Of course, there are lots of bits of me in Lucas. I was never very good in math, but I always loved computers. And I’ve always had a strong belief that most problems are caused by people not understanding someone else’s point of view. If all the people around you have seen something a certain way for a long time it begins to feel not only like a truth, but a truth worth (literally) fighting over. I’m mostly optimistic about the future of humanity, but I worry a lot about technology making it easier to segment ourselves and shut off any interactions with people and opinions that we don’t already agree with.

Orpheus Plot World Building

SMc: How did you go about the world-building process for The Orpheus Plot? What advice do you have for beginning science fiction authors on how to approach it?

CS: For me, world-building in science fiction is all about imagining how people will live and interact as we adapt to changes in technology. For example, it’s fascinating to think that as humans leave Earth and live in the rest of the Solar System, the first colonists will have to entirely give up eating meat, because growing plants to feed to animals and then feeding the animals to people is just too inefficient.

Or think about communication – in the last fifty years we’ve gotten used to being able to reach anyone, anywhere, instantly. Once people live on Mars, it will take anywhere from 3 to 22 minutes for signals to arrive, and then the same delay again coming back. Can you imagine trying to have a conversation with someone where it takes close to an hour for them to respond to what you’ve just said?

Good world-building is all about creating something that is different and believable. Making something different is easy—making it also be believable is the tricky part. Our brains are really good at spotting the little things that stand out and don’t quite make sense. My friend Shirin Leos uses the term “credibility gap” in her workshops, which I like a lot. I’ve gotten countless bits of great feedback from writers in her groups who start off by saying something like “I’m not at all a science-fiction person” and then proceed to point out in precise detail how a particular bit of futurism doesn’t quite make sense.

The best piece of specific advice I can give for world-building is to start off with the things you want to be different and then keep asking yourself “how would the world adapt?” If people flew on dragons—how would we adapt? If zombies rose from their graves—how would we adapt? Think about it in excruciatingly logical detail and open yourself up to all of the possibilities.

On the other hand, world building has to serve the story! Sometimes it’s fun to start with the world-building and then build the story and characters inside. But sometimes you need to flip it around and come up with the story first and the world second. My current project is fantasy / alternate-history, and I’ve only done light sketches of the world because I haven’t gotten the core story finished yet. Locking yourself into a particular, super-detailed world can sometimes be a hinderance.

MG Sci-Fi Influences

Author Chris Swiedler, everybody!

SMc: Because this is MUF, which middle grade books left an impression on you? And why do you write for middle grades now? Which science-fiction authors and books in general are among your influences today?

CS: In any genre, the stories that have an influence on me are the ones that make me think or make me cry (and ideally both). I love Watership Down for its detailed, believable, and almost totally foreign world, but the part that really gets me is at the end when you see how the story of Hazel, Bigwig, and the others gets woven into the legends of El-ahrairah for future generations. Another example is the movie E.T., where the science-fiction elements support and complement the amazing characters.

I love middle-grade novels because the stories are so genuine and positive. Young-adult books are great in how they can focus on the moments when our optimistic view of the world begins to crumble and be replaced by something more nuanced. But I find myself gravitating toward stories that see the world as an inherently positive place where conflict can eventually be reconciled. Of course, even in middle-grade there’s still a broad range of emotions like anger, sadness, and grief, but these are usually accompanied by healing and a return to an un-shattered, positive view of the world.

Out of recent sci-fi, I’m a big fan of everything that Lois McMaster Bujold has written. The settings of her Vorkosigan Saga and World of the Five Gods are amazingly authentic and engaging, but even more importantly, characters like Miles and Cordelia or Ista and Penric feel so much like real people that I’m sad when I finish the books and realize I have to say goodbye (at least till she writes the next one!)

((Looking for more space books? Check out our space-themed book list here)

Fundamentally Universal Themes

SMc: Thematically, science fiction seems to overlap with fantasy and perhaps superhero genres. What draws us to these stories?

CS: I think the great thing about themes is that they’re fundamentally universal. Things like setting, technology, magic, and superpowers can put characters into exciting situations, but it’s their choices—especially the difficult ones—that make us care about them.

One of my favorite quotes ever, from Lois McMaster Bujold, is this: “You are what you choose. Choose again, and change.” Think about that. You are what you choose. It’s true for us as people, and it’s just as true for characters. If someone is strong in the Force, or the wielder of some powerful magic, or smart enough to invent their own powered suit of armor—well, that’s great! But people are not their abilities or their talents. People are their choices. And the reason we care about them and follow them in their wonderful adventures is because we want to see those choices. We want to see Captain America choose to stick to his guns and keep fighting no matter what. We want to see Frodo Baggins choose to take the One Ring into Mordor. We want to see both the good choices and the bad ones, and we want to root for them to come out all right in the end.

Thanks so much for spending some time with us here at MUF, Chris. And have a great summer!

Keep up with Chris Swiedler:

At his website

On Facebook

Twitter @ChrisSwiedler


You can also buy The Orpheus Plot online at an independent bookstore through our MUF Bookshop portal: