Book Nerd Interview
Kevin is also a musician. His current project is THE BOARD OF EDUCATION, where he writes imaginative, poppy songs about elementary school and life in the spirit of Schoolhouse Rock.
A former elementary school science teacher, Kevin continues to work with kids and teens at 826 Seattle, Richard Hugo House, and with the Writers in the Schools program of Seattle Arts and Lectures.
Kevin grew up in Cheshire, CT, where he wrote stories all the time, played in the marching and jazz bands, and ran track. One time, he won a spelling bee, prevailing over his ex-girlfriend in the final round. Another time, as a contestant in the Mr. Cheshire pageant (a benefit: not a real pageant), Kevin chose to wear an actual suit of armor as his 'formal wear.' He didn't win.
Kevin went to Colby College in Waterville, ME. As a sophomore, he was excited to begin the creative writing program, but instead was given his alternate class: Painting. He ended up loving painting and kept writing stories on his own. He also played in the jazz ensemble, and sang in the Chorale, and ended up majoring in Biology. He spent a semester in Kenya studying wildlife conservation.
Kevin moved to Boston after college, where he briefly worked as a bank teller, and then as a camp counselor, before getting a job as an elementary school science teacher (and he found that he loved teaching!). He kept writing stories, and kept playing in bands. While he was teaching, he got excited about books for young readers, and set out to write his own. He had two near-misses, and his third manuscript, CARLOS IS GONNA GET IT, landed him his first book deal.
Now living in Seattle, Kevin is still writing stories, playing in bands, and teaching.
Why is storytelling so important for all of us?
Storytelling is how we find meaning in the world. Also, if it weren’t for stories, I wouldn’t be able to use the Force to get the salt during dinner (it doesn’t work, but it’s fun to try).
When did you write your first book and how old were you?
Either when I was nine, and I wrote my own Indiana Jones sequel (narrated by Short Round), or in 7th grade when I wrote a spy story (100 pages!) called Edge of the Blade. The first book I wrote for young readers I began on New Year’s Day 2000, when I was 25. I wrote it on Saturdays and had a near miss with getting it published, before that novel went in a drawer. Six years later, my third attempt at a book sold to Arthur A. Levine Books. By then, I was 31.
What was the greatest thing you learned at school?
How to play flamadiddles on the snare drum, the scientific name of a wildebeest (Connochaetes gnou), how to gesso a canvas, and that girls like athletes, but what they really like is a good listener.
How would you describe yourself in three words?
Can I have four?
In your new book; The Fellowship for Alien Detection, can you tell my Book Nerd Kids Community a little about it and why they should read your novel?
It’s a crazy road trip story with aliens, secret agents, missing time, a lost radio station, Elvis, and a fake horse. So, obviously you have to read it. Also because it asks a big question: how far would you go to find the place on the map that’s really yours? What if you had to go all the way to the stars? It’s a book that took me seven years to write, but in the end I really got it right. So says me.
For those who are unfamiliar with Haley, how would you introduce her?
World, this is Haley, and she’d like you to know that what she is doing this summer is not dumb, in fact, it may be bigger than the Milky Way galaxy. She’s nice but she’s in a rush, see, she’s on-the-clock, and she’s going to figure out this mystery and she’s not going to let you or her parents or those snickering classmates stop her. Aliens, on the other hand… that might be a different story.
You have the chance to give one piece of advice to your readers. What would it be?
The only thing that’s truly unique is you. Put yourself in your writing, your music, your art.
What's the most memorable summer job you've ever had?
As a maintenance worker at a country club, where I rolled tennis courts, filled the soda machines, mowed the lawns, and ate more bacon-and-cheese hot dogs than anyone ever should.
What scares you the most and why?
People who think they know everything about anything.
What is your greatest adventure?
Staying alert to the magical details of the world around me and inside.
When was the last time you told someone you loved them?
About five minutes ago when I sang my kids goodnight songs.
Who is the first person you call when you have a bad day?
Kim Baker, author of Pickle.
When was the last time you cried?
Last week when I watched the finale of 30 Rock. Also every time I watch How to Train Your Dragon.
Where can readers stalk you?
The stalking is best on Twitter @kcemerson and on my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/kevinemersonauthor
First came the missing people, missing time events, and untraceable radio signals. Then came Juliette, Arizona, a town that simply disappeared from existence. Suffice it to say, something strange is going on. Enter Haley and Dodger, two kids from opposite sides of the country who both think they can prove that these unexplained phenomena have a very real cause: aliens, and they are about to discover that their fledgling theories about extraterrestrial life are one-hundred-percent accurate.
Having each been awarded a Fellowship for Alien Detection (a grant from a mysterious foundation dedicated to proving aliens have visited earth), Haley and Dodger and their families each set off on a cross-country road trip over summer vacation to figure out what is happening in towns across America. They soon realize that the answers to many of their questions lie in the vanished town of Juliette, AZ, but someone, or something, is doing everything in its power to ensure they never reach it. If Haley and Dodger don't act quickly, more people may go missing, and the world as we know it may change for the worse.