When Earth No Longer Belongs to Us - Author Interview with Fonda Lee

We're here today with Fonda Lee, author of upcoming Exo - a story where the aliens "win." Sounds awesome, right? We thought so and had a whole bunch of questions that we hope you'll enjoy!

Exo is like Independence Day on Earth-2 and we LOVE that! What inspired you to take the aliens vs. humans fight in a different direction?

Thank you! It’s funny that you say that because one of the reasons I wrote Exo is because I was seeing so many movies and books about alien invasion where humans are fighting against extraterrestrials who are here to wipe us out of existence. And I wanted to get past that trope and write something that was still exciting and action-packed but more nuanced. I wanted to examine the idea of society long after the aliens arrive, when their presence and influence on Earth are taken for granted, but still contentious.

How did you conceptualize the alien race featured in Exo?
I loved designing the zhree. I had three main criteria: 1) They wouldn’t be remotely humanoid. There are plenty of humanoid aliens on screen because well, human actors, but I don’t have that kind of constraint in my novel and it’s silly to assume aliens would look anything like us. 2) Even though they don’t resemble us, I envisioned the zhree living and working alongside humans in a functional, dual-species society. They couldn’t be sentient light particles or psychic plants or anything crazy like that. What kind of characteristics would enable a very different species to live on Earth and partner well with humans? Land dwelling, highly social creatures with vocal language and dexterous appendages. 3) Finally, I needed an explanation for their success in colonizing other planets including Earth, something they could pass onto humans and thus engender the have vs. have not rift in the story. Those things were their strong, stable social structures and their alien biotechnology—their armor, called an exocel. 

Real talk: If aliens invaded the Earth, what would be your reaction?

I doubt an alien invasion would go very well for humans, not at first certainly, because I think we would have as much to fear from the reactions of our fellow humans as we would from any action by the alien invaders. I’m a wait and see sort of person who doesn’t jump to conclusions quickly and I would hope cooler heads would make contact and ascertain what the aliens’ motives are. That’s one reason why two of my favorite, more thoughtful alien movies are Contact, and the recent film, Arrival.

My biggest immediate concern would be the danger of people panicking, looting and hoarding supplies and stockpiling firearms, leading to a breakdown in civil society, plus the very real possibility of our country or another country setting off nuclear weapons. I’m not a Doomsday prepper and wouldn’t last long in a true apocalypse scenario, but I’m a whiz at organizing. So I’d be quick to band with neighbors to make sure our particular part of town is secure and has all the necessities.  

How was writing Exo different than writing Zeroboxer?

It was a lot harder! Zeroboxer is a more straightforward story and high concept idea and it pretty much fell into my head. Exo has more layers; it took shape more gradually and required more work at every stage of revision for it to finally reach my vision. It just goes to show that every book is different. 

What is one piece of advice you would give someone writing after a debut?

Do your best not to let your debut experience, good or bad, too heavily influence your next book. This is a lot easier said than done! If your debut experience wasn’t what you envisioned (and it often isn’t) you’re likely going to be plagued with doubt about whether you have the heart to continue writing, whether you can do any better on the next book, whether you ought to keep building your ‘brand’ or try something new. On the other hand, if your debut does really well, you’re going to feel a lot of pressure to deliver another success and satisfy your readers and prove you’re not a one-hit wonder. And you may fall into both camps at the same time! Those anxieties can stymie your creativity and the only way to get around that is to focus on the writing itself, connecting to this story and why you’re writing it. 

Thanks for stopping by, Fonda! Now, everyone run and get yourself a copy of Exo! 

by: Fonda Lee
Published: January 31, 2017
Publisher: Scholastic
Find it: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks

It’s been a century of peace since Earth became a colony of an alien race with far reaches into the galaxy. Some die-hard extremists still oppose alien rule on Earth, but Donovan Reyes isn’t one of them. His dad holds the prestigious position of Prime Liaison in the collaborationist government, and Donovan’s high social standing along with his exocel (a remarkable alien technology fused to his body) guarantee him a bright future in the security forces. That is, until a routine patrol goes awry and Donovan’s abducted by the human revolutionary group Sapience, determined to end alien control.

When Sapience realizes whose son Donovan is, they think they’ve found the ultimate bargaining chip. But the Prime Liaison doesn’t negotiate with terrorists, not even for his own son. Left in the hands of terrorists who have more uses for him dead than alive, the fate of Earth rests on Donovan’s survival. Because if Sapience kills him, it could spark another intergalactic war. And Earth didn’t win the last one . . .

About Fonda

Fonda Lee writes science fiction and fantasy for teens and adults. Her debut novel, Zeroboxer was an Andre Norton Award finalist, Jr. Library Guild Selection, ALA Top 10 Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers, Oregon Book Award finalist, and Oregon Spirit Book Award winner. Her second novel, Exo, releases from Scholastic in February 2017. Fonda wrote her first novel, about a dragon on a quest for a magic pendant, in fifth grade during the long bus ride to and from school each day. Many years later, she cast her high school classmates as characters in her second novel, a pulpy superhero saga co-written with a friend by passing a graphing calculator back and forth during biology class. Fortunately, both of these experiments are lost to the world forever. Fonda is a former corporate strategist who has worked for or advised a number of Fortune 500 companies. She holds black belts in karate and kung fu, goes mad for smart action movies (think The Matrix, Inception, and Minority Report) and is an Eggs Benedict enthusiast. Born and raised in Calgary, Canada, she currently resides in Portland, Oregon.

Tour Schedule
Week One:
1/23/2017- Tales of the Ravenous Reader- Interview (first up!)
1/24/2017- Bibliobibuli YA- Review
1/25/2017- Two Chicks on Books- Excerpt
1/26/2017- The Forest of Words and Pages- Review
1/27/2017- Novel Novice- Excerpt

Week Two:
1/30/2017- Omg Books and More Books- Review
1/31/2017- Rich in Color- Interview
2/1/2017- Nerdophiles- Review
2/2/2017-Fantasy Book Critic- Guest Post
2/3/2017- Such a Novel Idea- Review


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  1. I've wanted to get my hands on this book since I first read about it. There is so much at stake for this character and I want to know why his dad wouldn't bargain for his own son's life, especially with doom impending if he doesn't. Wow, this book will keep me turning pages.

    1. I love the way the family dynamics play into this. Excited!

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  2. This book sounds fascinating. To the TBR pile!

  3. I can't wait to read this one!! I'm loving the premise!!


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