There wasn’t any single inspiration for WE ARE THE ANTS. Like with most books, different parts came from different places. I was definitely inspired by Kurt Vonnegut and by Andrew Smith’s GRASSHOPPER JUNGLE, but I wear my inspirations on my sleeve, so those are pretty obvious in the book. I even gave a shout out to Andrew’s book in one of the end-of-the-world scenarios in WE ARE THE ANTS. The less obvious inspirations came from my partner forcing me to watch Big Brother, stories my mom told me about her own mother, some of my own experiences in high school. But I think the biggest inspiration that isn’t readily apparent was my own attempted suicide. For the longest time, I only really considered how my suicide attempt had affected me personally. But I eventually began to think about how it had affected my loved ones. My parents, my best friend. That’s how Jesse’s story was born. I wanted to explore the ripples his suicide caused in Henry’s life and in Audrey’s life. How those ripples could become tidal waves that threatened to drown the people in their path, and how they learned to swim.
What do you hope readers will take away from WE ARE THE ANTS?
I hope people will take away that life is absurd and silly and painful and hilarious and beautiful. That even when life seems pointless, it’s still amazing. Part of what I wanted to explore with WE ARE THE ANTS is how people go on with their lives after tragedy. And that’s what Henry’s journey is. He’s given the opportunity to save the world or let it be destroyed, and he’s not sure it’s worth saving. I hope people will take away that the world is absolutely worth saving. That we’re all worth saving. Throughout the book, Henry asks different people whether they’d save the world if given the chance. Near the end, Henry has the opportunity to ask Jesse’s mother. More than anyone else, I think her answer distills what I hope readers will take away from the book. She says she’d save the world, "Because Jesse believed that life wasn't worth living, and I refuse to prove him right.”
What are you working on now?
I’m working on a book tentatively titled CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE about a young man named Ozzie, who’s on the cusp of graduation and doesn’t know what to do with the rest of his life, who believes the universe is shrinking around him. It’s scheduled to release early 2017, and I’m in love with this book. It features a disappearing boyfriend, rollercoasters, doorways, a rockstar gender-bending best friend, and taxidermy dioramas depicting scenes from various Alfred Hitchcock movies.
ABOUT THE BOOKWe Are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson
Henry Denton doesn’t know why the aliens chose to abduct him when he was thirteen, and he doesn’t know why they continue to steal him from his bed and take him aboard their ship. He doesn’t know why the world is going to end or why the aliens have offered him the opportunity to avert the impending disaster by pressing a big red button.
But they have. And they’ve only given him 144 days to make up his mind.
Since the suicide of his boyfriend, Jesse, Henry has been adrift. He’s become estranged from his best friend, started hooking up with his sworn enemy, and his family is oblivious to everything that’s going on around them. As far as Henry is concerned, a world without Jesse is a world he isn’t sure is worth saving. Until he meets Diego Vega, an artist with a secret past who forces Henry to question his beliefs, his place in the universe, and whether any of it really matters. But before Henry can save the world, he’s got to figure out how to save himself, and the aliens haven’t given him a button for that.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Shaun is a major geek and all about nerdy shenanigans. He is the author of The Deathday Letter, fml, and the forthcoming The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He currently lives in South Florida with his partner and dog and watches way too much Doctor Who.
Have you had a chance to read WE ARE THE ANTS yet? Do you pull inspiration from various places? How awesome is the idea of taxidermy dioramas depicting scenes from various Alfred Hitchcock movies? Share your thoughts about the interview in the comments!
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