Sci-fi Sister Act: An Interview with Caroline Akervik and Ruth Rankin


Recently, I got a chance to converse with Caroline Akervik and Ruth Rankin – sisters and co-authors of a new YA sci-fi book called Halcyon. Check it out ...

BJ Hollars: Tell us a bit about Halcyon. What's the book about and how did it come to be?

Caroline Akervik and Ruth Rankin: Halcyon is a Young Adult Science Fiction novel about a teenaged girl who discovers that things are way more complicated than they seem at her new school.  

It’s hard enough to always be the new girl at school for Hailey Schick. She’s managed to irritate the ruling clique at the school and Trevor, the boy she sort of likes, is total social outcast. Nothing is as it seems at University. Preston and Chelsea rule the school with an iron fist and are obsessed with stomping out all nonconformity. There is more going on here than the usual cutthroat high school games. Eternally young sentinels from the parallel universe of Halcyon have infiltrated their school and plan to use it as a launching pad for a planned takeover of Earth. Hailey and Trevor may be all that stands between Earth and a takeover by the militaristic Juventus.  Halcyon blends elements of the Gossip Girl with The Hunger Games. 

The novel developed from conversations that Ruth and I had while waiting for my kids to finish swim lessons more than ten years ago. It took us a very long time to understand the story, the characters, and the problem that they face. 

BJH: Can you tell us a bit about your collaboration.  How did you two meet?  How did you decide to write together?

CA & RR: We are sisters. We’ve always talked about and discussed books that we have both read, or wanted to read. So it was a natural next step to try and write something together. We also both like to read the same genres, so we just kind of brainstormed what types of novels we would like to read as avid young adult fans. There is a really special energy about YA literature that drew us to the genre. We started with the question of “What if…” That question led us down the rabbit hole to Halcyon, a world where a sinister order of the eternally and unnaturally young rule.

BJH: What was that writing process like?  What are the upsides to collaboration?  The downsides?

CA & RR: We live in different states, California and Wisconsin, respectively, so it takes some imagination and lots of shared docs to write together. Collaboration requires some creativity. We discuss ideas and possible story developments over the phone. Brainstorming with another person who knows the characters and the story arc well is very powerful, but you do have to work your way through arguments/discussions when our visions or ideas diverge. And if that fails, there is always rock, paper, scissors. 

BJH: What advice do you have for folks working in the young adult genre?

CA & RR: Both of us read a lot of YA lit. Our advice to those interested in writing in the genre is to not write “down” to young readers, rather to assume that they are a discerning and demanding readers. However, there are some real distinctions to YA lit. YA books tend to be less wordy and get to the action faster. YA readers are less patient with authors. The best way to write in a genre is to actually read the genre. You get a sense of what the readers expect, and it can shape how your narrative comes together. 

BJH: What else would you like to share about the book?  Any lessons learned along the way?

CA & RR: We are debating the idea of writing a sequel to this novel. Earth may not be safe from the Juventus, so we may need to see what Hailey and Trevor are up to next. As far as lessons go, we’re not entirely sure how we ended up writing a Young Adult Science Fiction novel. As you grow in understanding your characters, they choose their own path, and, as the author, you have to make it work within the framework of the novel. When you’ve finished writing something, and you reread it, you have to come away from the experience knowing that you have written honestly and from the heart, no matter what the genre.