Exclusive Interview: “Area 51 Interns: Alien Summer” Authors James S. Murray & Carsen Smith

 

For years, people have wondered what the U.S. Government was keeping so secret in the military installation known as Area 51. (Ignoring, for some reason, what’s going on in Areas 1-50). But now we know! Or rather, we will when we read the new middle grade sci-fi adventure novel Area 51 Interns: Alien Summer (hardcover, Kindle, audiobook) by James S. Murray (a.k.a. Murr from the TV show Impractical Jokers and The Misery Index) and Carsen Smith (best known for her work with the Upright Citizens Brigade). In the following email interview, Murr and Carsen discuss what inspired and influenced this kid friendly alien escape story, as well as their plans for future installments.

James S. Murray Carsen Smith Area 51 Interns Alien Summer

James S. Murray, Carsen Smith (Photo Credit: Will Braithwaite)

 

To begin, what is Area 51 Interns: Alien Summer about, and when and where does it take place?

Carsen: The book starts in the small town of Groom Lake, Nevada on the first ever “Take Your Kids To Work Day” at Area 51. Twelve-year old Viv Harlow and her three friends accompany their parents to the compound when suddenly, a horde of 1950s Roswell aliens escape from their holding cells. It’s up to the four kids to fight off the aliens, rescue their parents, save the day, and land that summer internship.

It sounds like Area 51 Interns: Alien Summer is a satirical sci-fi novel. Is that how you’d describe it?

Carsen: I’m not sure if I would necessarily consider it a satire, but it is does give a strong comedic spin to the sci-fi genre as a whole. If I had to define it, I’d say it’s a coming-of-age novel coated with high-tech, sci-fi flavor.

Murr: I’d describe Area 51 Interns: Alien Summer as awesome, kid-friendly, sci-fi tales of adventure, with super cool gadgets and gizmos, larger-than-life battles and victories, and all things high-tech fun.

Now, Murr, you previously co-wrote five novels with Darren Wearmouth: Awakened, The Brink, Obliteration, Don’t Move, and The Stowaway. Why did you decide to write Area 51 Interns: Alien Summer with Carsen, and what did she bring to it that Darren wouldn’t have?

Murr: Carsen and I have been colleagues for years, and her excellent comedy background makes for a great writing team. When we came up with the idea for Area 51 Interns: Alien Summer, it was natural to develop and pitch it as a middle-grade book series, with the intention of selling it as an animated or live action TV show.

But don’t worry; Darren and I have developed a new serial killer novel that you’ll see on store shelves at the end of 2023.

So, Murr, are there any authors, or specific stories that you think had a big influence on this story but not on anything else you’ve written?

Murr: For me, Area 51 Interns: Alien Summer draws inspiration from lots of places: Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, The Goonies, Short Circuit, Choose Your Own Adventure books, Goosebumps, The X-Files, and more.

And Carsen, while Area 51 Interns: Alien Summer is your first published novel, you wrote sketches for the Upright Citizens Brigade, and also have a second book — a collection of short stories and essays called I Just Have To Make It Through The Day — coming out later this year. For you, what writers do you see as having the biggest influence on your parts of Area 51 Interns: Alien Summer?

Carsen: I was a ravenous reader growing up. Goosebumps, Magic Tree House, A Series Of Unfortunate Events, you name it. So I guess that sense of action and adventure was always a centerpiece for the kinds of books I liked to read.

Now that I’m older, I take inspiration from a lot of humor writers like Jack Handey, David Sedaris, and George Saunders. More recently, on the younger side of the literary world, I’ve been enjoying Tomi Adeyemi’s Legacy Of The Orisha series.

How about non-literary influences? Murr mentioned a bunch of movies already, but what do you see as having a big influence on Area 51 Interns: Alien Summer? Because the story immediately made me think of that movie Paul and the Destroy All Humans! games.

Carsen: Really anything with aliens, government conspiracies, and fun gadgets. Growing up, I played (and honestly, still play) quite a few Nintendo games. They always had the coolest, most imaginative weapons in those games, and that’s certainly something I wanted to capture in this series.

Area 51 Interns: Alien Summer is the first book of three. What was it about this story that made you feel it should be told in three books as opposed to one or two or thirty-seven?

Carsen: The scale of Area 51 and all the topics / sci-fi paths you can explore is so vast, we knew it couldn’t be just one book.

Murr: But it’s a 3 book series to begin; not necessarily a trilogy. The hope is that we can do many books in the series, and follow Viv and her best friends on adventure after adventure in Area 51.

Carsen: Fingers crossed we’ll get to write more.

So do you know yet what the other two books are called and when they’ll be out?

Carsen: The second book is entitled Area 51 Interns: Zoned Out, and will be released in Fall 2022. The third book is yet to be named, but will coming out Spring 2023.

You’ve also said that Area 51 Interns: Alien Summer is a young adult novel. Does that mean old adults — like, say, someone 54 but young at heart — won’t like it, too?

Carsen: This book is for everyone. Technically, it’s middle-grade, so some of the jokes might skew a bit younger, but I think even parents would get a kick out of it. As for 54-year olds named Paul, I think it hits that demographic perfectly.

Woo-hoo! I mean, that’s interesting. Anyway… Earlier we talked about the movies that influenced Area 51 Interns: Alien Summer. But do you each think Area 51 Interns: Alien Summer could work as a movie? Or maybe a TV show or game?

Carsen: Absolutely. James and I have always said that this concept would make for a fantastic TV series. Both of us have backgrounds in television, so even when we write, we’re always aiming to make each chapter as visual as possible. The stories of each novel and the lives of the characters all intertwine, so it’s a longer tale than something one movie could tackle on its own.

Murr: That’s the plan. We hope you’ll get to see Area 51 Interns: Alien Summer on television very soon.

And if that happens, who would you want them to cast as Viv and the other main characters?

Carsen: If I had to choose right now, I’d probably pick Priah Ferguson to play Viv. She was absolutely hysterical in Stranger Things, but also has that no-funny-business quality that would really make the character shine.

James S. Murray Carsen Smith Area 51 Interns Alien Summer

Finally, if someone enjoys Area 51 Interns: Alien Summer, what comedic sci-fi novel of someone else’s would you suggest they read while waiting for Area 51 Interns: Zoned Out to come out?

Carsen: Hmm. I already mentioned Tomi Adeyemi, but if magic isn’t your thing, Stuart Gibbs’ series Spy School is a super binge-able, action-packed read that I recommend to all the kids in my life.

 

 

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