While the idea of waking up in a strange room with no idea where you are or how you got there has been a part of numerous movies [the Saw series] and video games [Home Sweet Home], in the following email interview with writer Parker Peevyhouse, she discusses how her new “trapped in a room” novel The Echo Room (hardcover, Kindle) was actually inspired by a real-life horror story.
Photo Credit: © Crystal Jones
Let’s start with a plot summary: What is The Echo Room about?
The Echo Room is about two teens who wake to find themselves trapped in a small, strange depot with no memory of how they go there. Every time they try to escape, they wake up back where they started. As they puzzle out their situation, they start to wonder: Are they locked in or are they locking someone — or something — out?
What inspired this story, and how different did the finish novel turn out from that original idea?
I was inspired by the true story of the castaway depots that the government of New Zealand built on the Auckland Islands to shelter shipwreck survivors. I wondered what it would be like to wake up in such a strange situation: sheltered in a totally isolated place. I decided to make my own version of a castaway depot, a science fiction version full of puzzling elements.
The Echo Room has been described as a sci-fi mystery. Is this how you see it, or is there some other genre, or maybe a combination of them, that describes the book better?
Tor Teen is mostly marketing it as a thriller, and it’s definitely a fast-paced novel, and a little scary. I like to think of it as an escape room inspired by the TV show Lost, told as a Groundhog Day story.
The Echo Room has also been identified as a young adult novel. But do you think old adults will like it as well?
The Echo Room centers on teen characters, but adults who like mysterious, fast-paced fiction should love this story. The main characters wrestle with the fact that they are on their own for the first time, forced to survive a dangerous situation without help from adults, so it’s certainly a story that can speak to teens. But it has a complex narrative that should satisfy older readers as well.
Prior to The Echo Room you wrote a collection of novellas called Where Futures End. Are there any writers, or specific stories, that had a big influence on The Echo Room but not on Where Futures End?
While the novellas in Where Futures End each jump forward in time, The Echo Room plays with time in a different way, by using time loops. I love time loop stories — everything from Groundhog Day to Before I Fall to All Our Yesterdays, and most recently, Edge Of Tomorrow.
I’ve also been re-watching Lost lately and realizing how many bits and pieces from that show inspired The Echo Room. I love stories that ask big, strange questions. But I definitely prefer concrete answers to those questions, so I tried to make sure the ending of The Echo Room wrapped up its mysteries.
Some sci-fi novels are not stand-alone stories, but are instead the first parts of larger sagas. What is The Echo Room?
I view The Echo Room as a puzzle with a complete solution, but I did have a reader recently ask me to write a sequel. Maybe there’s another puzzle that will someday connect to this one
You’ve mentioned a bunch of movies and TV shows that influenced The Echo Room. But has there been any interest in adapting The Echo Room into a movie, show, or even a video game?
My film agent is currently pitching it both to movie studios and app-makers. I think it could inspire a really cool story-driven puzzle-game app.
Finally, if someone enjoys The Echo Room, what would you suggest they read next and why that?
I’d recommend The Rook by Daniel O’Malley, which has a lot of strange mysteries presented to a character who has lost her memory and must fumble her way through a supernatural workplace. And All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill, in which characters loop through time to solve a puzzle that will stop a villain from taking over the world.