Ask K.A. Applegate Q&A

Before the Official Website held it's "According to K.A" monthly Q&A sessions with the fans, Jeff Sampson from the Animorphs fan site had kept in personal touch with K.A herself by showing off his fan website to her. K.A agreed to his request of answering questions from the fans on his website. Unfortunetly, due to legal reasons, K.A soon had to stop doing this on a fan website, and it was from there that the Scholastic began holding "According to K.A" Q&A sessions once every month on the official site instead. These are the columns of questions that K.A answered to before moving to the Official Website.

Column #3

Are you, or have you ever, considered making another Animorphs related series, possibly geared more toward older readers? Some one said you were, and that'd be... um... well, for lack of a better word, wonderful! I get made fun of for reading them, and they are perhaps a little short, but very good!
-Alexa A.

Actually, yes. I appear to have just sold a new series concept which will be more "fantasy" than "science fiction." It won't be out for at least a year, however. In fact, so far I haven't written a single word, aside from the concept. I don't want to say too much about it because a lot can change as I delve into the work.

The tentative title for this new series is . . . Otherworld.


My son Jonathan is a devoted fan of your books and I've read a few of them. I'm curious about your influences. When I was a teenager I read all the Robert Heinlein juvenile science fiction books ("Time for the Stars", "Starman Jones", "Have Space Suit, Will Travel", "Citizen of the Galaxy", etc.). Did you read these books, and have they had any influence on your writing? It does seem as if the Animorph books are gradually exploring all the traditional science fiction themes: alternate worlds, time travel, etc., after starting out with the traditional theme of alien invasion.
-Tim Bartik

I wish I could say that I had read a lot of science fiction. The fact is I have not. I sort of stumbled into science fiction as a vehicle for writing about animals. I will however, freely admit that I swipe ideas from science fiction movies and TV, but I am embarrassingly poorly read in the science fiction genre. I suppose I'm getting the indirect influence of people like Asimov and Heinlein, since I presume that Star Trek, Star Wars, Babylon 5 et al are influenced by them.

I'd love to read more science fiction, and hope to some day down the road, when I'm off the book-a-month series treadmill.


I saw one of your earlier replies about trying to use real life TV shows, books etc. I think you are so right! I also hate to open a Sweet Valley book and hear about weird shows never before heard of. Also, the girls in the books act over their age and under their age and do things totally inappropriately for someone like them, as in the Animorph books I could see normal everyday kids doing the things they do.

What was your inspiration to do a set of books called Animorphs? Did you ever worry that people would think you're books were too "spaced out" or anything? Whenever I write science fiction and have to hand it in I'm always worried I'll get criticized over it. I have to admire that your courage!

Yes, I was worried that Animorphs might not be popular. In fact, in early conversations with editors I kept saying "look, let's not raise our expectations too high, this will probably be a slow-building series." Well, obviously I was wrong.

I was actually worried because Animorphs tends to be about two very different things: 1) animals, 2) aliens. It was like some weird mix of nature book and science fiction. I was concerned this would be confusing.

I had studied the success of Goosebumps and concluded that one reason for its success was that it focused on a single emotion: fear. Readers knew what to expect. I didn't have one, single emotion in Animorphs. I had several. I didn't have a concept that could be explained in five words or less.

Just to make matters worse, I don't much like writing simple, straightforward, always perfect characters. I like characters who mess up, who try and fail, who get on each other's nerves, who can be obnoxious. I think there are books where readers are a bit annoyed with Cassie's moralizing, or Jake's self-doubt, or Rachel's recklessness.

Finally, I am allergic to simple answers to complex problems. I just don't know whether it is more moral to fight evil, or to meet evil with peaceful resistence alone. And I don't know why it's okay for a hawk to kill and eat a cute little mouse, but some people think it's wrong for humans to eat cows or pigs. So when I get to questions like that in Animorphs I tend to leave the answers up in the air.

So basically, I had this series that was half nature book, half science fiction, written by a woman (me) with almost no knowledge of either, that would be full of complicated characters, and complicated situations, and complicated philosophical questions, with all kinds of weird, made-up words and invented alien species . . . I mean, it sure didn't sound like a hit. It sounded like it was going to go right over kid's heads.

And yet, it was a hit. Which shows one thing: kids are smarter than adults give them credit for. I used to know that when I was a kid. I forgot it, like a lot of adults do. Now I've learned it again. Thanks to my readers.

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