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 #4

Dear KAA,
I, along with many other fans, have noticed that somtimes your books go a little more advanced than where they stand on age groups and so forth. I myself am just now turning 15 and have enjoyed your books for well over a year. I know that my age group usualy cant wait for a Tobias or Cassie book for its seriousness. I mean, the humor books are great, but its like some of the newer books seem to be getting less and less serious. Everyone I know personaly prefer the serious books. It's something the older readers can enjoy more than reading about robot dogs or somthing. Now, all of your books are great, all I'm saying is they are changing. It's like they are changing to meet the younger readers or something. I dont know but i know that when somthing good comes along, like Seinfeld for example, it's great but it changes and strays from its true from. I'm not exactly sure what causes it. I'm guessing trying to achieve more popularity, but in the process changing the actual thing. All I'm saying is it would be horrible for somthing like that to happen to Animorphs. It seems to be straying from its original atmosphere. It's impossible for me to say if its better or worse at different times because im just a single person and not your entire market, but Animorphs is your creation. It's not about selling books, its about creating something. Once you've created something it has to be preserved. When you were answering messages on Scholastic Network's message board, I was the one that compared you to Bill Waterson, creator of Calvin and Hobbes. I said that both of you took your creations above the standard of their medium, his being a comic strip yours being an intermediate book series. Well, like I said, they seem to be changing in the most recent ones. Your books would have quotes and things happening that would make you think and become absorbed in the books; a window into another perspective. I don't want to see that change.
Your friend,
- Hawk

Hawk, you bring up a good point. Yes, in some ways Animorphs is going through changes. However, I think it would be jumping the gun to ever assume that any set of changes is permanent. Let me explain: Writing a series is a tricky business. It's not like writing a single book. It's a marathon, rather than a sprint. I have to keep my characters interesting over a very long haul. I have to try and invent original plots. And, I have to keep my own interest up, too.

So, basically, I need to use every trick I know, every weapon in my arsenal, so to speak. The "humor" books are one part of that. I don't mean to ever detract from the overall feeling of Animorphs, but I agree with Marco that you decide at some point whether you believe life is essentially tragedy or comedy. I try and believe that life is comedy.

More to the point, though, no feeling exists without its antithesis. Without love we might not understand hate. Without fear we might not understand security. Any single emotion, repeated again and again, without a break, loses its impact. You need tension and release. Not just tension. And if I am relentlessly dark I think I'll lose the impact of real darkness when I need it.

Let me ask you: if two people are in danger, and one of those persons is a gloomy, depressed individual, while the other can sometimes be happy and hopeful, and other times sad, whose fate concerns you more? The grim, depressed person is less interesting because, frankly, he's expecting awful things so what's the big deal? While the idea of something awful happening to a person who is full of hope and full of a range of emotions is more troubling.

That's why we need to lighten the mood occasionally. Because by lightening it up sometimes, I can darken it more later.

However, there is also the fact that I don't want the series to become too violent, or too pessimistic. I don't want my characters to end up sounding like burned out combat veterans. They are kids, after all. Very cool kids, but kids just the same.

Finally, I know this sounds like a lame explanation, but like anyone else I get into moods. Sometimes I'm just feeling like writing something perky. Andalite Chronicles was quite dark, Megamorphs 2 is very dark, the next Ax book (sorry, I can never keep track of the numbers) is pretty dark. The current book, #15 isn't exactly Full House. Next book up, #16 is so dark at the end that it worried me. I had to go back and soften some of it at my editor's suggestion. #19 isn't so much dark as philosophical, but I am going to catch all kinds of grief over it.

In just the next dozen books the Animorphs are going to decide on the correctness of using an addictive substance against their enemies, the morality of violence, the logic of self-sacrifice, the degree to which they will welcome help from someone who is utterly ruthless and evil. They will encounter treason and madness and betrayal. They will, in fact, wipe out the biology of an entire planet for their own ends. (tricky one, there.)

With all that gloom and fear and depression I need to be able to take an occasional book and just have some silly fun.

I will say this, though: I never consciously make Animorphs "younger". I never dumb it down. As it is I'm using vocabulary and concepts that are way off the series map. If I ever sound like I'm dumbing something down you have to realize it may just have been a day when I was especially dumb.

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