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 #5

Dear K.A.,

I've always had a pretty good talent for writing, and I plan to be a writer when I grow up. The thing I want to ask is, how does it work? How do you get started? Where do you get your ideas for starting a series? And if you do manage to get a series (or a novel, for that matter) going, then how do you stay with it? Do you ever get sick of writing about Animorphs? I've stopped writing several novels because I get bored with the plot. It seems great at first, but after a while, it looks boring and uninteresting. How can you come up with a story line that will stay interesting? Also (I'm beginning to wonder if I've written too many questions), were you ever embarrassed of your books? You know, in the beginning, when you had just started writing. I have accomplished making a few short stories, but when I let my friends read them, I become afraid that they'll think it's stupid or something. I respect your ability to write fantastic, incredible, phenominaly wonderful book series. I can only hope that I will be half as good an author as you are.


The hardest thing to do is not to let yourself become distracted by some new idea before you've finished the story or book you've set out to write. It's especially hard when you're just starting out, writing your first book. Each new idea seems better than the last. But as you get down to details you discover that the new idea has problems, too. So it's on to some still newer idea. There's a reason for this: every idea seems great from a safe distance, but every idea comes with its own share of problems.

Two things to remember: 1) Writing isn't supposed to be easy. Learning to get past the problems with an idea is what teaches you your job. Each time you figure out how to fix a problem you become a better writer, and more confident.

2) Don't worry about writing THE book, just write A book. Now, if you're Faulkner, ignore this advice. But if you're a mere mortal you have to realize that you are not going to be writing the most perfect book ever written. Hopefully you'll be writing a good book. Maybe a great book. But there will be other books down the road. If you write this book and do your best and nevertheless it's still only a B+ and not the A+ you were hoping for, well, it's still a good book. And you'll have learned a thousand times more than you'll learn by agonizing over finding the perfect idea.

You mentioned getting bored with the plot If that happens, look for the twist, the new angle, the bizarre scene that will save it from being boring. My books seldom end up being what they started out being. I change things as I go. If I sense it's too slow, I take it a new direction.

The day in, day out grind of writing is like any other job in some ways. It's not so much about being inspired. Its much more about being disciplined. Ideas are easy. Writing ten pages a day, or whatever your goal, is tough. It is often boring. Usually boring. You're sitting at home with a TV and a stereo all close by, the car is gassed up and ready to take you out into the world to have fun. There's no boss standing over you telling you to work. So what makes you sit and write? Inspiration? Not usually. Discipline makes you work. I know that's a horribly dull answer, but it's true. The hard part of writing is the writing, not the thinking or imagining. Putting word after word after word, that's the challenge. At least for me.

That's not to say I get bored with Animorphs. When I'm all done I read things back and laugh and think "cool!" and tell myself what an excellent writer I am. But during the actual writing I'm usually thinking "oh, man just three pages? All I've done is three pages? I want to get outta here!"


Dear Ms.Applegate,

In the answer to a past question, you said you would get a lot of grief over #19. This is a Cassie book, I belive, where she want's to quit the Animorphs because she is using violence and is loosing her love for animals.

In #9, though this is still a classic Animorph book, Cassie seems to be very, very depressed because she killed the termite queen. My friends and I were gitting a little bit tired of her doubt.

So I guess what I'm trying to ask is: What do you feel about Cassie's depression and doubt, will this pop up in #19, and did you get a lot of complantes about #9? --Magic


I feel a little sorry for Cassie because I'm using her as my vehicle for exploring moral issues.

Here's my thinking: I did not want the action or violence in Animorphs to be cartoon. I didn't want it to be Power Rangers. Personally, I despise violence, although I accept it for self-defense. Other people reject violence even in self-defense. So, with Cassie I'm trying to remind readers of something: violence is an evil, sickening fact of life. It's not good. It's not admirable. It's not what we want in our lives. Even when it is necessary it is bad. Even when killing a Hitler or a Pol Pot, even when defending your family, even when fighting to save lives or freedoms, violence is bad. The fact that it is sometimes necessary does not make it good.

With Cassie, and with the other characters to some extent, I want to make the point that even necessary violence damages the person carrying it out. The characters and the readers should think about that.

All that having been said, are combat soldiers often great heroes? Of course. Is it an admirable thing to defend freedom? You bet it is. But you won't find a real combat hero anywhere who would not trade all the heroism of battle, for simple, boring peace. And I don't think you'll find many true heroes who haven't regretted what they had to do, and had doubts about the morality involved.

I don't want Animorphs to be just Slash! Slash! Tseeeww! Tseeeww! and no one thinks twice about it. So we have moralizing Cassie, and worried, self-doubting Jake, and reckless, maybe even self-destructive Rachel, and ruthless Marco, and the conflicted predator, Tobias, all "discussing" this issue over the course of many books. With an assist from Erek the Chee. When all is said and done I hope readers will have thought a little about the meaning of life, the relative value of one life compared with another, of one species compared with another, the morality of self-defense, the limits of self-preservation, and so on.

I want Animorphs to be fun, first and foremost. But I think the readers are smart enough to occasionally be confronted with some questions that don't necessarily have yes or no answers.

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