By Haofei Liu, Spotlight Interviewer
Alexa von Essen is the writer of “The Morning of the End of the World.” Her story had won the Voices of Tomorrow writing contest, hosted by the Holmdel Barnes and Noble. “The Morning of the End of the World” is now published on the nook– you can check out the thrilling story here.
AK: How did you feel when you found out that you had won the Voices of Tomorrow contest?
AvE: I was really thrilled. Ever since I heard about the contest from my sophomore English teacher winning it was all I could think about. When Barnes & Noble called us to tell me I’d won in September it was actually my mom who picked up the phone, so she was the one who told me. I think we went in that day to start the process of publishing it. I was so happy.
AK: Can you give us a brief summary of “The Morning of the End of the World”?
AvE: “The Morning of the End of the World” is about this group of kids who, for all different reasons, didn’t want to spend the last few months of their lives with the people they’d lived their lives with so far. One of them just doesn’t want to have to deal with her parents. One of them just wants to get the most out of the months he’s got left. One of them wants to drop out of college and knows his parents wouldn’t let him. Part of the story is about the events leading up to the apocalypse, but mainly it’s about these seven kids and how they spend the last day of the world.
AK: Who (or what) inspired the characters of this story?
AvE: Most of the characters already existed in another story I’d been trying to write but that hadn’t been working out. So I just kind of tweaked them a little bit and they fit right in. Others just kind of materialized. I tried to make them all as diverse as I could without making the whole scenario seem unlikely, because if there’s seven people who’re all completely different from each other, they won’t want to live with each other. They won’t get along. So I made them with that in mind.
One of the characters was actually based off of a friend of mine. They’re both called Dan – different last names, though – and they’re both awkward sometimes and have unfortunate haircuts.
AK: Who is the author that you admire the most? Why?
AvE: I really admire Neil Gaiman. He’s the type of writer I really aspire to be. Every one of his stories is deep and meaningful and fantastical, and I really love that. I want my stories to be like that. There aren’t a lot of famous writers out there who write fantasy novels that aren’t parts of a series, but Neil Gaiman is one of the rare few. He’s reached a lot of people with his works, and I think that’s every good writer’s greatest wish – to have a great big group of people dedicated to your books, a group of people who love the things you write and who have really been affected by your words.
AK: Why do you think it is important for kids to read and write?
AvE: It’s really important for kids to read something – even if it’s just things like Goosebumps and Dr. Seuss – because it’s a major way to relate to the world. Nobody can force kids to love reading or writing, but it’s important to do them both anyway because not only will they open up whole new realms of thought and imagination, they’ll also help develop important skills of deduction, creative thinking, reasoning, and more. Not to mention it’s really nice to have a long conversation with someone about a mutual book you’ve read or the stories you’re writing.
AK: Do you have any advice for the young aspiring writers out there?
You’re going to hear this a lot, but I’m going to say it anyway – don’t stop writing. Don’t stop writing ever. If you hate what you’re writing, start over. If you never finish anything you start, that’s fine. But keep doing it. Even if you don’t want to be a full-blown writer when you grow up, keep writing if you enjoy it. Don’t ever give up on the things you enjoy, even if you think you’re bad at it or other people criticize you or tell you to quit. And don’t be afraid to share the things you write, because the whole point of writing is to share it with people. Don’t be afraid to ask people to criticize your work; genuine instructive criticism is priceless. And read, read, read.