Category: Writing

Assassin’s Creed!

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So, the word is out now, and I can finally talk about something I’ve been up to since last year. I’ll be writing an original YA Assassin’s Creed series, which is incredible, and to help me out with everyone’s questions, I’ve asked the made-of-straw, ever-inquisitive FAQman to join us.

Hey, FAQman!

Hey. Listen, I’ve got some questions.

I thought you might. So let’s get started.

Okay, so first thing, Assassin’s Creed?? HOLY CRAP

I know! Can you believe it?

No. Who are you?

I . . . I’m an author.

I know, but like, what have you written?

Well, if you look over in the sidebar of this blog, you’ll see some of my stuff. So far, it’s been mostly middle grade novels. But you’ll notice most of it takes place in different historical settings, and usually with some kind of speculative twist. I love playing with history. Especially secret histories. That’s why writing for Assassin’s Creed was such a perfect fit for me.

How did this whole thing happen?

Well, last year I got an email from an editor at Scholastic, my publisher. They had just partnered with Ubisoft, and they were looking for someone to write an original Assassin’s Creed series. They asked if I’d be interested, and I said YES WHERE DO I SIGN.

So why did they ask you?

Short answer, because I’m incredibly lucky. Longer answer, because the editor knew the kind of historical stuff I like to research and write, he knew I’m a gamer, and I can usually turn projects around pretty quickly.

You’re a gamer?

Yes, but nowadays, because I’m so busy, a pretty casual gamer. (Except for Skyrim – I spent a not-casual number of hours on that game.) I started gaming when I was a kid, playing the King’s Quest series, Quest for Glory series, and other Sierra games on my family’s Atari ST computer. (Remember those? The thing had amazing sound and graphics, but adorably, no hard drive.) I’m mostly into PC games these days as well, but I grew up playing all the Nintendo consoles. I’ve been drawn to the world of Assassin’s Creed from the first game, and Prince of Persia before that. But like I said, I’m pretty busy these days, so I’ve just watched my step-son play through the last two Assassin’s Creed games.

And now you’re writing an Assassin’s Creed series.

Yes. Like I said, I’m incredibly lucky.

Is your series tied to any of the games or the movie that’s coming out?

No, this is an all-new story, but fans of the games and graphic novels will notice some familiar names and connections.

So what’s your story about?

Here’s the official synopsis of the first book:

Nothing in Owen’s life has been right since his father died in prison, accused of a crime Owen is certain he didn’t commit. Monroe, the IT guy at school, might finally bring Owen the means to clear his father’s name by letting him use an Animus – a device that lets users explore the genetic memories buried within their own DNA. The experience brings Owen more than he bargained for. During a simulation, Owen uncovers the existence of an ancient and powerful relic long considered a legend – the Trident of Eden. Now two secret organizations will stop at nothing to take possession of this artifact – the Brotherhood of Assassins, and the Templar Order. It soon becomes clear the only way to save himself is to find the Trident first.

Under the guidance of Monroe, Owen and a group of other teenagers go into a memory they all share within their DNA: the 1863 Draft Riots in New York City. Owen and his companions will find themselves tested on the violent streets of New York, and their experiences in the past will have far-reaching consequences in the present.

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How has it been working with Ubisoft?

Honestly, it’s been an incredible experience so far. Everyone I’ve worked with has been so supportive and enthusiastic about what I wanted to do with this story.

How much freedom did they give you?

A lot, actually. We had a meeting where they discussed their vision for the story in really broad strokes, but after that I was basically allowed to come up with whatever I wanted. I was able to pick the time periods, create the characters, the plot, all of it. Then I sent it back to them, and the collaboration began, which again, has been amazing. Ubisoft Montreal has some really talented, creative people, and it has never felt like anything was imposed on me. We were all just part of a team working to create a series that would expand and enrich the world of Assassin’s Creed, which itself has almost endless storytelling possibilities.

What do you know about the movie?

A little. I know what I need to know to write my story. They actually asked if I wanted to read the script, but I said no, because I want to go into the theater and be surprised and blown away like everyone else. I think it’s going to be really, really good.

So, is it going to–

I really can’t tell you anything about the movie. Do you have any other questions?

Not at the moment. But if I think of any, I’ll come back and ask you.

Of course. Thanks, FAQman.

If you have any questions that he didn’t ask, feel free to drop them in the comments.

UPDATE

Publishers Weekly did a write up here

As did IGN here

And Game Informer here

And Game Spot here

FURTHER UPDATE

A video announcement of the series:

 

EVEN FURTHER UPDATE:

FAQman heard there was a great question in the comments, so he decided to come back and ask.

Yeah, I’m back. So when will the first book come out? When can I pre-order it?

The first book is scheduled to be released in September 2016, with the second to follow in January 2017. I don’t have firm release dates yet, but as soon as I do, I’ll post them here and on twitter. Same with the option to pre-order. Good question!

LastDescendants bookshot

A Taste for Monsters cover reveal!

Back in 2010, I was at the annual ALA conference in Washington D.C., and my editor, Lisa, and I had left the conference to do some exploring at the Smithsonian. As we walked along the National Mall, I told her about an idea for a book that featured the Elephant Man and Jack the Ripper, both of whom occupied a relatively small area of London’s East End, at the same time. As I talked, we both got the chills, (even though it was D.C. in the summer, and therefore uncomfortably hot and humid) and she said something like, “You have to write that book one day, when the time is right.”

That time came last year, and this year on September 27th, that book will be released. It’s called A Taste for Monsters, and I’m really excited to share the cover with you here:

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Here’s the official summary:

IT’S LONDON 1888, and Jack the Ripper is terrorizing the people of the city. Evelyn, a young woman disfigured by her dangerous work in a matchstick factory, who has nowhere to go, does not know what to make of her new position as a maid to the Elephant Man in the London Hospital. Evelyn wants to be locked away from the world, like he is, shut in from the filth and dangers of the streets. But in Joseph Merrick, the Elephant Man, she finds a gentle kindred who does not recoil from her and who understands her pain. When the murders begin, however, Joseph and Evelyn are haunted nightly by the ghosts of the Ripper’s dead, setting Evelyn on a path to facing her fears and uncovering humanity’s worst nightmares.

A Taste for Monsters is a terrifying and haunting tale of the monstrosity of men and the salvation one may find in the unlikeliest places, from Edgar Award–winning author Matthew J. Kirby.

YA Book Central is hosting a giveaway on their blog for an ARC, so if you’re interested in entering, click here.

Cover reveal! The Arctic Code

I’m really excited to reveal the cover to my next middle grade novel The Arctic Code, which is the first book in The Dark Gravity Sequence, coming from Balzer + Bray at HarperCollins. This adventure series takes place in the near future, and sees the earth frozen in a modern Ice Age, the key to which lies in the far distant past. That’s all I’ll say for now, but in the meantime, what do you guys think?

ArcticCode Cv 

A Halloween Post

It was Halloween over the weekend, which was appropriate to the book I’m currently writing. It’s a Victorian horror novel, and will be for a much older, YA audience than my usual, middle grade books. It’s been a new and interesting challenge to write, and I have to say I’ve creeped myself out a couple of times, both from the writing and the research, because man, the Victorian London underworld was NOT a very nice place. I mean, just to give you a taste, this was a place where guys would sell live sparrows on strings, at a penny apiece, as a kind of one-use toy for children to play with, AKA torture. If that kind of thing is going on, you know you’ve got some serious societal issues with empathy. And fun times for me writing about them! The book will be dark and violent, but I hope it will also be ultimately redemptive and hopeful, and I’m trying very hard to avoid any gratuitousness; when I include something that makes me uncomfortable, I make certain it’s not going in just to shock the reader, but serves a vital narrative purpose that can’t be accomplished another, better way. I’m not sure when this books will be out, but I’m hoping to have it finished by the end of the month or early December.

While we’re on the subject of Halloween, I had some fun with my step-kids’ costumes. One of them wanted to be Link, from The Legend of Zelda, but I couldn’t find a belt I could re-purpose into a baldric for her sword. So I went to Tandy Leather, and a young gentleman there was incredibly helpful in getting me sorted out with all the leather and tools I would need for the project. Here’s the finished product:

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The stitching isn’t the best, and my hands felt like they’d been run through a meat grinder for a few days, but it was actually a lot of fun. In fact, I may have just picked up a new hobby.

Jaime made the rest of the costumes, and here’s my step-daughter as Link.

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And here’s my step-son as a “deku scrub,” which, he will correct you, is not a character, but a race from Legend of Zelda.

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It was quite a fun Halloween. I hope yours was, too.

Before I go, just a last bit of writing news and updates. I get MANY emails and comments on the blog asking when the next Quantum League book will be out. I am so, so sorry that I don’t know. That’s up to my publisher, as well as other factors outside my control. I have written a draft of it, and I think it’s pretty cool. If you want to read it, I would recommend letting your local bookstore know that you want it.

But in the meantime, I have a new series starting up with a new publisher. The Arctic Code, book one in the Dark Gravity Sequence, will be out next April, and I’m really excited about it. It’s going to a place I’ve never gone in my books, namely the future. When I have a cover and I can tell you more details, I will.

Books written, books yet to be written.

The books I have written may explain why I haven’t written an entry here in quite some time. Since I last posted, I’ve written the next Quantum League book, the sequel to Spell Robbers, and did a rewrite on the first installment in an SF/adventure series I’m doing for Harper Collins. I’m really excited about both, and I’m looking forward to talking about them more in the coming months.

The fact that I can write sentences like the ones I just wrote still catches me off-guard at times. I’m so happy and honored that I get to write stories. People often ask which of my books I like the best, and that’s a difficult question to answer. I usually reply that I like the book I’m currently writing the best, which means it’s a book no one else has read. That’s because the story I’m currently writing is the one that’s alive in my head. Those are the characters who’re living their lives and talking to me. When they stop talking, there’s no story, and when I’ve finished a book, it’s no longer a living, moving thing. I don’t know if that answer satisfies the one asking the question, but there it is.

Of course, it’s also true that I love different memories from the writing of each of my books, and it’s hard to pick a favorite memory, isn’t it? Each writing experience brings its own unique pleasures and challenges. Each book means something different to me, personally and artistically. I’m proud of all of them, each for their own idiosyncratic reasons.

In the next week or so, I’ll be writing a nonfiction piece, with an accompanying short story, for a really wonderful anthology called Been There, Done That. The project aims to show students how authors connect our real-life experiences to the stories we tell, and the roster of writers contributing to the anthology is mighty impressive. I’m honored to be a part of it.

After that, I’ll be tackling something very new for me. It’s still quite early to be talking about it, but this next book will likely be shelved in a slightly different part of the store or library than my other novels. I’m a bit nervous about it, but also incredibly excited. I’m still in the research phase (which, let’s face it, I love) but I’ll be starting in on the writing very soon.

On a personal note, it occurs to me I haven’t updated you all on some life changes I’ve gone through in the last year. I have remarried. My wife is an absolutely amazing woman named Jaime, also known as the sophistimom. She blogged a bit about our meeting and marriage, so if you’d like to read about it, you can click here. We are happy, and life is good.

Infinity Ring!

Infinity Ring

Hey, everyone! I’m relieved and excited to say that I have finished my installment in the Infinity Ring series, which is book #5, and will be out this fall. This series has been so fun to work on. Books 1 and 2, by James Dashner and Carrie Ryan, have both been bestsellers, and I’m so thrilled for them. They really got the story off with a bang. A couple more things I’m excited about:

INFINITY RING BOOK 3

Lisa McMann’s book 3, The Trap Door, just came out last week, and I hope everyone goes out to pick up a copy. If you want a taste, click here to read an excerpt.

The online game that accompanies it involves Samurai and Ninjas, or in other words, it’s made of awesome. Click here to check it out.

Finally, the Infinity Ring message boards are now live, so click here to visit them, and if you’ve read the books, be sure to leave a comment. The folks at Scholastic are really excited to hear from fans.

That’s all the news for now. (Except, I’ve read Matt de la Peña’s book 4, and it’s amazing!)

A bunch of stuff!

I’ve been very, very busy lately, and I’m just poking my head up for a moment to say that yes, I am alive, before dropping back under. (Although. I am on twitter, now, and I am able to update there a lot more frequently than here, FYI.) In the past few weeks I’ve written the bulk of the first book in the Quantum League series, and now I have to switch gears to write my installment in the Infinity Ring series. So I’m going from a magical-heist novel, to Golden Age Baghdad, and I’m having way too much fun with both of them.

Before I go, I just want to say a few things.

First, if you have emailed me in the last few weeks (or *ahem* months) I’m sorry if I haven’t gotten back with you. I hope to get caught up on my email soon, but I’ve been saying that for a while now.

Second, I am behind on a few things people are expecting from me, and have been expecting for quite some time. You know who you are. Thank you very much for your patience.

Third, Icefall will be out in paperback on February 1st (officially – you’ll probably spot it before then), and the ebook price has dropped recently as well. Just in time for Christma- Oh, wait…

Now that I have said those things…

Do you remember the 12 year old composer I’ve mentioned before? Well, he just won first place in the student competition of the National Association of Composers for a piece inspired by the green violin in The Clockwork Three! Here is his acceptance, and a performance of the piece.

And here are some more wintery photos from the last couple of weeks. First, a couple of the lake by my house:

And one of Muppet, who treats snow like Scrooge McDuck treats his money bin:

And a couple of deer, as photographed from my bedroom window, hence the slight blurriness:

And finally, the other day we left the house, a single Oreo in its plastic sleeve on the kitchen counter, and we came home to this. There was no one home but the cat. I think Oreos should include “No opposable thumbs necessary!” on their packaging.

And that’s all I got for now.

Zombie Cats, Some Pretty Scenery, and a Red Dawn

I’ve been researching quantum theory recently, and by “research” I mean that I’m trying to wrap my math-challenged head around something that is even more amazing, disturbing, and shocking than I thought it was. Things (very small things) really can be in two places at once. The observation of something writes the history of that thing before you observed it. Schrodinger’s cat can be both alive and dead. Two electrons can affect one another across vast distances, instantaneously. The quantum behavior of very small things defies our intuitive understanding of the world around us, supplanting the Newtonian “approximation” that we take for granted. Quantum physics is where it’s at, and it’s pretty mind-blowing. I mean, it’s arguably the most proven theory in all of science, and a third of the world’s economy is comprised of industries based on quantum mechanics (things like lasers and the microprocessor in your computer and your phone).

I’m researching all of this for The Quantum League, and it’s got me really excited to write the series. If you’re interested, Brian Greene, a physicist with a gift for being able to describe very complex concepts in understandable ways, took on the quantum realm for the PBS show Nova. You can watch it below, if you’d like.

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And now, some pictures of my new yard and neighborhood, as promised.

my front yard

my back yard

the view from my office

The family of turkeys that love to stroll through my yard, completely unperturbed by my two barking dogs, whom they drive completely insane.

Still unperturbed.

And now, a few pictures of the neighborhood.

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For those of you who are of a certain age, do you remember the movie Red Dawn with Patrick Swayze? Well, last night I dreamed it. Sort of. I’m still not sure who the invaders were, but they were Russian-like. Except they had ships like those crazy flying armored whale things in the Avengers.

Yes. Like that.

Well, since Robert Downey Jr. et al never made an appearance, the Russian-ish invaders pretty well managed to subjugate the populace. Everyone was just surrendering. That was when my brother and me got a rocket launcher. (That sentence would make you chuckle, or at least raise an eyebrow, if you knew my brother and me.) And we shot down one of these ships. But it didn’t just fall out of the sky. No, it careened, smoking, blazing, right over our heads into the White House. The explosion that followed would make Michael Bay and Roland Emmerich both applaud and weep and turn in their directors’ chairs and bullhorns (they use bullhorns, right?) in the knowledge that they will never, ever be able to surpass such cinematic awesomeness.

After the shock of seeing something so spectacular wore off, the pseudo-Russians started looking for who had fired the rocket, so my brother and I stashed the launcher in an open cab and walked away. No one knew who had done it. We were anonymous heroes.

I woke up at that point, but if I had continued dreaming, I’m certain our bravery would have inspired others and incited an uprising that would ultimately drive the vaguely Russian invaders from our soil.

The thing is, I don’t normally remember my dreams. One of the last dreams I remember led to Icefall. I doubt this dream will lead anywhere, fictionally, but if it does, watch out, Bay and Emmerich.

The Quantum League! And some other stuff.

First things first. The news is out, so I’m excited to announce my next writing project. From Publishers Weekly:

Lisa Sandell at Scholastic Press has acquired a three-book middle-grade fantasy series called The Quantum League by Matthew J. Kirby, author of The Clockwork Three and Icefall. In the series, two best friends fight modern-day magicians in a magical crime saga; it will debut in 2014. Stephen Fraser of the Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency brokered the deal.

That doesn’t say an awful lot about it, but it’s still pretty early to go into more detail. So I’ll just add that I’ve always wanted to write a crime saga. Something with daring heists, criminal underworlds, and evil masterminds. The trick was to write one in a way that was exciting and fresh to me. That’s where the magicians come in. And I’ve been fascinated by quantum physics for a while now, so that found its way into the story, too. It’s going to be a lot of fun to write, something fast-paced and exciting. I’ve begun work on it, and like PW said, the first book will come out in 2014, with the next installments coming out a year apart after that.

I have to also say how happy I am to continue working with Scholastic. The people there (far too many to name right now) have all been so supportive of my books and my career. Especially Lisa, my editor. She understood the vision for this series right away, and I’m really looking forward to working on it with her.

So, after my installment in the Infinity Ring series and my next stand-alone novel (both of which will come out next fall), The Quantum League is what I’ll be working on.

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I mentioned in a previous post that my wife and I had moved to Northern Idaho, and I presented a photographic argument for that decision. We have since bought a home. We hadn’t planned to buy a home just yet. It made sense to first live here for a year, become familiar with the area, and then decide where we wanted to put down roots. But in becoming familiar with the area, we found a place that satisfied almost all our “dream home” criteria, and we couldn’t pass it up. We live on several acres, much of it wooded with pine and cedar and tamarack, on a lake, with the potential for horses.

It is also fairly remote, something I am still getting used to. My internet comes in through a parabolic dish mounted on my roof. Our water comes from a well. We have a family of wild turkeys that spend a lot of time on the property and drive our dogs crazy. The frequent deer have long since stripped the elderberry bush in our back yard clean. Last night, I fell asleep listening to the nearby howl of a wolf. It is a beautiful spot of earth.

I’ll try to post some pictures soon.

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A few upcoming events…

  • In October, I’ll be in Utah for the annual Book Festival sponsored by the Utah Humanities Council. I’m doing an event in Brigham City, and another in Murray. Both events will be held on October 17th and both are free and open to the public. Details can be found in the sidebar to the right.
  • I’ll be speaking at the annual SCBWI Winter Conference in New York City in February, presenting some of the same material I taught at the summer conference back in August. So if you wanted to come to one of my break-outs in L.A., but weren’t able to, you’ll have another opportunity if you’re going to the winter conference.

One More Spot

Really quick, I just wanted to let everyone know that one of the spots in my Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers workshop has opened back up. So if you wanted to take my class, but didn’t get in, now is your chance. And let me also take a moment to once again recommend the conference. There are still some amazing instructors with spots in their classes. If you’re serious about a writing or illustrating career, this workshop is a tremendous opportunity. Register here.

And here’s a video of success stories from the conference.