I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Emily Skrutskie, author of The Abyss Surrounds Us. This is the her debut novel and even though I read it a month ago I am still riding the high from this book. If you would like to read my full review you can find it here. It’s a sci-fi dystopian about genetically engineered sea monsters, pirates and discovering what you’re really made of. I really recommend getting your hands on a copy and enjoying this thrill ride!
For Cassandra Leung, bossing around sea monsters is just the family business. She’s been a Reckoner trainer-in-training ever since she could walk, raising the genetically-engineered beasts to defend ships as they cross the pirate-infested NeoPacific. But when the pirate queen Santa Elena swoops in on Cas’s first solo mission and snatches her from the bloodstained decks, Cas’s dream of being a full-time trainer seems dead in the water.
There’s no time to mourn. Waiting for her on the pirate ship is an unhatched Reckoner pup. Santa Elena wants to take back the seas with a monster of her own, and she needs a proper trainer to do it. She orders Cas to raise the pup, make sure he imprints on her ship, and, when the time comes, teach him to fight for the pirates. If Cas fails, her blood will be the next to paint the sea.
But Cas has fought pirates her entire life. And she’s not about to stop.
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I have to ask, where did the inspiration for The Abyss Surround Us come from?
It came from all over, really. The idea for TASU coalesced on a bus ride that went through Philad
elphia, and as I looked out at the shipyards there, I started imagining monsters alongside the boats. I’d wanted to write another pirate book, and I wanted to write something involving the ocean, and the first inklings of TASU were the collision of those notions at that moment.
What sort of research did you have to do?
Lots of biology research to construct the Reckoners, especially since I was trying to justify growing an animal from two hundred pounds to several hundred tons in the span of about three months. I also researched boats, the tactics used by modern pirates, and even checked star charts for over a hundred years in the future to make sure all the constellations mentioned in a certain scene would be visible at that time of year in that part of the Pacific.
Would you be a Reckoner trainer? If you were what type of Reckoner would you train?
Absolutely! As a lifelong whale lover, I’d love to work with cetoids.
What was the hardest scene to write?
The scene where Cas watches the crew train in the Slew was the hardest for me to break. It was a late addition that came after the book had been acquired, so I was putting a lot of pressure on myself to get it right the first time. I ended up actually physically acting my way through it to get my mind right.
Are any of your characters based on people you know?
Can I pretend like I know Beyoncé? Because if so, then yes, Santa Elena is based on someone I know.
Do you relate to Cas the most?
Since I write from inside her head, it’s difficult not to relate to her! But I also relate to Swift a lot, as someone with blue eyes and bad hair who makes questionable life choices.
As soon as I finished I had to make sure there was going to be a sequel; how many books will there be in the series?
TASU was planned as a two book series from the start!
What is one thing you wish you could go back and tell your pre-published self?
It doesn’t change anything! Writing stays exactly the same—butt in chair, eyes on screen, fingers on keyboard. Keep doing it.
Any advice for aspiring authors?
The number one way to shoot yourself in the foot is to feel like you’re owed something. That creates expectations, and when your expectations aren’t met, you get upset for no good reason. Keep working, believe in your work, and let it surprise you when other people do too.
Who are some of your favourite/inspirational authors?
Maggie Stiefvater, Leigh Bardugo, and Victoria Schwab are my holy trinity.
Outside of writing, how do you like to spend your time?
MOVIES. Watching them, analyzing them, dreaming of the day I get to help make them.
Thank you so much Emily for agreeing to this interview. I had a lot of fun coming up with questions but even more fun reading your answers! I’m really impressed and inspired by your dedication to research, and fight scenes. Your writing has a great flow and I have a new appreciation for that star-lit scene. It was nice to get to know the girl behind The Abyss Surrounds Us, and I can’t wait for book 2! Happy writing!