This is my interview with twelve-year-old Jacob Tate, a 7th grade student at Pin Oak Middle School.
I understand that you’re an author.
Yes, I am. I’ve always wanted to be an author. I just want to send a message, you know. I just think words are so great. You can get so much from them. You can take people to a whole another world. I just really enjoyed reading early on, which is probably why I want to be an author.
What do you write?
Well, I started a book on Norse mythology, sort of like the Percy Jackson series but Norse. I’ve always been fascinated by that series because it’s different from everything else. I have a ton of ideas, so I’ve done something which is sort of soft sci fi. It’s about a colony on different world. One of the states of the colony has been shut off from the outside world and has to defend itself.
And right now I’m working on a non-fiction book that’s just about life at school mostly.
What kinds of books do you read?
All over the map, mostly. But I should really read more non-fiction, to tell you the truth. I really enjoy Sci Fi, but occasionally I’ll read realistic fiction and fantasy.
I like Sci Fi because it’s so different. Sometimes you want to get out of this world and go into a different one. Plus, it’s so imaginative. Especially some of that hard Sci Fi stuff. You’re just like “how did they think of it” because they’re actually giving descriptions and details about everything. Well, I liked the Roar by Emma Clayton was a really good book because it all seemed Sci Fi at the beginning. It’s about a society that’s trapped behind a cement world, but as the plot goes on it’s all about lies and deception and it makes you realize even in these Sci Fi books technology is different but humans remain the same. I think that technology changes us on the outside, but not on the inside. We’re still creatures of instinct in the end.
Why do you like Sci Fi more than fantasy?
It’s just so much more imaginative. Fantasy is a realm of Sci Fi. It’s imaginative but not….when you read a Sci Fi, you think this could happen maybe. Sometime in the future, it’s possible. With fantasy, sometimes fantasy is set in the past. Sci Fi, it’s almost realistic sometimes.
Can you give some examples?
Ender’s Game. That’s definitely Sci Fi. The Hunger Games is obviously a Sci Fi.
A fantasy has to do with supernatural. Sci Fi is all about the future and technology or of technology. Like a dystopian future. Almost every book that’s set in the future is Sci Fi.
Name a fantasy book that you would compare it to.
The whole Kristin Cashore series, like Graceling and The Demon King. Those are all fantasies. Harry Potter is fantasy. So is Percy Jackson. Well, they’re not bad books. They’re just different from Sci Fi because there’s no explanation why Harry can do magic. There’s no explanation [in Percy Jackson] if the gods exist why no one even knows that right now. There’s no explanation for why they have graces…it’s like a special ability… in Graceling. A lot of times you feel in fantasy [that] it’s blind faith.
A lot of times, like Isaac Asimov, that’s hard Sci Fi, I tried to understand it, but I couldn’t. Some parts…like he was explaining how weapons in the arsenal worked…and it didn’t make sense.
A lot of times Sci Fi and fantasy are mixed. You could argue that soft sci fi and fantasy are mixed. But fantasy is such a broad topic. It practically covers everything that’s not realistic.
Everybody gets something different out of a book. Tell me what you really enjoy about books?
Now that I’m older, I enjoy how authors create settings, how they create people. It’s almost like I’m noting this for my own books. I really enjoy good plot, though. But I really admire a good author, someone who knows how to create thoughts in the reader. A book is a thought creator. It’s one reason I resent turning books into movies because a movie ruins your imagination. A good author knows how to harness your imagination. There’ve been plenty of good plot books. A good plot can make a book good, but a good author takes a book to another level. A good author will make it great, or even amazing.
A classic example is James Patterson, his Maximum Ride, Witch and Wizard, and Daniel X series. Mainly, those books are plot. It’s because when I think of the books I think of the plot. I don’t think of characters. His characters can seem bland at points. It just seems to move from scene to scene with no description. Amazing books have great plot and great thoughts.
Can you give an example of a great book that has both?
The Hunger Games. It made us think about all our beliefs. It weaseled its way into your thoughts. Sometimes I thought about Katniss or Peeta and the games themselves, but that book was about human society mostly. It’s hard to believe that we would send children to kill each other but it’s a perfect way for a regime to control people. It just shows us that people can be ruthless to do what they need to do. I’ve sat and had hour long discussions about the book. Especially in the third book [spoiler alert], there’s a sense that Katniss is useless to the cause of the rebellion, but somehow she’s helping. In the third book, you never get the big battle that you expected. But instead they’re battling for airwaves, just trying to figure out how to put on PR reports. In the end, it shows regimes aren’t controlled by leaders. They’re controlled by people. People decide when to end the regime. Look at all the battles across the Middle East and North Africa right now.
Do you think it’s important to know about the world and read non-fiction to get the message in a book like The Hunger Games, though?
Non-fiction is definitely important, but I don’t read it nearly enough. It gives you views about the world. You need to know about the world we live in now. It’s great that you can put non-fiction themes in fiction because kids love to read fiction.
If a kid doesn’t know about the Middle East or North Africa, though, would they think about the books as you do?
Yes, they can because The Hunger Games is all about society. You have to be looking for this. It almost helps to read multiple times. First time, you just read it for the plot. Second time you are looking for more.
Do kids read a single book lots of times?
If your plot is good enough, they’ll read it again. But the second time they’ll be thinking that they’re going to read it for plot, but they’re not going to end up reading for plot. I’ve had people spoil the endings of books but still I don’t care. I actually enjoyed Mocking Jay better after I reread it.
The first time I read, Katniss is cooped up for the first two thirds of the book. You’re just like I just want someone to go out there and get a bow out there and start fighting. Peeta’s been hijacked. Then you finally get the battle, but it seems that they’re more just dodging tracks than actually fighting people. Then a ton of people end up dead. The ending doesn’t even seem conclusive. And you’re just sitting there thinking, “What the hell just happened in whole book?” When you look around, though, you start to realize that Katniss can’t help the revolution. It’s not a revolution of guns and steel. It’s a revolution of television and words. You realize, it’s the people that need to be swayed. Regimes stand on top of people, but if no one’s there to hold them there they fail. Katniss only serve as a symbol for people to rally around and not actually fight. And then all they need is to get rid of the people who are loyal to the capital’s thoughts. But what’s really important is the people. You’re fighting to control their emotions and thoughts. That’s why the hunger games were in place. That hunger games were meant to control the people.
Do you think, as an older kid now you like older books?
Some books when I liked that when I was young I don’t like anymore. Percy Jackson…great fun to book…it really got me into reading. But in the end, there is no reread value. There is no interesting deeper message. Well, some books are meant to entertain and some meant are to send a message. Like The Hunger Games, was definitely meant to. The author felt something she wanted to share with other people. Authors send out a message because they want to make a point …and that’s the easiest way to do it…through writing.
Can authors really reach people through their books, do you think?
[Talking about his friends}I can’t say that everyone got changed, you cannot assume anything ,but some people got it, and that’s what matters. They are all thinking about it.
What about all the copiers of The Hunger Games?
None of them work because the message has already been sent by the Hunger Games. I think that in plot they’ll never be as good as The Hunger Games [because] they’ll never have the Hunger Games message. And if you copy the The Hunger Games message, it’s already been sent.