Jason Segel and Kirsten Miller talk Otherworld
‘Otherworld’ is a game, the kind you’ve always wanted to play. The participants leave their physical bodies behind and step, literally, into the game. Learn more about one of the most epic reads of the year from the authors themselves; Jason Segel and Kirsten Miller.
What was the inspiration for Otherworld?
Jason Segel: The idea for ‘Otherworld’ came after I first demoed the Oculus Rift at Sundance a few years ago. My first thought was: This is going to change everything. I had been a big fan of a game called Myst when I was a kid—it’s a computer environment that you get to wander around, explore, and solve puzzles in. I imagined how extraordinary it would be to have that sort of experience in a truly immersive way. Then I thought, People will never want to leave. That’s sort of where it all began for me. I drew up a very rough outline and called Kirsten. I told her the idea, and our adventure began. If The Matrix and the Lord of the Rings went to their high school reunion and had a one-night stand, Otherworld would be their illegitimate child.
Kirsten Miller: My initial reaction to new technologies is to ask myself What will go wrong? Call me a pessimist, but from what I’ve seen, something always does. Jason imagined a game that players never want to leave. Together, we took that idea to an extremely dark (and logical) conclusion. I suppose my biggest contribution was the sinister real-world conspiracy at the heart of the story. I do love a good conspiracy!
The Landscape of ‘Otherworld’ is zoned and vivid, reviews have already spoken of readers feeling as though they were absolutely inside the world – how did you go about creating this new world and all the realms inside? Are there more realms to come later on in the trilogy?
JS: The realms that we chose for Otherworld were drawn to address specific temptations for our heroes to overcome. Imra is the realm of Earthly desires for example. Our other realms deal with classic struggles in the heroes journey – the will to power, fortune and war among them. Yes, there are more realms to follow as Otherworld unfolds, and all I can say is that things only get funkier.
KM: Yep—funkier and darker. Much darker in one instance. In Book 2, a new breed of player has taken over Otherworld, and the realms become their playground. Let’s just say the new guys aren’t there to make friends.
The ‘chosen one’ narrative is something that is often the driver in fantasy adventure; was it important to you that you had a world that acknowledged that, though at the same time you have a protagonist who fights against it?
JS: I think often convention is there for a reason. Why are we telling a story about this particular person? I guess the very fact that we are makes them some version of “the one.” We are all familiar with this idea so our feeling was that it is best to run towards it. If we have seen The Matrix and read Harry Potter, then Simon would have too!
KM: What was particularly fun about using this trope is that we’re dealing with a protagonist who knows it’s a trope. Simon’s reaction to being called “the one” is a source of much amusement in the book. But as another character in the book points out, in this case, there isn’t a “one.” Instead, there are “two.” I think that’s very important. It’s a male/female team that emerge as the heroes.
If you could steal or borrow a character or place from somewhere/ someone else – books, film or TV – to feature in ‘Otherworld’ who or where would you pick?
JS: I think I already “borrow” from a lot of my childhood influences. This book is a mix of some of my favorites as a kid, including The Last Starfighter, and The Matrix. These adventures are a permanent part of my storytelling toolbox.
KM: My favorite movie is Terry Gilliam’s Time Bandits. (If you haven’t seen it, go watch it RIGHT NOW!) It’s about a boy who’s kidnapped by a band of very small criminals that travel through time. I loved every little bit of that movie, and there are so many parts of it I’d like to steal. But if I had to choose one thing to borrow, it would be the criminals’ ultimate goal—they want to steal “The Most Fabulous Object in the Universe” even though they have no idea what it is. I always thought that was hilarious.
What drew you to writing for young adults in particular?
KM: I can answer this one for both of us. The things we read in our youths made us into the people we are today. We wanted to offer the same inspiration to a new generation! (There are going to be some weird adults out there in a few years.)
What advice would you give an aspiring young writer?
JS: Write. As much as you can. Don’t worry if it’s good yet. Good comes later. First, you need something you can hold.
KM: Exactly. The secret to writing is something called “bum power.” That’s the ability to sit on your bum for hours and hours and hours until you get it right.
‘Otherworld’ is published by Rock the Boat
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