I’m thrilled to welcome author Geoffrey Girard back to the blog today! Geoffrey’s latest book Truthers comes out in a couple of weeks, and if you are interested in conspiracy theories and just plain fun storytelling, you should check it out. Let’s get right to the questions!
Let’s start with an introduction, please tell us a little about yourself.
I’m a high school English teacher who also writes thrillers, historicals and often-dark speculative fiction for adults and YA readers. Born in Germany, grew up in Jersey, currently living in Ohio. My first-born son’s middle name is Tolkien. The dogs I live with are named Zoey (from Left for Dead) and Joan Jett.
Truthers is about the conspiracy theories surrounding 9/11 specifically, but it touches on America’s growing suspicions about our country in general. What prompted you to tackle this controversial subject?
As a teacher, I see/hear what my students are interested in. 9/11 was fifteen years ago, and for 95% of them, the only thing they know (or care) about 9/11 is the conspiracy stuff. That’s what’s interesting to them. Soon as I know someone is interested in something, that becomes my path to including other/new topics and ideas: history, connections to current events, bigger concepts of Theme, self-reflection, etc. Which may sound terribly boring, but I’m kinda revealing the man behind the curtain here some. Truthers is a thriller with a great, I think, main character. I’m hoping her “conspiracy story” forms a bridge to a bigger journey for readers, as they consider the world around us today and some of the forces that shape it.
Truthers is aimed at the YA market. Considering much of your target audience was either born right around the time of 9/11 or just after, what made you want to tell this particular story to this particular group of kids?
Take some of what I said above, and it’s true 9/11 is already “ancient history” to my students and, if something happened before you were alive/aware… meh. That’s universal. However, 9/11 deeply changed our country; the way we do things and look at each other and the world. Like a giant rock dropped and there’s this ripple that just keeps growing out, to affect people who, as you say, weren’t even alive when the rock originally fell. My hope/aim was always to introduce young adults to that important day and perhaps get them thinking about how we get our info and how they might form some idea of “truth” in a world of “alternative facts” and “fake news” and “post-truth politics,” etc. I’m glad these terms came into popularity after Truthers was written, but that’s a huge part of what the book is exploring.
Whenever I read a story that deals with hot button issues, I always pay close attention to whether or not the author is “preaching” to his readers. And I’m happy to say that I found none of that in Truthers. I thought you presented both sides of the issue in an equally compelling manner. That being said, what are your personal feelings about conspiracy theories?
Thank you very much, that means an awful lot. I’ll clumsily affix Publishers Weekly and the School Library Journal also, specifically, commended that it was a balanced book. That was a big part of what I hoped to accomplish. (As I strive to do in the classroom.) I prefer to present both sides as fairly as I can, provide some tools for next steps, and trust the reader/student to take it from there.
“Conspiracy theories” in general, I’ll admit I’m a fan. But that’s because I’m a reader/writer. I love stories. New stories, new takes. Man lands on moon is a really cool story. Man fakes landing on moon… is, for me, an even more interesting one. Because I haven’t heard it before and it’s even more complicated/creative than the original. So, setting aside politics and world-view, etc. I will admit that I like the idea that Reptilians secretly rule the world or that the Denver Airport is secretly home base for some satanic New World Order. That’s just more interesting than: It’s a big airport.
That said, let’s take chemtrails for instance: all those lines in the sky as “the government secretly sprays us with X, Y or Z.” Are all those lines in the sky just water condensation trails made by jets? Yeah, that’s what modern jets do/make. No evil plan there. But, has the government secretly ever sprayed us and the skies with X, Y and Z for a host of reasons? Yeah, 100% To quote a favorite character: “I love rumors! Facts can be so misleading, but rumors, true or false, are often revealing.”
I loved that the book doesn’t set out to prove or disprove anything surrounding the events of 9/11, but offers readers an opportunity to come to their own conclusions. What kind of research did you do while writing Truthers?
No exaggeration, 20+ books and too-many hours on the web (some ugly stuff out there, as you know). My favorite part of writing is probably the research; always has been. I read up for six months, easily, before Katie took form or writing a single word. Both sides, all sides. Different conspiracy theories about 9/11. The actual 9/11 Commission Report. Other conspiracy stuff, altogether. I include a specific list at the end of the book. My hope is that readers will do exactly as you suggest, dig around after and come up with their own conclusions.
I absolutely love the cover design of the book! I think it really gives the reader a sense of what kind of story this is. Did you have any input with the cover design?
I love it also. But, I had nada to do with it. You rarely do. The contract always says you do, but… of my 12+ books, I’ve had actually say over only one. In this case specifically, my editor sent me this cover and said, basically: Yeah, we designed six cover ideas and at a meeting this morning, we showed them all and everyone said THIS was the one they loved, so, yeah… hope you like it. Which is fine. You gotta trust the whole team. I prefer “iconic” covers. Simple, clean. This is that, for sure. The adding of the binary code was a fantastic idea I never would have thought of – thus team. The jacket’s inside flap even has a pic of Katie they snuck in. Love that, also. Oh, and if you take off the jacket… another surprise.
OK, now I need to buy a copy so I can see those hidden details! Is there anything else you’d like to say about Truthers that I haven’t addressed?
I suppose a proper shout out to Katie, and Max. And Katie’s father and all the other wide assortment of characters. Truthers is about them, I hope, first. Wanted it to be a very personal story about some big things. Add the thriller part and I hope readers will find much to enjoy!
Are you currently working on something else, and are you able to share any details?
Since you ask… I’m currently answering these questions in Japan. Here for three weeks working on (research!) a creative nonfiction book set in feudal Japan. Late 2018 or early 2019 via Harper Collins. It’s been a fantastic experience thus far and am enjoying immersing myself in a different environment/culture. Not saying I didn’t break down and find a pizza place last night…
I’m not sure what “creative non-fiction” is, but I’m going to ask you about that later:-) Thanks Geoffrey!
GEOFFREY GIRARD writes thrillers, historicals, and dark speculative fiction for adults and teens. Simon and Schuster published two Girard novels simultaneously in 2013: CAIN’S BLOOD, a techno thriller, and PROJECT CAIN, a companion novel for teen/YA readers which was nominated for a Bram Stoker award for “Superior Achievement in a Young Adult Novel.” 2017 brings TRUTHERS, a YA novel about the 9/11 conspiracy, and MARY ROSE, a psychological thriller/ghost novel. Girard’s short speculative fiction has appeared in several best-selling anthologies and magazines, including Writers of the Future and the Stoker-nominated Dark Faith anthology. His debut collection, first communions, was published by Apex Books in 2016. Born in Germany and shaped in New Jersey, Geoffrey currently lives in Ohio and is the English Department Chair at a private boys’ high school. He has a BA in English literature and an MA, and MFA, in creative writing.