Katie Slivensky is an educator at the Museum of Science in Boston, where she coordinates school visits, does presentations with alligators and liquid nitrogen (not usually at the same time), and runs the rooftop observatory program. Katie lives in a suburb of Boston with her two completely absurd cats, Galileo and Darwin, and is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency. Find her online at www.katieslivensky.com, and follow her on Twitter at @paleopaws.
Before we get to the interview, let me start by saying that I absolutely loved The Countdown Conspiracy. It was a fast-paced, interesting book with a great premise and enough action that I couldn’t look away from it! There are times when you read a MG book, and you just think “Yes, this is going to be big” and that’s the feeling I had about The Countdown Conspiracy. I highly recommend it to everyone reading this! And if you want to win a copy, look for the rafflecopter giveaway at the end of this post!
Talking with Katie Slivensky
Sci-Fi & Scary: What do you love most about science fiction?
Katie Slivensky: I like that it gives people a chance to explore what could be possible. It takes where we’re at now in society and technology, and imagines where that could go—for good or for ill. And well done sci-fi remembers that people are at the heart of the story, no matter how exciting the setting or plot might be.
Sci-Fi & Scary: What are your three most favorite science fiction books?
Katie Slivensky: This is such a difficult question! I think I have to include A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, since that book influenced me so much as an elementary school student. My other strong sci-fi influence as a kid was Star Wars, so for my 2nd choice I’ll pick the X-Wing series by Michael A. Stackpole, which I read over and over through middle school. And finally, I’ll pick one of my favorite sci-fi reads of 2017—Holly Farb and the Princess of the Galaxy by Gareth Wronski. Such an incredibly fun and imaginative read!
Sci-Fi & Scary: You’re a science educator at the Museum of Science. I can only imagine how neat that job is. What is your favorite aspect of your job?
Katie Slivensky: My favorite part of my job is getting people of all ages excited about something in science that they may have never encountered or considered before. I teach with things ranging from tiny adorable tree frogs to massive digital, fly-through models of the entire universe. And through all of that, I get to witness the spark of curiosity occur daily. I consider myself truly lucky.
Sci-Fi & Scary: On your site, you have a weekly science video. How do you choose them?
Katie Slivensky: It’s completely by whim! It might be something featured in the news recently, like a new discovery about a planet, or it might be something that I’d been thinking about through the week, like how amazing superconductors are. Sometimes I get a little silly with it, like when I posted a video featuring nightjars because I got that animal as my Patronus on Pottermore. Lately, I’ve been featuring videos from a YouTube channel I adore: Science with Sophie (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCOJz0IhQZOH07fNIdVqWx1Q). It’s science + comedy for kids, and it’s so clever and fun I wish everyone would watch it!
Sci-Fi & Scary: Your profile mentions that you got interested in astronomy when you started working in the museum. Do you remember what exactly it was that hooked you?
Katie Slivensky: I’ve always enjoyed looking up at the night sky. When I started at the Museum and had the opportunity to actually learn the science behind what I was seeing at night, I jumped at it. It was an entirely new realm of knowledge to learn, and I love learning so I soaked it all up like a sponge. I felt so empowered the first time I stepped outside and could point out the location of Jupiter and Mars to my friends. It feels like secret knowledge, but in reality is knowledge anyone can gain! I highly recommend getting into amateur astronomy.
Sci-Fi & Scary: You mentioned in your research that you’ve got to meet a few people involved with NASA, as well as get to have a ‘blast-off’ experience. This all sounds amazing! I have to ask – would you jump at the chance to ride the Vomit Comet if you could?
Katie Slivensky: Absolutely! I’d probably vomit, but it’d be worth it.
Sci-Fi & Scary: When did you first get the idea for The Countdown Conspiracy?
Katie Slivensky: It came from a group of kids who got incredibly excited during one of my astronomy lessons about the idea that their generation would likely be the generation to go to Mars. That got me thinking…could I write a story that captures that excitement?
Sci-Fi & Scary: How long did The Countdown Conspiracy take to write (from start to finish) one you got your first outline and/or draft done?
Katie Slivensky: First draft took just under a year to really come together. From start to finish, the entire process took about 4 years of work before I submitted the final manuscript in 2016. I think it was 12 or 13 full drafts to get to the final version!
Sci-Fi & Scary: How much of you is in The Countdown Conspiracy’s main character Miranda Regent?
Katie Slivensky: Miranda worries that she wasn’t meant to be in this special astronaut program. That she isn’t good enough. I was always pegged as a “smart” kid and put into advanced and honors classes growing up. However, my classmates all seemed to naturally “get it” when it came to our school work, while I didn’t. So I had to work super hard to keep up and constantly felt like I was an idiot and didn’t belong. But in the end, the fact that I was a hard worker is what has gotten me to where I am in life more than anything else, so I wanted to emphasize that with Miranda…and hopefully demonstrate it to other young overachievers.
Sci-Fi & Scary: Where you connected with Curiosity, I fell in love with Spirit and Opportunity. I loved Ruby. Ruby feels like an ode to all of them. I have to admit that her part in the story (I don’t want to say more in case people haven’t read the book!) made me tear up. Did you know from early on that she was going to end up playing such an important role, or did her part take on a life of its own?
Katie Slivensky: To avoid spoilers, I’ll simply say Spirit and Opportunity did indeed inspire a lot of Ruby’s story arc in addition to Curiosity. I love those rovers, too—seeing as I first got into astronomy in the 2009-2010 era, their influence is undeniable. 😉 However, when I first started writing this book in 2012, Miranda didn’t have a robot. Then, a couple weeks before Curiosity landed on Mars, I woke up one day and it all just hit me out of the blue: Miranda is a roboticist. She has a robot she built named Ruby. And I knew right then and there what role Ruby would play. So even though Ruby wasn’t originally in the story, the moment she was conceived her whole arc burst into existence with her.
Sci-Fi & Scary: I have to ask – with the way The Countdown Conspiracy ended – are you planning on writing a follow-up to it at some point?
Katie Slivensky: Never say never! But at this moment, there are no plans for sequels. It’s all in the hands of my readers now to decide what happens next.
Sci-Fi & Scary: On Goodreads, there’s another book listed from you – The Seismic Seven – with a release date of June 2018. The synopsis of it is up on your website, but not Goodreads yet. Will this be similar in general feel to The Countdown Conspiracy? (emphasis on teamwork, not giving up, etc)
Katie Slivensky: In many ways, yes! The themes of working together and not giving up despite facing incredible odds are strong throughout THE SEISMIC SEVEN, as is the purposeful weaving of factual science throughout the story. There are some differences in other parts, though. I think SEISMIC focuses more on taking responsibility and wrestling with faith in humanity to a higher degree than COUNTDOWN. It’s also, in general, more unapologetically an action-adventure movie in the form of a book. 🙂 After all, the tagline is: Seven kids. One supervolcano. One chance to save the world.
Thank you so much for hosting me on Sci-Fi and Scary! I hope everyone has a great holiday season!
Publisher: HarperCollins Children’s
Release date: August 1st, 2017
Blurb: Miranda Regent can’t believe she was just chosen as one of six kids from around the world to train for the first ever mission to Mars. But as soon as the official announcement is made, she begins receiving anonymous threatening messages…and when the training base is attacked, it looks like Miranda is the intended target. Now the entire mission—and everyone’s lives—are at risk. And Miranda may be the only one who can save them.
The Martian meets The Goonies in this out-of-this-world middle grade debut where the stakes couldn’t be higher.
****A Junior Library Guild Selection: Fall 2017****
Title: THE SEISMIC SEVEN
Publisher: HarperCollins Children’s
Release date: June 5th, 2018
Blurb: Brianna Dobson didn’t plan to spend her summer saving the planet from total destruction. But what starts as an educational experience shadowing geologist Dr. Samantha Grier in Yellowstone National Park quickly becomes a race to stop a massive volcanic eruption the likes of which the humanity has never seen.
Seven kids. One supervolcano. One chance to save the world.