Carsen Smith is joining us today to talk about the novel she co-wrote with James S. Murray, Area 51 Interns: Alien Summer. Here’s the publisher’s description:
It’s the first day of summer vacation, and Viv Harlow just wants to relax with her friends at the beach before they all go to different high schools next year. She is definitely not interested in visiting her mom’s office, even if Director Harlow works at the famous Area 51. But when an alarm sounds beneath the secret base and a whole race of aliens escape, she’s about to get much more than she bargained for. Viv, Charlotte, Ray, and Elijah (who Viv is totally NOT crushing on) will have to work together, gear up with gadgets, and even protect a baby alien to save the day and defend Area 51.
The debut middle-grade series from Murr of the Impractical Jokers, Area 51 Interns is filled with enough high-tech hijinks, bizarre creatures, and laugh-out-loud humor (plus an extra color insert full of gadgets) to make even alien skeptics hooked for more!
What’s James S. Murray and Carsen Smith’s favorite bit?
Area 51 Interns: Alien Summer takes place in our imagined version of the top-secret government facility in the remote Nevada desert we all know as Area 51. My co-author James and I were talking one day about all the craziness of middle school field trips, and we got to thinking, “what would a field trip to Area 51 be like?” Eventually, that morphed into the idea of ‘Take Your Kids to Work Day’ at Area 51 and the entire story just kind of sprouted out from there.
Most of our novel takes place in real time. The story follows our four lead kids as they race through Area 51 to rescue their parents from a horde of escaped aliens, ‘The Roswellians,’ who are threatening to abduct all of Area 51’s employees far away to their home planet.
One chapter in particular always sticks out to me when thinking about the manuscript. It’s Chapter 22, the scene where we jump back in time thirteen years. Here, we get a glimpse of Viv’s mom, Director Cassandra Harlow, back in the early days of her career before she became head of Area 51. Before Viv was even born!
This scene strikes such a different tone from the rest of the story. As much fun as the antics of the kids’ adventure are, I think this chapter really gives the book its gravitas. Not only do we find out the key information that our protagonist, Viv, is imbued with alien DNA, but we learn that Viv and her friends aren’t the only ones who have been breaking the rules at Area 51.
There’s an ominous glow around the exchange between Cassandra and Megdar, the leader of the Roswellians. The readers get a sneak peek into the adult world– a new, unexplored side of Area 51, since we’d previously only been seeing the compound through Viv’s eyes.
In a place that’s already so full of secrets, to see Cassandra improvise and go under the radar to surreptitiously steal Megdar’s DNA for her own off-the-record experiments opens up an entire world of possibilities. If the government-backed projects are already mind-blowing, what else could be happening under the surface at this base?
And just like the mysteries at Area 51, James and I like to leave little clues and breadcrumbs for our readers to figure out what’s set to happen down the road. There’s a brief line, almost a throwaway, in this exchange that points to a yet-to-be-introduced character, Agent Ernest Becker, who will play a huge role in the next two installments. We’re excited to see all these little easter eggs pay off!
Carsen Smith is a comedy writer and producer in New York where she writes for the Upright Citizens Brigade. She is the co-founder of The Goose Lodge – a speakeasy underground comedy club in Brooklyn. You can see her headlines on Reductress and around NYC with her sketch team One Bad Egg. Area 51 Interns: Alien Summer is her first novel.