Speakeasy with Seth Fishman, ‘The Well’s End’

‘Young Adult’ no longer is just for kiddies. Thanks to The Hunger Games, Harry Potter and even those terrible Twilight books, more adults are reading — and loving — YA fiction.

Seth Fishman’s YA novel, The Well’s End,  is a great addition to the canon. Dystopian adventure? Check.  Strong female narrator? Check. A conspiracy combining science and the supernatural? Check!

For our latest Speakeasy interview we grabbed a moment with the busy man (Fishman’s day job is as literary agent at The Gernert Company and he is already working on the sequel to The Well’s End) to chat about Baby Jessica, YA for adults, and what skills he brings to his Team Apocalypse.

What book do you wish you’d written? 
Oh man, tons of them. Maybe Through the Looking Glass or The Sound and The Fury or anything with Gandalf.

What are your writing vices?
There aren’t many answers to this that makes me sound cool. I do drink a scotch after every draft but that’s tame. How about brazen confidence in the face of little research?

What book is currently on your nightstand/next to your toilet? 
Toilet: xkcd – Volume 0. Nightstand: The Vorrh by B Catling (yep, obscure, but hopefully not for long).

At cocktail parties, what do you tell people you do for a living? 
Literary agent.

Finish the joke. A writer walks into a bar…
…and realizes that most of his friends came to the after-party, instead of the reading.

The protagonist of The Well’s End is, in part, inspired by Baby Jessica. What was it about that story that left such an impression on you?
Honestly, I remember the moment she was freed. I remember so much about that instant in my life. And I couldn’t help but wonder what the life of someone like her would be. I mean, I remember her leaving the well. Does she remember the well? Does she remember anything? I loved that character, trying to imagine who she was, how such a thing could affect a young girl. I especially was interested in seeing a trauma that wasn’t caused by a parent or family friend, which felt more… innocent, out of anyone’s hands.

Why should adults read this YA book?
Because adults are the only ones who’ll get the Toy Soldiers references. Truth is, I wrote this book with no inclination of writing ‘down’ to teenagers, and I hope they respect that. I also think that means it’s readable for adults. We all read YA now, so it’s okay…

There is an element of apocalypse in The Well’s End — everyone is dying of a strange virus, a hearty band of survivors must track down answers from “The Cave.” How would you do in such a situation? What skills would you bring to your apocalypse team? 
Sadly, the first thing I’d need to do in an apocalyptical situation would be to ransack a LensCrafter and secure contacts and force a tardy ophthalmologist to make spare glasses for me. While that was going on, I think my friends would be dead. BUT, if I had to help immediately, I think I’d be pretty helpful in the strategy department. I like to think that excellence in board games like Risk and Settlers of Catan and social games like Mafia lead directly to leadership ability in group settings.

Seth Fishman and Téa Obreht (The Tiger’s Wife) talk about their books and read fan fiction to each other on Thursday, March 6 at 7pm at Housing Works, 126 Crosby St., NYC. Free.

The Well’s End is on sale now at your local independent bookstore or on Amazon.

Image of Seth Fishman: courtesy Chelin Miller.

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