In May of this year, Random House released a tenth anniversary deluxe edition of the young-adult fantasy novel "The Book Of Ember," (Read an exclusive excerpt!) a title that has garnered great acclaim from readers, reviewers and educators, and spawned a loyal fan following (and three sequel novels). We got the chance to speak with author Jeanne DuPrau about what surprises lie in wait in this new edition, and what she's working on next.
MTV Geek: Tell us a bit about the Ember series – How do you describe these books to people?
Jeanne DuPrau: I tell people that it's a story about a dark city--a city with no natural light, no sun and no moon. The only light comes from electricity, and now the electricity is slowly failing.
I like to refer to the Ember books as speculative fiction. They're not exactly science fiction, because there's very little science in them – but they do take place in an imagined future.
Geek: There's a new deluxe edition of The City of Ember in stores now – what can we look forward to seeing inside?
DuPrau: Random House wanted a new edition to mark the ten year anniversary of The City of Ember, the first book in the series. My editor asked me to write a new introduction for it, and also a short story.
Geek: Where does this new story fit into the Ember universe?
DuPrau: It's set before the events of the first book. I've gotten a lot of emails and letters from readers who want to know more about what happened in the world that caused the city of Ember to be built. Throughout the series, I've referred to the Disaster--a war that threatened the human race--but I never really described the war itself. I thought the short story might be a way to give an idea of what came before.
Geek: Will readers see any familiar faces?
DuPrau: None of the characters in this story will be familiar to readers, but there's a little suggestion at the end that ties the story in to the books.
Geek: Are you planning to revisit Ember again at some point in the future? Do you anticipate finding more stories to be told in this world?
DuPrau: You know, I don't think so… Right now, the answer is no.
But one of the other things that people have asked me about is how the city was built, and who built it. I didn't explain much about this in the books. It's an idea that I could see exploring, but right now I don't have a story in my mind that goes with it. I don't want it to be just an explanation of the engineering of the city, because engineering is absolutely not my field!
Author photo by Ruth Carranza
Geek: What other projects are you working on at the moment?
DuPrau: After writing the Ember books, I felt pretty burned out. Once I finished the story, I needed to step aside for a while and recharge.
Lately, I have been working on a couple of ideas--one story in particular. It's another one that takes place in a possible future, but it's a very different future from the Books of Ember. I'm having trouble getting it right. I keep writing it, deciding it doesn't work, and throwing it out and starting again. So I only have about half the story so far.
Geek: Is it written for the same audience as the Ember books?
DuPrau: Well, right now the main character is twelve or thirteen, but sometimes I think he needs to be older--that if he were older, the story might work better. Perhaps this one just isn't meant to be a book for kids. We'll have to wait and see!