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Polly Answers Questions from her Serious Neptune Fans

The Neptune Project

What was your inspiration for writing your Neptune Trilogy?
I always say several factors inspired me to write these books. Because I grew up in Colorado where we don't have oceans, I've always been fascinated by the sea. I am terribly worried about climate change and the misery it's already starting to inflict on the people of our planet. I keep up with scientific developments, and the advances we've made in genetics are fascinating, encouraging and frightening all at once. Finally, I really needed to make money to help pay for my daughters' college tuition.

How long did it take you to write The Neptune Promise?
It only took me six months to write The Neptune Promise because I do write quickly. It did take me another two months to work out the design for the cover and interior art and to proofread the manuscript and make it as tight as I possibly could. I had teams of friends and beta readers and a professional editor read it, but I'm still worried there might be a mistake in the book somewhere. If you find one, please email me at neptuneproject1@aol.com and I will send you a thank you prize!

Are you planning to write any more books?
I will always be planning to write another book because I LOVE to write. I am currently working on a big fantasy trilogy for middle grade readers that includes a prince who can talk to animals and a girl who can see other people's emotions in color. I post information about my upcoming books on my website.

Are you planning to write any more Neptune books?
I would love to write more Neptune books, but it really depends on whether or not The Neptune Promise sells well. I'm afraid I can't afford to write books for free, but I do think my Neptune world is so well-developed at this point, I can think of a number of different stories I could write set in that world. I've always wanted to give Robry and Bria their own spin-off series. So, please tell your friends about my Neptune books, and maybe I will be able to write another Neptune book someday.

What advice would you give to young writers?
I urge young writers to read as much as they can. Everyone time you read a book, you are picking up new vocabulary and getting a better sense of plot, character development and story lines. I hope kids will write as much as they can, unplug from their gadgets (television, phones, computers etc.) to leave themselves more time to daydream. We don't value daydreaming enough in today's fast-paced society. Yet when people are daydreaming, that's when they are most apt to come up with new and creative ideas.

I also think it's important for young writers to write the kind of story they like to read. There is no point in writing a vampire book if you don't like vampires. If you get stuck and have problems with writer's block, I recommend skipping to the next exciting scene in the story.

The Neptune Challenge

Will there be a movie of The Neptune Project?
Shortly after I sold TNP to Disney, I talked to media agents in LA and there was some interest from movie producers. But once they realized the books truly take place entirely in the ocean, most lost interest because it is REALLY expensive to film live action sea movies. Also, Disney film studios had just optioned another excellent middle grade sea book, Dark Life by Kat Falls, and they already had it in production when Disney/Hyperion (the book publishing company) bought my TNP. Right now, no one has picked up the movie rights, but I do think TNP would make a great animated film or a wonderful weekly cartoon adventure series. Unfortunately movies do cost millions of dollars to produce, which is why I won't be turning my books into movies any time soon.

Is there some way you can come to my school?
I do visit many schools each year because I used to be a middle school teacher, and I love trying to convince kids that they should exercise their imaginations and think about becoming a writer because it is the best job ever. I also teach practical writing workshops that can help to prepare students for their state writing assessments, and principals and ELA teachers seem to really like those workshops! I can't afford to visit schools for free, unfortunately, so usually the school librarian or principal working with the school's PTO figures out a way to pay my travel expenses and honorarium. I do give discounts to Title 1 schools. Your librarian or principal can contact me at: pbholyoke@gmail.com or neptuneproject1@aol.com.

Who is your favorite character in your Neptune books?
I'd love to go swimming in the ocean with Densil. He is so kind and sweet and steady. He's one of my favorite characters, and he always seems to know when Nere is feeling down. I probably would have ended up with Tobin, but Nere is a very stubborn girl and doesn't always do as her author/creator tells her... she's a bit like my daughters, now that I think about it!

Did you think that your books would become so popular?
I suppose most writers hope that their books will become successful. At the start, I was just trying to write the story I would have liked to read when I was a girl. I didn't realize at the time that many of the themes I was writing about were going to resonate so strongly with many young people, both girls and boys. Lots of kids seem fascinated by the sea and by dolphins. In a deeper sense, my books are about trying to find a place to belong, and I think my readers can relate to Nere's struggles to build friendships with such a diverse group of kids in such a foreign world.

I've been delighted to see the book make state readings lists in Ohio, Maryland, Florida, Texas and Hawaii, and it recently won the Sunshine State Young Readers Award in Florida. I was also thrilled when the AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) endorsed The Neptune Project as a strong science-based read for kids.

Did you write any stories or books when you were a child?
I did write a 67 page story with my best friend during study hall in fifth grade. It was a remarkable story about two girls outsmarting horse thieves who came to the girls' ranch to steal their family's prize quarter horses. Laurie and I had so much fun writing this story, we couldn't wait to get to study hall and write another chapter.

What was the hardest part of writing the Neptune Trilogy?
As the books progressed and I gained more fans, I did feel quite a bit of pressure to make my serious Neptune fans happy. In The Neptune Promise in particular, I wanted to make sure each character's story arc wrapped up in a way that my readers would find satisfying.

What was the hardest part of writing about the ocean?
I wanted to make sure my readers could understand what the world under the waves looks like, feels like and sounds like. I've done quite a bit of scuba diving, and I drew on those experiences when I was writing these novels. I also had to do a ton of research because I wanted to make sure I was placing the right species in the right regions and depths, both off the coast of southern California where the first book begins, and up in the Broughton Archipelago where Safety Harbor is located.

How do you write your stories?
I usually write on a computer in my office, but I also end up writing in airports, Starbucks, libraries and restaurants when I'm on the road. I LOVE breakfast and often end up eating at Denny's at night, or at IHOP's.

The Neptune Promise

How do you cope with writer's block?
I write because I love it, but I also write because I need to make money. Therefore, I can't afford to have writer's block. If I have problems on a particular passage in a story, I skip to the next most exciting passage, and that often gets me unstuck. I also may go for a walk, take a shower, or eat some chocolate ☺.

How old are Nere and her friends in The Neptune Project?
Nere turns fourteen in the first book, Dai is fifteen and Robry and Bria are ten. The Neptune Promise takes place a year later, so everyone is a year older at the start of that story.

What is your favorite book that you've written?
Eep! This is like asking me to choose between my children! I'm proud of The Neptune Challenge because Kuron's wild kids have to choose whether to be good or to continue to be savage, and I think that's a fascinating choice for my characters to make. I love The Neptune Promise, the third book in the Neptune Trilogy, because I was able to write exactly the book I wanted to write. Nere rescues a humpback whale calf early on, and then the whales help her later in the story (I really love whales)! I also like the portions of that book where Nere has to dive deep into the cold, dark Twilight Zone.

What is your favorite book by another author?
My favorite book growing up was The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley. In this wonderful tale, a shy young woman learns how to fight with a sword, do magic, ride horses, saves the kingdom, and she ends up with the cute king. I love to re-read my favorite books, and this one is falling apart now!

What books would you recommend to readers who loved your Neptune books?
I always recommend Dark Life by Kat Falls to my readers. It's a gripping story about a boy and his family homesteading on the ocean floor. You might also like The Maximum Ride series by James Patterson and Above World by Jen Reese.