Welcome back to The Pop Quiz at the End of the Universe, a recurring series here on Tor.com featuring some of our favorite science fiction and fantasy authors, artists, and others!
Today we’re joined by Elizabeth Haydon, the author of the bestselling Symphony of Ages fantasy series, which began with Rhapsody. The Lost Journals of Ven Polypheme, set in the same enchanted world, is her first series for young readers and kicks off with The Tree of Water, out October 28 from Tor Teen.
One time she released a ton of bats into a movie theater. On purpose. Fear her.
Please relate one fact about yourself that has never appeared anywhere else in print or on the Internet.
I am terrified of giant fruit bats. I think it’s Karma or God’s punishment or the justice of the universe, because as a child in Arizona, while my dad was in Vietnam, I was convinced to accompany my very bad friend [we were 8 and 9 years old, respectively] out into the desert to what looked like manholes that were actually underground caves where little bats slept during the day, looking like folded pieces of black paper. We pulled them carefully off the walls, put them in brown paper lunch bags, and took them to the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base movie theater, which showed creature-features really cheap every Saturday afternoon [her mom drove]. Right around the time the scary music was starting, we shook the bags, simultaneously waking and stunning the bats, then opened them, put them under the seats in front of us, and headed out into the lobby to the popcorn stand. We were innocently waiting in line for Milk Duds when the screaming in the theater began. There is no sin I’ve ever committed that I feel worse about than this, and I’ve tried to make up for it by setting up bat-shelters in the woods around my home, wooden boxes with open bottoms for them to hang out in. But justice has been served, and I cannot go to the Nocturnal Cave in my local zoo without having full-blown anxiety at the Giant Fruit Bat exhibit. Karma 1, Haydon 0.
What is your favorite short story?
“The Laughing Man” by J. D. Salinger.
If you could choose your own personal theme music/song to play every time you enter a room, what would you pick?
The theme from Jaws.
Do you have a favorite word/phrase/etymology?
“Continuosity.” The irrevocable need to keep going. [I made it up.]
The green sea slug is the only entity in the world classified as both animal and plant. It eats a certain type of algae once at the beginning of its life, then thereafter floats up to the surface and sunbathes, photosynthesizing its own food for the rest of its life. If there ever are human/animal-plant clones, I want my DNA to be combined with that of the green sea slug.
If you could name a planet after anyone (other than yourself), who would you choose and why?
Carl Sagan or my father. Dr. Sagan is an obvious choice. My dad was a rocket scientist who worked on the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs, and those guys never got the credit they deserved. They are the ones that actually had the Right Stuff. So a planetary naming seems appropriate. His name is Robert Haydon, but if he had any say in it, the planet would probably just be named Bob.
If you had to choose one band or artist to provide the official soundtrack to your (new/last/latest) book, who would it be?
South African world-music band Mikanic. And it has begun already.
What’s the best Halloween costume you’ve ever worn?
A college friend once hand-sewed an amazing dragon costume for me with a long stuffed tail and a ribbed stomach. It was epic.
If you could design a line of clothing/accessories based on your favorite fictional character, what would it look like?
I’m launching a new Gollum-based couture collection in the spring. Mostly designer loincloths.
What was your gateway to SF/Fantasy, as a child or young adult?
Age 8: My father read me The Hobbit. [This is now a family tradition]
Age 9: The Chronicles of Narnia [of course]
Age 10: The Lord of the Rings and Fahrenheit 451
Age 11: 1984, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and The Silmarillion
Age 12: Anne McCaffrey and Patricia McKillup—everything
If you could find one previously undiscovered book by a non-living author, who would it be? Why?
Ralph Ellison, who claimed to have lost more than 300 manuscript pages of his second novel in a fire. Having had the same thing happen to me, I’d love to see what he would have produced if he had had the chance to finish that book. He is said to have written 2000 pages of a different second novel, but never finished it either. I would love to be able to read that as well.
If it could be a living author, my vote is for Harper Lee.
What is your ideal pet (real or fictional)?
Doesn’t everybody want a dragon? Come on. [Although they’re hell to clean up after.] And only children think dragons are appropriate pets; the rest of us know the role they should play in our lives is mentor.
What’s your favorite fairy tale, or fairy tale retelling?
“The Twelve Months,” a Czechoslovakian tale. And my favorite retelling of it is in Olive Beaupre Miller’s folklore encyclopedia, The Book House, from 1926.