Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Interview with Erin Cashman, author of The Exceptionals

Today I'd like to welcome fellow Inky Erin Cashman. Erin's debut young adult fantasy, The Exceptionals, is scheduled for release April 1, 2012, but is available now at most major booksellers.

About the book:

Born into a famous family of exceptionally talented people, fifteen-year-old Claire Walker has deliberately chosen to live an average life. But everything changes the night of the Spring Fling, when her parents decide it's high time she transferred to Cambial Academy--the prestigious boarding school that her great-grandfather founded for students with supernatural abilities.

Despite her attempts to blend in, Claire stands out at Cambial simply because she is normal. But unbeknownst to her new friends, she has a powerful gift she considers too lame to admit. Suddenly, the most talented students in school the Exceptinals begin to disappear. In an attempt to find out what happened to them, Claire comes across a prophecy foretelling a mysterious girl who will use her ability to save Cambial students from a dire fate. Could she be that girl? Claire decides there is only one way to find out: she must embrace her ability once and for all.

Hi, Erin, I loved your "specials"! The supernatural talents in The Exceptionals seem to straddle the line between fantasy and science fiction, and I bet readers of both genres will be drawn into the world you've created.

Can you tell me a little about where the concept for a school for specials came from?

ERIN: Growing up, my father often told me that we only use ten percent of our brain power. I often wondered, can some people use more? What can they do? Did Einstein use more of his brain than most people – and what about mediums? This became the foundation for The Exceptionals: a school for students who have “special” abilities. But clearly this sort of power comes with those who would abuse it; hence the struggle at the core of the book between good and evil.

What was your world building process? For example, I loved your private school setting. Was Cambial wholly fictional or based off an existing school? Did you have to do any research on telekinesis or the other specials?

ERIN: Cambial is wholly fictional, but I think there’s a little of both of my alma matters, Bates College and Boston College in it. I never really thought about it until now, but the library at Cambial is very similar to the beautiful, gothic library at BC!

I did not do too much research into any of the specials. I can be too influenced by research, and I wanted to stay more in the world of my imagination. I did read an article about dogs being able to detect cancer, and that gave me the idea for Ally’s ability as a healer.

Okay, you had to know this was coming....If you had a special what you most like it to be?

ERIN: I would definitely want to be able to communicate with animals! That would be my number one choice. But as I wrote the book, I also loved all of the ghosts, and the idea of continuing a relationship with someone after they die. And to have Ally’s ability as a healer would be wonderful, as well!

Are there any specials you *wouldn't* want to have and why? (ex. Would you be a little too dangerous with a certain special, too tempted to use it for "the Dark Side"? ;) Or would one of them be just too scary to have?)

Initially I would have said I would not want to see ghosts, but that changed as I wrote the book. It stopped being frightening to me as I saw ghosts through Charlotte’s eyes. It would sure be nice to have someone like Uncle Christopher looking out for me! He would also be great at giving advice.

I've found a "special" invitation that will allow you to bring one of your characters to life a week! You can have him or her over for an extended stay and, say, take advantage of their special gift. Who would you invite over and why? (Without giving away any spoilers, of course!) For instance, I think Winny would be delightful to hang around with. I bet she'd enjoy baking chocolate chip cookies with me, and she'd be SO handy with clearing away household clutter. If there were any. Just hypothetically speaking, of course. ;)

ERIN: Winny would be one of my top choices, too. It would be hard to be in a bad mood with Winny around! But I’d have to go with Claire. I’d love to go for long walks in the woods with her. She could tell me what the animals were thinking. I feel like there’s still more to Claire that I don’t know yet.

Claire's mom is such a central character in your story. The friction between her and Claire felt very real, and raw at times. In fact, I found the presence of Claire's entire family in the story refreshing, when a lot of times parents are absent in YA. (I've been guilty of writing orphan stories myself!) Real life teens live in a world centered around school and family, so these elements would seem to reflect their everyday concerns and struggles. Can you tell me a little about how you developed Claire's family ?

ERIN: I wanted Claire to be a typical teenager in many ways, and most teenage girls do fight with their mothers! I knew Maura was not going to be the cookie-baking, nurturing mother type. As a big fan of the Harry Potter series, I often wondered what Professor McGonagall would be like as a mother. The character I dreamt up is Maura Walker Crane. She is tough, but she loves and supports her kids. In fact Claire’s father, Charles, is more nurturing than her mother. Billy is a great older brother, but he also has his insecurities, like most teenagers. I loved Charlotte! At first she was just a sweet younger sister, but she turned into a real bratty tattle-tale. So much more interesting!

I loved your characters, Erin, and would love to go back to Cambial for another visit! As we close out here, could you tell us what are you working on now?

ERIN: I am working on two different projects. One is a middle grade fantasy/adventure novel based on Irish Mythology, and the other is a YA fantasy/romance that takes place in Maine.

I'll be looking forward to those, Erin! Thanks so much for being here and good luck with your new projects!

Interview by Lena Goldfinch, author of The Language of Souls, a short-but-sweet tale that will "appeal to teens who enjoy fantasy with a side of sigh-worthy romance". She lives in New England with her husband, two teens, and a very spoiled black lab. You can visit her online at


  1. I really love reading author interviews on the Inkpot because they give an extra dimension to books I've read and give me reasons to run out and buy the ones I haven't. Cover blurbs can often seem generic, but an interview brings the characters and their motivations into focus, and that's what really drives story. Thanks for this fascinating interview, Lena and Erin. Another one to add to my list!

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