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Q&A with Emily Jane - On Earth as It Is on Television

On Earth As It Is on Television

By Niamh McCreanor

We are thrilled to welcome Emily Jane to The Reading Corner to talk about her new release On Earth as It Is on Television, out on 13th June 2023.

Since long before the spaceships’ fleeting presence, Blaine has been content to go along with the whims of his supermom wife and half-feral, television-addicted children. But when the kids blithely ponder skinning people to see if they’re aliens, and his wife drags them all on a surprise road trip to Disney World, even steady Blaine begins to crack. Half a continent away, Heather floats in a Malibu pool and watches the massive ships hover overhead. Maybe her life is finally going to start. For her, the arrival heralds a quest to understand herself, her accomplished (and oh-so-annoying) stepfamily, and why she feels so alone in a universe teeming with life. Suddenly conscious and alert after twenty catatonic years, Oliver struggles to piece together his fragmented, disco-infused memories and make sense of his desire to follow a strange cat on a westward journey. Embracing the strangeness that is life in the twenty-first century, On Earth as It Is on Television is a rollicking, heartfelt tale of first contact that practically leaps off the planet.

On Earth As It Is on Television

Aliens are a big topic in the book which I did really enjoy as I’ve never read a book with this being a big part. Are Aliens something you believe in? What inspired you to include this in the plot?

I guess you could say I’m alien-curious. I’m not convinced that they exist. But the universe is vast. Statistically, the occurrence of life on other planets—even intelligent life—is likely. It’s far less likely that they’ll ever visit Earth. I really hope that if they do, they’re like the aliens in my book. I can credit my husband for inspiring me to write an alien story. He’s a true believer. He’ll periodically show me video footage, as if the blurry splotch on his phone screen could be proof. And I’ll nod and smile and say, “oh, that’s nice, honey.” But how could it convince me We’ve been saturated with alien narratives. In movies, TV shows, video games, et cetera, aliens are ubiquitous, so much so that the concept feels fictional. I thought it would be fun to write a story where the aliens made their presence undeniable. I found some scenes with Oliver very moving especially when he described the snow constantly falling in front of him at the start of the book and never being able to escape his last memories – I really liked seeing life from his POV and the snow always being there, I found very emotional. Was this situation based on someone you know? I felt like you really showed what his brain must have been thinking and the manic nature of his mind.

First off, thank you! Oliver is (as much as any character can be, given that a writer’s own life experiences inevitably seep through into their work) a pure product of my imagination. I’ve never met anyone with a tragic back story like his, and I’m not sure how exactly I was able to channel that snowbank in his mind, if you will. But I’m glad I was able to dig him out of it. Throughout the book Blaine refers to Anne as ‘The Wife’ and ‘My Wife’ and hardly ever calls her by her name. What was the reasoning and significance behind that? Was it done deliberately?

I suppose it was somewhat deliberate. It popped up, fortuitously, in the first Blaine scene I wrote. But I kept it because it felt like the right choice. ‘The Wife’ is ethereal. ‘The Wife’ is beautiful and captivating. ‘The Wife’ conveys the distinction Blaine feels between his own ordinary self and his exceptional partner. What is your favourite genre to read? And what is your favourite genre to write? If they are different, how come?

I’m an eclectic reader and I enjoy books from almost all genres. The stories I love the most are ones that have science fiction or fantasy or horror elements but are also more grounded in reality. So I guess my favorite type of book to read is also the type I like to write. A lot of the characters aren’t too phased by the Aliens. Is this book set in the future, a time where aliens might be more normal? Or is it set in a different world?

The book is set in our world in the present day. There are secondary characters—Dave, stockpiling weapons to prepare for the coming “invasion,” for example—for whom the aliens’ arrival is a big deal. Humanity panics, on a larger scale. But then the aliens fly away with zero explanation, and life is supposed to somehow go on. Back to work. Back to school. Did it all really happen, or was it just some alien show on TV? Without the spaceships’ continued presence, the main characters get caught up in the drama of their own lives. Blaine worries about his wife’s strange behavior. Lonely, aimless Heather broods about her annoyingly perfect family. Oliver tries to unravel the secrets of his own mind (and the mystery of his new cat). I think their journeys reflect how people might really react, in the uncertain limbo following the aliens’ departure.

Are there any books/authors that inspired you to write this book? And what would you recommend to readers of the book who are looking for something similar?

For inspiration, there isn’t a specific book or author I can point to. I’ve heard people compare the book to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, but it’s been over a decade since I’ve read that book. I’ve also heard it compared to Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin, and to the work of Becky Chambers generally. I’m honored by the comparison to all those authors, and I’d recommend checking them out.

When and where can the readers of the blog get their hands on On Earth as it is on Television?

I know it’s available through multiple retailers, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Waterstones, as well as many independent bookstores. You can select where you’d like to buy it through Disney’s website. It’s presently available in hardcover, e-book, and audio formats.

On Earth As It Is on Television

Emily Jane grew up in Boise, Boulder, and San Francisco. She earned her B.A. in psychology from the University of San Francisco and her J.D. from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law. She lives on an urban farm in Cincinnati, Ohio with her husband, Steve; their two children; their cat, Scully; and their husky Nymeria. On Earth as It Is on Television is her debut novel.

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