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Youthful perspective: Fort Madison teen writes her own dystopian adventure

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By Rob Cline, correspondent

What started as a school assignment quickly developed into a passion for Margeaux Nall, a Fort Madison teen with a taste for science fiction and fantasy and a strong imagination of her own.

Her first novel, “In the Camp,” is a young adult dystopian adventure recounting the experiences of Matt Noralez, a teenager whose day-to-day life involves working to restore nature under the watchful eyes of elves who have taken over the world.

In an e-interview, Nall wrote about the origin of “In the Camp,” the inspiration for the book’s main character, and why a life as a fiction writer may or may not be in her future.

Q: You’re 18 and a recent high school graduate, and you already have your first book out in the world. How long have you wanted to write and what was the process of writing the book like for you?

A: Everyone has to write short stories in school, and I guess I just enjoyed doing it so much that I started to write in my free time, too. It was a fun hobby for me. So, I’ve always wanted to write, but I never really considered trying to get published until my parents urged me to try.

I wrote “In the Camp” during my sophomore year. I usually wrote at home on my laptop, but I had the file on Google Drive, so I’d write or edit it during boring classes, too. (I don’t think the teachers cared as long as I wasn’t playing a game or something.)

For the process of actually writing it, I would usually write something on the document, edit it, and then edit everything I had before it with the addition.

Q: Tell me about the origin of the story in “In the Camp.” When did you have the idea and what made you decide to pursue it?

A: My two favorite genres have got to be science fiction and fantasy — the real nerdy stuff. So, I wanted to write a book that had elements of both. It’d be more fun for me to write it that way. I thought it’d be cool to take fantasy elves and bring them to the near future, and I just developed the story from there.

I decided to have the book take place in 2046. I didn’t want to go a crazy number of years into the future, because by then I think language would change so much that it’d be unrealistic for the characters to speak like we do now. Plus, I wanted the humor of having my generation being the middle aged parents of their own teenage children.

Q: The cover of the book says this is book one of a trilogy. When can we expect book two? Can you tell us anything about the direction the story will take?

A: Yes, hopefully it will be a trilogy. The publishers seemed very into the idea of more in the series. The next book will follow Matt as he tries to rescue his father from the camp.

Q: Tell me about developing the characters, in particular the narrator. How did you develop his personality and voice?

A: The main character, Matt, is loosely based on my brother Nathan. I mean, it’s not like I said “this character is my brother,” because that’d be weird, but Nathan was definitely an inspiration for the character. I took certain aspects of his personality, like his love of video games and technology, and filled in the rest with made-up elements.

The voice of the narrator was easy; I just wrote it like I talk in real life, only in more detail.

I don’t know anything about cars, but my dad used to be a mechanic, so he helped me with the scenes dealing with fixing cars or starting a car without the keys. Beyond that, my dad was definitely not an inspiration for Matt’s dad.

Q: What are your future plans? Is your goal to be a professional fiction writer?

A: I don’t think I want writing to be my only job, mostly from a practical standpoint. It’s not exactly the most stable job. But if I do ever make enough money to support myself on just being a writer, I might change my mind on that.

I actually really love math and science, so I’m going to major in chemistry at Iowa State this fall. I want to be a forensic chemist. It’s my goal to someday work in the Iowa Crime Lab.

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