Arclight Author Josin McQuein on the Origins of Her Unusual SciFi Thriller

May 9, 2013 2013, author interview, guest post, josin mcquein, Wendy 80

As our readers probably know, Tonya and I both really enjoyed Arclight by Josin L. McQuein. (Read the blog review here!) 

This scifi thriller is unusual because it combines traditional elements of the genre with a mood that sometimes veers a little closer to horror, which makes a fantastic combination.

With the book just released in stores, and with the recent announcement that it’s been optioned by Imagine Entertainment for a film, we’re excited to have the author with us today chatting about the origins of her story.

Josin has been a great friend to our blog, so please help us give her a warm welcome!

~ Wendy



by Josin L. McQuein

I get that question a lot. The blurb on the back of the book is pretty open, and can be interpreted a dozen different ways. It’s an unusual mash-up of genres, but to really explain how the world works, you need to know that Arclight started off as a movie.

No, I’m not talking about the deal with Universal and Imagine. I’m talking about the ambition of a teenage writer who had stories to tell, but didn’t think she could sustain a story for 300 – 400 pages. Screenplays are about 1/4 the length of a novel, and have 1/10 the words. To my younger self, that made them perfect, so I decided I was going to write films. One of the first ones that I wrote was a set in space, aboard a spaceship. (I’m a nerd, what can I say?)

It never went anywhere, of course, but I finished it, and I kept it. A few years later, when I was putting Arclight together, that old screenplay became its backbone. The deep dark of space became “The Dark,” an endless vacuous stretch of nothing, uninhabitable by humans. The shiny, brightly lit spaceship became the Arclight, a militaristic safe-haven surrounded by that darkness and never able to escape it.

There’s a desolation to space, both for the silence and the vastness, but it also has a sort of hypnotic beauty that makes people curious about the secrets it keeps. I tried to keep that atmosphere intact, even though the Dark is a tangible place located on Earth. It’s ever-expanding, like the universe, and nebulous, so that there’s no real dimensions to it. It simply is, and it’s simply everywhere.

There’s usually a scene in space movies where someone stands at a window and stares out at the stars in total awe. They exist reminded of how small they are in the grander scheme, and know that if not for that thin piece of glass, they’d be pulled into the void. It creates a claustrophobic quality where the characters can feel the pressure of something deadly pressing against their safe zone. Their world shrinks to a series of hallways and identical doors, and a repeated parade of the same faces every day. They know that no one new is ever going to arrive, just like they know they can never leave. And suddenly, their sanctuary is a prison well on its way to being an asylum.

That’s the atmosphere I hope carried over into the Arclight. The people are on edge. There’s no way to escape the encroaching Dark. It can be seen from every window, inching closer every day. People start to grate on each other because of the forced proximity. They go through their safety routines, and keep the lights burning, chanting the mantras they’ve been taught about how it makes them secure, but they don’t feel secure. They feel the crush and know they’re helpless to stop it – and that’s on a good day.

The world exists in a state of equilibrium until something comes along to disturb the balance. In space, it would be the scene where an air lock gets opened or someone blows a hole in the side of the ship. With the barrier between the two halves removed, air rushes into the void, attempting to reinstate that equilibrium, because that’s the way of the universe. With Arclight, that hole in their routine is caused by a girl.

Marina causes a breach. She’s something from the outside, introduced into a closed environment. She’s gone through the Dark, into the Light, and upset them both, so that both sides are struggling to reset their balance. As a consequence, light and dark make an exchange, so that both invade the other’s territory. But Marina remains an agitator. She’s the black hole throwing off everyone’s inertia, causing them to stray from their normal paths, and so long as the agitator is in motion, the systems will continue trying to even themselves out. And like that open airlock, it’s a violent process that leaves both sides changed in some way because they’ve both taken in bits of the other.

Now, that’s only one component of the abandoned story mish-mash that became Arclight, but it’s the biggest piece.

So what is Arclight?

It’s a space opera. Set on Earth. With no aliens or space ships. But there are shooting stars, and wishes, and the hope that there’s something out there worth finding.


About the Author

Josin L. McQuein was born and raised in Texas and can trace every place she’s lived in by the movies that were filmed there. She currently lives with three crazy dogs in a town so small that the buffalo outnumber the people and things like subways and consistent internet service are creations of that far away fantasy land called “Civilization.” Connect with her online through her blog and Twitter.

Arclight is available in stores and online now, through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound, and many other retailers. You can also add it to GoodReads, along with her book Premeditated, which is out from Random House this October 2013.


Are you excited about reading Arclight? We think it’s a great addition to the YA scifi genre, and it has all the makings for a terrific film. Let us know if you agree!

80 Responses to “Arclight Author Josin McQuein on the Origins of Her Unusual SciFi Thriller”

  1. Sophia

    Ooh, I actually hadn’t heard of this one. But if you loved it, I’m sure I will, too! Like Josin, I planned on writing scripts for films, but then I realized I probably wouldn’t be too great at that, haha. Thanks so much for sharing, girls! :)

  2. Daphne

    I’m actually reading Arclight right now! I was instantly drawn into Mcquein’s world and can’t wait to read more about it. It’s really interesting that this book actually started out as a movie, I never heard of that happening to anyone before.

    Daphne @ Reading Until Dawn

    • Wendy Darling

      Oh, cool! It’s good to hear you’re enjoying it, Daphne. Let us know what you think when you’re through. :)

  3. Kelley

    I love that Arclight has its roots in a space opera. It’s so obvious now that it’s being pointed out, too! I think it’s awesome that she took those concepts from space and translated them into a new, scary world set on Earth. I think she did a fantastic job. I really liked Arclight!

    • Wendy Darling

      Yes, exactly! It seems so logical when she puts it in that way. And turning the usual scenarios around was pretty brilliant–it’s like when Hitchcock took all the usual murder mystery scenarios (dark, rainy nights, man waiting alone for something unknown) and turned it on its head in North by Northwest, with Cary Grant waiting alone in the blazing sun.

  4. GillyB

    Oh my gosh, I love this. ARCLIGHT was one of the best, most inventive books I’ve read all year. How awesome to find out what McQuein’s thought process was like!

    • Wendy Darling

      I’m glad to hear you loved it, Gilly! Reading about the origins of this story was pretty fascinating to me, too. So looking forward to the sequel!

  5. Vivien

    I was already convinced I wanted to read this book. Now, I’ll do anything to get my hands on it. I love the sci-fi genre. It’s so incredibly fascinating and terrifying at the same time. The fact that they can mimic our society so well can be really unsettling. This sounds most excellent!

    • Wendy Darling

      You’d do ANYTHING? Heh.

      It is most excellent, and if two out of three Midnight Gardeners recommend it… :) (K hasn’t read it yet, scifi’s not really her thing as much.)

  6. Ash

    Another great book I’m looking forward to read! This year has been great, lots of good books coming through. The first thing that really catches your attention here is the cover, well it is for me. Great looking one.

    • Wendy Darling

      I agree, this has been a fantastic year so far for YA. And yes, I’m really happy that the cover is so gorgeous, so that it helps attract attention to the story within! I’m always so sad for books that are terrific that have ho-hum covers. It’s such a big part of why people pick them up.

  7. Sunny Duvall

    I’ve been really, really wanting to read this one so it’s great to hear that it’s been optioned AND to hear the original roots. I always love to hear how an author wrote the idea of their book. A screenplay is different and just, gah, loved this post!

    • Wendy Darling

      This is one of the best “origins” stories I’ve read, Sunny–we’re so pleased she shared it with us here. :) I hope you get a chance to read it soon!

  8. Rachel

    Josie, I love that your original story outline was made for a movie. I find stories with a cinematic feel to them very consuming reads! I find your concept fascinating and I’m adding this to my TBR! Congrats on the film option deal! :)

  9. ~ Anne ~

    This book sounds very interesting! I’ve added it to my Goodreads and PBS WL! I’ve added your blog and Goodreads pages to my everyday “to check” list!! I love reading exciting books that I can donate to the High School library for young adults to read. In a day and age of electronic reading, I love to be a small part of opening YA to the world of reading and feel if more teachers encouraged kids/young adults to read something that THEY are interested in vs something generic & archaic that a school board decided they needed to read, more young people would be INTO reading and reflect more on it as enjoyable rather than a CHORE. Thanks for all you do to encourage reading! I’m a Literacy Tutor for YA and adults and will be recommending your blog to several teachers I coordinate with at our local HS!

    • Wendy Darling

      Oh, thanks so much, Anne! We’re always so pleased to welcome new readers. I totally agree that for reluctant readers, finding pleasure books that they can connect with goes a long way towards turning the idea of reading from chore into an enjoyable habit. I used to work in a bookstore, and my favorite question was always, “My child doesn’t like to read. Could you recommend….?” I got that question a lot, especially when it comes to boys.

      Thanks so much for stopping by. :)

    • Wendy Darling

      I think this is the only time I’ve ever seen a YA book that started out as a screenplay–it’s definitely an unusual path for this story to take.

  10. Candace

    I have a copy of this but haven’t yet been able to read it. I think it sounds terrific though and I love the description of a space opera! Love it!

  11. Shooting Stars Mag

    Congrats on the movie deal! Thanks so much for the guest post too. I think it really helps explain the novel. I’m one of those crazy people that have an irrational fear of space, so I think it’s cool it has those aspects but not actually IN space. :)


  12. starryeyedjen

    Oh, man, just the way she describes the feeling, the pressure of essentially being trapped in your existence…I felt that the entire time I was reading Arclight. To be able to convey that…it was brilliant. I loved this book and I think it would make a fantastic movie…a creepy one that I’ll hide from behind my fingers at times, but still a great one.

    • Wendy Darling

      YES. And conveying that feeling within this short amount of space is pretty impressive, imo.

      I’m not always wild about the idea of books being turned into movies (usually suspicious and/or indifferent, actually), but I think this project has a lot of potential.

  13. Amy

    That was a really great guest post. I think it’s so cool how it came to be. I always love reading guest posts from authors about their books. I always find it interesting how the idea came about.

    • Wendy Darling

      Same here! Everyone’s story is so different, and it’s fascinating to hear that this was originally a screenplay.

  14. Sara @ Forever 17 Books

    Wow, that post from the author was amazing. If I hadn’t already read and loved the book, it would have sold me on it. I can definitely see it as a movie, or even a sci-fi tv show because there is so much you can do with the concept, I think. Thanks for sharing!

    • Wendy Darling

      This post actually makes me want to read th book again, hah! But maybe I’ll save that for a refresher before book two comes out.

      Oh, TV show would be interesting as well. But I think I’ll enjoy seeing this world on a big screen and the more immersive experience that provides.

  15. Jenni @ Alluring Reads

    LOVE this post! I especially love the wrap up sentence at the end *claps* The guest posts here on The Midnight Garden are always the best! I haven’t read this one yet but I really want to, I love how dark it sounds! Thanks for sharing ladies!

    • Wendy Darling

      Awesome way to end a piece, right?

      And yay, thank you! We’re just lucky enough to have great guests on the blog, that’s all. ;)

  16. Jasprit

    Wow this is such a fascinating post Josin. I am utterly flabbergasted by how Arclight came about and how what you’ve told us is only a small contributing factor to what sounds like a wonderful story. Seriously Wendy its like you read my mind and knew that I hadn’t considered giving this book a go and then decided to give us this fabulous post! Arclight here I come! :)

    • Wendy Darling

      I think you’d enjoy ARCLIGHT, Jasprit. It definitely has a different vibe than other scifi books out there.

      And hah, that itch in your brain in the middle of the night, when you can’t sleep? THAT’S ME. :D

  17. bookmaniac

    I think I’m going to add this to my TBR. A combination of sci-fi and horror, sounds amazing! Thanks for the review!

  18. Melliane

    It’s nice to understand a little more. It’s always really intriguing to have a blurb like that, because we want to understand and know more about the story. Thank you for all the infos!

    • Wendy Darling

      I always like to read origin stories for books, too. :) This one was particularly sweet since it went from movie to book and then will be a movie, hah.

  19. readingdate

    What a fun guest post! I always see the cover of Arclight and get mesmerized by it, but I never really understood what it was all about. It actually sounds really cool. I’m liking the YA scifi trend and can’t wait to check out Arclight.

    • Wendy Darling

      The blurb is rather cryptic, isn’t it? I liked that I didn’t know too much about it going in, but on the other hand knowing more facts definitely helps to persuade people to pick it up as well. Look forward to hearing what you think of this one when you have a chance to read it, Lucy!

  20. Kim (YA Asylum)

    I have no idea how I don’t already have this book. The first time I heard of Josin McQuein was on Query Shark, where she submitted her query for her second novel to come out, Premeditated. It was so, so, so amazing (so much so that I’ve already preordered that one). But this — this sounds so good. I think I don’t have it because I’m a bit burned out on dystopians and that’s what I heard it was.

    But now I need it. Oh, midnight garden, this site is always making me want to buy more and more books :)

    I love how odd Josin makes the book sound in this. A space opera without space — it sounds impossible, which makes me really, really want to read it all the more. Plus, a horror element? I’m sold.

    • Wendy Darling

      An astonishing number of people have mentioned (elsewhere as well) that they saw JM’s Query Shark posting for her other novel–it must have been something if so many readers remember that after all this time!

      And yay, as evil as it is, I’m glad to hear we are convincing people to buy books. This is such a great time for YA, and there are so many authors well worth supporting.

  21. Alise (Readers In Wonderland)

    Just went back and read Tonya’s review to remind me about this one. I haven’t read it yet but it does sound very interesting. I like the guest post and how she explains just how many things going into and make up Arclight-all the different genres. Got to love those shiny covers! ;)

    • Wendy Darling

      You have to see the shiny cover in person–it is blindingly gorgeous. Poster-worthy, imo. :) I hope you get your hands on it soon!

  22. Ellen Chen

    This was interesting. I’m really excited for this book and the 5th wave since a good handful of my favorite reviewers have said good things about it. After my thick sci-fi-romancey novel, I really want to read something with action.

    • Wendy Darling

      Both books are standouts among the many, many YA scifi books out this season. And if you’re looking for action, both of them definitely deliver on that! This one has a more contemplative tone when there’s not an action scene, though.

    • Ellen Chen

      Haha, I coincidentally won a giveaway copy of Arclight just that day, and today I put in an order of the 5th Wave.

  23. Jessie

    I’ve already read this and it wasn’t my favorite but I have to admit McQuein is an impressive author. The Fade are seriously creative and sooo creepy. And what with the recent wave of more scifi YA books, I hope this is an author that sticks around to contribute more!

    • Wendy Darling

      The Fade are pretty awesome, I’m really looking forward to finding out more about them. And judging by the behind-the-scenes info we’ve seen for the book and film deals, I have a feeling Josin’s here to stay. :)

  24. Christina / Book Addict

    Great post! I have been hearing good things about Arclight and it’s been soooo very long since I’ve read a good YA sci-fi. I’ll have to check this one out!

  25. Christina / Book Addict

    Great post! I have been hearing good things about Arclight and it’s been soooo very long since I’ve read a good YA sci-fi. I’ll have to check this one out!

    • Wendy Darling

      There’s a ton of young adult scifi releasing this spring, but this is among the best, in my opinion. :) Put this one and The 5th Wave on your list for sure!

  26. dreamsofawalrus

    I think I missed the first post on this book. This description has me drooling. Space opera? The claustrophobia of space ships? In a young adult package? :D~

    Sign me up!

    (But don’t, that stuff actually terrifies me in real life. Just… let me read the book.)

    • Wendy Darling

      Hah hah, we will not shoot you into outer space, walrus. But I hope you get to read the book soon, it’s a pretty spin on the genre.

  27. Molli Moran

    I’m really psyched for Arclight! I’ve read several good reviews of it, and I love getting to see Josin’s thoughts on it. :) The last paragraph of her post, especially, makes me want to read it!

    Molli | Once Upon a Prologue

    • Wendy Darling

      I think you’d enjoy this, Molli. :) It’s such an interesting book, and the mood/tone is very different from other YA scifi books.

  28. Lyn Kaye

    I am very excited to read this book. I have been waiting for it, ever since I saw it pop up in Netgalley. I hope I can get my hands on it soon!

  29. Keertana

    As you know, I wasn’t a huge fan of this one, but I did really enjoy this post and getting to know more about the beginnings of Arclight. I definitely have to check out this author’s other novel coming out this year.

    • Wendy Darling

      I always think origins stories are fascinating, especially since they’re all so different. I’m glad you liked the author’s writing style enough to check out her other novel–I’m really looking forward to that one, too!

  30. Sam

    I had no idea that this book started off as a screenplay! That’s really interesting to hear, though I’m glad Arclight is a novel now. I get to read it that way. ;) I love the concepts here and look forward to giving it a shot. Thanks so much for sharing, Wendy and Josin!

    • Wendy Darling

      I’m glad the story ended up being a novel first, too, so we can have more fully fleshed out characters and plots. And this way, we get the best of both worlds with the movie in addition to the book!

  31. Tanja - Tanychy

    I’ve seen this book around but I was waiting for the reviews to come. Now I don’t have to wait anymore. The author bought me with this guest post. I love when I can create a movie in my heard while I read it a book and this one seems perfect for doing so. Thanks for sharing Wendy :)

    • Wendy Darling

      I love her guest post, too–both Tonya and I really liked the book, but if hadn’t already read it found this post elsewhere, I think we would have been convinced, too!

  32. Bonnie R

    Okay, this one really does sound good. It sounds incredibly original and that cover is absolutely gorgeous. Great post!

    • Wendy Darling

      Oh man, that cover is so shiny-gorgeous in person, Bonnie. I really hope you get your hands on this one soon.

  33. Stephanie Sinclair

    I can totally see this as a movie and I think it would make the transition perfectly. That’s what I thought as I was reading it. And I bet it’d scare the pants off me! Loved this guest post, Josin!

    • Wendy Darling

      Agreed, her post makes so much sense to me (that this started out as a screenplay) because I kept putting myself in Marina’s shoes. I hope the film does the book justice–there’s a good team behind it, though, so that’s a good sign!

  34. Mary @ BookSwarm

    I can *definitely* see this story as a movie! The darkness, the gray, the “monsters” out in that impenetrable area all worked so well together, building the tension exponentially. Highly enjoyable story!!

    • Wendy Darling

      Yeah, that sensation of crouching in the dark listening for unknown monsters was so vividly depicted, I totally want to see that on screen. I can’t wait to see this as a movie!