Want to know more about the father-son duo behind our latest YA scifi thriller, The Switch? Well you’re in luck, as we have an interview with authors A.W. Hill & Nathanael Hill about writing a book together, the science behind parallel universes, and if there will be a The Switch 2.
Okay, so who gets credit for the idea?
A. W. Hill: That one’s easy. Nathanael does. But I’ll take credit for leading his mind down the forking path of parallel realities. It was the literalness of his concept of the switch—that it was a physical thing flipping Jacobus from universe to universe—that hooked me, because then it could become almost like another character, and it would also make the extremely weird physics easier to understand.
Nathanael Hill: I don’t want to undersell myself - I’m sure that if it weren’t for me, my dad wouldn’t have taken on this book, and certainly not in YA form - but he gets the credit for the way the idea was fleshed out into a big story. That’s something I don’t quite know how to do yet. One day, hopefully. I had a lot of input on the dialogue, and a lot to say about the way we should feel when certain things happened to the characters.
Do you think the fact that it’s a literal switch makes the book less…scientific?
AH: Only in the way that the old school phone booths in the original Matrix movie give a sort of grungy, analog realness to all the crazy metaphysical stuff. But there’s also something about the idea of a switch that feels scientifically right. A switch is either on or off, like a digital bit. And if you were actually going to flip into a parallel universe, there would have to be some kind of trigger, right? This made more sense to us than, for the time, than having the kids chant a magic word like ‘Abracadabra’ or click their heels together like Dorothy.
NH: If there’s a possibility that humans, or living things from our universe, could ever transfer into another reality, what other medium would we have than a physical object? We’re not trans-dimensional; if we could ever hope to go to another universe, the only plausible way would be to interact with something third-dimensional, since we can’t make contact with anything else. At least not yet.
Do you guys believe there really are parallel realities? A ‘multiverse’ where we all have these cosmic doppelgängers?
AH: The jury’s still out on this, and maybe always will be. I mean, how would we ever provide concrete evidence? But we have to keep two things in mind. The first is that the ‘many worlds theory’ is just a logical extension of what’s already high school science. Second, as the Youssef character says in the book, we “switch” all the time without knowing it. Every time we make a decision, we leave behind many roads not taken. These parallel worlds aren’t ‘places’ until we actually go there. They’re just probabilities. But that means there’s also a probability that someday we might become aware of them.
NH: Whether or not its existence in real life is as literal as our interpretation in the book, there’s no doubt in my mind that each opportunity you don’t take, and the things in our reality that never came to be, have to exist somewhere. I’m not sure if they exist in mirror worlds or dystopias like the ones we’ve created in The Switch, but even if they’re simply information, tucked away in some corner of the universe, it has to exist in some form. The wonderful thing is, since we know so little about the topic in general, anything could be true, even us being spot-on in the way it works in the book, as crazy as it seems.
Did you guys argue over any of the main plot points or characters? Psychology says that the relationship between a teenaged boy and his father is pretty competitive.
AH: I might’ve lost my temper a few times when he insisted on taking breaks from editing sessions to go play video games. But other than that, Nathanael was pretty much always there for me. It was like working with a really good editor, the kind who gets totally invested in the manuscript. The only times he called me out were when I’d lost the emotional thread of a character. I’m honestly much more interested in ideas than I am in people, not a great quality for commercial fiction. He kept me grounded to feelings.
NH: There were a few times when my dad introduced story elements or plot points that I disliked, and when I voiced that, he got understandably frustrated that I would shoot down something that he had spent time writing and thinking about. Normally, though, we would just talk through our differences in opinions and it would make me realize that I didn’t give his ideas enough a chance at first, or that he would agree with me after re-reading it. Sometimes we would compromise, and meet somewhere in the middle, whether that was with characters or story, which, I think, makes it even more of a collaborative effort.
Was this project a bonding experience for the two of you?
AH: I think so. I highly recommend it to dads who don’t fish, coach little league, or play Assassin’s Creed. We were kind of stranded over in a pretty dismal part of Northern Belgium after a music production deal I had went sour. Nathanael hadn’t had time yet to make close friends. I was restless, and it rained a lot. Like five days out of every week. And we didn’t have the money to jet around Europe. Doing the book meant creating an imaginary world that we could both live in when we wanted to. That’s a cool thing.
NH: I would say it was, but my dad and I were already pretty close. If I was ever thwarted by a metaphysical puzzle of some sort, I would always consult my dad first. We talk about the kind of stuff that the book is about all the time, so it was more of an exercise of putting our discussions into something real that we could hypothesize about and experiment with. Doing that sort of thing undoubtedly strengthens bonds.
Will there be a Switch 2?
AH: I hope so, but it’s in the hands of the gods, readers and Amazon now. Story-wise, I have to believe that once a group of smart, curious teenagers find a way to make their lives an adventure by pulling a switch, staying in one world will seem pretty dull.
NH: As much as I would love to re-enter the multiverse and the life of Jacobus, the answer to that question is in the hands of our prospective audience. There’s a lot of room for more to come, and considering the number of worlds out there still left to discover, there’s surely no drought of possible misadventures for the crew.
About The Switch
IMAGINE THAT you could change your world with the flip of a switch. You might be prettier, more athletic, more popular, or even living on an exotic island, because your history—your world line—would be different. But here’s the catch: you have no way of knowing if the reality on the other side of that switch will be better…or much worse.
JACOBUS ROSE is a fifteen year-old who believes—as many fifteen year-olds do—that his life could use improvement. School is a numbing routine, and his parents’ marriage seems to be imploding before his eyes. ‘Maybe I was born into the wrong world,’ he thinks. Lured by his best friend, CONNOR, into a strange little house containing nothing but empty rooms and an oversized circuit breaker, he’ll discover that reality comes in a plural form, and that our choices create a continuous web of branching worlds, any of which is as ‘real’ as another.
A solo odyssey becomes a duo, a trio, and then a quartet, as Jacobus befriends other interdimensional travelers along the way: GORDON NIGHTSHADE, the veteran pilgrim and chief theorist; MOSES DeWITT, the alley cat with an old soul; JEMMA DOONE, a girl of many-worlds who becomes the main river home for Jacobus and his crew; and finally, his lost friend Connor, who just may have preferred an alternate universe to his own.
THE SWITCH is the story of their journey home. The question is: if they get there, will it be the same place they left behind?
About A.W. Hill & Nathanael Hill
A.W. Hill is a classic late bloomer. He began his writing career in 1995, under the influence of California—a place that makes one believe that crazy things are possible. Until then, he was (and still is) involved professionally in one aspect or another of the music business. He was a rocker, playing the circuit until he turned 31. His last band was called TigerTiger, after the William Blake poem, which may indicate that his literary aspirations were already germinating. In 1995, when he began work on what would become his first novel, ENOCH’S PORTAL, he had just left a 9-year stint as Vice President of Music Production for Walt Disney Studios.
(PORTAL, in a textbook instance of beginner’s luck, was optioned by Paramount Pictures and slated for production as a $60mil movie, only to crash into turnaround when the producers, director and studio couldn’t agree on a script)
That was 2000. That same year, he won a Grammy Award, which ought to have made it his favorite year, except that it was also the one in which he reported the lowest adjusted gross income ever to Internal Revenue Service, consisting in part of his meager earnings as a pseudonymous writer of women’s erotica.
He wrote two more books with the same protagonist as in PORTAL—THE LAST DAYS OF MADAME REY and NOWHERE-LAND, published, respectively, by Carroll & Graf in 2004, and Counterpoint Press in 2010.
The fourth year of the new century was also the one in which he first had short works of literary erotica published under his own name, in Susie Bright’s BEST AMERICAN EROTICA and in an esoteric journal called Absinthe Literary Review, the latter of which awarded him its Eros/Thanatos Award for short fiction.
Along the way, he was introduced by his literary agent, Dorris Halsey, longtime agent to Aldous Huxley, to an Indian physicist in need of a ghostwriter. Together, they dove deeply in quantum physics and the mysteries of the cosmos. He allows that his experience in editing two books on these subjects is perhaps the only thing that gave him the confidence to undertake THE SWITCH. Between 2012-2015, he spent four years teaching film composers in Europe, and along the way, produced an independent album, Another Country, for iTunes .
Nathanael Hill, co-author of “The Switch”, has always been interested in the possibility of parallel worlds. Even at a young age, he and his dad would mull over things like wormholes and higher dimensions. But how, he wondered, could one ever experience these alternate realities? He went to his dad and said, “What if there were a Switch?” That was how things began.
Nathanael, born in Los, Angeles, currently lives in Nashville, Tennessee with his mom and dad. But these aren’t the only homes he has known. His family has also made moves to Chicago, Spain, and Belgium, which may also have influenced the main character’s world-hopping in “The Switch.” Nathanael’s hobbies include playing guitar, drums, writing, and video games. He is currently attending Nashville School of the Arts, and as of yet has no idea what he wants to be when he grows up.