Marie D. Jones, with Max Jones
Premier Digital Publishing
Ages 8 - 12
Ten-year-old Elvis Jones is tired of being picked on, taunted, and teased by the bullies at his elementary school, so he does what any smart, technologically brilliant kid his age would do: he creates EKHO, the Evil Kid Hunting Organization, a sophisticated network of kid spies and secret agents that utilize a variety of cool gadgets to stay one step ahead of the enemy – the bullies. They hire kids, make them swear allegiance to the organization, and train them as Commandos, Privates, and Elite Spies. As kids rise through the ranks, the missions, posted on an encrypted EKHO website, require more smarts and skill, especially when the bullies form their own counterspy group called DEKE (Destroy EKHO Kids Everywhere).
It’s all in good fun, until the kids of EKHO must put their pretend skills to use for far more serious, and dangerous, missions. As field agents come across evidence of more sinister forces, they now have to deal with the strange, weird, and the unknown as they look for the truth about the bizarre and creepy threats to their school, their families, and their own lives. They experience betrayal, intrigue, infiltration and counter-espionage as well as teachers and adults who act more mysterious with each passing day, which leaves Elvis and his EKHO team wondering: who can you trust when the person standing next to you might not be entirely human?
INTERVIEW w/ MARIE D. JONES
1. In one sentence, what is EKHO about?
EKHO tells the story of one boy's creative and resourceful way of dealing with grade school bullies…with a special sci fi twist!
2. What was your inspiration for this story?
My son Max, who has a disability, created EKHO, Evil Kid Hunting Organization, as a way for him and other bullied kids at his elementary school to spy on school bullies, and stay one step ahead of them and their plans. EKHO wasn't just some cute club…Max created a sophisticated spy agency with various rankings, training missions that were posted on a fully interactive website, and even utilized spy gear and modified toys. He even created a mirror website to deter bullies from finding the real site with the real missions. Eventually, every kid in school wanted to be in EKHO, and some of the bully kids created their own group called DEKE, Destroy EKHO Kids Everywhere, and the whole thing got very complex to where my son spent more time evolving EKHO missions and organizing the group than he did on his homework! At the time, I had no idea how sophisticated things really were, until I asked him one day what all these whisperings about EKHO were…and he told me. My mind was blown by his ability to use what he had, his technological savvy and clever mind, to fight bullies, and I was so impressed and proud!
3. Are any of your characters based on real people?
The lead character Elvis is based upon my son, Max and some of his actual experiences dealing with his disability and his past surgeries, although some of the details have been changed to protect some of his privacy, and other characters are really conglomerations of people he knew, teachers and kids that were in EKHO or DEKE, but not any one person in particular. The sci fi twist was added in because Max and I both LOVE science fiction and we wanted to add on an element to the real story of one boy's struggle with bullying that would kick it up a notch. In Book Two, which we are working on now, more of that will be developed, along with new struggles for Elvis as my own son faces new surgeries and challenges. I am always respectful of aspects of my son's life that are meant to stay private, but EKHO was a source of real pride and confidence for him and we both hope other kids get inspired by what it symbolized.
4. What books did you enjoy reading as a kid?
I read voraciously as a child and still do. I would go to the local library and take out a stack of books each week, whatever the limit was they allowed. I read EVERYTHING I could get my hands on, but was really into Nancy Drew mysteries, stories about horses (I wanted to be a jockey!) like "Misty of Chincoteague," and anything on Man O' War I could get my hands on, and ghost and UFO stories. I also read tons books about nature and wildlife, as I was really into birdwatching, tracking animals in the woods behind our New York home, the oceans and stars and planets. I loved Field Guides to rocks and minerals, sea shells, birds, trees…I was a science freak! Come to think of it, I read so much, I would read a TV Guide if it were in front of me. Books were like food to me, and still are. And I am totally old school, I love reading actual physical books…the feel of them, and the way the pages turn and present new ideas and new adventures. One day Max will drag me into the age of technology and I'll get an eReader!
5. If you could have lunch with a character from any book, who would it be and why?
Oh, Nancy Drew. For kids today, Nancy Drew was THE original Ghost Hunter and she and her friends Bess and George would have the most awesome paranormal adventures. Carolyn Keene, the author of the books, was really one of the original YA authors, long before those of today like Stephanie Meyer, J.K. Rowling and the rest…she really set the stage for writing cool mystery stories about young adults. They were rather stilted and formal, but they still stand the test of time with the excitement of watching a young woman solve spooky mysteries. Nancy would be my choice! If I had to choose a more modern character to lunch with, it would be Roland Deschain of Stephen King's brilliant "The Dark Tower Series." Roland is the ultimate hero/anti-hero wrapped in one!
6. Are you working on another project?
Max and I are knee-deep in EKHO Book Two, which really kicks up the action a lot. I have a YA paranormal series called "FREAK" that debuts in June of this year, and I am also finishing up another YA series called "The Legend of the Shapeshifter Stone." I also have a new project underway called "Gridwalkers" that will be a sort of "Indiana Jones meets the X-Files," and is being written with Larry Flaxman, my co-author on a number of my non-fiction books I've written. And…I am toying with ideas for my very own monster movie script, having loved movies like "Godzilla" and "Destroy All Monsters" since childhood! I write as much as I read…voraciously!
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