Note: My answers may contain some spoilers for the book—please don’t read this if you haven’t finished the book!
How did you come up with the idea for the parents not allowing Nick and Eryn to meet their stepsiblings?
I had a friend who was getting remarried after a divorce, and he and his new wife each had two kids. All four kids were between sixth and ninth grade, and the parents were well aware that those can be hard ages for kids under the best of circumstances—throwing in a new step-parent and new step-siblings was bound to make things even more complicated. So the parents were doing everything they could to smooth the transition and get the kids to get along as well as possible. At a certain point, hearing my friend’s stories of what lengths he and his new wife were going to, to try to work toward having a happy blended family, I just thought, “Wow, that sounds like a lot of hard work. I wonder if any parents getting remarried ever just said, ‘These two sets of kids are just too different to ever get along. So we’re not even going to try to make them. In fact, we won’t even let them meet!” And then I thought, “What if parents did that, and it wasn’t just because they were too lazy to do the hard work to make everyone get along? What if they thought the fate of the world depended on them keeping the two sets of kids apart?”
How did you come up with the idea of the robots?
It was because of going to volunteer at my kids’ middle school the day after I’d finished intensely writing a new book. I always need a little transition period to adjust to being done with a book, and I always feel like I am very, very strange during that transition. (And, yes, that was embarrassing for my kids when they were in middle school.) Anyhow, I was volunteering at my son’s seventh-grade end-of-school picnic, and I was working with a lot of other moms I’d known since my son was in kindergarten. But seventh graders are a lot different from kindergarteners, and it kind of felt like the other mothers and I hadn’t adjusted to that, either. As we passed out hamburgers, hot dogs, chips, etc., it felt like we moms were saying the same things to the seventh graders we would have said to them as kindergarteners. “It’s like we’re robots,” I thought, as I robotically plopped puffed cheese balls onto one kid’s plate after another. And then, of course, I thought, “Wow, what if parents WERE robots?”
Why were Ava's and Jackson’s rooms almost identical to Eryn’s and Nick’s?
I wanted this to be a subtle clue that the robots didn’t have much imagination, and so the parents were pretty much just encouraging Ava and Jackson to be like Eryn and Nick.
Is there going to be a sequel?
I already wrote it! It’s already available! IN OVER THEIR HEADS continues the story, picking up right where UNDER THEIR SKIN leaves off. However, in IN OVER THEIR HEADS, you get to see all the action from Ava’s and Jackson’s perspective, as well as Nick’s and Eryn’s.