Welcome to this week's Beyond The Bio. I'm so thrilled to introduce this week's guest here at Beyond The Bio. She's an author from Northern California, who works at a bookstore by day and writes by night. She loves coffee and hates sheep. She's the author of the Illusive duology and of the upcoming The Hearts We Sold, which will be released later this year. Let's get to it!
James: Hey Emily! Thanks so much for joining us today! Your upcoming novel The Hearts We Sold was recently listed as one of the Most Anticipated YA novels of 2017 by Entertainment Weekly. Congratulations! Can you tell me a little about what we can look forward to?
Emily: Thank you so much for having me! I’ve always been fascinated by tricksters in fiction - specifically, how often humans will make deals with tricksters even when they are fully aware the deal is likely to backfire. The Monkey’s Paw, Rumplestilskin, the Picture of Dorian Gray are all among my favorite works of fiction, so I suppose it was only a matter of time until I decided to write my own take.
In The Hearts We Sold, our protagonist is Dee, a seventeen-year-old girl who desires to escape from her abusive home life by attending boarding school. But when her scholarship runs out, she makes a desperate deal with a demon - her heart in exchange for the money. At its (forgive the pun) heart, The Hearts We Sold is a book about the lengths we will go to in order to achieve our desires.
James: You've dabbled with supernatural and sci-fi themes since your first novel, Illusive. Have you always been interested in science fiction?
Emily: My first brush with science fiction was when I was six. I lived in a rather rural area of Oregon, and we didn’t get many channels. However, one of the tv shows that we managed to get (with minimal static), was Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. I grew up watching it with my mother, who has always been a huge sci-fi fan. So, yes, I’d say it’s pretty fair to say that I have a long history with the genre.
James: Illusive features a host of characters with super-powers. If you could have any one super-power, what would it be? Would you want to change appearance like Ciere, or would it be something else?
Emily: As cool as it would be to change my appearance (imagine never having to buy new clothes!), I think I would choose a different power. I would love the ability to heal - both myself, and others. Because I think it would be an amazing power to have. And also because then I’d never have to pay for another doctor’s visit.
James: One of the things I appreciate most about Illusive is the fact that you portray the nuances that would be created in a world in which superpowers exist. There's almost this fundamental shift in socio-economic structure that occurs as these powers become a part of society. Can you tell me what inspired you to capture that political dynamic in Illusive?
Emily: When I was creating the world of Illusive, I realized that superpowers would affect society just as much as technology. So I decided to look at the fantastical element as just another shift in technology; in particular, I spent a lot of time studying how atomic energy changed the course of our history. The ability to read minds, to levitate, to not trust one’s senses - they would alter the world just as dramatically. How people react to a changing world reveals much about their character - and I used that place as the starting point to sketch out my cast of criminals.
James: Politics and dystopian literature have always been intertwined. How do you think the role of dystopian books such as Illusive will shift in light of the current political climate?
Emily: I think the appeal of dystopian books is because we like reading about worst case scenarios. End of the world, post-apocalyptic, and dystopian fiction has always captured the collective imagination because we like to imagine how we would react in such circumstances. I mean, I know most of us have probably sat around and debated how we would survive the zombie apocalypse. It’s a way of exploring scary ideas in a safe environment.
When I created the world state in Illusive, I imagined a place where anyone could be arrested on the grounds of being a threat to national security, where freedom of the press was gone, where the United States had alienated its allies, where the nation was recovering from a bloody war, where the borders were closed, the citizens forcibly registered, and the only people who could be safe were those who could pay for private security. In 2012, that was a worst case scenario. A distant possibility. Now, it’s not so distant.
I think the role of dystopian fiction has changed from fun mental exercise to reflecting a future we are actively fighting against. It’s no longer sitting around saying how we would set up our anti-zombie fortresses - dystopian books are roadmaps for how we could potentially navigate the changing world around us.
James: I know I'm not the only person who would love to see Illusive turned into a film. If you were the casting director for an Illusive adaptation, who would you cast Ciere and her crew of criminal superheroes?
Emily: Thank you! I must admit I have considered who I would love to see in the role of the main characters. But since I don’t watch a lot of movies, I’ve only managed to truly settle on one. Evanna Lynch has the perfect look for Ciere - I’d love to see her in that role.
James: Rumor is, you're currently working on a project about a chronically ill girl who risks her life to save her best friend. Why is this story an important one for you?
Emily: Yes, I am. (Or at least, I’m trying to write it.)
I’m chronically ill. It’s something I don’t talk about much - although I’m trying to change that. When I began to sketch an outline for my next book, I wished to depict a heroine who has the same condition I do. It’s part of her life, but it doesn’t define her. Also, I love friendship stories. Particularly female friendships. In my current WIP, I’m exploring how far one friend will go to save another.
That's it for today's interview with Emily. If you have any questions for Emily or want to let her know how much you love Illusive, be sure to check out her website or her Twitter. And don't forget to check our Twitter account, where you can enter to win an amazing swag package for Emily's new book, The Hearts We Sold. It features bookmarks, buttons, and even some book-themed tea! Don't miss out!
And don't forget to come back again next week, when we'll be talking to the amazing Angie Thomas, just two days before the release of her debut novel The Hate U Give! It's the most hyped YA book of 2017, and for good reason. It's incredible! See you next Sunday!