I love my job. Have I mentioned that? Because every so often, I read a book and fall in love with it. Then, I learn there's a sequel coming. And THEN, I get a chance to chat with the author about her books, her life, and her plans for the series moving forward.
And I'm not even talking hypothetically!
I think you're going to love this interview. Read on for more about the Godfather, X-Files, and a handsome android who deserved to have his story told.
LR: First off, thank you so much for coming over to the blog today to talk about your books. I read vN last year, and I have to say – it was a wild rollercoaster of a story. Such a fun ride. I’m excited to hear that your new book, iD, is also set in this same world, full of androids that look just like you or me. Did you always plan for vN to be part of a series?
MA: Thank you for having me! I'm so happy you enjoyed vN. In answer to your question: I didn't, actually. Angry Robot Books was good enough to offer me a deal on another book, and then I started thinking about what I would do with another one. Eventually, I decided that the second would invert a lot of things from the first: male protagonist instead of a female one, winter instead of summer, sex instead of violence. The two books sort of talk to each other that way.
LR: What I loved about vN in particular was Amy, your main character, an android with the emotional maturity of a five year old who suddenly finds herself with the body of a gorgeous blonde bombshell, and has no idea what to do with it. I love how she was forced to grow up so quickly, to acclimate to a suddenly dangerous world. What was it like to write a journey like that?
MA: It was really hard, to be honest. On the one hand it's an experience that many women go through as they age: both at adolescence and at menopause, there are these sudden changes where your body doesn't match up with who you think you are. One day you look in the mirror and you're just different. It's scary. And it's a hard experience to relate, accurately. So I chose to focus on Amy's understanding of her new body as a way of growing closer to the mother she's searching for. They have the same bodyplan, and through her new body Amy is able to understand her mother a bit better. Because that's also a thing that happens to people: you look at yourself and you see your mother (or your father, or grandparents, or other relatives).
LR: I also loved Javier, the other android in the story. He was her guardian, her friend, and then more. I’m thrilled iD focuses on his journey, because I think it’s going to be a great story to read. What made you decide to shift the focus to Javier?
MA: Thank you! I'm glad someone else loves him like I do. As for I decided to take this ride with him, I just thought it was his time to shine. He's a very active character in the first novel; he really speeds the plot up whenever he shows up. He's far more decisive than Amy. He doesn't waste a lot of time. And I thought that his perspective would be an interesting one to write from: his failsafe is still intact, and he has a lot more experience living as an adult than Amy does. He's a lot more jaded, but he's also witty about it. So I thought he had some important things to share.
LR: Did you grow up reading/writing/watching sci-fi, or was it something you came to later on?
MA: I grew up watching a lot of sci-fi, and reading a lot of both mainstream literary fiction and horror. I didn't start reading classic SF until high school and college. And even then, I was fairly selective. My real love affair with SF started with anime and manga. I just dove head-first into Neon Genesis Evangelion and Ghost in the Shell. I mean, I'd always been an X-Files fan, but this was the first time I started actively wondering about the potential of the technologies being discussed.
LR: Your style of sci-fi has robots and futuristic technology, instead of spacecraft and faraway planets. I love that kind. But have you had anybody coming to you to discuss plausibility? Any snarky, “that couldn’t happen?” type comments? If so, how’d you handle them?
MA: Oh, sure. It happens. And there are always snarky comments. If it's not about the technology, then it's about the plot. Or the language. Or something else. I mostly just ignore it. I don't really Google myself or my reviews. If I do, I'm careful to search for the title of the books, and not for myself. It's important to me that I find out what people think of my work, not what they think of me as a person.
LR: As a kid, were you a compulsive reader?
MA: I was! I would read everywhere, even the back of the car at night, waiting for the regular illumination of streetlights to slide over the page and give me another paragraph. I was constantly reading. I really just raced through books. Now I take them more slowly, because I want to see what the writer is actually doing.
LR: When you write, are you an outliner, or a seat-of-your-pantser?
MA: Inevitably, I'm both. It takes an outline to sell a book, anyway. Your agent or your publisher will always want to see a synopsis. So inevitably you have to think things through. And then, just as inevitably, you change your mind.
LR: Favorites time!! Favorite book(s)?
MA: I have a few. My desert island novel is probably Kafka on the Shore, by Haruki Murakami. There's just so much that's good in it. It goes so many different places, and touches on so many different genres. So if it were the only book you had at your disposal, it would at least have several different books inside it. Otherwise, my gold standard is To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. I also have a deep love of The English Patient, by Michael Ondaatje. That book made me a history major, in college. Ondaatje uses a style of prose I'll never be able to emulate and will always envy. If I got to choose more on my desert island trip, I'd probably take The Stand, by Stephen King. The original edition, not the one that came out in the '90s. We have an original copy at home on our King shelf and we guard it like a dragon's hoard.
LR: Favorite movie(s)?
MA: I used to say it was Casablanca. And in many ways it still is -- everything you need to know about dialogue is in that film. While writing iD I probably watched The Godfather, Part II at least ten times. Just over and over, until I could figure out how Coppola had gotten a sequel better than its inspiration. I tend to watch the Godfather movies when I'm in need of some comfort, anyway. Especially now that they're on Blu-ray, so they can look their best. (I also watch Halloween when I'm feeling the same way. It invented the final girl formula, and when your life is in chaos it's nice to retreat into something formulaic.) And I watch The Silence of the Lambs fairly regularly, too. I just adore every part of it. I think people tend to miss that Clarice Starling is the one who transforms, by the end of that film. That she achieves what Buffalo Bill could not. I love that reversal. The way the camera lingers on the butterfly ornament spinning and flapping its wings open and shut. That's Demme making his point.
LR: Favorite album or band?
MA: My desert island record is The Fragile, by Nine Inch Nails. I listen to it every time I'm stuck, and it always works.
LR: And finally, is there any one question you’ve wanted to be asked in an interview, but that no one has ever asked? If so, feel free to ask and answer it here.
MA: Not really. :-)
Thanks so much, Madeline, for taking the time to talk to me today!