Today I am delighted to share with you a Q&A with Gemma Malley, whose brand new YA book The Disappearances (the sequel to The Killables) is out today!
I really enjoyed The Disappearances and my review will be up on the blog tomorrow so do check for that too if you’re so inclined.
As many of your books are dystopian, I was wondering what in particular about dystopian settings inspires you to write? What do you think YA readers find in dystopian books that aren’t in other titles?
I never really set out to write dystopia; I just had the idea for The Declaration and couldn’t not write it. It was only when it was finished that it occurred to me what genre it was in; I wasn’t even thinking YA particularly. But once I’d written that trilogy I realized that I like to create worlds in the near-ish future because it enables me to pose big questions without being constrained by the current reality. I loved the Matrix films because they do a similar thing. I grew up on books like 1984 and Brave New World and they left such an impact on me. When you’re a teenager, you’re having to work out what you think about the big things; you suddenly realize that no one has the answers and you’re going to have to figure things out for yourself. And dystopia isn’t a bad place to start!
What in particular inspired the world and story of the Killables?
The Killables started because I got really obsessed with the brain and current research into it. I’m a bit of a nerd really; my interest in something is piqued and suddenly I’m reading everything possible about it. But as I wrote the book I realized that it was the ‘System’ that was really interesting, an all-knowing computer system that can control a population. I’ve always been a bit spooked by the way data is collected and held; the way companies know so much about us. And it made me wonder what lengths a power-hungry obsessive would go to create the kind of System I imagined in the Killables. That’s what led me to write The Disappearances.
The Disappearances offers real challenges to Raffy, Evie and Lucas in terms of their development. I was particularly interested in how Raffy changed – did you always intend him to behave as he did in the Disappearances?
I’m not sure he changed exactly; the jealousy was always in him, even in The Killables. He’s a character who’s afraid of freedom; there has always been anger and bitterness bubbling beneath the surface and in the Disappearances it all comes out. Raffy’s still young and he’s had a difficult life; he hasn’t got his instincts and emotions under control yet. But he’s got time to grow up… There’s a final book in the trilogy yet to come!
Do you have a favourite character in the series to write from the perspective of?
No – what I love about the third person is that I’m able to flit around. I love a new character – I really loved writing from the perspective of Devil as he was so interesting and complex. I also enjoyed going inside Raffy’s head and seeing things from his point of view for a change. But I love all my characters, even the bad guys – sometimes they’re the most fun to write!
The Disappearances contains two parallel timelines from before and after the City- how did you find writing two very different worlds at the same time?
The writing was actually not too hard, but it was making sure everything fit together that got tricky. I love nothing more than setting up a story, showing the reader a little glimpse (in book one), then changing tack in book 2, making the reader reassess everything and look at everything anew. For me, the great thing about a trilogy is that you can take the reader on a huge journey, and I like to cover a lot of ground, either physically or time-wise.
Is there anything in particular you want readers to take from the Killables series?
I’d like my books to make people think. That’s what I like in a good book, so that when I put it down, my mind is racing and I start to look at things differently. If I achieve that, I’ll be delighted!
What is your average writing day like? Do you have a special writing spot or routine?
I’m a morning person so I like to be at my desk by 9am; I write for about 3 hours, then have lunch. In the afternoon I might write some more, but usually I get on with admin/replying to emails/thrashing out storylines that aren’t quite coming together. I’m quite flexible when it comes to where I write; a view is nice, a cup of tea is essential, but other than that I’m pretty easy.
Did you always know you wanted to be an author and how was your journey to publication?
I knew I wanted to write but I never thought about writing a book – far too intimidating! So I became a journalist, writing about everything from finance to music. It was later that I suddenly found myself wanting to write a novel.
What’s your favourite part about the publication process?
Finishing a book. It’s lovely seeing the finished product, and I love going out to festivals/schools to talk about them. But nothing gives me quite the satisfaction of being able to write ‘The End’.
Are there any authors who initially inspired you to write or have been a big influence on you? Do you have any favourite YA writers or titles?
Everyone I read has some influence on me… But I think the writers I loved as a teenager probably had the biggest influence. We didn’t have YA then, or dystopia, so I got my dark/dystopia fix from philosophical writers like Satre, Dosteovsky and Simone de Beauvoir. They were hard going, but like I said, I like books that make me think. These days I love Meg Rosoff, Philip Pulman and Jodi Picoult… I think some of the most exciting literature today is in the YA genre. Honestly, you lot are totally spoiled
Thanks Gemma for answering my questions and Emilie at Hodder and Stoughton for arranging the Q&A.