Today I am posting an interview with YA author Gemma Malley (who you might also have come across as Chick Lit writer Gemma Townley, sister of Madeleine Wickham/Sophie Kinsella – totally irrelevant to this article but nevertheless quite interesting!) I first came across her when I was working at the library and picked up a shiny copy of The Declaration, the first in a trilogy set in a future where drugs have eliminated old age and people are prevented from having children because there’s no room for them. It’s well worth a read, as are the other books in the series, The Resistance and The Legacy – particularly if you like a bit of future dystopia.
When you’re done with those, Gemma’s new book, The Killables, is released at the end of this month. It starts off another futuristic trilogy in which the part of the brain that makes people evil has been removed. Seems like a perfect time to ask..:
What attracts you to writing dystopian visions of the future?
I like dystopia because it is a great platform on which to ask difficult questions and explore the answers. I like to take an issue that is current and take it to one of its logical conclusions, then ask whether it’s really such a good idea after all… It’s also a great backdrop for adventure stories, giving protagonists real challenges to get over.
Who is your favourite of the characters you have created, and why?
Impossible to say – I love all my characters in different ways, even the evil ones! But I do have a current soft spot for Evie, the heroine of my latest book, The Killables.
Do you ever find any autobiographical detail slipping into your stories, or is it entirely from your imagination?
It has to be a mixture of both; the stories and characters are imagined, but they necessarily draw on my experiences.
Can you tell me a bit about The Killables?
The Killables is set in the future, after the Horrors, a war on terror that virtually destroyed the world. A brain surgeon has identified a bit of the brain where evil resides. Before the Horrors he was considered a kook, but now he is revered and has established The City, where Evie and Raffy live, where everyone has the evil bit removed from their brain and where a system labels every citizen, monitoring their behaviour to ensure that evil doesn’t return… Only things aren’t quite as they seem. Evie is convinced that she’s evil because she hates the ‘A’ she’s meant to be marrying and keeps ducking out to meet Raffy secretly. And then Raffy is labeled K, which they thought meant ‘needs reconditioning’ but which actually means ‘Killable’… and suddenly Evie and Raffy are on the run, being hunted, and discovering things about the City that shake the very foundations it was built on…
I love journalism; I was more of a feature/comment writer than a news hound, but it’s great training for a writer. Important to learn to meet a deadline, to fit your story into a set number of words, and to have to think of the reader all the time.
What gave you the confidence to give up the day job and become a full time author?
A book deal that enabled me to!
As someone who reads a lot of articles about technology advancing and then extrapolates the ‘what ifs’ through fiction, do you ever worry about the future of books?
No, I think writing will survive… although I do worry about the way content is now expected for free. It’s all very well thinking that everything should be free on the web, but if it is, the writers don’t get paid, and they’ll have to find other ways to support themselves and won’t be able to write anymore. Newspapers are facing this problem and book publishers will be next. There will be an answer, though, I’m sure. Hopefully some genius is coming up with it right now!
You must come into contact with a fair number of young people who read your books – have you got any thoughts on the recurring debate about whether young people read enough, or as much as they used to?
I think reading is a wonderful thing, but I always laugh when parents complain that their children don’t read enough; when my mother was young she was always told off for ‘having her nose in a book’ instead of being outside! Of course there are so many distractions nowadays and it is too easy to spend hours surfing the web mindlessly/updating your Facebook status instead of reading something meaningful – or doing something meaningful!
Your books are real page-turners, how hard do you find it to create that pacing and suspense? Does it come naturally or as a result of lots of re-drafting?
Both – I like reading things that move quickly and whenever I write I always ask one question: why should the reader bother turning this page? I see it as part of my contract – you read my book and in return I will do everything I can to keep you on the edge of your seat!
Would you ever want to write for a younger audience, or an adult one? Why/not?
I’d write for anyone; it’s all about the story. Right now the stories I want to tell involve young people but if a story comes to me that involves a five year old or a fifty year old then, as long as it’s gripping, I’ll write it!
Read any good books lately?
Trying to finish off the second book in the Killables trilogy, so no. I can’t read when I’m writing otherwise it’s too easy to adopt other people’s styles. I do it with accents too – I’m a born mimic. Maybe an alternative career if things go pear shaped! But I obviously adored the Hunger Games trilogy.
Have you got any daytime TV favourites other than Made in Chelsea?!
Daytime not so much (that was when my baby was tiny and I was on the sofa most of the day!). But in terms of evening viewing I’m enjoying The Homecoming on Channel 4, and I loved Kidnap and Ransom last week on ITV (written by my friend Michael Crompton).