We welcome Deborah Rix to PUYB Virtual Book Club! Debbie is here today to talk about YA, one of my most favorite genres.
Here's what her book is all about:
Treason, betrayal, and heartbreak.
A lot can happen to a girl between her first kiss and her first kill.
It’s 100 years since the Genetic Integrity Act was passed and America closed its borders to prevent genetic contamination. Now only the enemy, dysgenic Deviants, remain beyond the heavily guarded border. The Department of Evolution carefully guides the creation of each generation and deviations from the divine plan are not permitted.
When 16-year-old Jess begins to show signs of deviance she enlists in the Special Forces, with her best friend Jay, in a desperate bid to evade detection by the Devotees. Jess is good with data, not so good with a knife. So when the handsome and secretive Sergeant Matt Anderson selects her for his Black Ops squad, Jess is determined to figure out why.
As her deviance continues to change her, Jess is forced to decide who to trust with her deadly secret. Jess needs to know what’s really out there, in the Deviant wasteland over the border, if she has any hope of making it to her 17th birthday. Because if the enemy doesn’t kill her first, the Department of Evolution probably will.
Purchase your copy at AMAZON
Thanks for coming today, Deborah! Young Adult is hot right now, not only with young adults but older adults as well. Can you tell us why you decided to write Young Adult and why science fiction in particular?
Deborah: I didn't really set out to write a certain kind of story. It's Science Fiction because that's always been my favorite genre to read. I love the 'what if...?' scenario and seeing where different writers take us when they answer that question. So Sci-Fi was natural for me. It's Young Adult by default, I think. As I was writing, I wanted it to be something that my kids would want to read and was smart, in an adult kind of way. There are some mature themes in the series that I tried to tackle head on because teenagers are smarter than you think. And they'll be the first to tell you so.
Can you give us the inside scoop on why you think it’s so popular with older adults as well as young adults?
Deborah: It's been interesting to see who reads and reviews the book. Very few guys, but when you use the word 'kiss' in your description I suppose that's bound to happen. The themes and ideas that are in the book are very much extrapolations of current issues, and I think that's what has the appeal for adults. All the little disasters in the book are plausible, which resonates with people. And I tried to keep the characters and relationships real too. I wanted to have a group of friends, not just characters that stepped in for some plot device. I think that the teenage years are full of very intense relationships. All of my own teen years were spent with a group of friends and all of them were important and influenced who I am today. I wanted to explore the intensity of that time in your life and I think older readers can identify with that.
Your main character, Jess, sounds very high spirited! Can you tell us more about her?
Deborah: Jess is complicated, like any 16 year old girl. She is growing up and has to deal with a lot of change. She is also discovering that the world is a very big place and she has to look beyond her own experience to understand what is going on. Her body is changing, her emotions can be mercurial, she can feels things very deeply while brushing off other things with a shrug. Like any teenager, she begins to question things she took for granted and to challenge the established authority. Where does my food come from? Who makes my clothes? What are my responsibilities to the rest of the world? The story, without being preachy, is about identity, about discovering who you are and what you stand for. In External Forces, Jess is at the beginning of that journey.
What about secondary characters? Can you introduce them to us?
Deborah: I am very proud of the characters that become Jess' group of friends. I wanted them to be integral to the story, and in the rest of the trilogy they all play important roles and have their own stories. Jay is Jess' best friend and they enlist in the Special Forces together. He is the guy that tells her how great she is but also tells her when she's being an idiot. He is tough and smart and gay, but like Jess he hasn't had the chance to really discover himself. Sheree is just badass, no other word for her. She is Jess' first real female friend and confidante. She has supreme self-confidence but she too will have to decide who she ultimately is. Matt is Jess' sergeant and the boy she falls for. He knows exactly who he is and has lots of rules to prove it, until there are no more rules. Ramon, Charlie, Gabrielle, Ruby and Hendrick are secondary characters that will come into their own in the rest of the trilogy and are all full of surprises.
How did you come up with the idea for the character, Jess? Was it movies, books, real life?
Deborah: Jess must have been living in my head for a while because she appeared as an almost fully formed 16 yr old. I didn't have to think too much about who she was or what motivated her or how she would react to things. I guess that's why I was able to write it in the first person and in the present tense.
Every book of fiction has a pivotal point for the reader that they can’t forget. What do you think is one of the pivotal points in your book?
Deborah: Jess has been ashamed by who and what she is and has been hiding her true self. There is a scene with some animals, gnashers, in which she embraces what she is in order to protect her friends. A lot of bad stuff has just happened and she already feels exposed and vulnerable. It's rather bloody and gory, but she is magnificent and she knows it. Although it doesn't seem like it to Jess at the time, it's the beginning of her self-acceptance.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell your readers?
Deborah: When I wrote this, it wasn't with the intention of creating a trilogy. I started and just didn't stop and at some point I had to accept the fact that most people did not want to read a 800 page novel. So I think the story arc is a lot longer than people are used to. It isn't all sorted out in each book, some things might seem too slow, others will feel too fast, and there's a lot of dangly bits because there's a lot of twisty turns to come. But rest assured it all comes together quite nicely, you need to enjoy the ride along the way.