Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Author Interview: Alexandra Duncan previews Salvage

For my spotlight on upcoming dystopian/post apocalyptic fiction series, I interview authors with novels coming out in the genre in 2013. These are exclusive first looks at exciting new works. Enjoy!

Today we have Debut Author Alexandra Duncan whose novel SALVAGE comes out with Greenwillow Books (Harper Collins) in Fall 2013.

SALVAGE follows 16 year-old Ava, who is cast out of her father’s spaceship after falling in love with the wrong boy and forced to survive on an inhospitable future Earth.

The interview:

Why do you think people are drawn to "dark" stories?
For me, “dark” stories are the ones that always seemed more realistic, or at least cleaved most closely to my own reality. They’re usually the ones that comment on current events or give us insight into our own world. When we’re children, our parents try to shield us from the uglier elements of the real world, but by the time we become teenagers and young adults, we’ve seen some of that ugliness for ourselves, and I think we want literature that acknowledges our own dark sides, and the darker side of the world.

If your book had a theme song, what would it be and why?
I actually wrote several songs for SALVAGE, but since you can’t hear any of them now, I’ll recommend Neko Case’s “A Widow’s Toast,” from FOX CONFESSOR BRINGS THE FLOOD. It’s sung a capella and has a kind of stripped-down beauty that builds from this place of sorrow and vulnerability to hope and strength. I love the part where Neko Case sings, “Better times collide with now.” That would be my wish for anyone in as hopeless a situation as Ava finds herself – that better times find them, and that they manage to hold on long enough for those times to come.

What fictional character from another book would your main character chose as his/her best friend and why?
As weird as it sounds, I think Ava would get along well with Sophie Hatter from HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE, by Diana Wynne Jones. Even though they belong to completely different types of books, they’re both practical girls who find themselves thrown out of their everyday lives and have to survive in an unfamiliar world. And since Ava knows how to weave and Sophie makes hats, they could form their own Stitch ‘N Bitch club!

What are your top 5 Dystopian lit recs and why?
Only five? This is so tough! I’m a librarian in my daily life, so I have a million recommendations any time someone asks me about books. Okay, I’m going to skip some of the recommendations other authors have probably covered in earlier posts, like THE HUNGER GAMES, Scott Westerfeld’s UGLIES series, and classics like FARENHEIGHT 451, but you still might not be able to get me to shut up for a little bit.

I’ll start with two where a disaster pulls apart modern society, and the survivors have to figure out how to live with themselves and each other in the aftermath.

HOW I LIVE NOW, by Meg Rosoff, and LIFE AS WE KNEW IT, by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Neither of these books shies away from the grim reality of what might happen if society came off the rails – people might starve, kill each other, or do any number of things they would never even have imagined before disaster struck. I also love how each of these is written. LIFE AS WE KNEW IT follows the format of a diary, and gives an intimate portrait of its main character, a typical teenage girl who has to confront both the noble and ugly parts of herself as she struggles to survive in a slowly deteriorating world. HOW I LIVE NOW is set in the English countryside during the outbreak of a future war, and follows a group of cousins separated by the violence. It’s simply gorgeous and spare, and won the Printz Award in 2005.

My next recommendation reaches a little farther into the future, where commercialization has run rampant.

FEED, by M.T. Anderson

In Anderson’s book, everyone has a “feed” connecting them to television shows, advertisements, and social media all day, every day. You want to like the main character and and see him break through the fog of advertising surrounding him, but at the same time, you start to see that he’s deeply, maybe irrevocably flawed. I love that Anderson was willing to create a character bordering on unlikable. I think flawed characters are the most challenging and interesting to read. Beware, though. This book is absolutely devastating, so don’t start it if you’re running low on your Paxil.

This next book is on my list for sheer inventiveness.

INCARCERON, by Carrie Fisher

A sentient prison run by criminal gangs? Almost magical technology? Flawed yet likable characters? Unremitting violence and a Victorian fashion sense? Prophecies? Royalty in disguise? Sign me up, please!

My last recommendation falls outside the Y.A. realm, but I had to have some Ursula LeGuin in here, because she’s my favorite author of all time.


I read this book in college and absolutely fell in love with it. For me, one of the most interesting ideas behind dystopias is that they usually begin as an attempt to create a utopian society. They’re utopias gone wrong. THE DISPOSSESSED is a truly challenging book, because it explores the fine line between utopia and dystopia.

What's on the top of your to-do list before the world ends?
Travel. If the world’s going to end, I want to see as much of it as possible beforehand. I’ve been to Haiti, Nicaragua, Spain, Portugal, France, and the U.K., but there’s still so much of the world I want to see. Part of SALVAGE is set in India, which is a place I’ve read about and researched, but where I’ve never been. I would love to see it firsthand someday, particularly places like the Himalayas and the Blue City of Jodhpur.

How does your novel stand out from others in the genre?
I sometimes see an assumption among readers that science fiction is for guys only, though dystopian fiction is starting to change that. I think SALVAGE pushes open the door a little wider for women who want to explore the genre. One of the things I’ve always loved about science fiction is the opportunity to build worlds and create cultures. Ava’s point of view comes strongly from her background on a patriarchal spacefaring vessel, so it was interesting to first create and then challenge her assumptions about the way the world works. I also think the settings, both Ava’s home in space and on Earth, are something you don’t typically see. I’ve tried to represent people and places you don’t always find in science fiction.


roro said...

so exited for salvage

Christina said...

Oooh, this sounds awesome! Excited!