Hi Scott, many thanks for taking the time out to answer afew questions for Gateway! Here goes:
GM: First question has to be ~ is EXTRAS the start
of a whole new set of adventures for the people from the trilogy? Is Aya Fuse
going to have her own "trilogy", or at least a sequel?
SW: I haven't planned a new trilogy, but it's
possible that if I get another new idea we'll see Aya again. With all the New
Systems popping up across the world, there's bound to be more interesting
stories to tell.
GM: Did you deliberately aim these at kids or was
that a publisher's decision? I think they are among the very best SF I have
ever read, and I believe crumblies will enjoy them just as much as the
bubbleheads among us. Would you be tempted to write a volume in this series
aimed at adults?
SW: These were always teen books, but only because
of their themes, not for any lack of sophistication. Teens are awesome readers,
after all. Think about it: At any given moment, far more teenagers than adults
are learning a new language, creating slang, writing poetry, memorizing song
lyrics, or keeping a journal. Who would write down to an audience like that?
(But I do occasionally explain things simply for the adults reading.)
GM: Is there any news on the filming of the UGLIES
trilogy? Who would you choose to play Tally? It's a very visual series, though
I think the UK version covers are less attractive than those featuring (very
attractive) human faces published in the US.
SW: The movie company is still looking for the
right script to get a green light. In my imagination, all the meetings about
making the film feature a powerful producer raising an eyebrow and asking,
"Wait a minute. You want to make a movie about UGLY PEOPLE?"
GM: I've seen talk of a guide to Tally's world; is
that something you would want to compile yourself, or would you be happy to let
someone else do it, like Robin Furth's excellent guide to Stephen King's DARK
SW: It turns out I'm doing it myself, with lots of
help from my blog commenters. They're the ones telling me what to put it.
GM: Can I ask if SpagBol is a favourite or a
disliked dish? I know you're not Tally Youngblood, but authors often use their
characters to put their own views across. I found the whole SpagBol episode
very amusing, and totally sympathised with Tally – I don't like it at all!
SW: When my sister-in-law was very young, she ate
only spagbol for a year. Her family was horrified, but she was perfectly happy.
(As a vegetarian, I am agnostic about spagbol.) And another piece of trivia: we
Americans don't use that abbreviation, so it sounds like wacky future speak to
us. But I picked it up in Australia.
GM: When do you think we'll hear anything official
about LEVIATHAN, your new alternative 1914 series? How far down the line with
it are you, and does that mean we'll have to wait some time for a sequel to
EXTRAS, if, that is, you intend to write one?
SW: The release date for Leviathan is Fall 2009,
but that's all I'm allowed to say. (And yes, it has put the Uglies universe on
hold, except for the guide.)
GM: In some articles I've read, you're described as
a former adult writer now writing for children – does that mean you've given up
on writing adult SF altogether, or is LEVIATHAN a return to SF for adults?
SW: Leviathan is still for teens, and I'm not
writing for adults in the foreseeable future.
GM: In one of your interviews you say you write
very fast. How long did it take you to write UGLIES, for example? Have you ever
had two different books on the go at the same time or do you focus all your
efforts on the one book until it's finished?
SW: One book at a time. Uglies took about three
months to write, which is crazy fast. I'm older and slower now.
GM: How did you get your first break in publishing?
How many failed novels were there before you were successful?
SW: I do have one unpublished (and unpublishable)
novel around somewhere. I got lucky and found the perfect agent very quickly.
Just wrote a query letter and she got back to me a few days later. Persistence
and talent are often rewarded, but good luck is awesome.
GM: When did you first get interested in science
fiction? I notice you talk about Samuel Delany, Joanna Russ and Iain M Banks as
having an influence on your writing but did you start with them?
SW: I think I was born an sf fan, since some very
bad juveniles I read as a kid. (Can't remember any titles, alas.) And when I
turned 12, some relative gave me a subscription to Asimov's, which had just
started. Somewhere at my dad's house must be a full run of the first few years
in appalling condition.
GM: Do you have a similar interest in fantasy, or
are you only interested in SF?
SW: I like fantasy a lot, but probably not quite as
much as sf. (I think this relatively recent fad for realism can't last too much
GM: Do you still find time to read other people's
SF? Or, for that matter, other people's books full stop?
SW: I read all the time, but Leviathan is a
historical, so I've switched to tons of non-fiction lately. But I'm still
keeping up with my manga/graphic habit: especially Nana, Monster, Scott
Pilgrim, Runaways, and Ex Machina.
GM: If I asked you to name your top five favourite
books, would those SF authors be in there or do you have favourites in other
SW: I'm really bad at these questions, but they'd
probably be all sf.
GM: For all the warnings there are in the UGLIES
trilogy and EXTRAS, there is still the overriding feeling that, whatever world
they inhabit, teens will still need to have something to rebel against. It's
something like a universal constant, really, and it's encapsulated brilliantly
in your books. Were you a rebel, or a wild child yourself? Is that why
everything Tally and Aya get up to seems so personal? You really have a way of
getting inside teens' minds – I know you're comparatively young – do you stay
in touch with how young people live, and is that what makes your YA books so
special, because of your understanding of young people?
SW: The last time I was in the UK, in October of
2006, the great Black Hoodie Crisis was in the news. It reminded me of my teen
days, when we all got into skateboards, and suddenly there were NO
SKATEBOARDING signs everywhere. Whatever teens do—file sharing, MySpacing,
wearing hoodies, listening to whatever music—instantly becomes a crisis. And
that's really what the uglies in my book are: those 13-16 year olds who are big
enough to threaten someone, but not old enough to have been brainwashed (sorry,
As I like to say, a half dozen nine-year-olds in
your store is cute. A half dozen adults is good business. But that many
fifteen-year-olds together in one place and it's time to have a parliamentary
inquiry! So I'm not sure it's always the teens rebelling.
Sometimes it's just the crumblies going mad.
I really do remember being a teen well. It was such
an intense stage of life, I'm surprised how many of my fellow crumblies have
forgotten it. Back when I wrote Uglies, I didn't know that many real-life
teens, but since then I get a lot of mail, etc., which is fantastic. I basically
just like them, as a whole, better than adults.
(But yes, I had my own necessary challenges to
authority as a teen, up to and including the police. No one can prove it,
though, because the records have all been erased.)
GM: Most of my questions have focused on UGLIES and
EXTRAS, for the simple reason that they're the ones I've read – but your other
UK publisher, Orbit/Atom are sending me a selection of your other titles which
I'm looking forward to immensely. But there is a final question about Tally
Youngblood: the Simon Pulse edition of UGLIES has a rather beautiful young lady
on the front cover – is that your vision of Tally, or that of the publisher or
designer? Similarly the picture on EXTRAS is presumably Rodrigo Corral's vision
of Aya Fuse – again, is that how you visualise her?
SW: Corral is a great designer, and I'm glad he's
had so much success in the last few years. But as the series got more popular,
I had more input into the design, which probably happens a lot. I sent S&S
pictures of Maori tattoos for Specials, and actually got a say in choosing the
model for Extras. They're both about as close as I can imagine them to the real
My only quibble is with the cover of Pretties. The
operation averages racial characteristics, so the pretties should look about a
third African, a third European, and third Asian. Like a slightly vacuous
computer composite of sorts.
GM: Were you happy with the UK covers for theUGLIES trilogy and EXTRAS? I much prefer the Simon Pulse editions myself, but I
guess it goes to show that it isn't always front covers that get people hooked
on a really good book. I was sent EXTRAS by the UK publicist with a
recommendation that I read it. I was hooked from page one, of course. I just
think I would have been automatically attracted to it if it had the US cover.
SW: The UK covers are much creepier, certainly. And
I think that leads to a darker readings of the books themselves (especially the
razor blade on Specials, which focuses too much on the cutting). So I think I
prefer the US covers.
Interestingly, the German covers are the coolest,
with three almost doll-like heads showing Tally at different phases. I also
like the Japanese covers, which are all about the hoverboards.
GM: I made the mistake of reading EXTRAS first
(only because it arrived first); having then read UGLIES, PRETTIES and
SPECIALS, I then went back and re-read EXTRAS immediately. Although they're all
standalone, it's much better to read them in sequence, and I was much more
prepared for Tally's appearance in EXTRAS. Although EXTRAS was my SF book of
the month last month, I urged my readers to start with UGLIES and work through
the series. I made the same mistake with John Flanagan's THE RANGER'S
APPRENTICE and had to catch up with volumes one and two after reading an
excellent volume three. Now I'm looking forward to playing catch up with all
your other work! Thanks again for finding the time to answer the questions,
good luck with LEVIATHAN and let's hope UGLIES isn't too far away from making
it onto the big screen!