Happy Book Birthday! Publication day interview with Imogen Howson, author of LINKED
Imogen Howsen, whose SF/F novel LINKED hits US bookshelves today, was kind enough to answer a few questions about her book, as well as her journey from rough draft to bookshop shelf.
When Elissa learns her telepathic twin is the subject of government experiments, the girls find themselves on the run with secrets worth killing for in this futuristic, romantic thriller.
Elissa used to have it all: looks, popularity, and a bright future. Now, all she has is nightmarish visions and unexplained bruises. Finally, she’s promised a cure, and a surgery is scheduled. But on the eve of the procedure, she discovers the truth behind her visions: She’s seeing the world through another girl’s eyes. A world filled with pain and wires and weird machines. Elissa follows her visions, only to find a battered, broken girl on the run. A girl—Lin—who looks exactly like Elissa, down to the matching bruises. A twin she never knew existed.
Elissa helps Lin evade the government agents who are ruthlessly tracking her down, but they’re struggling to avoid capture, and soon Elissa is forced to turn to the only person who can help: Cadan, her brother’s infuriating, arrogant best friend, and new graduate of the SFI space flight academy. Cadan is their one chance at safety. But Lin is too valuable to let go, and Elissa has knowledge that is too dangerous. The government will stop at nothing to get them back.
Hi Immi. LINKED is your debut YA novel. Can you share your journey to publication?
I wrote LINKED for NaNoWriMo 2009.By the end of that month I had about half of my planned plot, so I knew it needed quite a bit more work! I finished writing it and polishing it during 2010, and started sending it to agents in the autumn of that year. I got a handful of rejections, and a request for a full that ended up being another rejection.
Very early in January 2011 I queried another agent, Mandy Hubbard of the D4EO Agency. I was used to the endless wait to hear back by this time, so I was extraordinized (I know, it’s a made-up word, but such a good one, right?) to hear back from her the same day with a request for a full. I sent it off, and, again, assumed I’d be waiting forever before she got back to me.
I didn’t realize at that point quite how fast Mandy works! She replied the next day saying she’d like to work exclusively with me on some revisions to the first two-third of the book. When I said yes, I’d love that, she sent me a fairly terrifying five-page revision letter. It was, I swear, like having a genius book doctor look at my book, and I could instantly see how much better it could become if I managed to do her revisions.
I worked crazy hard over the next three months, sent her the revisions in April, and she loved them and offered representation. I then had to work on the last third of the book, but it was the BEST thing working on revisions for MY agent! And it was desperately exciting to hear from her that she was already talking to publishers about my book.
I sent the fully revised book to Mandy on June 8th. On June 9th, she sent me the list of publishers she’d sent it to. Over the next couple of days she kept me updated on who was reading it, who’d sent feedback already, who was enthusiastic, and on June 14th we accepted an (amazing) offer from Simon & Schuster.
It was the weirdest thing, honestly. I was still high from getting an agent—I wasn’t really prepared for the book to get a publisher too!
That sounds pretty intense! So, what’s your elevator pitch for LINKED?
Telepathic twins in space. What more do you need?
Indeed! So what inspired you to write sci-fi? Do you have any favourite sci-fi books or films that you would recommend?
I grew up reading Ray Bradbury, John Wyndham, and Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Darkover books. I love sci-fi and fantasy, and I think they were always going to be the genres I was going to write. As an adult, I know I’ve been very influenced by Joss Whedon’s Firefly TV series. It’s genius science fiction—if I can ever write anything anywhere near that good I’ll die of happiness! I always love the futuristic technology they show in sci-fi films—Back to the Future Two, Total Recall (the original and the remake), Starship Troopers… It often dates fast, but it’s still so much fun. Everyone my age must remember the dehydrated pizza in Back to the Future Two!
I love reading books set in different worlds. Tell us a little bit about the setting of LINKED.
Making up different worlds is one of the best bits about writing SF/F! LINKED is set on Sekoia, a planet that was almost devastated by a flaw in the terraforming process the original settlers used. By the time my heroine, Elissa, is living there, it’s been stabilized, but it still shows signs of how things went wrong. It’s essentially a desert planet, so the inhabitants live within the huge canyons that cross the desert plateaus. They have force-fields to stop their precious water evaporating away, and because it’s so hot they have a lot of huge glass air-conditioned buildings.
If you could travel anywhere in space, where would you go and why?
Real space isn’t as fun as fictional space! If I could visit somewhere fictional, I’d visit C.S. Lewis’s Venus, as described in his sci-fi book Perelandra. In the book, Venus is a tropical, watery, multi-coloured planet, and the inhabitants live on enormous floating islands filled with delicious fruits.
Who is your favourite character in LINKED and why?
Cadan Greythorn. He’s the best friend of Elissa’s older brother, Bruce. Bruce and Cadan are cadets in the Spaceflight Initiative training programme. They’re very good at what they do, and they’re awfully pleased with themselves about it. In real life I kind of want to slap arrogant young men, but I love them in fiction!
What are you working on now?
Right now I’m working on another science fiction book for young adults. This one is set on the planet Spindrift, which is in even worse shape than Sekoia. There are earthquakes and poisonous fumes, and underground mutants. And cheerleaders. And a huge contest called the Cloud Circus. I’m having a great time writing it!
Any advice to share with aspiring writers?
Read a lot. Write a lot. And remember that not all advice is good advice. Even if it comes from a successful writer. Sometimes authors only know what works for them—it doesn’t mean it will work for you. Oh, and don’t be afraid to fail! I know a few writers who’ve succeeded first time round, but I have lots of books that I never finished, and books that I did finish but that aren’t good, and books that are okay but that never got published. If any of those failures had made me give up LINKED wouldn’t exist, so, you know, I’m pretty glad I didn’t.
And now for a few quick questions:
Sekoia or Earth?
Sekoia. Slide-walks and self-clearing tables—it’s a no-brainer!
City or country?
Ooh, tricky… Country, really, but ideally with a really good coffee shop and library, plus all my favourite people, within walking distance.
It’s your day off. Up with the lark or lie-in?
Lie-in. Every time. Every, every, every time.
Planner or pantser?
I kind of write like I cook. I like to know the recipe I’m following, but if I can’t find the right ingredients, or I don’t like the sound of something, or I want to cut a corner or add something different, or if I get bored I’m happy to change it all around and end up with something that’s not really the original recipe.
Music or silence (for writing)?
Music is for dancing or car journeys. When I’m writing I need silence. I look in bewildered awe at those people who have playlists for their books.
Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions. And enjoy publications day!
To find out more about Imogen Howson and LINKED, visit the following sites: