A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.
Orphan Black meets Inception: Two formerly conjoined sisters are ensnared in a murderous plot involving psychoactive drugs, shared dreaming, organized crime, and a sinister cult.
To save her twin, she must take her identity
One night Tila stumbles home, terrified and covered in blood. She’s then arrested for murder, the first by a civilian in decades. The San Francisco police suspect involvement with Verve, a powerful drug, and offer her twin sister Taema a chilling deal. Taema must assume Tila’s identity and gather information to bring down the drug syndicate. The police may then let her sister live. However, Taema’s investigation raises ghosts from the twins’ past.
The sisters were raised by a cult, which banned modern medicine – yet as conjoined twins, they needed life-saving surgery to replace their failing heart. And with help from co-conspirators, they escaped. Taema now discovers that Tila had found links between the cult and the city’s criminal underworld. The twins were once unable to keep secrets, but will learn the true cost of lies.
I’m so excited to be here with an interview with Laura Lam, to celebrate the release of her first Adult science fiction novel. It’s a pacy, addictive read with some of the most comprehensive futuristic world-building I have ever seen. So let’s get started!
There are a lot of amazing concepts in False Hearts – the verve, the cult, conjoined twins etc. What element of the plot did you come up with first?
The conjoined twins were the first element of False Hearts. I was reading an article on io9 about Violet and Daisy Hilton, who were vaudeville actresses back in the 20s. I started thinking about how very close that bond would be, and how terrible it would be if your literal other half committed a crime and you weren’t sure if they’d done it. Everything else followed on after that initial kernel of an idea.
One of the things I loved the most about FALSE HEARTS was the world building. What are some of the inspirations behind your vision of the future?
A lot of it I took from existing or postulated tech that I think will come into the future. I looked at futuristic architecture competitions, followed tech blogs that are showing things that might be possible soon in regards to medicine and body modification. I really liked the sleek futurism of the film Minority Report, so I was heavily inspired by that.
If you took verve, what would you do? What about zeal?
I think I’d be too much of a ‘fraidy cat to actually take either. For someone who writes a lot about fictional drugs, they don’t call to me.
Are you a twin yourself? If not, what kind of research did you do into writing about twins? Would you want to have a twin?
Nope, I’m not a twin. I have a younger brother and two much-older half-siblings. I have identical twin nephews, so I observed how they interacted, and mostly did a lot of research on both conjoined twins and identical twins. When I was a kid, I really wanted a twin and totally would have swapped places all the time. As an adult though, I’m not sure. I’m sure a twin would be nice, as often they’re very close friends.
Do you think your version of the future is a utopia, dystopia or somewhere in the middle? Was showing a flawed, but in some ways better, future something you decided actively to write? Why?
It’s in the middle. I don’t think a perfect utopia or dystopia can exist. Even the Capitol of the Hunger Games was pretty nice for the rich, even if everyone in the districts were living in hell. Certain things about futuristic Pacifica are undeniably better—people live longer, age slower, most diseases are cured, poverty is pretty much eradicated, and crime has almost disappeared. That all comes with a price, though, and there are definitely some darker aspects to Pacifica.
It’s clear from your writing that diversity is hugely important to you. What tips do you have for people trying to write more diversely without misrepresenting the experiences of people in groups and minorities they aren’t part of?
Do your research. Make sure you know what sort of stereotypes are being perpetuated about each group you’re writing about and avoid using them, or if you’re going to use them, do so knowingly and then hopefully subvert them. Run your stuff by people who are actually from that group. Try to write sensitively and make each character as well-rounded as you can. Acknowledge you might mess up, but learn from that, apologise, and don’t make the same error again.
Are you going to write any more books in the world of FALSE HEARTS?
There will be at least one more. Shattered Minds comes out in mid-2017 and is set in Los Angeles instead of San Francisco. It has a totally new cast of characters, except for one small crossover, and it’s also a standalone thriller. I’m bad at pitching my own books, but it basically stars a female Dexter with an addiction to Zeal who gets a lot of encrypted information dumped in her brain and has to go on the run to take down an evil corporation. After that, who knows? I have a few other ideas.
Why did you choose San Francisco as a setting?
Because I’m lazy. I grew up just outside San Francisco, so I was able to very easily picture the various places in my mind and shift it into Pacifica. I live in Scotland now, so writing about San Francisco made me feel a bit less homesick.
Do you have any fancasts of your characters?
Amandla Stenberg as Taema and Tila. For Nazarin, maybe Wentworth Miller or a total unknown. Angela Bassett would be an amazing Mana-ma, or Jada Pinkett-Smith. I’m not sure who would be a good fit for Dr. Kim.
Because I’m desperate to see it – do you have any pictures of how you imagine future fashion?
I pinned a bunch to the False Hearts Pinterest page, so ogle away!
Which piece of future tech do you wish you had the most?
Definitely the ability to brainload loads of information while I sleep. I’m a magpie for shiny facts, that that’d be amazing. The whole not-aging thing or ever having to worry about dying of cancer would also be pretty great.
What differences are there in writing for a YA and adult audience?
You can have more swearing, sex, and violence! But on a more serious note, I think the main difference is that your characters tend to be older and with more emotional baggage, and that tends to colour their reactions to others. My adult characters seem to be more reticent to trust than my teenagers, perhaps because life has had more chances to knock them back.
Laura Lam was raised near San Francisco, California, by two former Haight-Ashbury hippies. Both of them encouraged her to finger-paint to her heart’s desire, colour outside of the lines, and consider the library a second home. This led to an overabundance of daydreams.
She relocated to Scotland to be with her husband, whom she met on the internet when he insulted her taste in books. She almost blocked him but is glad she didn’t. At times she misses the sunshine.
Her YA fantasy, Pantomime, debuted in February 2013 through Strange Chemistry Books, with the sequel, Shadowplay, following in January 2014. Pantomime, Shadowplay, and Masquerade will be re-released/released by Pan Macmillan in 2016-2017, along with False Hearts, a near future thriller (which is not quite YA). She can be found on www.lauralam.co.uk or on Twitter as @LR_Lam.
Lauren James was born in 1992, and graduated in 2014 from the University of Nottingham, UK, where she studied Chemistry and Physics.
Her first novel, The Next Together, a YA reincarnation romance, has been translated into five languages worldwide and is out now with Walker Books in the UK and Australia, and will also be published by Sky Pony Press in the USA. It was also longlisted for the Branford Boase Award, a prize given to recognise an outstanding novel by a first time writer. Lauren lives in the West Midlands.