A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.
Day 7 is, of course, the sequel to the wonderful Cell 7 and thank you so much for sending it to me to read. Both I and my daughter really enjoyed Cell 7 and I devoured Day 7 in a day – it really is un-put-down-able.
But Day 7 isn’t an easy read – it evokes very strong emotions. I spent the whole day feeling frustrated, angry and powerless. While Cell 7 has an element of hope – Day 7 strips all of that away and no matter which way Martha turns, there seems to be no way out. Even the tree, planted by Eve – the symbol for hope in Cell 7, is destroyed in Day 7. The rich and powerful are closing in on her and her friends and it feels like utter naïvete to take on such a machine – such evil.
Did you intend Day 7 to evoke such feelings on behalf of the reader?
I’m glad that it does evoke strong feelings! Although I hadn’t specifically intended to make the reader feel fury and powerlessness, I hope that means they invest more in the situation and the characters. As a writer I think it’Day 7 is s important to raise questions, and to, hopefully, inspire the reader to think on big issues.
What are you hoping your young readers will take away from Day 7?
I hope more than anything that they enjoy the story and that it inspires them to read more. That’s the most important thing. Yes, I hope it makes them think on society and unfairness, I hope it inspires them to look beyond what they see on the surface, but that’s all extra. Somebody once said that a writer’s job is to ask questions, not to answer them – I hope Day 7 does that.
Martha is poor and powerless. Isaac is rich and has contacts and power. Isaac could have worked to bring down the system, Martha could have been a martyr – a symbol for the poor to rally round. Instead (spoiler alert for Cell 7) Isaac takes Martha’s place on death row. Do you think he did the right thing?
Isaac did what he believed to be the right thing morally – he did shoot Jackson Paige and so took the blame for it. Would it have been better for him to allow Martha to die simply because he could (potentially) fight the system better? It would be interesting to know what readers think but I wonder if that would be playing into the notion that to make change you need money and power.
Cell 7 appears to be a comment on reality TV combined with a strong message about the power of the media to manipulate viewers. Day 7 takes this further and shows us a whole society manipulated by the rich and powerful, via the media, where the poor are confined to ‘the Rises’ and are viewed with suspicion. It feels extremely topical. You even have the rich talk about building a wall.
How much of Day 7 was influenced by the current political situation both here and abroad?
It was more influenced by society, than by the current political situation, but they both do play into each other. There is a massive divide between the rich and the poor here, which is only getting bigger. To some extent I do agree with the ‘work your way out of poverty’ thing, but that’s easier said than done. There are so many more opportunities to those with money, and I don’t necessarily mean rich, and I see this all the time with my peers and when I go into schools. It’s a simple fact that if you’ve got the money you can do more which opens more opportunities to you and makes it possible, or easier, for you to get where you want to be. I don’t agree with handing people things on a plate, but I wholeheartedly believe people should be helped to help themselves. I was a single parent of two pre-school children for four years, because of the benefit system and because of a hardship fund at the college, I went back to education which helped me help myself and my family. When people are in a hole they need a rope throwing down, not soil kicking on their heads.
In terms of how it was influenced by the political situation, I’d finished writing the whole trilogy by September 2016, so things were more rumbling than actually happening (Trump’s bluster about the wall, for example), but I think these things subconsciously seeped into my brain, mixed around with other things and things and then shaded elements of the story, rather than the story itself. I never set out to write something about our political situation or about society; I set out to write a good story.
You paint a bleak picture of a future taken to today’s logical conclusions. Is this the future you see when you look at the world of today? How realistic do you think Eye for an Eye really is?
Some people have said to me that the idea of the death penalty being brought back is ridiculous, and that the court system would never be changed. I’d like to believe that, and believe that people would stand up to a government bringing in these sorts of changes, but I fear they wouldn’t. I spoke with a lawyer when I was planning the trilogy who told me he strongly believed if we had a vote on whether to bring the death penalty back, that the majority would vote in favour for certain crimes.
He also said that taking a case to court is very expensive and (in the majority) it’s preferred if a deal is struck. An example he gave was that sometimes an innocent person will plead guilty and take a deal, because the risk of them being found guilty (and therefore receiving a harsher sentence) is too great. That seems utter nonsense to me, and then doesn’t seem such a huge leap to a system such as that in Cell/Day 7.
While there are many appalling characters in both Cell 7 and Day 7, Martha also encounters many truly good people – Eve, Cicero, Gus, Joshua and the ordinary people of the Rises. Which characters did you enjoy writing more?
I enjoyed them all in different ways. Writing a ‘baddie’ is good fun, but it’s also important to remember that even the bad guy can be motivated by reasons he believes are right. I can’t remember if it was Alan Ball (the writer of Six Feet Under and American Beauty) or David Chase (The Sopranos) who said that just as all people are flawed in some ways, so characters should be too – I like that a lot, and I try to remember that when I’m writing.
I think I have a soft spot for Cicero though. A quiet, often overlooked man, who waits patiently until the right time. When I was writing him, I often thought of Gary Oldman as Commissioner Gordon in Batman.
This is classic YA dystopia: a totalitarian regime and the message that one person can change the world. How important do you think dystopia is to teen readers at the moment?
I think it’s important for anyone, not just teen readers, to feel empowered and realise they can make, or help make, a difference if they stand up. There is so much apathy in the world and people are very quick to think they can’t do anything, but what if all those people who thought that stood up together?
While Cell 7 took place primarily inside death row, Day 7 expands to take in more of the city. How much further into your world with Final 7 take us?
Final 7 stays mainly within the Rises, the city and Downing Street. We see more of Cicero, Max’s character is pivotal and Sofia and the prime minister are also very important. I’m trying not to give any spoilers! I’ve never written a trilogy before and I’ve enjoyed having the time and space to get to know the characters and the world and to develop them.
Thank you Kerry.
Needless to say, I loved Day 7 and can’t wait to read Final 7 – you’ve left me on tenterhooks. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys dystopia. It’s a must for anyone who has enjoyed 1984 and also novels such as Only Ever Yours and Uglies. It’s also a love story, and it’s a book set in London; a British book, that will have global resonance.