Lissa Price was awesome enough to sit down with us and answer some questions about her series, her characters, her writing process, what she’s reading, and more! Enjoy this exclusive interview. Now, without further ado, take it away Lissa!
I’m the author of the YA science fiction thriller series STARTERS and ENDERS. I live in the hills in Southern California minutes away from Hollywood, so my life is a mix of wildlife neighbors and preview screenings with directors. I’m a fan of Walking Dead, Christopher Nolan, and the French series, Les Revenants (The Returned).
2: In your own words, can you give us a little summary of the Starters/Enders world?
The premise of Starters is that after the Spore Wars, which wiped out all people between the ages of 18 and 60 who did not get the vaccine, desperate teens — Starters — rent out their bodies to seniors, called Enders, so they can be young again temporarily.
Starters without any grandparents, like Callie, my main character, would be assigned to workhouses. Instead, she chooses to squat in abandoned office buildings with her little brother Tyler until they are smoked out by the marshals. That drives Callie to seek out Prime Destinations, where she rents out her body to earn money to feed her brother. But she realizes something has gone wrong when she wakes up in the life of her rich renter and discovers her body is being used to assassinate a senator.
3: I’ve heard you talk about this before in interviews, but for our readers, can you talk about how you were inspired to write about the science behind the books (I’m thinking of the vaccine thing we talked about at CC last year)?
I got the idea for Starters at my local Costco. I went to the pharmacy to get a flu shot but there wasn’t enough vaccine for everyone. So, the US government had set up a triage system. The very young and the elderly, and of course the infirm, were to get the vaccine first. It looked like a dystopian future with long lines of people in Costco, hoping to score the injection. I left without the shot. But I thought, wow, what if this was a devastating disease and the only ones left were the weakest members of society? What kind of world would that be?
4: Take us through the process of developing a world based around the Spore wars and the subsequent results.
So I had the landscape of only the Starters and Enders, for the most part. A few Middles existed due to the black market or special favors to get the vaccine, but mostly you don’t see them. I looked for the conflict between the young and the old, taking elements of what I see in the world around me and then exaggerating the conflict for dramatic effect. Everything I built in the Starters world came out of necessity – I never built something because I thought it would be cool.
5: You have a lot of love aspects in these two books. The big surprise at the end of book 1 really shocked me (and many other readers), and adding in Hayden to book two ups the ante even more. Talk to us about how you decided to the path of Callie’s love life in the midst of all of this turmoil.
Thanks. I love hearing from readers when they get to that part of the book. I get tweets saying “Everyone in my train car just stared at me because I gasped out loud!”
The love story is absolutely essential to the plot of the story, something that is pretty clear when you get to the end of Starters and definitive once you get to the end of Enders. Remove it and the story loses the scaffolding. Blake has to be there, he’s not just a subplot love story. Hyden in book two, same thing. Michael’s role is also important, but because of the part he plays, he doesn’t get as much time on the page in book one. And Callie’s reactions to these guys is key to her development.
6: You have some interesting technology in these books. There’s the ability to hop into other people’s bodies, and then mind-controlling metal chips and all that they can do. Take us into the exploration and development of the awesome technology of the world.
I did a lot of research on the brain and then pretty much tossed it aside to go with my gut. I start with what I see is possible already – how minds can control robotic hands – and then take it further. So, in the story, Prime Destinations (which the Starters call the Body Bank) has the technology to allow for Enders to control a Starters’ body. A chip implanted in the Starter makes the connection. As the video trailer (insert link) says: “It’s as easy as going to sleep.” As a writer, I don’t want to bog down the pace with lengthy technical jargon – this is the conceit that the reader has to accept in the first few pages.
7: Callie has an interesting journey from the start of Starters to the end of Enders. What was it like developing her story? Did she as a character come naturally to you? What’s your favorite thing about Callie?
I liked that Callie was just a normal, middle-class girl with a home and family who found herself now living on the streets, scrounging for food and water, and trying to protect her brother. I think she shows my younger readers that no matter how bad things get, you have the courage and the skills to survive. She came very naturally to me, although some of her changes surprised me. My favorite thing is that no matter what horrible, crazy, mind-twisting thing I throw at her, she always gets back up, stronger than ever.
When I’m working on a manuscript, I am at it all day, breaking for meals and exercise. I work late into the night because I’m a night person. My writing process goes like this. I think about the story for a long time. I’ll sketch out ideas, make notes, visualize scenes. Then I write a synopsis. I’ll have the main twists, key scenes, the ending. I work on that for a few weeks before I start writing chapter one. I try to stay loose, knowing that this is a charcoal sketch and I will go back later and change the lines. I will make scene notes on notecards that I put on a board. I have friends who use a computer program to do this but I prefer to do this manually. I spend so much time at a keyboard, it’s a pleasure to be able to stand and move cards around. Then, as I write, I use the headlight method. I know that I’m driving from L.A. to Philly, and that I’ll stop in one city on the way, but each night I can see as far as my headlights go. So you go page by page, listening to the characters, judging what they would do. It’s kind of a hybrid method.
9: What’s up next for you? Any new projects you are working on?
I have two projects that I’d love to talk about but cannot announce. I’ll just say that I’m very excited about both of them.
10: What’s on your reading shelf right now? Anything you’ve read recently that you’d recommend? We’re always looking for great books.
My to-read stack is more like a roomful of books, but I’m currently reading GRASSHOPPER JUNGLE by Andrew Smith. I just finished S. by J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst and loved it.
Any final comments?
I’m so appreciate of the support of my fans. Readers can always reach me via my website: www.lissaprice.com and follow me on Twitter @Lissa_Price and LissaPriceAuthor on Tumblr and LissaPriceAuthor on FB
Thanks Lissa! Be sure to check her out on her social media sites mentioned above, and don’t forget to enter for a chance to win a copy of each of her books!