Happy Halloween! Although I don't own a costume for this spooky occasion (I outgrew my Princess Leia costume long ago, sadly), I DO have a lot of books to read. Today we're visiting with Courtney Farrell, author of the YA science fiction/fantasy novel, Enhanced.
Hello and welcome, Courtney! Give us the synopsis of yourself as a writer.
Hi! I started writing when I moved to a small town in the Rocky Mountains, and I couldn’t find a job. My hobby farm turned out to be the perfect full-time writer’s retreat. First I wrote nonfiction books for young people, and then, after a great deal of effort, I began to sell my fiction. It was a thrill to place my first novel with Crescent Moon Press.
Tell us about Enhanced. What's the story?
At the Institute, doctors breed people like livestock. Every year, the lowest-scoring kids disappear from the class, and nobody knows what happens to them. Sixteen-year-old Michelle has survived every purge, and she’s about to win the ultimate prize: a luxurious life as a breeder. Then her brother and her boyfriend both disappear, and she throws it all away. Michelle goes over the Institute wall, into the crime-ridden slum, searching for the boys she loves. She’s in trouble until the handsome half-breed Dillon stakes a claim to her. Michelle is mortified by her attraction to this guy, because the Enhanced see Norms as little more than animals. But the doctor is using the missing boys in a twisted plan, and she needs Dillon’s help to stop him. Michelle and her friends must find the boys, but a plague is spreading, the doctor is after her and Dillon isn’t thrilled to help her find her lost boyfriend.
Where did you come up with the idea for this plot? It seems to be part science fiction, part fantasy.
I once worked in a lab as a molecular biologist, where we genetically engineered bacteria. That’s when I started to wonder what would happen if scientists did that to people too.
How long did it take you to write Enhanced, from cover to cover?
Since Enhanced was my first book, I was really slow. It took over a year, and then I ended up rewriting the second half!
What kind of stuff do you read (or watch) that gets you inspired to create?
I love science fiction, and I enjoy classics like Heinlein and Asimov, but the most inspirational stuff I read is from writers in Fiction Foundry, my Colorado-based critique group. It’s fascinating to see a novel take shape from a sketchy outline to the finished product.
When you really think about it, the premise of ruthless doctors breeding "perfect" people like livestock is a rather terrifying concept, because of the realism of it. You're the author of a lot of other books, but this is your first YA novel. What prompted you to begin with a novel that was so gritty?
All my nonfiction books are on dark topics like terrorism, environmental destruction, and child trafficking. Over time, that took a toll on me emotionally. (I swear I went through a whole box of Kleenex writing about child labor!) Maybe Enhanced is dark because I began it when I was thinking a lot about the world’s problems.
Tell us about the character creation of Michelle, your main character.
I think supermen – or women – are boring, so I’d rather create a flawed character. Michelle embodies the idea that courage doesn’t mean you have no fear. Sometimes, real courage means going forward on trembling knees, doing what must be done even though it terrifies you. Michelle has a secret flaw, one that would get her culled if the doctors found out about it. She gets panic attacks. As the story unfolds, she learns to overcome her fears in order to help the people she loves.
Favorite writing snack? And by extension, advice to aspiring authors? *wink*
I love fresh fruit! Mangoes, blueberries, strawberries, you name it. Mixed with vanilla yogurt, that’s my favorite.
About the Author
I’m Courtney Farrell, and I sell my thoughts. I shine ‘em up first, like you would with anything you want to sell. And then off to market they go. My thoughts are powerful enough to take over my brain and make me stare into space while they play movies in front of my eyes. I hear you, wondering if you’re on the highway when I am. Watch out for the red F350 with a German shepherd in the back — that’s me.