Author: Melanie Cusick Jones
Genre: Young Adult - SciFi/Dystopian
Series: The Ambrosia Sequence
Life should be simple for Cassie.
For the small population of Earth survivors who live on the Space Station Hope everything they do is planned and scheduled, down to the cyclical food menus, their roles in the station, even how many children they have.
Despite rigid controls directing her life, Cassie feels more out of synch than ever and worries she won’t find a place for herself within the station community. Perhaps that’s because she’s hearing things inside her head that can’t possibly be real. Or maybe it’s the regular elopements of her peers, heading off to a romantic future in the Married Quarter of the space station, whilst she’s never even been attracted to a boy – no matter how hard her best friend Ami pushes them at her. Then there are the odd questions her work placement partner Balik keeps raising. His questions are just as troubling for her as his distracting smiles and eyes that seem to see inside her.
As Cassie draws closer to Balik she finds that everything else in her life begins to shift. He tells her things that call into question the system they live within. She can't believe he is right, but at the same time she finds it hard to deny the sincerity of his ideas. Could there be a connection between Cassie’s problems and Balik’s questions? The truth will drag them both to a terrifying and deadly conclusion beyond anything they could have imagined.
After graduating from The University of Sheffield with an English Literature Masters in 2003, Melanie has been writing fiction - time permitting - ever since.
The Ambrosia Sequence (started in 2008) and The Elementals (begun in 2004) are both ongoing, extended projects each containing several novels, aimed primarily at young adults and hover somewhere in the middle of sci-fi, futuristic and fantasy genres. Hope's Daughter, released in December 2011, is her debut novel and the first of The Ambrosia Sequence, with the sequel - Outlanders - due in 2012.
When she's not writing Melanie enjoys the wet weather of the north of England with her dogs or disappearing into a book for a few hours (no surprise there then). Unfortunately, all too often the 'day job' gets in the way of the nicer things in life!
Welcome to Obsession with Books Melanie, Are you able to tell us a little about yourself and your book Hope’s Daughter?
I live in the north of England with my husband, young son and two dogs. Alongside my ‘day job’ I’ve been writing since I graduated university in 2003 and completed several (unpublished) short stories for children prior to starting work on the Ambrosia Sequence. Hope’s Daughter is my debut novel. The story is told by Cassie, a young girl caught in a world a little too perfect and which she struggles to understand as terrible flaws reveal themselves. It’s hard to say more without giving the story away.
When and why did you begin writing?
Like most people I’d done odd bits of creative writing through school – a couple of plays, some poetry – but nothing major. When I finished university in 2003, I was temping while I looked for my first proper job and it was then that I wondered: “how hard is it to write a book?” I did literature at uni and so had spent several years studying books and writing – I figured I must have a reasonable knowledge base to try it myself. As with most things – it’s a lot harder than I thought it would be!
Where did the inspiration for your book Hope’s Daughter come from?
I read a lot and find that I go through phases in what I’m reading. Sometimes I’ll do a full series (such as the Sookie Stackhouse books) or a particular genre. On the run up to this I’d been reading a lot of sci-fi: H. G. Wells, Philip K. Dick, etc. mixed with random YA books. In the background I’d been working on a YA fantasy novel for a long time and was a little stuck with it – there’s a poor character that’s been waiting in the basement of a library for about three years now – and so to get my writing going again, I started Hope’s Daughter.
What is now Hope’s Daughter started life as Ambrosia, a few one-shot scenes of a YA character in a lightly sci-fi setting. I can’t really say how ‘ambrosia’ is relevant to the book as it’s kind of a spoiler, but it’s there as a hidden message for anyone who wants to look. The word ‘ambrosia’ itself sparked the idea for the story and was in a list of other works at the start of one of my H. G. Wells books – although I’ve never read his version.
What is your ideal day as an author?
In fantasyland it would be a day where, when I’m on a roll with my writing, time stretches endlessly so I can just keep going. In reality though, I’ll go for a quiet spot with space for my thoughts to wander and a comfy seat.
Do you mind telling us how long it took for you to write Hope’s Daughter?
My first draft was pretty quick – started in April 2009 and finished by October that year. But then the re-drafts took longer; they are almost harder than writing the original piece because you’re looking at the story in a more analytical way, instead of just writing. Because I was working full time, months could pass where I didn’t do anything, then I’d blitz through a re-draft again. It finally went for publication in November 2011.
Are you able to describe what your writing process is like?
I’ve gotten quite into ‘one-shots’ in the last year or so and have found them useful for putting interesting scenes together before I start a book. They’re good for prompting you when putting the story together.
Usually I have a vague idea where I want the story to go with several key ideas or scenes in detail, but the pieces in between are quite loose. Once I start writing I find that I see the detail of scenes in my head a little like a movie. Sometimes as a character develops they do things I wasn’t expecting them to do – they take on a presence of their own – and so the direction the story takes can be different than I originally envisioned. That was certainly the case with Hope’s Daughter.
Are there any books or authors that have most influenced you?
I think the biggest impact for me has been studying English Literature as a whole – there were plenty of things I had to read, which I wouldn’t have done otherwise and so the sheer variety has been the major influence.
Hope’s Daughter is a futuristic/sci-fi/Dystopian novel, what do you think set’s it apart from other books from the same genre?
Hope’s Daughter is a lightly merged combination of several genres (futuristic, sci-fi, dystopia) and draws on elements of all of them to some degree, whether that will make it different or not I can’t be sure. However, as it is the first in a set of novels, what I hope will be specific to the series is that each story can stand alone as a novel in its own right. I don’t expect the sequel to tread the same ground as Hope’s Daughter and so it gives me the opportunity to take characters that I like through different experiences, both in genre and narrative.
Is there are book you are reading at the moment? And do you tend to favor a particular genre?
On my bookshelf at the moment is Numbers by Rachel Ward and the Noughts and Crosses series, which I’m trying after reading some good reviews from bloggers. On the Kindle I’m partway through The Concubine’s Secret by Kate Furnivall, I do quite like historical fiction and have The Hunger Games to move on to after that. I suppose the biggest constant for me recently is YA fiction of pretty much any type – partly for research and partly because it’s good to read!
If Hope’s Daughter were to be made into a movie, who would you chose to play the roles of your main characters?
I honestly struggle with Cassie. I think because I spend so much time inside her head, she’s pretty much her own person to me and so I’ve not seen someone else that I think looks like her. In my mind, Balik looks very like Penn Badgley, although I only realised this when my sister and I watched Easy A over Christmas.
What is up next for you?
I’ve already been working on The Rainbow Maker’s Tale since 2010. This is told from Balik’s point of view and covers a similar-ish timeframe to Hope’s Daughter. There’s also Outlanders, which is the sequel to Hope’s Daughter and I hope to complete it in 2012 as well. All of this is time permitting around a job though!
Fave band / television series / movie?
I have Adele on the iPod a lot at the moment; have just watched The Inbetweeners on DVD and laughed a lot; and unfortunately don’t get much time to watch TV that isn’t child-orientated!
Coffee or tea? Tea
E-reader or hardcopy? Kindle for convenience and travelling, but you can’t beat a bookcase buckling under the weight of too many books.
Cats or Dogs – Dogs
Ideal travel destination? In the grey winter of Manchester, recovering from a nasty cold I’d take anywhere lovely and sunny with a beach J
Thank-you so much Melanie for taking time to talk to us today!