Remember that book I gushed about this fall called Last Star Burning? I was able to get an interview with debut author Caitlin Sangster! I’m so excited to post it here for you.
Here’s the brief synopsis of the book:
Sev is branded with the mark of a criminal—a star burned into her hand. That’s the penalty for being the daughter of the woman who betrayed their entire nation.
Now her mother’s body is displayed above Traitor’s Arch, kept in a paralyzed half sleep by the same plague that destroyed the rest of the world. And as further punishment, Sev is forced to do hard labor to prove that she’s more valuable alive than dead.
When the government blames Sev for a horrific bombing, she must escape the city or face the chopping block. Unimaginable dangers lurk outside the city walls, and Sev’s only hope of survival lies with the most unlikely person—Howl, the chairman’s son. Though he promises to lead her to safety, Howl has secrets, and Sev can’t help but wonder if he knows more about her past—and her mother’s crimes—than he lets on.
But in a hostile world, trust is a luxury. Even when Sev’s life and the lives of everyone she loves may hang in the balance.
Now for the interview!
Where did you get the idea for this story?
The story itself came from reading a book about encephalitis lethargica during the swine flu awfulness that happened a few years ago. It’s where the disease in LAST STAR BURNING comes from. Weaponized flu that then puts you to sleep and turns you into someone who might accidentally hurt other people sounds so YA dystopia, doesn’t it? That and being the biggest Asia nerd ever. I love Chinese history, and it seemed like the two went well together.
What kind of research did you have to do for this book?
I read books about the sickness, read lots of Cultural Revolution primary sources…have lots of very scary search history about flash bang grenades and how people die. So that’s cool. Mostly it was trying to find the right balance of detail to make the world feel authentic without being an overload and finding the right voice Sev.
Are any of your characters based on people you know?
No, not really. Maybe someday I’ll kill ex-boyfriends in my books, but it hasn’t come to that yet. (SR – Love this idea!)
What character do you identify with most in this book?
That’s an interesting question. I think I probably am sort of like all of the characters in some ways because they all came out of my head. I wish I were more confident the way Howl is, I wish I were LESS passive the way Sev starts, but I probably sit more in June’s camp and keep my mouth shut.
You ended on a terrible cliffhanger and I kind of hate you. But I also want to know when the next book is coming out?
Awww it isn’t that bad of a cliffhanger is it? SHATTER THE SUNS (the sequel) comes out in Fall 2017. I feel like I should probably tell you this is a trilogy. It was going to be a duology but we just sold a third book this fall!!!! (can you tell I’m excited?) — Me too! SR
Why do you think teens are interested in dystopian fiction?
I think it’s kind of fun (in a sick sort of way) to think about how you would handle the end of the world as you know it. I think high stress and extreme situations are fun to put yourself into, because you want to be important. Want to be brave enough to face down the awfulness, instead of being the person on the sidelines who gets killed. It gives teens a chance to be heroes in really big ways instead of the smaller steps and smaller victories that normal life has for us. I think it also puts problems in a very black and white context with black and white answers, which is nice because real life isn’t like that.
What advice do you have for writers just starting out or on getting published?
Don’t give up. Be persistent. Rejections are subjective and don’t define the quality of your work. Be ready to revise, especially if you get feedback from a professional. Writing is work.
Can you describe where you work?
I usually write at the library at a table in the middle of the non-fiction section. The fewest weird people who want to strike up a conversation sit there. Not that I’m adverse to talking to people. I’ve just had one too many CIA conspiracy conversations down in the science fiction section to feel like it’s viable working space anymore.
How do you balance your home life and your writing?
I have working hours. My family takes my career seriously, just like any other job, so there are times when I’m home momming, and times when I’m not. It takes a lot of discipline, scheduling and being willing to throw everything up in the air and not care some days 🙂
What experiences did you have as a kid that made you want to become a writer?
My grandfather always told the most amazing stories about his life and about us and his parents. I learned to love stories and to love telling them from him. Also, my whole family is addicted to books. Growing up, I felt like there was something radically wrong if I didn’t have an awesome book stashed somewhere on my person.
What writers do you admire?
Patrick Ness. Patrick Rothfuss. Patrick Symmes. All the Patricks. Also, Maggie Steifvader. Brandon Sanderson. They are all amaaaazing.
What do you like to do when you’re not working?
I like to run a lot. And dance. And play the guitar.
I’d like to thank Caitlin for taking the time to do this interview. Really, she was just lovely and you should all check out her book!