Apocalypse Reads: Today we have Sarah Dalton, author of The Blemished, her first published novel. Sarah, thanks for taking the time to do an interview with us. What was your inspiration for The Blemished?
Sarah Dalton: I’ve always been interested in science fiction and genetics. I’m a big fan of Margaret Atwood’s science fiction novels and I wanted to create something similar for a teen audience. I wanted to give teenage girls an interesting heroine and a book which primarily deals with themes which are things that would affect them as they grow up – beauty, reproduction, love.
AR: Why did you choose dystopia for the setting?
SD: I’ve loved dystopian books since reading 1984 and have read authors like JG Ballard and Ray Bradbury but it was when I read the Hunger Games that I knew I had to write a dystopia. I’d never seen it done for a teen audience before and it was at that moment that ideas started flying around my head.
AR: How far away from this kind of world do you think we are?
SD: Oh, I don’t know! It would depend on science advancing very fast and a chain of events leading to the demise of democracy. It’s hard to know if genetics will ever be allowed to go this far. There are certainly a lot of moral implications but I think at the end of the day the human need for exploration and knowledge will force things along.
AR: What are your favorite books/authors?
SD: I read a lot of varied genres. I love Ray Bradbury, Margaret Atwood and Theodore Sturgeon. But I also love Emily Bronte and Scott Westerfeld!
AR: What character did you have the most fun writing?
SD: Probably Elena. She’s a complex character and I wish I could have featured her a little more. I am thinking of writing a short novella in her perspective because she’s such an enjoyable character to write.
AR: Who was the hardest to write?
SD: Mina and Daniel were both hard to write. I didn’t want them to be caricatures of teenagers in love. We’ve seen enough passionate romances in YA fiction now. I wanted their relationship to be based on mutual respect and attraction. I wanted it to realistically show how hard it is for a teenage girl to recognize her feelings, especially a girl who has been told those feelings are forbidden! I hope that they show the subtle nuances involved in growing up in the world that they are forced into.
AR: I love that Mina takes responsibility for her actions. How important was this as you wrote?
SD: Very. In fact, in the first draft Mina was much more impulsive and rebellious but it made her a difficult character to like. I think it’s important for a dystopian world such as The Blemished to have a character that the reader can relate to and actually root for. She isn’t perfect though! It’s a tough time being a teenager and it’s the time when you make the first real mistakes of your life. It just so happens that she’s had to grow up quickly and that helps her take some responsibility.
AR: You decided to self-publish your first book. Tell us a little about that.
SD: I didn’t want to at first because I wanted to see the book in print. But then I found out you could do that when self-publishing and that made up my mind for me! Dystopian fiction is at its peak right now and I knew that if I waited for a publisher it could take years and years. I was worried that no one would get to read the story. That’s really what I wanted – for people to read the story and enjoy it and hopefully come away feeling differently about the world.
AR: What advice do you have for aspiring authors?
SD: There is so much! Write and read and write and read. You get better with practice. Format your book properly right from your first draft (google standard manuscript format). If you want to self-publish there are some things worth investing in – a cover artist and a proof reader.
AR: Thanks for your time and stopping by! One last question…When will The Blemished be published?
SD: Soon! I don’t want to give an exact date in case it takes longer than I set myself. But I can say that I’m finalizing my ebook formats with Amazon and Smashwords and am just waiting for the printers at Feed a Read to sort out the new version of the book. Follow me on twitter @sarahdalton or on my blog www.sarahdaltonbooks.com and trust me when I say I’ll be shouting it from the roof-tops when it’s finally published!