Today Karen Healey is stopping by to answer a few questions to celebrate the release of While We Run, the second (and as I find out later, last) instalment of her dystopian series When We Wake.
While We Run by Karen Healey
Published: April 2014 by Allen & Unwin
Format: Paperback, 338 pages
Series: When We Wake #2
Goodreads • Booktopia • Bookworld
Reading Challenges: 2014 Sequel Challenge, Australian Authors – Female
Abdi Taalib thought he was moving to Australia for a music scholarship. But after meeting the beautiful and brazen Tegan Oglietti, his world was turned upside down. Tegan’s no ordinary girl – she died in 2027, only to be frozen and brought back to life in Abdi’s time, 100 years later.
Now, all they want is for things to return to normal (or as normal as they can be), but the government has other ideas. Especially since the two just spilled the secrets behind Australia’s cryonics project to the world. On the run, Abdi and Tegan have no idea who they can trust, and when they uncover startling new details about Project Ark, they realise thousands of lives may be in their hands.
Hi Karen, welcome back to Speculating on SpecFic!
1. I loved being in Abdi’s head throughout While We Run! Did you enjoy writing from his perspective as much as I did reading it?
That’s an impossible question to answer! How can I know how much you enjoyed reading it? But I did indeed enjoy writing from Abdi’s perspective. I don’t write many characters who are so contemplative. Most of my characters are fairly smart, but they’d rather act than think things through. Abdi is not only very intelligent, he’s much more willing to consider all the consequences before he risks making a choice.
2. I was surprised at the depth of the antagonism Abdi harbours for Bethari. Could you tell us a bit about why he feels that way? I think they’re more alike than he’d like to admit.
Oh, they’re very, very alike. Abdi’s resentment for Bethari comes from a couple of places.
First, she’s religious. She has a deep faith that brings her very real comfort. Abdi’s an atheist who was brought up in a religious country, and he has that unfortunately common reaction of “Why do you believe the stupid thing? The stupid thing is stupid!” which has surely talked many a devoted person out of their beliefs oh wait no it hasn’t not ever. So that, tied to a fair amount of defensiveness because ever since he declared that he was an atheist his mother has been pushing him to come back to God. He loves his mother, and he doesn’t want to resent her, so Bethari is a really handy target.
Secondly, Bethari is also a political thinker, but her take on political action is very different from his. Abdi prefers to manipulate stuff from behind the scenes, but Bethari’s a journalist, trying to expose manipulation. And worse, Bethari set herself up as the defender of this Thirdie kid the instant he stepped into their school, and she was probably very tactless about it. She got lots of credit from her politically minded friends for Taking a Stand. Abdi, who is actually doing the work of helping his people, gets all the pity and no actual respect.
So Abdi has some antagonism for Bethari, some unjustified, and some very much so.
3. The beginning of the book took me by surprise, because even in my wildest imagination I hadn’t expected that Abdi and Teagan would be in the position we find them in. Was it difficult to write the beginning of the book, before Abdi and Teagan escaped?
Nope, it wasn’t difficult, because I am okay with doing terrible thing to fictional characters. I wanted to make it clear that in the first book, the government were being very, very gentle with Tegan. They wanted her to cooperate, and be a good little spokesperson, and it was important that they have a good baseline reading of her mental health, so they gave her as much freedom as they dared. Armed guard, only one choice of school, no unsupervised media access – that was them being nice.
But she broke the rules, and demonstrated that she wouldn’t cooperate of her own free will, and then the gloves came off. Government bodies, particularly the kind represented in the book by SADU, can and will break people, if they think it’s important enough. If they think it’s worth it. And they think it’s worth it to break Tegan and Abdi, so they do.
4. What inspired the types of future technology you chose to include in your world? You’ve steered clear of most clichés and envisioned something quite different for our future.
Well, to be honest, if technology keeps progressing at the rate it is now, 110 years in the future things would be so different that I couldn’t possibly conceive of them. Try explaining a smartphone to someone from 1904 – even someone very smart. Try getting from, “So, you’ve studied Leibniz? You know about binary code?” to “This machine lets me instantaneously talk to people all over the world and access a whole bunch of media and it plays music and look! I can match these sparkling gems to win imaginary prizes! Also, it fits in my pocket.”
However, in a lucky break I had actually engineered for myself, I was explicitly dealing with a future where populations are very high and resources are very scarce. The rare metals in our smartphones and tablets are hard to extract and limited in volume, and fossil fuels are already running out. I figured that either having to recycle parts or slow down while we found alternative materials and power sources might limit progress.
So the things I wrote about – flexible computers, cybernetic body modifications, sonic weaponry – are pretty much extrapolations or refinements of our own technology that are anticipated within the next thirty-fifty years. Successful cryonic regeneration was my one indulgence. Reputable scientists don’t think that will ever be possible, but I’d hardly have a story without it.
Rapid Fire Round
1. If you could choose a character to centre a novella or spin-off series on, who would you choose? Bethari!
2. Can you tell us anything about the next book? Will we meet Abdi’s family? Will it be dual point-of-view? I can tell you that no next book is currently contracted. At present, this is a duology.
A huge thanks to Karen for taking the time out to answer these questions, and to Allen & Unwin, for organising the interview for me 🙂