Q&A With Emily Suvada

Posted March 22, 2019 by Bluestocking Bookworm in Discussion, General / 1 Comment

Who is Emily Suvada?

Emily Suvada
Photo by Britt Q Hoover

Emily Suvada is the award-winning author of the Mortal Coil trilogy, a science fiction thriller series for young adults. The first book, This Mortal Coil, won the Oregon Spirit Book Award, and was shortlisted for an Aurealis Award, the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize, and the Readings Young Adult Book Prize.

Emily was born in Australia, where she spent her childhood reading, writing, and watching Star Trek. In college, she studied math and astrophysics, and went on to a career in finance before finding her way back to her first love—books.

Today, Emily lives in Portland, OR, with her husband, and still spends most of her free time reading, writing, and watching Star Trek. She also enjoys cooking, coding, powerlifting, hiking, and art. Her interests include AI, nanotech, virtual worlds, space travel, and genetic engineering. She is represented by DongWon Song of the Howard Morhaim Literary Agency.

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From Goodreads, here is the synopsis for book one – This Mortal Coil

Catarina Agatta is a hacker. She can cripple mainframes and crash through firewalls, but that’s not what makes her special. In Cat’s world, people are implanted with technology to recode their DNA, allowing them to change their bodies in any way they want. And Cat happens to be a gene-hacking genius.

That’s no surprise, since Cat’s father is Dr. Lachlan Agatta, a legendary geneticist who may be the last hope for defeating a plague that has brought humanity to the brink of extinction. But during the outbreak, Lachlan was kidnapped by a shadowy organization called Cartaxus, leaving Cat to survive the last two years on her own.

When a Cartaxus soldier, Cole, arrives with news that her father has been killed, Cat’s instincts tell her it’s just another Cartaxus lie. But Cole also brings a message: before Lachlan died, he managed to create a vaccine, and Cole needs Cat’s help to release it and save the human race.

Now Cat must decide who she can trust: The soldier with secrets of his own? The father who made her promise to hide from Cartaxus at all costs? In a world where nature itself can be rewritten, how much can she even trust herself?

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I read the first two books in this amazing series as they were released, and I cannot WAIT for the third book. The book blogging Discord server I am a part of recently read the first two books as well, and I have to say the reactions as they hit certain bombshells and cliffhangers was pretty priceless.

So, the other bloggers and I got together and came up with some questions for Emily Suvada. Many thanks to the following AMAZING ladies, who brainstormed these questions together. You should 100% check out their blogs.

And of course, a HUGE thank you to Emily for taking the time to answer us amid edits for This Vicious Cure and being in her third trimester with her first child. You rock, Emily!!

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What is your writing process like? Are you a plotter and planner, or do you go by the seat of your pants? What do you see first: characters, plot points, setting, etc?

I started writing as a bit of a pantser, which I think many of us do, but over the years I’ve turned into a very structured plotter and outliner. In fact, the majority of the time I spent working on This Vicious Cure’s first draft was spent outlining and plotting – I wrote chapter outlines that were around 1000 words each and then turned them into 2000-3000 word chapters when I was drafting. I still changed a few big things once I was partway through drafting and then at the end, too – so I’m a responsive plotter and try to be very aware of when something isn’t working – but generally speaking I’m not sure how I’d go about writing a thriller with so many twists and cliffhangers if I wasn’t planning the whole thing out beforehand. I have complex spreadsheets I build to manage my pacing and I rely on then completely. As for what I see first, it’s usually the twists and big moments in the book – times when a character will do something wild, or something dramatic and exciting happens. Then I’ll say “How would that happen? How would we get there?”. The rest of the plot and character development comes from those big moments. I need something really cool and exciting to hook me into writing a story so I start with the coolest stuff and work backwards from there.

How did you decide to make the change from a career in finance/coding/astrophysics to that of an author? Do you remember the moment you decided that you are an author? If so, can you describe it?

I had always been interested in writing – I’d attempted a few novels before I started writing seriously but only ever made it through a chapter or two. The big change came when my husband and I took a year off work to go backpacking. We’d been working for a few years and had saved up money to go and see the world, and within a few weeks of traveling I had book ideas bursting out of me. I wrote my first novel while traveling. It wasn’t good enough for publication but I was amazed I’d written it and I could tell I had enough of a voice to be able to make it with more work. I think that realization – that I could do this with some more work and improvement – was really when I knew I’d be an author one day. I just believed it would happen. I don’t know why I trusted myself so much to make it but I just did!

Being born and raised in Australia, are there any details in the trilogy that pays homage to your home country?

There aren’t many, though I do mention Australia a couple of times. We’d already started making plans to move to the US while I was starting the book, and I’ve based some of the locations on places around the US that I know and like. I’d love to write a science fiction story set in Australia one day. It’s such a beautiful and wonderful country and its landscape is so dramatic – it would serve as a great backdrop for a survival thriller.

What inspired you to write this specific story? Why write it from Cat’s point of view instead of one of the other characters? What real world experiences led to your creation of the tech and the social climate in the books?

This story started as a single image – an almost-feral girl living alone in a run-down cabin in the woods whose father sends an enemy soldier to protect her. And naturally, she tries to kill him. From there, I found myself asking what had happened to the girl to have her hiding alone for so long. I decided that a virus must have swept the planet, and figured it would have to be airborne… extremely airborne. Then I wondered why the soldier had come, and how the girl would play a role in curing the virus, and before I knew it, the tech and world-building all fell into place. This was really Cat’s story from the start because I’d seen her so clearly in that initial image, and wanted to understand how she felt, and how she was surviving in this world. In terms of real-world experiences, there weren’t many, since I haven’t ever seen anyone explode 🙂 My background in science and coding and also my love of the outdoors – hiking, camping, and road-tripping across the country – all fed into the story, though. It was really important to me that Cat’s heroism came from her knowledge and technical skills, not from traditional weapons or brute force. 

If your vision of the future were to come true, what would be three must-have non-standard apps for your own panel?

(A little bit of background here for those who haven’t yet read the books. Your panel is a computer that is embedded into your forearm, and it carries nanites that have technology embedded in them to do things like heal you, or make sure you never get a cold, or can zoom in on something like you have binoculars for eyes. That is all considered “standard” apps. Hackers like Cat can write non-standard apps to do things like change your hair colour to be rainbow streaks without ever having roots, or have tattoos that never fade, or cure uncommon diseases.)

Oh, wow, let’s hope it doesn’t come true! For non-standard apps I’d love to be able to sense electromagnetic fields! Cat’s cuff allows her to do this in This Cruel Design but she doesn’t have it built-in as a sixth sense. I think it would be really helpful to have a digestion app based on herbivorous mammals that allowed me to eat grass and leaves if I had to – that would make surviving in the apocalypse a lot easier. I’d also love to be able to do the thing dolphins do with their brains – they send one half of their brain to sleep at a time so they can stay awake with the other. That would be extremely useful!

LIGHTNING ROUND

What book have you reread the most?
Probably Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Although, Twilight would come a close second.

What is your favourite pizza topping?
Well, apart from cheese – mushrooms!

Cake or pie?
Pie! I really like fruit pies. I’m not really into most cakes except cheesecake.

Your Hogwarts house?
S L Y T H E R I N

Song you are likely to play on repeat until someone makes you turn it off?
Probably “The Willing Well II: From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness” by Coheed and Cambria. Love that song. It’s a story in three acts!

Favourite junk food?
Hot chips with tomato sauce (fries with ketchup in America :D)

Tea or coffee?
Tea – I love both but I’ll have one cup of coffee per day and several cups of tea.

Something you miss about living in Australia?
Those packet cup-of-soups. Man, I love those things. They just don’t do them here and I used to have one every afternoon.

Something you love about living in the US?
I really like being able to go outside without getting sunburnt in three minutes! I also love having four seasons – snow is still so exciting for me!

Most anticipated 2019 release?
Oof that’s a hard one – there are so many! In debuts I’m really looking forward to Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan, and Descendant of the Crane by Joan He!

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Well awesome nerds, I really hope you have enjoyed this Q&A with the amazing author Emily Suvada. And if you haven’t yet read her books, I hope you will look for them wherever you choose to buy – or borrow – your books!

If you have read the books, sound off in the comments about your favourite parts! (But please be respectful and mark any major spoilers!)

Stay bookish, lovelies!

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One response to “Q&A With Emily Suvada

  1. Ah! This is so good! Thank you so much for letting me be a part of this! <3 Learning about Emily's writing process is so inspiring to me! Plus, shout-out to her for liking mushrooms on pizza!

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