I have a really exciting post today! I have always been really interested in authors’ writing processes and where they pull inspiration, particularly in the SFF community where there is so much ingenuity and cool ideas. I was lucky enough to be able to interview Jon McGoran, author of the YA science fiction Spliced series, as a part of the blog tour for the final book in this series, Spiked. In the interview, McGoran shared so much about his inspiration, research, and writing process, and it’s such a fascinating discussion. McGoran’s final installment in the Spliced trilogy, Spiked, releases on May 5, 2020.
Spliced (Book #1) synopsis:
“In this gripping sci-fi thriller, genetically altered teens fight for survival in a near-future society that is redefining what it means to be human.
Sixteen-year-old Jimi knows people change, but nothing could prepare her for what’s about to happen to her best friend, Del. Del is obsessed with becoming a chimera (ki-mir-a): a person who pays back-alley geneticists, known as “”genies,”” to illegally splice animal genes into their own. The resulting physical changes have scared lawmakers into drafting legislation declaring chimeras officially nonpersons—so when Del goes missing, Jimi is desperate to find him before he alters himself forever.
As she tries to save him, Jimi must face down unscrupulous people and risk her own life—all while knowing that if getting spliced is the choice Del has made, it means he’s leaving her behind forever.”
**I’ll post the synopsis for Spiked, Book #3 in the series at the bottom of this post to avoid spoilers for those who haven’t read the series!
Interview with Jon McGoran
Back Shelf Books: I love that you write near-future Sci Fi. It’s one of my favorite genres. Where do you pull inspiration from?
Jon McGoran: I get inspiration all over, but mostly from reading the news, including the tech/science news, like Wired, Cnet, Ars Technica, etc. I also listen to NPR a lot. A lot of my ideas come from researching other projects. I love when that happens, chasing one idea down a rabbit hole and finding some other cool idea. I tend to have a lot of ideas, and often they will simply pop into my head, seemingly out of nowhere, but I think a lot of that is about filling the well, reading and listening and watching all sorts of stuff and letting it seep in and then percolate back up.
BSB: One of the cool things about Sci Fi, to me, is the idea of defining what it means to be human in a world full of other kinds of beings, whether it be AI or aliens or something else. It sounds like that theme is explored in this book, which is exciting! How does that idea of defining humanity (and, maybe, even broadening that term) fit in with this series?
JM: At its core, that’s what this series is about: what does human mean, and who gets to decide? In preparing to write these books, I did a lot of research into the animal personhood movement, which doesn’t say that animals are human, but argues that they are not the same as inanimate objects, either, which I think is indisputable. In this series, there are two different forms of transhuman, the Chimeras, who splice themselves with animal DNA, and the Plants, who alter themselves with computer brain implants. The Chimeras are generally more accepting, but many of the Plants support a movement to define the Chimeras as non-persons. My inclination would be to support the very broadest definition of human, but part of what makes the ideas in these books so fascinating to me is that, while I disagree with the narrow definition supported by some of the characters, it is inarguable that somewhere there is a line between what is and what isn’t human. Today, there are animals with human genes spliced into them to produce certain proteins, or even organs that can be transplanted into humans. As one character argues, no one would claim that those animals are human, but as you add more and more of the human genome, that becomes less clear. When you get to 99.99%, most people would agree that is human, so somewhere along that continuum, there is a line, and as this kind of splicing technology becomes more available, and if people do start to splice themselves with animals, society may well have to decide on where that is. I imagine it will be a very difficult decision, and I would be very wary about who gets to make it and what the ramifications may be.
BSB: As a Sci Fi author, how much time do you spend thinking about real-life science when writing? I can imagine it’s difficult to balance the research and science with all the ideas you might want to explore.
JM: I try to base all of my Sci Fi on real science. Even if it is set in the distant future, which some of my short stories are, I try to base the ideas on real science. It’s tricky when writing about the near future, because you want the actual science to be impeccable, and you want the fictionalized science to be believable, but in a way, you don’t want to blur that distinction for the reader, to mislead them into thinking that what you have made up is real.
BSB: It sounds like there’s some political element to the Spliced series, given that rights are taken away from Chimera. How does the political machinations and elements work within the series?
JM: There definitely is, but in a way it is more about tactics than philosophy. The primary political focus is about how some people or organizations try to divide people for political gain, how they try to demonize others, to blame them and scapegoat them. It is very relevant to a lot of what is wrong in our society and our current political landscape.
BSB: I read a lot of both adult and YA Sci Fi, but I know some adults stay away from YA books. What do you think adult readers will love about the Spliced series?
JM: I think a big part of the popularity of young adult books these days is the growing recognition that the writing and the stories and ideas are often just as sophisticated as books for adults. Yes, the characters and some of the themes are specifically about teens, but we’ve all been teens, that is in all of us, and most of the themes are relevant to everyone. Part of what is great about so much of today’s YA fiction is that it doesn’t talk down to teens, it doesn’t patronize or condescend, and that also makes it more readable and enjoyable for adults. I write books that I would want to read, and that means the writing is very adult-friendly, and in fact, a lot of my readers are fans of my adult books who kept reading my books when I started writing YA.
BSB: Reading the end of a series is always tough as a reader! I get so attached to stories and characters, especially over the course of a series. I can’t imagine how it would be as an author. What was it like writing the final book in the Spliced trilogy?
JM: Honestly, this is embarrassing, but each time I came to the end of the book, first draft, second, third, edits, copyedits, proofing the galleys, every time I got to the end, I cried. I love writing series, in part because I do get very invested in my characters, and I have a hard time letting go of them. It’s sad when you get to the end of a standalone, knowing you are saying goodbye to these characters with whom you have this incredibly intimate bond. But after a series, it is even more intense, and I think, with YA it is even more intense than that. Part of what makes YA so compelling is that the characters are in this very intense time of life, they are changing and growing and making profound decisions about who they are and who they will become and what they will do with their lives. Over the course of a series, teen characters will have changed more, their arcs are much more pronounced than adult characters’. Even if the series continued, those characters will never be the same. You have to say goodbye to them in more ways than with adult characters.
“Committed to both peace and human rights for chimeras–people who alter themselves with animal DNA–seventeen-year-old Jimi Corcoran is torn when she’s invited to a gathering of moderate pro- and anti-chimera rights activists seeking to find common ground. But when a militant chimera rights group prevents her from attending–and saves her from being killed by the bomb they’ve planted–Jimi herself falls under suspicion for the blast.
Seeking to clear her name, Jimi and her chimera boyfriend, Rex, investigate the mysterious group. . . . only to discover that her involvement is no accident. As they dig deeper, they’re drawn into a whirlwind of secret identities, shocking experiments, and an apocalyptic plot that threatens the future of humanity.
In this thrilling conclusion to Jon McGoran’s timely and heavy-hitting Spliced series, extremists on both sides square off in an escalating battle between competing visions of the future of humanity, and of the Earth. Set in a near-future society where science is both celebrated and vilified, the Spliced series tackles weighty questions about genetic manipulation, artificial intelligence, population control–and when, if ever, revolution is worth a life.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jon McGoran is the author of Spliced, a near-future YA science fiction thriller that Kirkus calls, “Timely, thrilling, and more than a little scary.” Splintered, the sequel to Spliced, is now available in bookstores everywhere. Look for Spiked, the final book in the trilogy, coming May 2020.
McGoran’s other books include the acclaimed ecological thrillers Drift, Deadout, and Dust Up, as well as The Dead Ring, based on the hit TV show, The Blacklist. Writing as D. H. Dublin, he is also the author of the forensic thrillers Body Trace, Blood Poison and Freezer Burn.
When not writing novels and short fiction or cohosting The Liars Club Oddcast, McGoran works as a freelance writer, developmental editor, and writing coach. Freelance samples and ore information are available here. He also works with Anne Dubuisson to offer a more comprehensive range of publishing and editing services. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
GIVEAWAY DETAILS: Follow this link for the Rafflecopter giveaway of 1 copy of Spiked by Jon McGoran – US Only – The prize may be delayed due to shipping centers being affected by COVID-19