Lana Krumwiede joins SciFiChick.com today for a Q&A to discuss her upcoming dystopian debut Freakling. (Reviewed here).
Can you tell us a bit about Freakling in your own words?
Freakling is a story about power– how it brings unexpected consequences and responsibility. Human nature seems to include a desire for more power, but in the end, you still have to choose between right and wrong. More power only increases the stakes. In fact, the first title that I chose for this book was Power Struggle, which sums up these ideas nicely, but it was much too generic for a book title. The word “freakling” was already in the manuscript I’d written, an insulting name I had invented for people with weak psi, and my editor thought that would make a much more intriguing title. She was right!
How much time did you spend in world-building this fascinating world of psi with all of the rules and limitations?
This story began with world-building. I had this idea about a place where everyone had telekinetic powers. How might that happen? What would that be like? There would have to be some inherent limitations, but what would they be and how would that work? How would telekinetic powers influence education, politics, technology, communication, transportation, industry? And on and on. All of that was swirling around in my head before I had a character or a plot in mind. I knew from the beginning that the main character would not have psi, but I didn’t know who he was or what he wanted until much later.
The hero of your story has what others believe is a crippling disability. But when we see how those without psi powers live, those with psi seem like the ones to pity. Was this a part of your initial story idea?
Yes, exactly. I liked the idea of a reverse super hero story– a story where everyone else has the super powers, but not this one kid. I think everyone feels that way sometimes, especially during adolescence. I also liked the idea of a person who would be perfectly normal in our world, but in a different context, this person is seen as inferior. Most of us worry way too much about how we compare to others. Taemon has a lot going for him, but he can’t see it because of all the expectations that surround him.
Is this world set in the future, or is it just a separate fantasy world?
I think of Taemon’s world as an alternate version of our own world. If psi would have been introduced before the telecommunications age took hold, and if it were accessible to (almost) everyone, obviously that would have taken us in a completely different direction. The technology, along with everything else, would have been focused around psi. Only something hugely powerful could have displaced computers, and I think psi would have done it. In our contemporary world, it’s hard to even imagine the absence of computers and phones.
Dystopian novels are extremely popular right now. What’s different about Freakling that sets it apart from the others?
Freakling is something of a genre bender. It has science fiction elements like technology and a futuristic setting, yet the whole concept of psi is more of a fantasy thing. The setting is definitely unusual–a futuristic setting where technology is based on psychic abilities rather than computers. Most dystopian novels are all about corrupt governments, but in this case it’s a corrupt religion. Also, the fact that the main character is male makes it a little different, since most dystopian novels have female main characters. Freakling is a little younger than young adult, which pulls in the middle-grade crowd. So I do think it stands out from the typical dystopian tale in a lot of ways.
Will there be a sequel to Freakling or a series?
Yes! The sequel is scheduled for a Fall 2013 release. We don’t have an official title yet, but there will be some very interesting consequences to the decisions that Taemon makes in Freakling. It’s hard to say much more without spoilers! A third book is definitely possible, but not certain at this point.
What’s next for you, after this release? Any other stories on the horizon?
Right now, I’m working hard to keep the sequel on its publication schedule. Also, I have a picture book under contract with Candlewick, which I’m very excited about. (I only wrote the story, a very talented someone else will illustrate it.) Many other ideas are in the works!
Tell us a bit about yourself and your experience in writing.
I started writing about eleven years ago. I began by writing for magazines like Highlights, Spider, The Friend, High Five, and many others. I did that for about seven years before I started writing Freakling. In many ways, magazine writing was a terrific learning experience. I learned how to write concisely and how to deal with rejection. The hardest thing about switching to novel writing was learning how to handle the pacing and rhythm and structure of a lengthy story. I can’t tell you how many times I started over! I have a wonderful writing group that encouraged me though every stage, and that was a huge support. It took me about one year to get from an idea to a story and then about two more years to write the book. After that, I signed with my amazing agent, Molly Jaffa of Folio Literary Management, and she found the perfect home for Freakling. It’s been incredible to see a book born into the world!
What inspires you?
Kindness inspires me. It’s so simple and yet it accomplishes amazing things.
Who are some of your favorite authors? What books do you love?
I have always loved The Giver by Lois Lowry and The Shadow Children series by Margaret Peterson Haddix. The funny thing is that the very first time I talked to my editor on the phone, she compared Freakling to The Giver. There is no bigger compliment than that! I do spend a lot of time reading, and some of my more recent favorites are the Chaos Walking series by Patrick Ness, Paolo Bacigalupi’s Ship Breaker, the Leviathan series by Scott Westerfeld, and A Confusion of Princes by Garth Nix. Just can’t get enough of those gritty sci-fi stories.
What do you do when you’re not writing? In your spare time?
Reading! Did I mention that already? That’s my first choice when I have spare time. I also love to cook. Brownies are my specialty. Mmm.
Be sure to check out Freakling on October 9th in bookstores!