Teri Terry interview

1. Why did you choose to write a dystopian novel?
I never set out to write a dystopian novel when I wrote Slated, so it wasn’t a conscious choice to do so. Instead I had this character and situation, and a story I wanted to write. I wasn’t sure if it was dystopian or not when I started it. With Mind Games, I’d say it is more SciFi than dystopian, but it’ll probably get put in that category by others.
2. How do you get your ideas?
All kinds of ways! With Slated, it started with a dream that I had, of a girl running on a beach, terrified, and afraid to look back to see what was chasing her. That became the prologue to Slated, and the story kind of grew from there. With Mind Games, it was a very different beginning. I’d read an article about rationality versus intelligence – RQ vs IQ – and I thought: what if there was a world where RQ was prized over IQ? What would the consequences of this be? I’m not sure I covered all that in the novel I’ve written, but that is how it started.
3. How important is it to have a strong protagonist in a dystopian novel?
I’d say in any kind of novel you need to have an interesting likeable main character that readers can relate to. Dystopian novels often involve the protagonist in overthrowing an unjust system – this requires strength as well. Though often the character’s weaknesses are what makes them really interesting.
4. What should the opening to a dystopian novel include?
I don’t think there are any set do’s or don’t’s for starting any sort of novel, a dystopian one included. For every rule there is a rule breaker who makes it work. In general terms, you need to have something that will grip the reader quickly, and make them care about the character. In a dystopian novel you often need quite a bit of world building, but it is boring if you dump loads of information on readers, especially at the beginning. It is part of the challenge to find ways to work it into the story without it sounding like you are explaining things.
5. What writing tips can you give to budding writers?
Read often.
Write often.
Don’t worry about writing well: get the story on the paper, and fix it up later.
Finish things.
There are no shortcuts: learning to write is hard work. If you keep persisting, everything you write will be a little better than what came before.
6. What other dystopian novels have caught your eye?
A few I’ve particularly liked that may be in this category are –
The Adoration of Jenna Fox, by Mary E Pearson (perhaps this is more SF than dystopian, but it is awesome!)
Unwind, by Neil Shusterman

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