1. Congratulations on the publication of Maladapted! What inspired you to write it?
Thank you, Josh! So many things have come together in this book…
I really wanted to write a fast-paced thriller, with short chapters that are like bullets of energy. This format seems to fit a world that is speeding up and driven by billions of hits of information.
Added to that is my fascination with genetics – the Human Genome was finally sequenced just 13 years ago, and that was such an amazing turning point. Suddenly humans could change the course of their own evolution; the more you think about what that means, the more mind-blowing it becomes, and I really wanted to explore some of these ideas in a novel.
I’m also fascinated (and frightened) by fundamentalism – what are the mental processes people go through that lead them to commit shocking and violent acts of terror? I did a lot of research on this, in particular I spent many hours interviewing people who work in anti-radicalisation units inside British prisons. Crucially, to take the reader on a journey of radicalisation, I needed to find a cause that was rational and logical… which is where genetics comes in.
2. How did you come up with the idea for Foundation City?
All around the world people are being drawn away from rural areas and into cities. One glance at the (shocking) results of the EU referendum and you realise what a huge disconnect there is between London and the rest of the country. (Within hours of the Brexit result being declared, there was already a petition circulating to allow London to be a separate country within the EU!)
The tricky question was whether to future-cast a specific city like London, or make one up. After doing a lot of research, I created an amalgam of different capitals I’ve been to, then imagined what some of the powerful city-states in Renaissance Italy would feel like if they’d developed in a modern, high-tech world.
3. What was your aim with Maladapted? Was there a message you were trying to carry in the story?
Every week there are stories in the news about new miracle treatments for diseases, which really is something to celebrate. But… those cures are only possible because of genetic editing; and genetic editing opens up the possibility of designing human beings to be something new and different.
It doesn’t matter that current laws restrict genetic experimentation – the world is full of billionaires who pay no heed to national laws. If they want to use genetic editing to make themselves and their children smarter, stronger, healthier and more talented, they’ll do it in secret. They’re probably doing it right now…
If there’s a message in Maladapted, it’s probably “Open your eyes to what’s really going on!”
4. Does the science in the book interest you?
Absolutely! Genetics is where the physical building blocks of life meet the biggest human questions of all: Who am I? What am I? What is my purpose?
Added to that is the fun of all the shiny tech that runs Foundation City, and imagining what life will be like in a really connected ‘smart-world’.
5. What’s next for you?
Loads of interesting stuff coming up: a stage play, some really cool movie ideas in development, and two very edgy radio dramas.
But right now, I’m spending the whole weekend trying to find a way of staying inside the European Union, so I’m busy signing online petitions and checking my family tree, searching for links to other countries!
Any Dutch people out there fancy adopting me?