Sunday, January 12, 2014

Author Interview with Jessica Khoury

With only 2 more days until the release of Jessica Khoury's new novel, Vitro, I can't even begin to tell you how excited I am to get my hands on a copy. To tide me over until Tuesday, Jessica has graciously agreed to answer some questions to curb our appetites. We also have the unique opportunity to play along in a spectacular contest called #operationvitro over at Jessica is giving away prizes to EVERYONE that participates and you have the opportunity to win some really swank grand prizes.

Jessica Khoury is the author of one of the most original stories I have ever read. Origin, which was released in September of 2012, is the story of a genetically engineered girl who discovers that she's not as perfect as everyone has been telling her her whole life. 

Her new novel, Vitro, is the story of Sophie and Jim. Sophie's mother works on an island, called Skin Island, that nobody knows anything about. All people know is that it is a scientific research facility and it is off limits to outsiders. Sophie's mother sends her an emergency email asking Sophie to come to Skin Island. Sophie travels to Guam and searches in vain for a pilot to fly her out there. Then, she finds Jim. Jim and Sophie were childhood playmates who haven't seen each other in years. Jim is the only one who will agree to fly Sophie out to Skin Island. What they'll find there is anybody's guess.

Welcome Jessica! I am so excited to chat with you about your new novel, Vitro, which is coming out in just 2 short days! First off, tells us a little about Vitro and what we can expect to find in your newest novel. 
Vitro tells the story of Sophie, a girl whose mother left her behind ten years ago in order to pursue her research for Corpus on a remote Pacific island. Now Sophie is on her way to find her mother, and the only person willing to fly her to the island is her old childhood playmate, Jim. Together, they begin discovering what Sophie's mother has been doing--raising test-tube embryos with computer chips integrated into their brains. These Vitros, as they're called, have abilities beyond those of normal humans--but at a terrible cost.

Ooooo. A terrible cost. How intriguing. What draws you to writing medical and scientific stories? 
I've always loved reading these kind of stories, and I think there are some fascinating ethical dilemmas intrinsic to developing technologies that make for great drama. Plus, these questions are very relevant to our current reality, which adds to the stakes.

So, Vitro isn't really a sequel to Origin, but will we see any of the same characters? 
You will meet one familiar face in Vitro, but I won't give away who it is!

Any chance we'll see Pia and Eio in any future novels? 
At this point, I don't have any plans to continue Pia and Eio's story--but you never know what the future will hold.

Right now, both of your novels are stand-alones. Do you have any desire to write a continuous series, or do you enjoy writing single novels?
I think I'd enjoy working on a series at some point; stand-alones have many advantages, but a series allows you to really dig deep into the characters and worldbuilding.

Most YA stories these days, including Origin and Vitro have a female heroine who is paired with a male counterpart, but rarely, if ever, is the main hero a male. Why do you think that is? 
I think this reflects today's teen readership, which is largely female. However, in Vitro, Jim is as much the protagonist as Sophie, and I really enjoyed getting to bring his male perspective into play. I think that most readers enjoy stories told from either gender's viewpoint, so I'd love to see more male protagonists.

When you wrote Origin, you mentioned on your blog that it was originally titled Perfectly Pia. I personally think that Origin was a much more compelling title and really reflected the depth of the story. Were you disappointed to have the title changed, or did you feel a connection between the new title and the story? And did you have a similar experience with Vitro? If you did, what was Vitro's original title? 
With Origin, I knew from the beginning that a title change would likely happen, so I wasn't upset when it did. I loved "Origin" from the moment we chose it, and knew it was a perfect title! Vitro was pretty much Vitro from the beginning; before it was final, I just called it "the island book."

What does your writing space look like? 
I have my desk, where I usually work, as well as a huge, comfy chair flanked by overflowing bookshelves. I like to have a lot of open windows too; natural light is relaxing and healthy! My favorite thing about my writing space is my TARDIS bookshelf, which my husband built for me as a Christmas present. It even lights up!

Last question. The thing I enjoyed most about Origin was the way it left me thinking at the end. Will we get the same treat with Vitro? Are there deep underlying issues that will intrigue our minds? 
I think so, and I hope you will leave with questions hanging in your mind. In Vitro, the ethical dilemmas at the heart of the story (which I can't state here without giving away the twists!) are less black-and-white as they are in Origin. I didn't want the characters to have any easy answers, because that's often how these situations are in real life.

If you're like me, these 2 days are going to take For-ev-er! Don't forget to pick up your copy of Vitro on Tuesday, January 14th! And in the mean time, continue to play #operationvitro for your chance to win some great prizes!

Jessica Khoury is of Syrian and Scottish descent and was born in Toccoa, Georgia. She wrote her first book at age 4, a fan fic sequel to Syd Hoff's Danny and the Dinosaur, which she scribbled on notebook paper, stapled together, and placed on the bookshelf of her preschool classroom. Since that day, she's dreamed of being an author. 

Besides writing, Jess enjoys playing, coaching, and watching soccer and is an avid FC Barcelona fan. She also spends time directing theater for college and student groups and traveling the world in search of inspiration and stories.

Jess currently lives in Columbia, South Carolina, with her husband, two terrible dogs, and an abundance of books, shoes, and sweet tea.

She is the author of Origin and Vitro.

Code by Kathy Reichs and Brendan Reichs

The Virals are put to the ultimate test when they find a geocache containing an ornate puzzle box. Shelton decodes the cipher inside, only to find more tantalizing clues left by "The Gamemaster." A second, greater geocache is within reach—if the Virals are up to the challenge.

But the hunt takes a dark turn when Tory locates the other box—a fake bomb, along with a sinister proposal from The Gamemaster. Now, the real game has begun: another bomb is out there—a real one—and the clock is ticking.

Woo Hoo! Ever since I discovered the Virals series by Kathy Reichs and her son Brendan, I was hooked!! The series revolves around a group of kids who live on an island used for a scientific research facility. The only people that live on the island are employees of the facility and their families, so these kids have a unique lifestyle that unites them. 

Tory, Hi, Shelton and Ben are your typical teenage kids who don't fit in at their local prep school. They get picked on because they are the weird science kids that live on an island. But the best friends have a secret. Their DNA is infused with wolf DNA and they have special abilities. They are viral! I think it would be awesome to have wolf senses and be connected to my friends through crazy pack genetics.

This latest installment finds the Virals searching out a geocache in what they think is a game that Hi has dragged them all into. He is so excited, because it is the first geocache placed on Loggerhead Island. Inside the geocache is a puzzle box. When they finally get the box open, they find another clue, which is against the rules. The hunt spirals out of control as the Virals realize that the "Gamemaster" is really a psycho who is planning on killing lots of people if they don't successfully play his game, on his timeframe, according to his rules. Throw in the fact that Tory's life is being taken over by her dad's overly peppy and pushy girlfriend and it makes for an interesting story.

This third book was even better than the 2 before it. I wondered how Reichs would be able to keep the story going forward and be different, since the first 2 had many similar elements, but this one blew the first 2 away. I tend to not like YA books sometimes, because they can be too safe and "dumbed down", and I think we don't give YA readers enough credit. But, Kathy Reichs doesn't leave the danger or pain out of these books. I'm excited to see where she takes the series next and how the Virals are going to develop individually and as a pack.