Susan Kaye Quinn’s YA sci-fi Mindjack Trilogy is one of my fantabulous browsing finds. Hopping from
book to book, the word “mindjacker” kept grabbing my attention, and the description for Open Minds, the first book in the trilogy, intrigued me even more:
When everyone reads minds, a secret is a dangerous thing to keep.
Sixteen-year-old Kira Moore is a zero, someone who can’t read thoughts or be read by others. Zeros are outcasts who can’t be trusted, leaving her no chance with Raf, a regular mindreader and the best friend she secretly loves. When she accidentally controls Raf’s mind and nearly kills him, Kira tries to hide her frightening new ability from her family and an increasingly suspicious Raf. But lies tangle around her, and she’s dragged deep into a hidden underworld of mindjackers, where having to mind control everyone she loves is just the beginning of the deadly choices before her.
Free Souls, the final book in the series, drops today! Susan gives us the scoop on how she developed the whole mindjacker concept, what type of mage she would want to be, and she offers a preview of a new series akin to the Mindjack Trilogy.
The word “mindjack” is what initially caught my attention, and then the concept sealed the deal. Where did you get the idea?
Originally, there were no mindjackers in the story! My first concept was about a girl in a future world where everyone read minds except for her. The image of this very isolated girl came to me one night as I was trying to go to sleep (the brain never lets me rest), and I immediately had to get up and write the scene. After that, this character wouldn’t leave me alone, so I ended up using that as a starting point for a National Novel Writing Month (NaNo) novel a month later. About 20k words into the novel, I realized that she really was a mindjacker! The story evolved from there.
How did you develop the specialties of the mages?
The mages are jackers with extreme abilities, beyond the typical mindjacker that can just manipulate your every thought, emotion, sense, and memory. I saw the mages as either jackers that have enhanced “normal” abilities or jackers that can reach into the deeper levels of mind. An “enhanced” jacker would be able to reach mentally farther (a Viewer) or control many minds at once (a Puppeteer, although I never explicitly call Hinckley that in the story). Jackers that reach deeper would control the instinctual processes that lie below conscious thought (a Handler) or broadly be able to rewrite not just memories, but subconscious memories, learned skills, and the tiniest details that make up your personality (a Scribe).
I had a lot of fun making these up. I had to stop making so many different kinds, just because it would have been too complicated for the story. But I leave that door open, so to speak, in Free Souls.
If you were a mage, what would be your gift?
I would definitely want to be a Handler. In Julian’s novella (The Handler), I explore what it feels like to be able to read people’s instincts (they’re mostly colors, but also temperatures), and how that affects Julian’s interactions with other people. What if you knew not just someone’s conscious thoughts, but the basic desires underlying them? They might say (or even think) one thing, but you would know what was driving them better than they knew themselves. Creepy. Also a lot of fun.
Who are your writing influences? What do like to read when you’re not writing?
I adore Scott Westerfeld and Holly Black. My influences stretch back to the classic SF of my youth (Heinlein, Bradbury) up to modern classics like Harry Potter and Hunger Games and Lightning Thief. I’ve broadened my reading in the last year: lots of indie works, short stories, SF, steampunk, even historical romance. Recent reads: The War of Art (nonfiction), The Queen’s Lady (medieval romance), Jars of Clay (Roman romance), The Ghost and the Graveyard (fantasy mature romance) and Wool (post-apocalyptic SF). If you can find the common element there, let me know! (BTW half of those are indie works.)
According to your bio, you have quite the resume in the sciences! What motivated you to get back to writing, and to take it all the way to publishing?
The writing bug bit after I started reading with my kids – I simply adored the middle grade stories they loved. Then I started reading YA, and I just found myself sitting down at the computer one day and writing a story of my own. I had written a lot as a child and teen myself, but had left it behind long ago to pursue “serious” adult work. When I became completely obsessed with the craft of writing and literally couldn’t stop, I decided I better try to turn this into something that might bring income one day, just so I could justify all the time I spent on it.
With Free Souls coming soon, do you have any plans beyond the Mindjack books?
The Faery Swap (MG Fantasy)
I started writing because I love middle grade stories, and I’ve been writing those all along (although not publishing them). In 2013, I plan to revise and submit The Faery Swap, a middle grade fantasy about a boy who is tricked into swapping places with a warrior faery from an alternate dimension. It’s Prince and the Pauper meets Artemis Fowl, and I love the story. We’ll see how far it can go in the traditional-publishing route; all else fails, I’ll self-publish, even though the market for middle grade still hasn’t really arrived in the indie world.
Third Daughter (steampunk fantasy romance)
For NaNo 2012, I drafted the first 50k of Third Daughter, an Indian-flavored steampunk novel that I’m having ridiculous amounts of fun writing (you can check out my Pinterest board to get some idea of what that world looks like). I hadn’t really planned on writing this book until later next year, but my mom was interested in NaNo, and since I’ve been trying to get her to pick up the pen for about 4 years now, I told her I would do NaNo, if she did too. So we completed NaNo together – I’m super proud of her for taking the leap! I’ll spend the rest of December finishing the first draft of Third Daughter before I let it rest.
Singularity (YA SF, for readers who enjoy Mindjack)
In the New Year, I’m crazy excited to start writing my new science fiction series, Singularity, which I think will appeal to the fans of Mindjack. It’s about a post-Singularity world (the Singularity is the event horizon when computers become more intelligent than humans), with plenty of cool technology and future world dreaming, all told through the viewpoint of a legacy human boy. You can see a sneak peek into this work in a tiny flash fiction I wrote for Christmas (it’s hidden on my blog, scroll down to the bottom). It will be a series, the as-yet unnamed first novel to be published in 2013.
So… big plans ahead! Thanks so much for having me today!
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Thanks for coming by, Susan! So if you’ve read books one and two, go get your copy of Free Souls today to find out how things work out for Kira! If you’re new to the trilogy, I highly recommend giving it a shot. Check out Open Minds and Closed Hearts, plus the three related novellas Susan’s released. Find out all about the Mindjack Trilogy and more at Susan’s website. Happy reading!