by A.L. Davroe
(Website, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads)Series:
Published by Entangled Teen Genres: Dystopian, Love & Romance, Romance, Science & Technology, Science Fiction, Young Adult, Young Adult Fiction
Hi A.L.! Thanks for stopping by A Leisure Moment. I LOVED Nexis and can’t wait for the next book in the series. I need it, like, yesterday.
**This interview contains spoilers if you have not read book one!**
To start off, I read that you came up with the idea of Nexis through the merging of two video games. How did it build from that into something so unique and fresh in the dystopian market?
First, let me thank you for saying that it’s very flattering to be told your work is truly unique. I suppose it has a lot to do with writing what you want to see. As a fan of SFF across multiple genres – books, movies, tv, anime, games – I knew that there was a distinct lack of a number of things — most certainly in combination – in the YA market. There are a lot of Dystopian YA novels that are similar to each other and I didn’t want to be like that. I’ll admit, straight off the bat, that there is a little bit of auto-hero trope in here, but it’s built into the plot. Ella isn’t someone who suddenly has the world shoved on her shoulders for no reason. There is a reason and it’s built into the plot of the series from page one. Her story takes place over a long period of time, so she grows as a character. I wanted my book to be more than a romance; I wanted it to have a full story arc that could exist without the hero or the romance. And I wanted to romance to be real. Ella and Gus do have an attraction to each other from the beginning, a lot of people do need that chemistry from the beginning. But, if you follow the timestamps their relationship takes a while. I wanted Ella to be more brains than brawn, be flawed like every other teenager out there, and be a minority. Ella is a combination of ethic, social, and physical minority. There are times you want to shake her as a reader, but you’d still want to be friends with her. She deals with real problems that readers can relate to – fitting in, attracting the boy she likes, problems with her best friend, living up to her parents’ expectations… I wanted my dystopian future to be realistic and scientific. I hate reading things set in the future and people are still pressing buttons. Like, come on, humans are lazy. We’re going to be hands-free everything and totally have robots in the future. I wanted an actual message to exist. The greatest dystopian novels, the ones we’re made to read in school, have deep structure and a message. That’s a huge backbone of SFF. Fiction in general, is not real if you don’t make the world and the situation at hand real.
Being a Natural played a large role in the story. What made you decide to create a world where fake is more beautiful?
LOL, this is going to make me sound so jaded and condescending, but I’ve spent a lot of time studying this, so here goes… Honestly I just took where we, as humans, and tried to think about where we’d end up if we didn’t check ourselves. Almost every human society is driven by some false ideal of perfection and we socialize our children to pursue it. Men and women alike have an idea of what should look good. Women wear makeup, padded bras, push themselves to starvation for thigh gaps, and collapse at the gym for that Kardashian butt. We say “I do this for me” and “I feel better this way” and, while being healthy is good, we’re not being entirely honest with ourselves. We don’t actually sit back and ask ourselves “Why do I feel better with fuller lips? Why does owning these Prada shoes and looking young make me feel good?” Because society told us so, that’s why. Most people don’t want to hear that because it’s so hard to see and even harder to admit. They want to think they have their own sense of self and control. But it’s easy to see when you realize how hard it is to step out of that box. Think about a time when you self underdressed for something or went out without making yourself up. How did you feel? Many people would say they felt looked at or even gross and unclean – like a bum. As if your value as a human is directly related to how much effort your put into yourself physically.
Humans automatically dislike “other.” Think about who the “rejects” at school are. Think about who is popular and who gets picked for dodgeball. Think about who gets the date and who gets the job. You get farther in life the more you ascribe to society’s standards. That’s just how it is. You have to play the game. It truly is incredibly hard to break free of something that has become so normal that we don’t even see it, let alone question it. To some degree, we’re all part of a social hive mind and it’s terrifying.
If you don’t believe me, just start actively looking at how many times a day society puts “perfection” in front of you. How many ads? How many perfect bodies? How many clothing stores? Start actively thinking about how many times a day you wish something about yourself was different. How much time in the morning you spend selecting clothes, putting on makeup, doing your hair. How many times you wish you had the newest phone. How many contouring videos show up on your Facebook feed. How many hairstyle, makeup, and fitness boards you have on Pinterest. A large part of our economy is built on looking the best.
What happens when someone decides to do the whole “no make-up don’t care” selfie? They’re championed by some – as if they are being brave for just being themselves. And they’re secretly side-eyed by others because they’re pointing out how awful it is that we bend to society’s standards and making those who do follow the “rules” feel stupid for doing so. I’m betting some readers have either stopped reading or are rolling their eyes at me now.
Look at what happened to Lady Gaga at the Superbowl half-time show. She’s a beautiful, talented human being who probably works her tail off for the body she does have. Her crew spent hours dolling her up before the game in order to get her out there for the world to see. Her performance was one of the best halftime shows in history. And she still got trolled. People noticed her stomach – that one “imperfection.” It’s really sad and shameful.
We already spend ridiculous amounts of time, money, and energy on the pursuit of perfection. Our society already revolves around it. We just can’t see it because we’re so used to it. All I did was change who we already are around enough for readers to no longer see themselves in the Aristocracy. Most people read the Aristocrats and think “these people are nuts,” but, we’re exactly the same. We already cut and paste ourselves, wear designer clothes, and ostracize others. A lot of our confidence in ourselves is mostly driven by a changing tide of status, beauty, and youth. We don’t focus enough on creating confidence that can stand the test of society and time. If I can get one reader to question that within themselves, then the boos and hisses of those who don’t want to see it will be worth it. Who knows, maybe that one reader will be the next trickster. ;p
So for those as far on the edge of their seats as I am, why don’t you tell us where Redux picks up?
You’ll all be happy to know that Redux literally picks up right where Nexis left off. You’re missing maybe an hour or so and that’s it.
Don’t even get me started on the romance. I fell hard for Guster. He wasn’t quite like a love interest I’ve read before. Then you throw that wicked curve ball?! Anyway, what inspired you to write Guster? Will we find out who the real Guster is?
Haha, yes, you’ll all find out who Real World Guster is and you’ll fall for him even harder, I think. I really try to write believable male characters in my books, so it means a lot to me that readers fall for them. I’m just a girl writing a little bit of what I believe every woman’s “perfect prince” would be. He’s smart, strong, and sensitive. A little cocky, but not in the “I make panties melt” kind of way. More in the “bro” sense of being capable and self possessed, yet he’s still fallible and vulnerable. In my books, I try to make my relationships a thing of balance. Ella and Gus balance each other out well, neither one is saving the other all the time and neither one is the dominant one in the relationship. Theirs is a relationship built of trust, respect, humor, and tenderness. The Tricksters series was a little tough for me because I actually like to write from multiple points of view – like I do in my books For Your Heart and M.I.A.. Redux was especially hard, because I really wanted to write from Game Guster’s point of view because he’s such a tragic hero in many ways. But, I think I got him anyway. You’ll have to let me know.
I loved the Trickster element. It reminded me of Native American folklore. How much research was involved in creating the five Tricksters in this series?
I’ve always loved the trickster trope. I’m a huge fan of mythology, and the trickster exists in most cultures and in many forms, so it seemed like something that would persist through the downfall of society as we know it. I started specifically with the Anansi trope. The spider and web is such a rich symbolic set. The other tricksters kind of grew up around it. When Gus first appeared in the story and grinned that crazy grin of his, I thought to myself “crazy like a fox” and that’s really where the idea for the whole gang being tricksters came about. I picked my favorite tricksters from throughout the myths and designated those to the other characters. Ella’s role as spider is the most defined but, of course, that makes sense since she is the main character.
Ellani had only known the world of Evanescence. She was introduced to new and exciting things in Nexis, like Dr. Pepper and French fries, and you had a wonderful way of making the objects foreign in her mind but recognizable while reading. What new thing will she face beyond the dome, beyond the game?
Well, Redux introduces Ella to the concept of “this is no longer a game.” Her Real World becomes her adventure and the stakes are obviously higher. There’s still a little cyber thread in there, but this book is a lot more “real” and Ella is obviously a different person. Still the strong, cunning woman we’ve come to love from Nexis, but this time she has all that learning and growing she did in Nexis under her belt.
What was different about writing book two than writing Nexis?
Everything. LOL! Nexis wanted to be written, Redux did not. It was really hard for me to write Redux. Ella was a different person and I was a different writer. We had to get to know each other all over again and sort of find out what worked in her world. Originally, I had a different idea of where the book was going to go. As you know, Nexis ends on a pretty dark note. As a writer, I’ve always held to writing realistically, so I had wanted to do a true examination of what Ella and the survivors would have been like. It ended up being too dark and it took Ella too long to pull herself up by her bootstraps and embrace that strong heroine inside of herself again. I ended up having to rewrite the whole book and change the plot around to remove Ella from the group and accelerate her healing process.
Ellani has a knack for computers. Will her abilities shine even more in Redux?
Oh yes. Not just with the computers. On a whole, Redux really showcases Ella’s logic and ability to problem solve. She may not be as kick-butt without the virtual reality world behind her, but I’m really proud of how she sees things others can’t and utilizes the resources available to her.
Maybe I’m still riding on the fangirl high, but I can’t imagine this series wrapping up in two books. How many Trickster novels can we expect?
Only these two, unfortunately. My contract was only for two and that seems to be what Entangled wants. I do hope to one day write more in this series. I leave room for more at the end of Redux and I’d like to maybe pursue that. I’d also like to do a couple of companion novels following the other Real World tricksters that we encounter in Redux. If you’d like more of my writing in general, I do have a couple of other things available on Amazon and Entangled has expressed interest in some of my other series, so there will be more.
Thanks for stopping by A.L.! I can’t wait to read Redux and learn more about the world beyond the dome.