Teen Read Week is October 14th through 20th, but here at The Hub, we’re celebrating for ten days so we can bring you interviews, guest posts, videos, and more with each of the authors whose books made this year’s Teens’ Top Ten. Today we feature an interview with Beth Revis, whose book Across the Universe is #6 on this year’s list.
Congratulations! How did it feel to know your book was a Teens’ Top Ten selection?
I screamed out loud! This is one of the pie-in-the-sky awards that I’ve secretly longed for even before I was published. This is such a vote of confidence from the very people I wrote the book for, and that means everything to me.
While it clearly has its roots in science fiction, Across the Universe can just as easily be called a mystery or a love story. Did you intend to create such a genre-blending book, or did it evolve naturally?
It evolved naturally. When I started writing, I was frankly scared. I’d never written a sci fi before, and wasn’t sure I could do it properly. The roots of the story comes from the murder mystery and the twist at the end — and for those two things to work, I needed a science fiction setting. Once I started writing the world of Godspeed, everything else came naturally.
Across the Universe opens with a detailed scene that is quite chilling for both the characters and the reader. How much of that is based in current cryogenic science and how much was from your imagination?
A lot of it comes from my personal experience. The yellow eye drops are the same ones my mother uses for her glaucoma; the tubes down the throat come from my memories of having a tonsillectomy. I find it fascinating (and sad) when we see the way people are flesh and skin and bones, and I wanted to capture that moment. That said, I did have to research current cryogenics to make it believable. Currently, we don’t have realistic cryogenics because cell membranes burst from ice crystals. To make that work, I just invented the blue goo!
You bring up some heavy philosophical questions about race and diversity when Amy is on the ship Godspeed. Why did you feel it was important to include those issues in the book?
I think this came from my time working as a teacher and from my travels around the world. Growing up, I don’t think I really paid attention to race or the way people interacted. I knew, on an intellectual level, the history of racism and the need for diversity, but I had very little personal experience until I started traveling in college. I participated in two study abroad programs and became heavily involved in education programs that emphasized diversity in the classroom — not just racial diversity, but diverse learning needs, religious diversity, and more. When I became a teacher, I was armed with knowledge, and that helped me to see the consequences of prejudice and act to prevent it.
When I look at my own personal beliefs, I think it can best be summed up thusly: no one has the right to take away the choices and rights of anyone else. Which means that my core philosophy relies on a principle that is the antithesis of prejudice.
Prejudice is a result of ignorance and leads to hate, but knowledge and love defeat it. I will always stand on the side of love and knowledge.
Amy and Elder are such different characters. Amy is smart and calculating while Elder seems ruled almost entirely by his emotions, and their relationship is unsurprisingly complicated. Would they have fallen in love if they weren’t on the Godspeed?
I’d like to think they would! Part of what I was trying to do in writing Amy and Elder’s romantic relationship was flip the clichÃ©s — I wanted the girl to be hesitant and the boy to be the hopeless romantic. But by making them such opposites on an emotional level, I can’t help but feel that they’re perfect for each other. It’s not Godspeed that brings them together — it’s the fact that they’re two puzzle pieces that fit perfectly.
Can you tell us a little about your writing process?
Because I always wrote while I had other obligations — college, and then being a teacher — I don’t work to a schedule. I tend to write in bursts. I might not write for a week, but then I’ll sit down and pound out ten thousand words or more in one go.
I also spend a lot of time thinking. I believe in writing constantly, which doesn’t mean I’m always typing. A lot of my most important work happens when I’m driving the car or mowing the lawn, because it’s then that I think about what the plot problems are and how to make the story work.
Like many readers out there, I am dying to find out what happens in the final volume. Can you give us a hint of what’s to come in Shades of Earth?
I can tell you a few things! First, the very best death scene I’ve ever written is in this book, and I’m tickled pink about it! It should tell you a lot about me as a writer that the thing I’m most proud of is a murder!
In Across the Universe, my favorite part of the book was the chapter that was only one sentence long. In A Million Suns, my favorite part was the page that only had one word on it. In Shades of Earth, my favorite part is a blank page. Minimalism for the win!
Many thanks to Beth Revis for the interview! If you are interested in learning more about Beth and her books, be sure to check out her website.
— Summer Hayes, currently reading, and getting thoroughly creeped out by, Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson (a 2012 Alex Award winner)