Michelle Gagnon is the author of six novels, and her latest, Strangelets, is out today from SOHO Press. She was kind enough to answer a few of my questions on the new book, and more, so please welcome her to the blog!
Michelle, you have a very colorful background! Will you tell us a bit about yourself? Have you always wanted to be a writer?
I actually won a prize for a short story I wrote when I was six years-old, about a toothbrush named Timmy. It was a bit of a rocky road after that, however. I didn’t really believe it would be possible to make a living as a writer, so even though I was always working on short stories, it wasn’t until I was in my late twenties that I tried to complete a full novel. That one remains in a drawer (and always will, since it was terrible!) but I consider it to be my own personal writing 101 class. The next book I embarked on was THE TUNNELS, which attracted the attention of an agent, and sold shortly thereafter.
Your new novel, Strangelets, looks like a cross between SF and horror, with plenty of suspense thrown in! Will you tell us a bit about it and what inspired you to write it?
The initial idea for the book was about teens who were all simultaneously about to die, for very different reasons. I wanted to go outside my comfort zone, so I attempted to write a dystopian novel in the vein of some of the books I love to read (The Maze Runner series, The Knife of Never Letting Go, Divergent, etc). Having the kids all come from very different backgrounds, all over the world, made it even more fun and challenging to write.
What kind of research did you do for the book?
I have to confess, physics is not my strong suit. But this is fiction, after all, so while I did research Strangelets (mini black holes) and parallel dimensions, I took liberties with much of what happens in the novel.
You’re known for your thrillers and suspense novels, which involve plenty of scary situations. What’s something that you find particularly terrifying?
Aside from death and taxes? 😉 Suffice it to say that my boyfriend knows better than to ever book a cabin in the woods for our vacations.
What are a few of your biggest literary influences?
There truly are too many to list! Right now, Young Adult fiction is very different from what was available when I was a teenager; and in many ways, it offers more possibilities than adult fiction. You can set a story in space, or in the future. You characters can shapeshift, or fly, or do pretty much whatever your imagination dreams up. I’ve mainly been reading YA fiction for the past few years, and I’m always inspired by the leaps that other authors take.
If you could experience one book again for the very first time, which one would it be?
The Book Thief, by Marcus Zusak. I was completely blown away by his prose.
While writing Don’t Turn Around, you became involved in an organization called Rising Tides, which helps youth aging
out of foster care. Will you tell us more about that?
I feel so strongly about Rising Tides and what they’re doing. My PERSEF0NE trilogy (DON’T TURN AROUND, DON’T LOOK NOW) is all about foster teens and how they’re frequently preyed upon. While researching those books, I stumbled across some startling statistics: nearly 40% of foster kids end up homeless within a few years of aging out of the system. When they turn eighteen, these kids are often sent out on their own with no support network, no family, no cash. Very few manage to graduate high school. Rising Tides gives those kids a chance, by using crowdfunding to support their academic and life needs. Even a ten or twenty dollar donation can make a direct impact on the life of a child. I can’t encourage people enough to consider donating.
When you’re not writing, how do you like to spend your free time?
Running errands! Seriously, between raising my daughter and writing, I don’t have a ton of free time. What little I do is spent in a dance studio taking class.
17-year-old Sophie lies on her deathbed in California, awaiting the inevitable loss of her battle with cancer…
17-year-old Declan stares down two armed thugs in a back alley in Galway, Ireland…
17-year-old Anat attempts to traverse a booby-trapped tunnel between Israel and Egypt…
All three strangers should have died at the exact same moment, thousands of miles apart. Instead, they awaken together in an abandoned hospital—only to discover that they’re not alone. Three other teens from different places on the globe are trapped with them. Somebody or something seems to be pulling the strings. With their individual clocks ticking, they must band together if they’re to have any hope of surviving.
Soon they discover that they’ve been trapped in a future that isn’t of their making: a deadly, desolate world at once entirely familiar and utterly strange. Each teen harbors a secret, but only one holds the key that could get them home. As the truth comes to light through the eyes of Sophie, Declan, and Anat, the reader is taken on a dark and unforgettable journey into the hearts of teens who must decide what to do with a second chance at life.