I really enjoyed Persona by Genevieve Valentine, and I’m thrilled to have her on the blog today. Please give her a warm welcome!
What inspired you to write Persona?
I think it was a combination of several things coming together at once – I’d been thinking about pageants and pageantry for a while, especially through the lens that viewed them by turns as objects and ambassadors, with responsibility but no power. There’s also the idea of old-Hollywood studio practices never quite vanishing from the landscape (particularly for things like franchises and Disney properties, in which actors are brand spokespeople with very little power to actually make decisions), the inevitable increase of ecoterrorism as a global problem as natural resources continue to dramatically vanish, and the way international relations are depicted in various national presses. The idea of politics played by celebrity rules is hardly a stretch!
What kind of research did you do for the book?
I did some research into the pageants and Hollywood studio contracts, some political and journalistic research, some research into paparazzi techniques (yikes), and research into the cultural background for Suyana, particularly since the world of Persona is a slightly alternate universe and there isn’t much time to spare on nation-by-nation exposition; it all had to be in service of illuminating her character, not just window dressing. (There was also research into Paris, but at some point you realize the benefits of sidelong world and get to make up the occasional hospital!)
I’m always curious about endings. Do you usually have a book’s ending in mind when you start writing? What is your writing process like?
It depends from book to book; for stories like Mechanique, the most important events happen earlier, and while I know they’ll tie into the ending, I can play it sort of fast and loose getting there. For books like The Girls at the Kingfisher Club, there’s only one possible ending I would be happy with, and the work is in earning that ending. Persona is the most directly plotty book I’ve written, I think, and it required a lot of outlining early on in a way that was new for me, but definitely necessary to keep all the parts moving in tandem.
What do you enjoy most about writing speculative fiction?
For something directly SF, I enjoy the research process; science is beautiful and terrifying, and a great read either way! But in a wider sense, speculative fiction is the mirror held up to realism, and I enjoy the freedom and opportunity in that.
What’s next for you?
I’m actually working on the sequel to Persona, which has a more complicated timeline (why? You think I would learn!), but fewer imaginary hospitals, which is nice.
In a world where diplomacy has become celebrity, a young ambassador survives an assassination attempt and must join with an undercover paparazzo in a race to save her life, spin the story, and secure the future of her young country in this near-future political thriller from the acclaimed author of Mechanique and The Girls at Kingfisher Club.
When Suyana, Face of the United Amazonia Rainforest Confederation, is secretly meeting Ethan of the United States for a date that can solidify a relationship for the struggling UARC, the last thing she expected was an assassination attempt. Daniel, a teen runaway turned paparazzi out for his big break, witnesses the first shot hit Suyana, and before he can think about it, he jumps into the fray, telling himself it’s not altruism, it’s the scoop. Now Suyana and Daniel are on the run—and if they don’t keep one step ahead, they’ll lose it all.