Hi folks! Today, I'm sharing my interview with Paula Stokes, author of Vicarious, as well as The Art of Lainey, Liars Inc., and Girl Against the Universe. It's the publication day of Vicarious, and you could win a copy of the book!
Meet Paula Stokes:
Alyssa: Hi Paula! Thanks for joining me today! And congratulations on another publication! How does it feel to have seven (full-length) books published and out in the world?
Paula: Thank you, Alyssa :) It feels exhausting! But it’s also pretty awesome. I’m looking forward to releasing three more books next year with more on the way after that! :D
Alyssa: You’ve now worked with three different publishers (with regards to those seven novels). How has the experience been different, with each set of books?
Paula: For the books I wrote for Penguin in collaboration with Paper Lantern Lit, I was given a chance to give input on the cover, flap copy, and title, but I was a work-for-hire writer, and as is customary in that type of agreement, the ultimate decisions were made by Penguin and Paper Lantern Lit.
HarperTeen has also involved me in all of those decisions, and all of my HarperTeen titles were made up by me. I was once asked to rename a book, and I did so after a couple days of pouting ;) (I really liked the title Bad Luck Charm, but now I like Girl Against the Universe even more.) And Tor Teen has involved me more than anyone, showing me stills from the cover photo shoots and asking my opinion on fonts, author blurbs, etc. Working on this book has been very exciting! I also titled Vicarious and the sequel, whose title I am keeping secret for a while ;)
Alyssa: Speaking of titles, how did Vicarious become this book’s title?
Paula: The original title, going back to mid 2012 when I drafted this, was Goodbye Rose. The book started out as more of a missing persons story and later transitioned into a murder mystery, after which I felt like that title didn’t fit. At the same time as I was thinking about titles, I knew I needed to come up with a proper name for the technological experiences Gideon sells. (Throughout drafting I was calling them SIMS, just because I didn’t have a better name and didn’t want to waste brainpower on it.)
I wanted the word to be an acronym or something easy to pronounce and I toyed with a lot of different words like “sensory”, “amplified”, “integrated”, “realistic”, “neural”, “vicarious”, “neurological”, “simulations”, “scenarios”, “experiences” etc. I finally settled on ViNEs (Vicarious Neural Experiences) but the Vine app launched right when I had this book with beta-readers in early 2013, and my agent decided we should rename the tech just in case Vines became a Thing. (Cue more pouting on my part.) I literally brainstormed everything from AViNEs to SiNEs to ViSEs to RAVEs, to RiNEs, and ViSEs (Vicarious Sensory Experiences) just felt like the best fit. From there the title Vicarious just felt natural because the best titles work on multiple levels and it definitely does. Plus bonus points because it’s the name of a Tool song :)
Alyssa: What are some books that influenced you while writing or coming up with the idea for Vicarious?
Paula: I can’t think of any books that inspired Vicarious. This story is heavily influenced by the time I spent teaching English in Seoul, as well as 90s alternative music like Tool, System of a Down, and NIN, as well as movies like The Matrix, Strange Days, and Inception. I’ve had a while to think about comparison titles, and I feel like fans of Starters, Reboot, The Murder Complex, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, and the TV show Mr. Robot will probably enjoy Vicarious.
Alyssa: What is one message that you’d love young readers to take away from Vicarious? There must be! :)
Paula: One message is that there are a lot of different ways to live hollow lives. Winter does a ton of amazing things like snowboard, rock climb, shark dive, and jump off bridges. But there is a point in the book where she realizes that all of the dangerous things she does is her compensating for the fact that she has no social life—she pushes herself not to be afraid of her stunts because that keeps her from having to face the fact that she’s afraid of human interaction. I’m hoping none of my readers are in Winter’s particular situation, but I’m betting there are several people who are so focused on all of their academic pursuits or career goals that they’re basically filling up their lives with things that might not be giving them true meaning. (I am probably one of these people. I find the messages I put in my books are often ones that I need to hear.)
Alyssa: What’s another 2016 YA thriller that you’ve really enjoyed?
Paula: I really enjoyed The Darkest Corners by Kara Thomas. That book had a very similar feel to Dark Places by Gillian Flynn and I will definitely be picking up Thomas’s next thriller. I’ve also read some great adult thrillers this year and particularly enjoyed Dare Me by Megan Abbott.
Alyssa: Can you share anything from the book?
Paula: Since I talked about one of Winter’s realizations, let’s do a sneak preview. Also, this interview is lacking in Book Boy Jesse, who I’m sure everyone is dying to meet :D So this passage is about two thirds through the book but not spoilery. Winter and Jesse, her stunt training partner who likes her, are in a hotel room talking the night before they’re going to record a shark diving ViSE.
“Is now a bad time to tell you I’m afraid of sharks?” I ask. “Normally I’d be already nervous about tomorrow, but I’ve been focusing so much on finding Rose’s killers that I’m too exhausted to worry about anything else.”
“Your fear is what’s going to make this an epic ViSE.” Jesse’s voice is full of pride. “I love how you’re the kind of girl who runs toward the thing that scares you, not away from it.”
I can’t bring myself to tell him he’s only partially right about me, that what scares me the most is other people, and that I run away from almost all of them. That the only people I even talk to are the ones who haven’t grown weary of chasing me. That’s partially why I do all the adventure stuff, why no job is too dangerous for me. Because I’m compensating. Because if I do a bunch of incredibly daring things, then no one can call me a coward.
“What about my fear of elevators?” I ask.
“You’re not afraid of them. You just don’t like being enclosed,” Jesse says. “That’s a survival instinct. A lot of military guys won’t take elevators either, because being in one is an indefensible position. Plus,” he adds, “no one would pay for an elevator ViSE, so who cares?”
He’s got a point. And as usual, he knows exactly what to say to make me feel better.
Alyssa: That is it from me! Thank you again for doing the interview, Paula!
Paula: You’re welcome. And thanks for being such a great supporter and long-time reader of my work :)
About the Author:
Paula Stokes is the author of several novels, most recently Vicarious and Girl Against the Universe and Liars, Inc. Her writing has been translated into eleven foreign languages. Paula loves kayaking, hiking, reading, and seeking out new adventures in faraway lands. She also loves interacting with readers. Find her online at authorpaulastokes.com or on twitter as @pstokesbooks.
About the Book:
Vicarious by Paula Stokes
Book One of the Vicarious series
Publisher: Tor Teen
Publication Date: August 16, 2016
Summary (from Goodreads):
Winter Kim and her sister, Rose, have always been inseparable. Together, the two of them survived growing up in a Korean orphanage and being trafficked into the United States.
Now they work as digital stunt girls for Rose’s ex-boyfriend, Gideon, engaging in dangerous and enticing activities while recording their neural impulses for his Vicarious Sensory Experiences, or ViSEs. Whether it’s bungee jumping, shark diving, or grinding up against celebrities at the city’s hottest dance clubs, Gideon can make it happen for you, for a price.
When Rose disappears and a ViSE recording of her murder is delivered to Gideon, Winter won’t rest until she finds her sister’s killer. But when the clues she uncovers conflict with the neural recordings her sister made, Winter isn’t sure what to believe. To find out what happened to Rose, she’ll have to untangle what’s real from what only seems real, risking her life in the process.
Win a copy of Vicarious, courtesy of Tor Teen! USA only. Ends 08/31. Good luck!