About the Author:
Susan Kaye Quinn grew up in California, where she wrote snippets of stories and passed them to her friends during class. She pursued a bunch of engineering degrees and worked a lot of geeky jobs, including turns at GE Aircraft Engines, NASA, and NCAR. Now that she writes novels, her business card says "Author and Rocket Scientist" and she doesn't have to sneak her notes anymore. All that engineering comes in handy when dreaming up paranormal powers in future worlds or mixing science with fantasy to conjure slightly plausible inventions. Susan writes from the Chicago suburbs with her three boys, two cats, and one husband. Which, it turns out, is exactly as much as she can handle.
Inventing the Future: Mindreading
by Susan Kaye Quinn
One of my favorite things about writing is research. Coming from the ex-NASA engineer/scientist, I suppose that’s not much of a shock. But I really like exploring all the features of the worlds I dream up in my novels.
My paranormal/SF novel Open Minds takes place in a future world where everything is the same … except that now everyone reads minds. In the story world, it started out as a few kids who reached puberty and then suddenly could read minds. But it quickly spread until literally the entire world had changed into mindreaders.
One of the first things I constructed for this future world, was its past. I believe that the best worldbuilding is dynamic: it has a past, a present, and a future. The story may take place in the present, but it’s just a snapshot of the evolution of this world—one story of many that could take place in it. In fact, that DO take place in it, although off camera and in ways that only tangentially affect the novel.
Having those details is what makes the story come alive.
As any society evolves, they bring some of the traditions of the past with them, while creating new traditions to fit the changes. For a mindreading world, I imagined there would be a significant ceremony that marks the change (which usually happens around age 12, and denotes the entrée of a non-mindreading child into the adult world of mindreaders). Societies have long had a tradition of marking adolescence with some kind of ceremony, although that’s faded somewhat in recent times (at least in the U.S.). Perhaps getting your driver’s license is the “coming of age” ritual in America today, but in the future world of Open Minds, a child’s “Change Party” is the big milestone (one that Kira, the non-mindreading zero, will never have). Change Parties only get a passing mention in the final book, but in an earlier draft, the description went something like this:
Trina changed with that first wave in eighth grade. When her new mindreading ability stopped flipping on and off, I went to her change party and watched her run off with the other changelings for some secret rite that only mindreaders knew. I waited patiently for my turn to change, while one by one my friends moved on. But when Raf changed, I got desperate. An online site claimed guzzling gallons of water would trigger the change, but I only made myself sick trying.
Nearly everyone changed by the end of freshman year.
In the final version, almost all of that was cut. But I had already created it in my head, and it still informed much of the storytelling, especially Kira’s sense of desperation, and how all the characters had lived through this shift in their relationships.
There were many other aspects of this future world that I explored (with my mind!), some in the early drafts, some later. Some tidbits didn’t get added until the last draft or two. Here are some of my very early notes on building a mindreading world:
Religions spring up that concentrate on only thinking good thoughts.
Would people take drugs to block the sending out of thoughts?
Jury of your peers would be unnecessary - a judge can tell if a person is guilty or innocent.
Are there no stories? No fictions? Fictions are just lies, yes?
What does the school do to help changelings mold their skills?
Everything from architecture to politics to entertainment was touched in some way by mindreading. Other things remained the same, or evolved in a way that had nothing to do with mindreading, but simply because the story takes place nearly 100 years in the future. Things like transportation and financial systems.
Like I said, research is one of my favorite parts of writing, but the story is what really matters. By creating a dynamic, detailed background, Kira’s world became a colorful character in her story of isolation and struggling to fit in. The world pushes and pulls Kira, and she pushes and pulls back. One of my favorite lines in the book (which was there almost from the first draft) is this:
The world and I were at a standoff, waiting for me to change, but the world didn’t care. If I never changed, it would move on and leave me trying to catch up in a race I would never win.
The world building isn’t the story. But I am glad I get to play around in Kira’s world some more in Book Two, Closed Hearts.
Thanks to Susan, one lucky winner will get an ebook copy of Open Minds and an ebook copy of In His Eyes, an anthology.
You must fill out the form for entry. 1 entry per person. Must be 13 or older. Open internationally! Contest will end on March 10th at 11:59PM EST. Winner will be informed shortly after.
You can earn +2 by tweeting about this giveaway. Please include @thebookpixie.
You can also earn +1 by leaving a significant comment below. (Comments such as "Great Post!" or "Thanks for the giveaway!" do not count!)
Reviews (What folks are saying about Open Minds):
"Wow – just when I was getting a little bored of YA a book like this comes along and just wows me back! ... I was holding my breath right up until the last page."
-Mel's Random Reviews
"Wow oh Wow! I just inhaled this book. Quinn is an amazing author with an even more amazing imagination. In some ways Kira reminds me a lot of Katniss from the Hunger Games series."
- TwiMom101 Book Blog
And Check Out:
Mindjack Trilogy website
Susan on Facebook, Twitter, and her author blog
About Open Minds:
When everyone reads minds, a secret is a dangerous thing to keep.
Sixteen-year-old Kira Moore is a zero, someone who can’t read thoughts or be read by others. Zeros are outcasts who can’t be trusted, leaving her no chance with Raf, a regular mindreader and the best friend she secretly loves. When she accidentally controls Raf’s mind and nearly kills him, Kira tries to hide her frightening new ability from her family and an increasingly suspicious Raf. But lies tangle around her, and she’s dragged deep into a hidden world of mindjackers, where having to mind control everyone she loves is just the beginning of the deadly choices before her.