1. What was your inspiration for "The Blemished?" I've always been interested in the idea of human cloning and the pros and cons behind it. I was a teenager when scientists cloned Dolly the sheep and I just found it fascinating that humans can do that. I've read a lot of Margaret Atwood, she's a huge influence on my writing, I love her feminist themes and clever twists on a futuristic society. I wanted to write something akin to Atwood but for a younger audience. I want teenagers to have a strongly feminist sci-fi book that maybe makes them think a little more or a little differently about the world. When I read 'The Handmaid's Tale' I had an 'Oh!' moment and I want that for other teenage girls.
2. What were your influences when creating the structure of this dystopian world? One of the biggest themes in the book is about segregation and poverty. I wanted to write a world where the two opposites of the extreme - rich and poor - are shown with a great divide. I want the reader to be able to picture what a ghetto looks like and I want them to picture the 'GEM' district with ease. The structure came out of these ideas.
3. Can you give us a little information on the difference between a clone and a GEM? A GEM is not a replica of another human, they are genetically altered. The idea is that a parent can decide what sort of child they want to have, what they want them to look like and what they want their personality to be. The scientists then splice these genes together to create a perfect child.
4. The main character, Mina, is a Blemished. can you explain a little about what this means? A 'Blemished' person is someone who has been born without any genetic alteration. The Genetic Enhancement Ministry have a law that if a family want to procreate it must be through genetic altering and they must have at least some genetic make-up from the parents. People who have been marked 'Blemished' have genetic history of illnesses, such as a predisposition to cancer or mental illness, and are then banned from having children all together. They are not allowed to share their genes.
The GEM believe this is the way to create a strong, healthy race of human beings, filtering out diseases like cancer. In reality it has become a cruel way of controlling people. Because Mina is Blemished, she is facing the 'Operation' to make her sterile for life.
5. Do to a frightening event, Mina's outlook on the world around her begins to change. Without giving away too much, can you explain how she changes? She realises, deep within herself, that she has to fight back. She also realises that she has the power to do this, that she is stronger than most other people.
6. The two main male characters are quite different. Can you tell us about their differences and how they affect Mina? Mina is drawn to both of them, but it's only as she gets to know them that she realises what she wants. One of the male characters turns out to be quite controlling and intense (due to family problems rather than being a nasty person) whereas the other character lets Mina decide for herself and never takes away her decisions. There's been a fashion for controlling men in fiction for the last few years, girls are being shown to desire these characters who are very intense and often rich and powerful, I wanted to show the teenage girls reading my story that life isn't like that. They aren't the good guys. When you compare the two characters side by side you can see this, but in books where the only option is the intense and controlling man, you don't see this.
7. The effects of this society on the parents greatly affects the young characters. Can you explain more about this? We meet the characters only a few decades after the fighting and the revolution of Britain, called the 'Fracture', first started. The older characters remember the events. They have lived through them, faced all the changes and in some cases been forced into a medical procedure they didn't want. There are many attempts at escapism, especially drinking, but there are also rumours that the medical procedure causes dementia in women. One of the young characters has to get help for her mum, because no one else will help her.
8. Who are your favorite authors? Well, I've mentioned Margaret Atwood, obviously! I love sci-fi by Ray Bradbury and John Wyndham. But I also love American literature, particularly JD Salinger and Richard Yates. I love Victorian literature too, Bram Stoker, Emily Bronte and Oscar Wilde. I read across the board!
9. Do you have any interesting rituals or habits when you write? Not really, unless you count 'TV breaks'. Every so often I break and watch TV on my computer for a while! Most writers hate distractions but I find that they keep me sane.
10. can you tell us about any future projects? Well, I'm putting the finishing touches onto the second book in the series, titled 'The Vanished'. I'm writing a book for nanowrimo which is completely different! Then I'm going to write the third in the series. I'm hoping to write a series of either short stories or novellas for some of the main characters in The Blemished. I'd like to write something for Elena, definitely. Watch this space!
For updates and more information follow Sarah on twitter @sarahdalton and Facebook, or visit her blog www.sarahdaltonbooks.com.
Find out more about The Blemished by checking out the YouTube book trailer!
The Blemished is available now from Amazon in paperback and ebook.