Last week I reviewed a book that was in my top ten most anticipated books of this year – Dualed. Luckily enough I received an egalley of Dualed from Netgalley, so I was able to experience this book earlier and much sooner – and that’s what should happen if a book is one of your most anticipated. You just want to read it as soon as possible. Today the author of that book, Elsie Chapman, is here today to participate in a Q&A about her debut novel Dualed, writing, and something unrelated to the book, Japan.
I grew up in Prince George, BC, before graduating from the University of British Columbia with a BA in English Literature. I currently live in Vancouver with my husband and two kids, where I write to either movies on a loop or music turned up way too loud (and sometimes both at the same time).
Photo Credit: Michael Meskin
Q. Where did the story idea for Dualed start for you? What was the inspiration behind Dualed and the Alts?
My son asked me one day how did we know for sure we all didn’t have doubles out there and simply weren’t aware of it. It was a question that pretty much came out of the blue, and it just went from there.
Q. How would you best describe the world of Dualed?
It’s pretty harsh and demanding, but I think at the heart of it, it’s a society that isn’t much different from our own. People still want to feel and know they’re safe, and to do their best to work towards a future.
Q. West seems like a protagonist with quite a few flaws. What do you think readers will relate to in her character, even if in this futuristic society?
I think almost everyone has internal conflict of some kind, and West is very much a torn character. She makes mistakes along the way, and I wanted to be honest to her character by having her deal with all the fallout from that. It’s hard to relate to perfection.
Q. One Alt will live and the other Alt will die… basically. Dualed is not particularly a book between a hero and a villain per se, between a person who does good and a person who does bad. It’s more of a struggle between two citizens fighting for their ultimate survival in a society that forces them to. Would you agree?
I do agree, Braiden! And I’m really happy you say that because I didn’t really want a good guy vs bad guy scenario. Those stories definitely have their place and I think they can be so much fun, but it’s not West’s story.
Q. As the reader, how do we decide which Alt should meet their end and which Alt should not if there’s nothing in the story that dictates that either one is the villain that we should despise? Is this made harder, our own ability to question and decide, with Dualed told through West’s perspective, with only one Alt’s view being told? Would Dualed have been any different if both Alts had the chance to tell of their survival against one another, both had the opportunity to share their lives with the reader?
One of the aspects I wanted to touch on (and hope I did, at least in some way) was whether or not one Alt should win over another. Who’s to say who deserves it more? Both of them are loved by others, and both of them are capable of good as well as bad. But I do think it’s human nature to end up picking one over the other—we have to make decisions in order to keep moving forward.
Having only West’s perspective definitely skews the story in one direction, as would having only her Alt’s. And it’s really interesting, your question about writing it from both points of view. It very briefly crossed my mind to tackle it that way, but when I started writing I just naturally gravitated toward one voice, and it was West’s. I guess this ties in to my earlier point about everyone having to make a decision!
Q. Would Dualed be any different if it were not young adult?
There’s a complexity to our teenage years that’s pretty unique from all the other stuff we go through as little kids or adults. For me, personally, it was a really tough time in my life—it really is just this period where you’re trying to figure out who you are, and it’s not easy at all. I think Dualed and what is asked of West can be seen as a reflection of that.
Q. What do you hope readers of Dualed will take away?
When I wrote Dualed, it was never with the intention of sending a message or anything like that. I’m still always a little surprised when readers come up with these amazing analogies and theories from the book. I think it’s incredible. That said, I’m just happy if they enjoy it—anything more than that is pure bonus.
Q. You say you write to movies on a loop or music turned up way too loud. Which movies have you acquired the most number of written words from? What type of music do you prefer to listen to when writing?
I wrote Dualed so long ago—over two years now—so that particular time is somewhat fuzzy when I try to think back to what I was listening to or watching. I know I listened to a lot of Arcade Fire, Coldplay, Eminem, Snow Patrol. And I watched the Bourne series, LOTR, Eight Mile, and I am Legend a lot, I think. In terms of music for writing, the one constant is finding something that keeps me in the mood for whatever scene I’m writing, but is also familiar enough that it becomes a sort of white noise. I know that’s a bit contradictory, hah!
Q. Japan. Nihon. The Land of the Rising Sun. You seem like the perfect expert… What are your favourite hotspots throughout Japan that every visitor has to visit, even in each of the seasons?
Braiden, I’m definitely not an expert, though we can agree that we both love Japan! Well, we always stay in Tokyo, so most of my recs will be based there. Akihabara is amazing and one of our favourite places to visit. It’s a shopping district known for electronics and anime- and manga-related goods. The Yodobashi Akiba store there has six floors of electronics, a floor with restaurants, and then the top floor has Yurindo Bookstore and Tower Records. Harajuku is is a fun place for people- and fashion-watching. There’s this bridge there, Jingu Bridge, where teens and cosplayers hang out and tourists will go there and take pics with them. Meiji Shrine is also in Harajuku, and that’s a definite must see. Ikebukuro for Sunshine City and ramen, Shibuya for its world famous intersection and gigantic Tsutaya, and Ueno for the park, especially in spring with its cherry blossom trees. Outside of Tokyo, Kyoto is really beautiful, and very traditional. We had the best taiyaki in the world in Sendai, and Hakone is the place to go on New Year’s, where you can eat kurotamago and add seven years to your life!
Man, I just want to return to Miyajima Island and eat fried oysters non-stop – wish I had some right now, those delicious things. Also, if I remember correctly, I crossed that crossing in Shibuya like 9 times from every direction.
You or your Alt? Only one will survive.
The city of Kersh is a safe haven, but the price of safety is high. Everyone has a genetic Alternate—a twin raised by another family—and citizens must prove their worth by eliminating their Alts before their twentieth birthday. Survival means advanced schooling, a good job, marriage—life.
Fifteen-year-old West Grayer has trained as a fighter, preparing for the day when her assignment arrives and she will have one month to hunt down and kill her Alt. But then a tragic misstep shakes West’s confidence. Stricken with grief and guilt, she’s no longer certain that she’s the best version of herself, the version worthy of a future. If she is to have any chance of winning, she must stop running not only from her Alt, but also from love . . . though both have the power to destroy her.
Elsie Chapman’s suspenseful YA debut weaves unexpected romance into a novel full of fast-paced action and thought-provoking philosophy. When the story ends, discussions will begin about this future society where every adult is a murderer and every child knows there is another out there who just might be better.