Bookish is dedicated to giving readers the best content around; that’s why we’re partnering with NetGalley (our sister site) to bring you this interview:
This quarter’s box is curated by S.J. Kincaid, featuring an exclusive, annotated copy of The Diabolic, an action-packed psychological thriller/fantasy. Also find in the box two more books, handpicked by Kincaid that inspired her as an author, plus awesome bookish goods—perfect for YA book lovers. (Psst: Act fast, subscribe by November 7th to get this box.)
Quarterly: Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into writing?
S.J. Kincaid: I’m originally from Alabama, but I’ve spent most of my life moving between California and Chicago. I’ve written as a hobby ever since I was very young, mostly because my older sister was a writer, and I liked to do everything she did (and I still am! We’re both professional writers now!) Before getting published, though, I moved between several different jobs, and then went to nursing school. I was not a very good nurse.
Quarterly: What is your favorite novel of all time?
SJK: It has to be Legacy by Susan Kay. It was a hugely influential novel for me. This is a book I can say literally changed the course of my life, because it ignited a fascination with Tudor history that became the first of many intellectual pursuits born purely out of curiosity, not just because I was assigned research for school.
Quarterly: In your opinion, has there ever been a movie that is better than the book?
SJK: I think this could be incredibly subjective, but for me personally, Starship Troopers the movie was more to my taste than the book. They were drastically different, actually, and I saw the movie first. Science fiction purists will probably mock me for this, but I can take it. I just really enjoyed the campiness, and some parody aspects of it. (The good guys in the movie basically could be interpreted as pretty evil fascists vs. the book with a different theme.)
Quarterly: Which three authors would you invite to a dinner party?
SJK: Whoa, tricky question. There are so many possibilities. Can I choose dead people? I think I’d invite Howard Zinn who wrote A People’s History of the United States, and then Ayn Rand who wrote Atlas Shrugged, and then just stay totally silent and let them argue and maybe film it and put it on YouTube. Third author I’d invite would be my sister, so she could argue along with me.
Quarterly: How did you come up with this new fascinating world with Diabolics, your humanoid bodyguards?
SJK: The primary thing I had in mind was that this future is set so far from now that the automatization we are already facing (human jobs supplanted by machines) has progressed to a point where the mechanical underpinnings of society are totally self-sustaining and self-perpetuating. That means a few things 1) it’s not critical for people to be able to understand how the machines work, once they totally sustain themselves, and 2) people are relatively extraneous, and unnecessary. Since I wanted an I, Claudius type of story, I envisioned an empire with these conditions. Power would exist among those who ultimately had control over the machines, and the fact that most people are extraneous and unnecessary would reduce their status immensely. And if the great mass of humanity is deemed “Excess” because they aren’t viewed as important, then it made sense that there’d be no compunctions about creating humans with certain qualities just for the service of “real” people. Those factors, all together, sort of led to the universe of The Diabolic as I imagined it.
Quarterly: If you could visit one fictional world, which would you chose?
SJK: Star Trek! Their future is my idea of a utopia. Of course, in that universe, I’d probably spend all my time in the holodeck.
Quarterly: Do you have any advice for young writers?
SJK: Read a lot and write a lot! Also: I was a very sensitive person easily hurt by rejection—and yet I overcame that when it came to writing by trying again and again and again, and failing over and over. My advice is, if you want to do this for a living: Get used to bashing your head against the same wall time and again, because everyone gets rejected. A lot. It took seven books for me to sell one, and then several more to sell another. If you grow a thick skin, you will make it.
Quarterly: What was the thought process behind curating your Literary YA Box?
SJK: I gave a lot of thought to what might interest the same readers of The Diabolic, yet also prove relevant to the themes of the story. I am so thrilled, also, that I managed to get a card game in there!
Click here to get S.J.’s Literary YA Box, complete with an exclusive, annotated copy of The Diabolic!
Quarterly: What is your favorite thing that you have received in the mail?
SJK: Of all time? It was when I got into the school of my choice. My dad picked me up, handed me a thin envelope and said, “Well, you got a thin letter from [this school I didn’t really care about]… And a thick one from here!” Most delightful mail of my life.
Quarterly: What is your longest running subscription?
SJK: Publishers Marketplace. I always vowed before I sold a book that I wasn’t going to spend any money on writing type stuff (conferences, membership to places) until I sold, because I couldn’t yet justify it. I always broke this rule when I had a book about to go on submission. I’d subscribe to PM for a month and look up all the recent sales, editors, etc. Once I finally sold Insignia, I had no reason to end my subscription. It’s not really necessary for me, but I just love checking it every day and seeing what’s coming in the book world.
S.J. Kincaid originally wanted to be an astronaut, but a dearth of mathematical skills turned her interest to science fiction instead. Her debut novel, Insignia, was shortlisted for the Waterstones prize. Its sequels, Vortex and Catalyst, have received starred reviews from Kirkus Reviews and Booklist. She’s chronically restless and has lived in California, Alabama, New Hampshire, Oregon, Chicago, and Scotland with no signs of staying in one place anytime soon.
This article was originally posted on NetGalley.