ALL FOUR KIDS: INTERVIEW WITH SHALLEE MCARTHUR, AUTHOR OF THE UNHAPPENING OF GENESIS LEE

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We’re pleased to share our interview with fellow Fearless Fifteener Shallee McArthur, whose YA sci-fi, THE UNHAPPENING OF GENESIS LEE, officially comes out today!

About THE UNHAPPENING OF GENESIS LEE:

Unhappening-final copy-smallSeventeen-year-old Genesis Lee has never forgotten anything. As one of the Mementi—a small group of genetically-enhanced humans—Gena remembers everything with the help of her Link bracelets, which preserve memories perfectly. But Links can be stolen, and six people have already lost their lives to a memory thief, including Gena’s best friend.

Anyone could be next. Which is why Gena is less than pleased to meet a strange but charming boy named Kalan who claims that they’ve not only met, but that Gena knows who the thief is.

The problem is, Gena doesn’t remember Kalan, she doesn’t remember seeing the thief, and she doesn’t know why she’s forgetting things—or how much else she might forget. As growing tensions between Mementi and ordinary humans drive the city of Havendale into chaos, Gena and Kalan team up to search for the thief. And as Gena loses more memories, they realize they have to solve the mystery fast.

Because Gena’s life is unhappening around her.

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ESShallee20Edit_head_large2KV: Congratulations on the release of THE UNHAPPENING OF GENESIS LEE! What inspired you to write it?

SM: Thank you! It was inspired by lots of things, but I must give credit to my husband who asked, “Wouldn’t it be cool if you could store your memories of an object IN that object?” And, well, here we are today!

KV: The idea of storing memories outside the brain is such an interesting one, and you did a great job of making it seem not only possible but plausible. What kind of research did you have to do to be able to write about it so convincingly?

SM: Ooh, fun question! This was actually one of the hardest things for me, because I like my science fiction to be…well, based on science. I did tons of research on memory itself (of which we know surprisingly little). Then I had to do lots of research on both the central and peripheral nervous systems–and then, of course, I had to stretch that science into fiction to make it work! I read lots of scientific articles, and had some help from my mother (a nurse), as well.

KV: Gena goes on quite an emotional and psychological odyssey over the course of the book. How did that character arc develop?

SM: It took me a while to figure Gena out, actually. Her character arc started out completely different, because I didn’t really know who she was for a while. I had to do a lot of exploring about her, not just in the writing, but by going out into the real world and trying to figure out how she would see it. As the story developed, so did she. Of course, certain torturous things I did to her, I knew all along would happen–it was figuring out her reactions that would continue shaping the story that took the longest!

KV: Gena wasn’t the only great character in this book. I also really liked Kalan, Gena’s accomplice and eventual love interest, and Ren, Gena’s older sister. Any behind-the-scenes tidbits you can share about them?

SM: So. You find out in the book that Kalan’s middle name is Daniel. That’s my husband’s name, because Kalan has a lot of traits in common with my husband! Which might explain why I love Kalan A LOT. As for Ren, I have a very special place in my heart for her. One thing that I share with Ren is our love for all things froggy–both Ren and I collect frog stuff (ceramic figures, pajama pants, etc.).

KV: The whole book takes place in Havendale, Gena’s hometown. It’s a made-up place (obviously), but were you imagining somewhere specific when you wrote it, and if so, why did you pick that somewhere? (For the record, it reminded me of southern Utah!)

SM: Oh yes, absolutely! I’m glad it reminded you of southern Utah, because that’s what I based it on! My husband is from there, and I’ve developed a strong love of the whole area. I based Havendale Canyon very loosely on Zion National Park, and the city itself I see as sort of a mix of St. George, Utah, and early Las Vegas, Nevada, with a dash of its own flare thrown in!

KV: Will Gena’s story end here? If so, what else are you working on?

SM: It does, in fact, end here. I feel very strongly that Gena’s story is over–it was all enclosed in this one book, and I’m afraid I’d do her story a disservice if I tried to extend it. I’ve been working on several other things since then, included a psychological spy thriller and a super-cool high fantasy!

KV: As this community is fearless, we’d like to know something you are afraid of and something you are not afraid of.

SM: I’m afraid of ants. True story. It’s a psychological fear of them swarming me, because I was attacked by a swarm of them as a kid. As for what I’m not afraid of, that would be traveling to crazy places alone! I used to be afraid of that, and then I went to Ghana, West Africa, and developed a love for travel and exploring in place of the fear.

For more information about Shallee and THE UNHAPPENING OF GENESIS LEE, you can find her at her website, www.shalleemcarthur.com, and on Twitter and Facebook.

Krista squaredKrista Van Dolzer is a stay-at-home mom by day and a children’s author by bedtime. She lives with her husband and three kids in Mesquite, Nevada, where she watches too much college football and looks for her dead people online. She is the author of the forthcoming THE SOUND OF LIFE AND EVERYTHING (G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, May 2015) and a middle grade contemporary that doesn’t have a title yet (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, August 2015).
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