About a month and a half ago, I put out a call on the NaNoWriMo Facebook page for authors to message me if they wanted me to feature them on my blog this month. Kat Mellon was one of those authors, and the only one I really didn’t know. She shot me a copy of her book, Creation, (which by the way is an awesome perk to this job) and I put it aside to read later.
When I finally opened it up, I couldn’t put it down. Creation draws the reader into a world where the act of creating is an assembly-line, non-autonomous act that results in one’s creations being fully absorbed by the state with no credit or recompense given to the author. In this world, the fruits of one’s talent are seen as the rightful property of the state, and those who create are kept subdued through a program of chemical and behavioral conditioning.
Of course, creative people being who they are, this idyllic–or at least pseudo-idyllic–world doesn’t last very long as our protagonist slowly begins to question the world around her and her place in it. I don’t want to sprinkle any spoilers, but suffice it to say this state of affairs comes into stark contrast to what she begins to discover about herself and the world outside the walls in which she lives.
I caught up with Kat via e-mail, and shot her a few questions about the book and her life as a writer. She had some thoughts on the book, on the writing life, and on one of her hobbies, namely pizza!
Q (Infamous Scribbler): In your bio, you said you graduated at 19 – did you skip a couple grades? Also, did you always know you wanted to be a writer? What is a little of the story behind how you got where you are today?
A: I did indeed graduate at 19! This was made possible by starting kindergarten a year early, graduating from high school a semester ahead, and taking a full load of classes each semester (and summer!). Doing all of this allowed me to receive my Bachelor’s degree in English within three years.
I didn’t always know I was going to be a writer. For the longest time, I had myself convinced I was going to be a college basketball player or a rock star. The realization that writing kicks ass came when I wrote my first novel in high school.
Q: I very much enjoyed reading Creation. Afterwards, I went on Goodreads, and saw that you list one of your influences as Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, which made for a moment of – oh yeah! Can you talk a little bit more about how that book influenced Creation, and a little bit about other influences?
A: Of course! Both Ayn Rand’s Anthem and Kazuo Ichiguro’s Never Let Me Go had a huge influence on Creation. “The Gallery” of Never Let Me Go stuck with me long after I read the book, as did Rand’s discussion of Ego and the concept of self. Although I wasn’t conscious of it at the time, Creation also follows Plato’s “The Allegory of the Cave,” which entreats mankind to seek enlightenment and truth no matter how frightening the journey may be.
Q: Did you grow up in New Mexico? If so, how much, if any, do you find your geography influencing your work?
A: Yes! I grew up in a very small town on the outskirts of Albuquerque. Although this had no significant influence on Creation, I did end up setting my first (and formerly self-published) novel Darkness Surrounding in Albuquerque and surrounding areas. My favorite areas include Chaco Canyon, Taos, and Santa Fe.
Q: What made you decide to go with present tense for Creation? (It’s definitely a choice that worked for the book.)
A. After reading The Hunger Games, I realized how excellent use of the present tense can be for dystopian works, especially for conveying narrative urgency. It makes the thing feel more like a conversation.
Q: Where are you on your present journey as a writer?
A: Not as far as I should be. After graduating, I slipped into a seven-month state of “not-writing.” (It turns out that I accomplish more when I’m busy.) As mentioned later on in this interview, I’m almost ready to query my latest literary fiction novel (Flowers When You’re Dead) and will be writing the first installment of a middle grade adventure series in July. (The working title is The Land of Steampunkery. It’s a trippy Oz-meets-Wonderland MG fiction about a chubby kid named Ham, a talking Pomeranian, and an eclectic entourage of mechanical misfits.) (I.S. note to self – offer to publish another interview so you can see if you can score a copy when it comes out!)
Q: Besides writing, what are some other things you find yourself doing during the day? The week? The year?
A: When not writing, I’m either working on freelance writing and design projects, watching stuff on Netflix, managing one of my many websites, or playing the oboe with local organizations.
Q. Creation stands on its own narrative, but it’s also a deeper commentary on what it means to be a creative person, what it means to be a presence in the world, and to be able to use one’s gifts to support oneself. Is this a theme you plan to return to? Tell me a little bit about how the underlying theme supports the narrative.
A: The issues I address in Creation have most definitely resurfaced in other projects. For example, Flowers When You’re Dead deals with art therapy (more painters!) and a young man’s struggle for identity after years of being kept in social isolation. My soon-to-be-released short story, “Noise,” deals with similar issues of productivity and creativity.
A point I wanted to emphasize with Creation is that every act of creativity requires the investment of our creative consciousness. Creativity is not something to be manufactured, forced, or dictated. Unbridled, one’s creativity is limited only by the creator; regulated, it is left stunted and short of its full potential. Creation explores the consequences of a society in which creative individuals are forced to create strictly for the benefit of others.
Q: What is your favorite pizza?
A: Pepperoni with stuffed crust. Om-nom-nom!
(I.S. Note … I am now quite hungry…)
Q: What’s up next for you? You mentioned you were prepping a query for your next novel. How is that coming?
A: Slowly. Part of being an author is experiencing self-doubt and pushing through it, and another part is actually having the gumption to get things done. I’m working on both. I don’t write enough and I doubt myself too easily.
Q: Anything to add?
A: Aspiring novelists: I wholeheartedly suggest that you participate in National Novel Writing Month! It’s a great way to stamp out that first draft.
Creation is available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats. (http://www.amazon.com/Creation-Kat-Mellon/dp/0984947329)
You can find me at the following places:
Main Website: katmellon.com
Flowers When You’re Dead Website: fwydbook.blogspot.com
The Atavists Trilogy (YA) Website: www.ataviststrilogy.com
Writing & Design Services: www.katmauvais.com