October 1st sees the publication of Blood Ransom, the sequel to 2008’s multi-awarding winning (and seriously gripping) Blood Ties. I recently got the chance to ask Sophie McKenzie some pressing questions about Blood Ransom, Blood Ties and writing itself.
In Blood Ransom, we get to find out what happens to Rachel and Theo some time after the events of Blood Ties. Was it always your intention to write a sequel?
I loved writing Blood Ties so much (it's my favourite of the teenage books I've written so far) and I always hoped I'd be able to go back and revisit the characters. However I wanted to wait until I had a proper story to tell - there's nothing worse than a sequel that falls flat - as I didn't want to let down any of the people who enjoyed Blood Ties.
Both Blood Ties and Girl, Missing combine thrilling, edge-of-your-seat action with complex and convincing characters. What comes first when you're writing, character or plot? How do you come up with your ideas?
Mmmn, that's very tricky to answer. Different books start in different ways. Blood Ties basically began because I was interested in human cloning and started wondering what it would like to be teenager discovering you were a clone. Rachel and Theo grew out of that - but the story of Blood Ties grew with them, so I guess the character and the plot emerged simultaneously!
Blood Ties addresses the issue of body image and self perception in a really positive way. Is it important to you that your books have a positive message for your readers?
I don't think about having any kind of 'message' when I write, though it’s probably inevitable that some of my own values and interests come out in my writing. I know how easy it is to feel bad about yourself for all sorts of reasons and in Blood Ties I loved showing how it’s possible to start feeling better by becoming more self-aware, by facing fears and by starting to connect with other people. I was drawn to Rachel, particularly, because she begins Blood Ties feeling so insecure and gains strength and confidence through the story.
In Blood Ties and Blood Ransom, we're drawn into the strange and fascinating world of illegal genetic engineering. How did you set about researching this subject?
I'm not a scientist, so my research into the technicalities of human cloning was fairly limited. I was more interested in researching the range of views on the morality and emotional impact of creating and being a human clone. Most of my work on that front was carried out online.
As clones, Rachel and Theo both encounter other versions of themselves along the way - characters they share blood ties with, but who are also incredibly different from them. What are the challenges in creating characters who are linked in this way?
Everything led on from my premise that a clone is like an identical twin - genetically the same, but able to be different in all other respects. The time and place and circumstances of any individual's early years is crucial to their development. In other words, nurture matters as well as nature. With Elijah and Theo, for instance, I was keen to show that Elijah had made certain choices that Theo didn't have to choose for himself.
Your novels often explore questions of identity, and situations where characters find their identities in doubt. What draws you to this subject?
I don't know why I'm so often drawn to characters facing challenges to their identity, but trying to work out who we are and why we're here seem to be big issues that affect us all one way or another!
What are you working on next? Can we expect to hear anything more from Rachel and Theo in the future?
I don't know if I'll write more about Rachel and Theo in the future. I don't have any plans to at present. Right now I'm focusing on The Medusa Project, my series of books about a group of teenagers with psychic abilities who are forced to work together as a crime-fighting unit. The Set-Up, The Hostage and The Rescue are the titles published so far and there should be at least three more books in the series.
Thanks so much for taking time out to answer my questions, Sophie!
Want to know more about Blood Ransom? Stop by So Many Books, So Little Time to check out an exclusive extract tomorrow.
You can find my review of Blood Ties here.