Today we’re pleased to interview Debra Dockter, author of Deadly Design. When we sat down and read the book we wanted to laugh, cry, cheer, and hope that it never ended. It really was just that good.
The book which hits bookstores June 2nd is one that you should be picking up ASAP.
Tell us about how you came up with the idea for Deadly Design.
Years ago I wrote a novel that ended up succumbing to the delete button. After almost two years of work, I realized I hated the book, but there was a character, a secondary character, who just wouldn’t leave me alone. Typically, writers don’t create a novel for a character. Sure, clothing designers create dresses for wealthy brides, but a whole novel for a troubled teen that wouldn’t get out of my head? Yep. I just needed a story he would fit into.
Kyle was an insecure kid who I greatly admired, but he didn’t admire himself. He thought he was a total loser. And what could make him feel so down on himself? What if he was a twin, an identical twin but his brother was born two years before him and was such an amazing person, Kyle felt he could never compare, even though they had the same DNA. At first, I didn’t know if this scenario was even possible, but once I started doing research, I found out that it’s not only possible, it’s been done. Add in a few genetic manipulations, a mysterious doctor and some romance, and a story is born.
What is your writing process like?
I’d love to say that I have the whole story figured out before I start writing, that I have outlines and graphs that show various plot escalations, but what fun would that be? I love not knowing what’s going to happen next. I love letting the characters guide me. Sometimes, I have to stop writing and “have a chat” with them. I did that a lot writing Deadly Design – stopping to just type out a therapy session of sorts with various characters to figure out what they’d do in certain situations. What they wanted? I think the writing is more authentic that way, and I figure if I don’t know what’s happening next, the readers will be just as surprised as I am.
What is harder to writer – the suspense part of a story or the romance?
For the most part, the romance came easy in the story, well, once Kyle popped me on the head and told me to get it right. No spoiler alerts but the romance that happens in the book wasn’t the one I’d planned on. I totally had it going a different way, but when a character wants what he wants, the writer has to go with it, and just like in real life, when people are meant to end up together, they usually do.
The suspense part of the story on the other hand was so tough! I wanted to stay true to the science of the story and having Kyle backed into a genetic corner and needing to find a legitimate, scientific way to get him out was more than a little migraine producing. But that was also amazingly fun. Kyle and I got to make many discoveries into the mysterious world of genetics together.
What type of research did you have to do for your book?
The world of genetics really is like visiting some futurist place, only it isn’t futuristic. It’s here and now. Just a few months ago, the United Kingdom made it legal to use the DNA from three parents to create embryos using in vitro fertilization. For parents who carry some form of a genetic disorder, this means they can plug in the DNA from a healthy egg donor, to have a healthy child. It’s miraculous, but scary at the same time because as humans, we like to push boundaries. I can’t remember the number of studies and articles I read from in vitro to genetic manipulations to cryogenics. I definitely wouldn’t consider myself an expert on any of it, not even close. But hopefully the sense of what’s scientifically possible comes out on the pages of the book – both the good aspects and the frightening ones.
Your book allows for a social/ethical discussion and engaged not only the characters, but the readers as well in real life lessons? Do you set out writing with a particular lesson that you want to teach?
When the premise of a story is so rooted in both the good and bad aspects of scientific practices and possibilities, a conversation is bound to happen. Many writers would say that the purpose of stories is to bring about such discussions. The truth is, I’m in awe of the possibilities, but they scare the “you know what” out of me, too.
I had a student who gave birth to a baby boy. He died a slow, agonizing death because of a certain combination of chemical sequences in his DNA. I wouldn’t wish that on any baby or any parent. I’m thrilled that science can now remove such a sequence and that this couple can now have a healthy baby – if they move to the U.K. that is. But do I trust all scientists to resist the temptation to see just how far they can take it – no way.
I didn’t set out to create a dialogue into the ethics of genetic manipulations or to teach any moral lessens. Like Kyle, I don’t have the answers. But I do think we all need to keep a watchful eye on the would-be Dr. Muellers of the world.
The book is described as a mix between “If I Stay” and “The Maze Runner” – which in someways it truly is. But if you had to describe the book in 5 words, what would those words be?
This might be cheating, but if I had to describe the book in 5 (or how about 6) words, I’d have to quote Kyle. “It’s one hell of a ride.”
What got you through writers block?
Some writers might listen to music, stare at a blank screen, or get a glass of wine/coffee/bourbon to help them through those moments of cerebral paralysis. I’d go to the grocery store. The drive would give me time to think and other than one slight melt down in the produce aisle (I had to fight a sudden urge to crawl into a bin of watermelons, curl into the fetal position and become one with the melons) it usually helped.
What would the books theme song be?
The song that always comes to mind when I think of Kyle’s story is “The Pretender” by the Foo Fighters, especially the line, “What if I say I’ll never surrender?” The intensity of the song fits Kyle’s character and the intense situations he finds himself in, especially when he doesn’t know who to trust.
Every character has a redeeming quality – can you tell us what you consider to be Connor’s redeeming quality? What about Kyles?
Connor is so perfect. He’s genetic perfection, but humans are more than the sum of our genetic parts, and it’s a non-genetic characteristic I love the most about him. He wants to be true twins with Kyle, on the same level. Most people like the feeling of being superior to others, but Connor doesn’t want to be Kyle’s superior, he just wants to be his brother.
Kyle’s most redeeming characteristic is how much he cares about other people. For a kid who had condemned himself to playing video games in the basement, he learns to really care about the other characters, from the other superior teens facing the possibility of death, to Jimmy – the slightly crazed marine, to his possible love interests and his parents. He fights so hard to survive, to live, but he’s willing to die – literally – to protect those he loves.