Charlie Jane Anders is the author of several genre titles including All The Birds In The Sky and The City In The Middle of the Night. Now she takes the leap into YA genre fiction with the first book of her new series – Victories Greater Than Death. I recently did a little Q&A with Charlie Jane Anders to ask her about the new series, and what it’s like to jump into the world of YA genre fiction. Check out our interview below. And keep an eye out for a very special episode of the Comic Years Podcast in June when we will sit down for a longer conversation with the author.
Charlie Jane Anders | Photo by Sarah Deragon/Portraits to the People via the Author’s Website
Victories Greater Than Death is your first YA novel. Why did you choose to jump into the realm of YA fiction?
I’ve loved YA or as long as I can remember. And maybe five years ago I started noticing that there were a lot of YA books coming out that felt like straight-up escapist action-adventure storytelling. With emotionally complex protagonists going through fast-paced storylines full of heists, narrow escapes, battles and epic confrontations. I felt like I’d always wanted to write a novel that was more fast-paced and full of exciting set pieces, so this felt like a chance to do that. And I cannot underscore enough that I’ve always loved YA and was always dying to step into that lane.
Image via Tor Teen
This is also the first novel in a trilogy. How was the process different writing the start of a series vs. your standalone books?
I had to do a lot more worldbuilding and planning to make sure I had a rich enough universe, with a fancy enough backstory, to support three whole books. When I sold Victories Greater Than Death to Tor Teen, I included a detailed outline of all three books (though the plan has changed a lot since then) and a super-detailed and lengthy document about all the different aliens and all the technologies in my universe, plus the whole history of the galaxy. And I’ve definitely found that writing the second and third books in a trilogy involves its own whole host of challenges — a bunch of stuff I set up in the first book pays off in the second book, and it’s like I wrote a bunch of checks that I now need to cash. It’s mostly been fun though!
A scene from Mass Effect? Or Victories Greater Than Death? Image via BioWare
You’ve said that the book is perfect for fans of Doctor Who and Star Wars. But I also picked up some parallels to video games like Mass Effect. What other genre media influenced you while writing Victories Greater Than Death?
I would be so stoked if people thought my book was similar to Mass Effect
! That would be unspeakably awesome. I discovered Steven Universe
after I’d already been working on this book for a while. But those animated shows (plus Summer Camp Island) ended up being a huge influence on this trilogy. And tons of comics, including the ones Rachael name-checks in the book.
Image via Netflix.
The novel is extremely visual and feels like it would be perfectly suited to a graphic novel and/or on-screen adaptation. Do you have any plans to adapt it into another medium down the road?
I can’t really say much yet, but I hope there will be an adaptation eventually!!!!
Image via Tor Teen
There is a large ensemble cast in the book of humans and aliens alike. So here is an impossible question: do you have a favorite character?
I really hate to pick favorites, because I love them all! But most days… it’s either Rachael or Elza. 🙂
Image via Tor Teen
Gender and sexuality is a large part of the book, but none of the characters struggle with these issues (outside of not knowing how to pursue relationships). Why was it important to you to include these subjects as normal everyday experiences (rather than traumatic issues the characters have to grapple with)?
I feel like we’ve all been overwhelmed with tragic, traumatic stories of people who suffer because of their gender or sexuality or other queer identities. I myself have written a couple of very scary stories in which trans people were put through hell in various ways, as a way of processing some of the fear and trauma of being a trans person in this horrible time we’re living through. And there are some scary things in the backstories of some of the characters in Victories (though those things don’t define any of these characters.) But I think it’s incredibly valuable and important to see queer people thriving — being powerful, chasing our dreams, being happy. Being heroes. We deserve to have excellent adventures, just like everyone else!
Image via Tor Teen
The antagonists of the book are a group called the Compassion who are hell-bent on genocide against any non-humanoid race. How does this parallel real-world issues that concern you?
I feel like the Compassion only got more relevant as time went by, sadly. I was definitely thinking of some fictional baddies, like the Daleks in Doctor Who, or the Borg in Star Trek — space opera is full of xenophobic, authoritarian monsters with a superiority complex. But it’s been tragic to see xenophobia and paranoia become so widespread here on Earth.
Image via BBC
The main character Tina struggles with her sense of identity throughout the book, as the clone of a famous war hero. Why was depicting this struggle important to you and the story?
I never wanted to lose sight of the escapist, wish-fulfillment aspects of Tina’s story. On the other hand, it wouldn’t be satisfying if claiming this legacy was too easy for Tina. And the more I worked on her story, the more I wanted her to struggle with the question of what kind of hero she wants to be — and whether this thing she’s dreamed of for years is really what she wants. Does she *really* want to be the second coming of Captain Fantastic, as Elza puts it? And I wanted to show the downside of the “chosen one” narrative.
Image via Tor teen
What can we expect to see in future installments of the series?
It’s actually the Unstoppable trilogy! I have no idea where that “Universal Expansion” thing came from, it was very random. Anyway, book two is basically done, and I cannot wait for everyone to read it. In the second book, we see everything that we only heard about in the first book. We get to see the palace, and the Queen, and Yatto the Monntha’s home planet, and a bunch of other stuff that I just dropped a bunch of hints about in the first book. We learn a lot more about the ancient threat that we glimpsed in the first book, and a whole lot of shoes drop. And then in the third book, it’s just a non-stop all-out race against time to stop a deadly threat before it’s too late. 🙂
Image via Tor Teen
Victories Greater Than Death by Charlie Jane Anders is out now from Tor Teen. For more genre news and reviews, be sure to follow Comic Years on Facebook and Twitter today!
Emily O'Donnell is a writer and photographer with roots in some of the earliest online fandoms. She cut her genre teeth on the Wizard of Oz books at the tender age of 6 years old, and was reading epic adult fantasy novels by the age of 10. Decades later, she still consumes genre fiction like there is no tomorrow. She is delighted to be living through the golden age of sci-fi and fantasy popularity. She is unashamed of the amount of fanfiction that still lingers online under her name.