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Friday, February 14, 2014

Q&A Session with Michele Jaffe, author of Minders

Today author Michele Jaffe stops by The Hiding Spot to chat about her newest YA novel, Minders! I've been a fan of Michele's books for years, but, I have to admit, Minders is my favorite. Being scifi, it's a genre departure from her previous novels, but it still has all the elements I've come to love about her books: intensity, unexpected twists, and unforgettable romance! Don't miss my review of Minders here!

Michele is the author of the Bad Kitty series of YA books as well as thrillers and romances for adults. After getting her Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from Harvard, she retired from academia and decided to become an FBI special agent or glamorous showgirl, but somehow instead ended up writing.  A native of Los Angeles, California, Michele and her sparkly shoes currently reside in New York City.


MINDERS is set in a futuristic Detroit that is, in some ways, eerily similar to parts of present-day Detroit. Why did you specifically choose Detroit as the setting of the novel and/or the base for Mind Corp, the company that developed the technology and program the main character Sadie participates in?
The most honest answer would be that Detroit picked itself.

When I originally began Minders, it was set in a fictional “Midwestern town,” with a decaying urban core surrounded by a ring of wealthy suburbs, like a volcano waiting to explode. As the setting began to take shape in my mind, I became aware of a genre of photography called “ruin porn”, which focuses on decaying buildings. Detroit is more or less ground zero for this—by photographers like Andrew Moore, Philip Jarmain, Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre—and I found the images both haunting and suggestive.

I wasn’t the only one: I quickly noticed that it was easy for journalists and commentators to use the pictures of decaying Detroit as metaphors for the death of the American dream, the end of capitalism, the end of the world, the end of [insert pretty much anything good that ends]. Indeed, they served as a template for any point people wanted to make.

In destruction, in decay, then, there was an immense capacity for creativity and inspiration. By highlighting both the way our own perspective determines how we see, and the fact that ruin always contains the potential for salvage—and salvation—Detroit became a mirror for the main themes I wanted to explore in Minders.   
I’ve read many of your books, both adult and young adult, and have been consistently impressed by the romantic elements, finding them perfectly swoonworthy and even, dare I say, tastefully kinky. Some readers and critics are staunchly opposed to sexual content in YA literature – you are obviously not one of these critics. What do you have to say on the subject? Does your status as an adult romance writer affect your writing for younger readers?
Swoonworthy is the highest accolade I can aspire to. Thank you! (Blushing. Fluffing hair. Blushing some more.)

The main difference between my adult books and my YA books in terms of hanky panky is that my YA books have more kissing and better clothes. By which I mean kissing replaces the more explicit sexual content in YA (I am pretty sure the clothes part speaks for itself, barring one incident in my second Bad Kitty novel where the heroine wears white leather jeans).  I really love writing sex scenes, but I prefer to keep them in my adult fiction. That way people have a choice about whether they want to rely upon their imaginations of what the characters are doing, or upon mine.
Did you have trouble writing any of your characters or specific scenes within the novel? Alternately, were any characters or scenes particularly easy to write?
Minders was the hardest book I’ve written. It went through four complete versions, each one so different from the proceeding that it was more a new book than a draft. At each stage I got amazing feedback Rebecca Kilman and Ben Shrank, my editor and publisher at Razorbill, which was exciting but also at times overwhelming.

The book began as something character driven with two points of view, changed into a thriller, and settled somewhere in between, in a space that is not quite defined by current generic labels. That has made some readers uneasy, but I’ve also gotten a lot of mail from people saying it’s their favorite book of mine.

The one part that didn’t change was the architecture of the mind and consciousness, and that was probably my favorite part to develop. Deciding what memories looked like, how they triggered actions, how the subconscious was structured, what an emotion sounded like…And maybe, because of the challenging writing process, the hardest scene of all was the very end. It is also the part I have gotten the most—and most varied—feedback about.
Has the title changed or stayed relatively the same as your novel journeyed towards publication?
Yes! Initially the book was called Mindworld but somewhere around draft 4000 my editor suggested Minders.
Many people dream of their ideal jobs while working somewhere less desirable to make ends meet, never realizing what great experience those jobs of necessity are for their future. What jobs did you have on your way to becoming a published author? Is there a certain work experience that has shaped your writing?
I was in graduate school getting a PhD in the comparative literature of the Renaissance when I wrote my first novel. It was half an act of love and half an act of desperation and I think that combination has been integral to my work as a novelist ever since.  (Plus, the negotiation skills I picked up persuading the recalcitrant archivists at the Venetian State Archives to stop shrugging and saying “maybe tomorrow” and instead try to find the ladder that would allow them to bring me the manuscripts I needed even though no one had seen the ladder since last month when Gianni borrowed it, translated well when I was trying to convince the Las Vegas police department to let me shadow their criminalistics team while researching Bad Girl.) 
If you had to pick a favorite word, what would it be and why?
Brain…exploding…can’t…think…question too…hard…er…maybe…”tacos.”
My blog is dedicated to my personal hiding spot, books. Who, what, or where can be credited as your personal escape from reality?
Touching down in an airplane in either Venice, Italy or Las Vegas always makes me feel like I’ve come home, even if I’m just visiting.

These days, because I’m in Florida, my escape is snorkeling. Watching party colored fish going about their day never fails to relax, delight, and refuel me.

Learn more about Michele and her books here.


Make sure you whisper, I'm hiding!