By Lillian Clark
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Release Date: June 9th 2020
The Art of Character Cloning
First, thank you so much for having me! I’m so excited to talk about my sophomore novel Half Life—a near-future sci-fi YA that’s Black Mirror meets Becky Albertalli about an ambitious teen girl who signs up to be a beta tester for a mysterious company’s human cloning program—and to discuss the art of character cloning.
Early on in the writing of Half Life, people would ask me about its main character, and I’d pause. It’s a strange mix! There’s one main character who is actually two. For the first third of the book, we only have Lucille, burrowed deep into her head, her thoughts and wants and worries. Seeing the world how she sees it, even when her perspective skews the view.
Then there’s Lucy, who comes violently, gasping, to life. And both Lucille’s idea of her self and the reader’s concept of her life, is thrown off balance.
Writing this divergence was a fascinating challenge. On the surface—and even beneath it—Lucille and Lucy are the same. They have identical bodies, share the same memories and life. But they’re different people. Their interpretation of those memories and that life is different. Writing them was an exercise in the way subtle shifts in point-of-view alter perception, reaction, and consequence. For example, Lucille has a long unrequited crush on a boy named Bode. She wants him to like her, but through her lens of self-doubt he seems indifferent at best. When Lucy takes over Lucille’s life, she sees Bode and his responses to her in a whole new way. Without Lucille’s tint of insecurity, Lucy wonders if Bode’s really just shy.
From big shifts to small ones, perspective changes so much. Where Lucille secretly struggles with confidence while projecting a false sense of superiority, Lucy’s defined by her literal existential crisis. She doesn’t have time for exploring smaller insecurities because the future of her life itself is uncertain. It changes how she sees Lucille’s life, and eventually forces Lucille to confront how she sees herself. Plus, memory itself is inexact. The brain is plastic, which means it’s malleable. Which means it’s constantly changing. The very act of revisiting a memory can change it, imprinting a new perception of it atop the pre-existing one, altering details and emotions. So while Lucille and Lucy share the same framework, the emphasis and meaning of their memories differ.
Working all of that into a plot built around a three-pronged tug of war—what Lucille wants, what Lucy wants, and what Life Squared wants—was honestly so much fun. And I’m delighted that Lucille and Lucy with all of their overlapping, diverging, mirroring fears and plans and wishes are making their way into the world!
About the Author
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Win a copy of HALF LIFE and IMMORAL CODE by Lillian Clark
Starts: 9th June 2020
Ends: 23rd June 2020
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