Today it is my pleasure to welcome author Kate Blair to the blog as part of the Transferral blog tour! Transferral (Dancing Cat Books), is a young-adult sci-fi novel set in a world very much like our own except for one major difference—illness is Transferred from the sick to criminals. The worse the crime, the worse the disease. Talia, the privileged daughter of England’s prime-ministerial candidate, has always believed in the legal system—until a run-in with a criminal just weeks before the election changes everything.
Kate stopped by to chat about scapegoats, writing surprises and her favourite authors.
Bookish Notions: What inspired you to write Transferral?
Kate Blair: I work for a nursing union, and a few years ago, one of our members talked about her experiences during SARS. She said she was treated like a criminal. Her friends avoided her, and if she was wearing her scrubs, people crossed the street when they saw her. That sparked the idea of a world where criminals are punished with disease, which allowed me to explore ideas about scapegoating in society.
I set it in the Barbican Estate in London, because I once helped out some friends who were taking part in the 48-hour film challenge there. It’s a beautiful place, but we had no sleep and no permission to shoot. We spent
the exhausting weekend dodging security guards along the raised paths and gloomy tunnels, which made me feel like I was trapped in a nightmarish sink estate.
BN: What did you enjoy the most and what was the biggest challenge writing Transferral?
KB: I enjoyed the surprises the most. I had planned out the book before I wrote it, but once I got about halfway through, it took an unexpected turn when I realized that one of the characters would never keep a certain piece of information to himself. And that completely changed the rest of the book.
The biggest challenge for me was making an alternative version of society where people acted in what I hope is a realistic way. That’s why it’s a contemporary alternate history, not a futuristic society. Even if there were a way to Transfer diseases from one person to another, I cannot see the Transfer system being put in place in the modern UK. But in the Edwardian era, there was a callous attitude toward those who broke the law, regardless of their reasons. And once such a system became normal, it would be very hard to convince a population that they and their children should be sick instead of criminals.
BN: If you were to spend one day as a character from your book, who would it be and why?
KB: All of my major characters have experienced too much loss, so it certainly wouldn’t be one of them!
My toddler son sometimes has serious breathing problems when he gets a cold. His daycare called 911 the last time, and we spent 9 hours in emergency. It was terrifying. I’d have loved to be any character in my novel then, and have the option of having his cold Transferred to a criminal—in spite of the ethical implications. I’d certainly have volunteered to have it Transferred to me.
BN: Which authors/books inspire you the most?
KB: Where do I start? Hmm. I loved Margaret Atwood novels when I was growing up (I still do, of course) and was so excited to meet her and get a book signed at Word on the Street a few years ago. Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett, Philip Pullman, Suzanne Collins, Connie Willis, Octavia Butler, Patrick Ness are a few of my long-term favourites. There are so many wonderful Canadian writers in YA at the moment, I’m having trouble keeping
up. I’m currently reading The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow, and am blown away by it. I have An Inheritance of Ashes by Leah Bobet next on my huge to-read list.
BN: What are you working on next?
KB: It’s sci-fi, with a working title of Tangled Planet. It’s about a generation starship that has arrived at its destination planet only to find that a creature is stalking the supposedly uninhabited alien woods, picking off the colonists one by one. The basic concept is Little Red Riding Hood in space.
BN: Thanks, Kate!
Transferral is available now.