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ALTERED: Dollhouse Meets Prison Break (Or, Genetic Alteration, Erased Memories and Dystopia: an Interview Debut Author Jennifer Rush)

Enter the gorgeous and delightful and talented Jennifer Rush. You might have heard of her through the blogosphere, whether through Twitter or Goodreads or even her blog or Tumblr. Her YA debut, a dystopian novel, ALTERED, is set to be published Fall 2012 by Little, Brown, and she just sold her Middle Grade debut BOT WARS. I got into contact with her recently, and she was more than willing to answer a series of questions. So, without further ado, I present Mademoiselle Jenn Rush!

ALTERED is your upcoming debut novel and it sounds absolutely phenomenal! So, what can we expect from it?

Besides it being a fast-paced thriller, with guns and secret identities and hot guys, it’s a story about relationships. When you can trust no one, the people closest to you become infinitely more important. The bond between Anna and the boys is one of the reasons I love the book so much. They are a family. As screwed up as it is!

You describe ALTERED as Dollhouse meets Prison Break. Could you identify what elements you integrated from these sources into your trilogy?

The show comparisons came from my agent. I’d never seen Dollhouse before she recommended it to me. And while I’d seen Prison Break, I wasn’t savvy enough to see the similarities! All I will say about the Prison Break comparison (because I don’t want to give too much away!) is that Michael Scofield uses his tattoo in clever ways. It’s more than just body art. Something in ALTERED is important in the same way. Is that vague enough for you? 

Haha, it's Lost-vague if that's any consolation. Now, on your blog, you suggest that ALTERED was inspired by Jason Bourne.  How did the films and the novels spark the creation of characters or plot or setting?

I love the Bourne movies. I love how eerily precise he is with everything he does and I always wanted to see more, know more about that character. But, on a more general note, I’ve always been a fan of action movies and I wanted to take that love to my writing.

ALTERED seems to have a focus on memory, and I was wondering how you came about experimenting with erased memories and genetic alteration. Did you research into the sciences behind it, or maybe looked into films and novels?

While I risk sounding completely lame, I must admit, I didn't do much research! The story really started with the characters. I knew Sam had no memory, but I didn't spend too much time researching the hows. I am the worst at science!

The concept of the all-powerful organisation or government is probably something that might crop up in the next year. What separates your Agency from the bodies of power we might come across, and what inspirations did you take to form them?

I think when dealing with any entity or organization, you’ll find in most cases (certainly not all!) that they’re run by greedy, ruthless people. And while that is true of the organization in ALTERED, I’ve taken a lot of time plotting the history of the Agency. I know who runs it. I know why. I know why they did what they did. Even further down the ranks, I know the backstories of some of the important department heads. What I hope is unique in ALTERED’s world is, these are not just villains. They are people with stories. And even if these details don’t make it into the books, I hope that simply by knowing the information, I’m able to breathe life into the characters.

In the spirit of dystopians, we have to touch base on the apocalypse. So, lately I've been starting to think that maybe the Mayans are right. Still hoping they're not. But, say they are: wackiest thing you can think of that you would do before the world ends. Go!

Good question. Let's see. If I had the means, and I knew no one would be hurt, I would drive like a mad woman through the streets in a really fast car. I love speed! And cars! My car of choice would be a 1967 Shelby Mustang GT 500.

God, I love that car. (But that's not the point) Anyway. I have some crazy respect for erased memories. Did it have any effect on how you characterised your protagonists?

It certainly played a role. Some of the boys want to know their pasts. They’ll go to great lengths to fill in the missing pieces. Some of the other boys don’t want to know. And I think there’s a part of us, some basic instinct, that will remind us of the things we’ve lost, whether consciously we know them or not. One of the boys knows deep down that the memories he lost were not very good ones. And he’s happy staying the way he is.

Undoubtedly, there is enormous film potential in ALTERED. (Fingers crossed!) If it were ever optioned, who would be your dream director and cast?

For a director, Len Wiseman. He's directed all the Underworld movies and I love them. He also did the last Die Hard movie. So he knows action! The cast is harder. I have no good picks for Anna, the main character. She's been the hardest to find a visual representation of. For the boys — Sam: a younger Henry Cavill, Cas: Garrett Hedlund, Nick: a younger Matt Bomer, and Trev: Milo Ventimiglia. 

And your agent? How was it that you came to work with her?

She had read one of my older projects (a paranormal YA) so I knew she was super nice based on that correspondence. I queried her with ALTERED, she requested a partial and from there it went on to a full request and then she offered to represent me.

Alright. Now, some rapid fire:

Favourite dystopian film? The Matrix
Favourite dystopian novel? THE HUNGER GAMES (Suzanne Collins)
Character that you'd like to insert into your world? Ethan from Vivian Vande Velde's COMPANION'S OF THE NIGHT
What keyword or theme in a blurb will immediately hook you? Shirtless hero. Okay, I'm totally kidding! But honestly, I don't read blurbs.
Two features of a book that are most important. Good tension between the characters. Fast pace.
Best title you've heard? I remember thinking Melissa Marr's first title, WICKED LOVELY, was brilliant. Titles are hard!
The book concept you always wanted to read about as a kid? I devoured any vampire novel I could get my hands on. I always wanted more. I wish I were a kid in today's market.
Books you're dying to read this year? LOLA AND THE BOY NEXT DOOR by Stephenie Perkins and BEAUTIFUL DAYS by Anna Godbersen.
Favourite guilty pleasure? Garlic bread with a Coke. Yumm!
What scenes do you enjoy writing the most: action, suspense or romance? Romance. 100 million per cent romance. I love the tension between the characters. I love the heat. The kissing! Give me a romantic scene any day.
Favourite superhero? While I can appreciate a good superhero move, I don't know too much about any single one. So, I'll have to take the action hero road and name Selene from Underworld. She's strong. She's sexy. She doesn't take crap from anyone. I'm a huge fan of that character.

Thanks, Jenn! I am absolutely thrilled for ALTERED and wish you all the success in your career. Have you any last words of wisdom for writers out there? 

Be patient. Learn your craft. And don't give up.
Thanks for having me, Nina!

And, curtain. I know for sure that I am getting pretty damn excited for ALTERED, and am really looking forward to seeing it unfold, you know, like when the cover is revealed and suchness. If you're interested, you might like to check out some links:

Jenn on
Jenn's Tumblr and Blog
Jenn on Twitter

Get pumped guys!


  1. Sounds like a fabulous read, and what a fun interview! Good job Nina!

  2. Great premise! Sounds like the perfect time for ALTERED to hit the shelves. Hope it's a big success.

  3. I can't wait to read this! I loved Dollhouse AND Jennifer wants Milo Ventimiglia in the movie version...I'm definitely gonna have a hard time waiting for next year.


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