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Meet Heather Anastasiu, and her debut GLITCH (1984 meets X-Men)

I've been anticipating Heather Anastasiu's debut novel, Glitch, for the better part of this year. Dystopia, telekinesis, the moral discourse of society hidden in some brilliant YA. It's set for release August 7, and Heather was more than happy to answer some questions for me.

Glitch is your upcoming debut novel, the first in a trilogy, and it sounds absolutely phenomenal! So, what can we expect from it?

Glitch at its heart is a hero journey where the main character, Zoe, slowly discovers she has immense power and has to figure out how she’s going to use it. There’s action, romance, and the exploration of what it means to be human.

You describe Glitch as 1984 meets X-Men. Could you identify what elements you integrated from these sources into your trilogy?

I read 1984 as a sophomore in high school and loved it. There’s plenty of Big-Brother-is-always-watching type elements in Glitch, but I take it further so that Big Brother is inside people’s heads, quite literally because of cybernetic implants. But what really made me love 1984 was the shocking beauty of the love story, of two people trying against all odds to be free and be together. And yeah, there might be some of that in my book. ;)

Of all the superhero stories, X-Men was always my favorite, I think both because of the personalities of the cast of characters and because the awesome metaphor of being a mutant outsider struggling for equality is such a perennial theme. I wasn’t exposed through comic books, but through the cartoons and later, the movies. I love that the X-Men are a team, fighting with as much integrity as possible against both the establishment and other groups of mutants who want a more militant approach against the rest of humanity. Oh, and I love the variety of super-powers! There are so many possibilities to be imagined! One hint: I’d say Glitch’s main character, Zoe, is most like Jean Grey.

Oh! I love that combination so bloody much. Now, on your blog, you summarised Glitch in three words: dystopia, superpowers and romance. (Another combination I'd die for!) How did you interweave the three, and did you have any trouble managing them?

Really, my favorite movies and books are equal parts action and romance. I don’t like action movies that have just a little romance thrown in. I want the romance to be a driving factor in the tension and movement of the book. At the same time, I firmly believe we need a good explosion or death-defying moment now and then. I think action helps keep tension up and keeps the reader engaged, but it’s always the romantic core that makes me fall in love with a story.

But yeah, I've had trouble keeping it balanced! Before my agent offered representation, we went through a couple of editing rounds to add more action to the lacking second half of the book. It was definitely a learning experience for me on how to balance out interpersonal relationships with tension-filled action bits. The action in the books only continues to increase throughout the series, so I’m glad I started learning this lesson early.

I can most certainly relate to writing superpowers. You seem to have telekinesis, precognition, mimicking appearances and x-ray vision in Glitch. So, how did you approach constructing these? Did you draw from old cartoons, other books or comic books, films or games? Or did you appropriate what you knew of these powers into your own creation?

For their powers, I drew from super-hero movies, cartoons, tv shows, mythology, fantasy novels—any and all of my favorite elements from fantastic stories. Then I thought about how I might re-imagine these elements to incorporate them into the world-building of my novel, and in what fun ways they might help me construct my plot. Glitch is very sci-fi, everything has a logical explanation based in science, not magic. But I certainly bend the laws of what is strictly possible.

So one favorite element from storytelling back as far as you can go is: prophecy. I love the questions that are raised by the idea of destiny (and also wondering whether the future can be changed or not after a vision has been declared). Also, I very intentionally wanted Zoe to be a strong kick-ass heroine, so I thought of the strongest power I could give her—the ability to move things with her mind. Once I decided on the powers of my main characters, as I wrote, I started thinking about all the ways I could push and stretch their powers to make the world of Glitch a unique one.

There are definitely some hardships one would face in setting a novel in a society underground. What kind of research did you have to do to manage it? Did you aim for a City of Ember landscape, or maybe more of a District 13 from The Hunger Games setting?

I definitely thought of the dystopias that have come before when I was doing world-building for Glitch. I was so delighted that both of these books, City of Ember and The Hunger Games, along with Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies series, had set the stage for this kind of story to be popular, but I was really trying to draw from the old dystopias that I loved growing up—1984, Logan’s Run, Terminator, Total Recall, The Running Man.

Your portrayal of the future is almost cinematic in its blend of darkness, science fiction and romance. I guess it's a thought in the back of everyone's mind that the pace of machinery and technology could lead to cybernetic enhancements among other things. What is your view on this? Do you think the conditions present in Glitch could ever come to light in our society?

In Glitch, I imagine a future in which technology is incorporated into our bodies. I don’t think this is really a huge leap. Putting GPS tracking devices in people’s bodies (Alzheimer’s patients mainly) is already a reality. Mike Chorost’s book World Wide Mind also explores the thought experiment of what might happen as technology becomes more and more integrated in the human body. We already are inseparable from our cell phones and the internet. I don’t think it’s that much of a stretch to think about embedding technology in our skin. I’m not really scared or pessimistic about this either. I don’t think it necessarily means The End Of The World. But the fun of being a sci-fi writer is seeing what trends exist in the world today (or the science of tomorrow) that could turn sideways and be used by those in power to gain more power. If power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely, just how far might people go to control society? I explore some of these questions in Glitch, asking just how invasive technology could become and how it could be used to control people.

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!

No! I refuse to let the world end next year! But let's see, wackiest thing? Sky-diving maybe, though that's not really that crazy.

I have some crazy love for cyborgs and mechanised alterations to the human form. It's definitely one of the reasons I'm super psyched for Glitch. How did you approach the science behind your cyborg transformations, and did it have any effect on how you characterised Zoe?

As mentioned above, I grounded the science of the cybernetics in trends that are already present in the world. But I certainly played with the extent internal machinery might be used to control humankind. In Glitch, there’s a chip in everyone’s brain that stops them from feeling any emotion so that they won’t rebel. But when Zoe begins to glitch and her body evolves to override the hardware, we get to participate with her as she begins to feel emotion. I think this was my favorite part of writing the book—trying to describe what it would be like to feel happiness, sadness, and love for the first time.

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

Lol, let's see, in the dreamiest of dreams...Catherine Hardwick as a director. For Zoe, I would say Switched at Birth star Vanessa Marano. For Adrien - I really have no idea - someone tall and lanky with striking green eyes? Max is easer, he's your athletic blond boy, like Alex Pettyfer.

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

I started querying in August. For the first time (I’d queried two other books previously, w/ nada response), I was getting a lot of requests for the manuscript. Charlie Olsen of Inkwell Management requested the full, and after he read the first 100 pages, he emailed asking to set up a phone call. He’d read the whole thing by the time we actually talked, and had problems with the last half of the book. He said he wasn’t comfortable offering representation right off the bat, and asked that I do some big revisions. I could tell, though, that he was a great fit. All his suggestions for revisions I felt were just what the story needed. We went through a couple revision rounds, talked on the phone a couple more times, and he offered representation in October.

Alright. Now, some rapid fire.

Favourite dystopian film? 

Favourite dystopian novel? 
1984. I read this in high school for a class, and it absolutely shocked my socks off. I'd never become so emotionally involved in a book or class before.

Character that you'd like to insert into your world?
Rose from Richelle Mead's Vampire Academy series because she's so kick-ass and could teach Zoe a thing or two. ;)

What keyword or theme in a blurb will immediately hook you?

Two features of a book that are most important.
Character development and story-logic. I want characters I can care about, and I want them in scenarios that are believable!

Best title you've heard?
Well, my favourite title of all time is "Something Wicked This Way Comes". But an awesome title of a 2012 debut is: "Under the Never Sky" by Veronica Rossi. Oh, and Susan Dennard's "Something Strange and Deadly".

The book concept you always wanted to read about as a kid?
Well, Twilight pretty much perfectly captured all my teenage melodramatic romantic longings for a good story. ;)

Books you're dying to read this year?
Ahhhh, so many!!! First on the list, Cassandra Clare's Clockwork Prince. And Lola and the Boy Next Door, by Stephanie Perkins, Crossed by Ally Condie, Shattered Souls by Mary Lindsey, and Inheritance by Christopher Paolini.

Favourite guilty pleasure?
Re-reading Twilight. And watching True Blood.

What scenes do you enjoy writing the most: action, suspense or romance?
Romance, all the way.

Favourite superhero?
Hmm, I like the tortured ones. Wolverine probably.

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

Never. Give. Up. I hit wall after wall of rejection, but I kept going: butt in chair, hands on keyboard, keep writing.

Ahhhh, how exciting! I'm looking forward to reading Glitch so bloody much. And I'm sure you're pumped too. So, why don't you check out some of the linkage below? Including a preview.

Excerpt from St Martin's Press
Glitch on
Heather's website
Heather's blog
Heather's Facebook
Heather's YouTube channel
Heather's twitter


  1. This sounds brilliant...woo! Congratulations Heather! and thanks Nina for sharing this :)


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