Today, my friend and fellow Shadow Mountain author Ilima Todd is here to talk about her debut YA release, REMAKE. Ilima and I met at ALA in June and bonded over books and kids, so I am really excited to share our book talk with you.
DL: Ilima, where did you first get the idea for REMAKE?
Ilima: I wanted to write a story about families, so the first thing I did was imagine what the world would be like without them. I wondered who would raise children, teach them, or love them. I thought about who children would turn to with questions, or whether they’d be accountable to parental figures at all. I also wondered if people would view gender differently without mothers, fathers, or knowledge of reproduction. Nine’s world grew from there, and I knew it would make an ideal dystopian society.
DL: Which character in the book most resembles you?
Ilima: Probably Nine. She’s very insecure and worries about what her choices will mean for her and the rest of her life. I often wonder if I’m doing the right thing or following the path that’s best for me. Nine is also a lot stronger than she gives herself credit for, and as I look back at the hard things I’ve lived through, I recognize strengths I didn’t realize I had at the time.
DL: If you had to choose a favorite sentence in the book, what would it be?
Ilima: Oh, this is a hard one. My favorites are a little too spoilery, but one moment that I think is safe to share is during one scene were Nine does something courageous. A character tells her she was brave to do it. Then Nine asks, “Brave like a boy?” He responds, “No, brave like a girl.” It’s a subtle yet significant moment for Nine.
DL: That's my favorite line in the book. It just says so much about the characters. I know you grew up in Hawaii, and in the Mahawai section of the book, I could almost smell the plumeria flowers in the air. How much did your upbringing impact that part of your writing?
Ilima: It was a heavy influence. From describing the scenery to simple activities like diving for octopus or hiking to waterfalls, many of the island scenes were pulled straight out of my life experience. I didn’t realize how unique my upbringing was until I left home for college, and it was a lot of fun to explore and share some of that within the pages of REMAKE.
DL: Nine's struggle with choosing her gender centers on her finding out who she truly is and where she belongs. Did you always know how she would decide or did she tell you as you were writing the character?
Ilima: I always knew what she would decide, but her path to getting there has been molded and adjusted along the way. She’s raised in a society without any real boundaries as far as morality or choices go, so while it was fun to write from her blunt and often humorous point of view, it also posed a challenge having to constantly think about what she would say or think about new situations that we as readers would consider common or ordinary. As I pondered those things from her fresh—and often naïve—perspective, I realized they aren’t common or ordinary at all but something quite beautiful. I hope readers will recognize that too.
DL: What is your writing process? I am not big on outlining, but I know other writers who outline everything and make up index cards for each scene in the book before they even begin page one. How do you approach a new manuscript?
Ilima: I am definitely an outliner, though I’m very flexible and almost always change things as I draft. I can’t start a book without knowing how it ends, however. Though I may change how I get there, I need to know where I’m heading. The one book I tried to write without an outline stalled at about ten thousand words and may stay there forever.
DL: I have the exact opposite problem. Isn't it amazing how we all work in different ways. There are so many successful YA authors in Utah, can you tell us what kind of writer's support you have with other authors and writer's conferences?
Ilima: When I took my first manuscript to my first writer’s conference here in Utah, I learned so much…including the fact that I had no idea how to write. J I formed a critique group with several other writers at that conference and to this day they are my best friends. Not only do we email each other almost every day and critique each other’s books, we cheer each other on through the ups and downs of this crazy writer journey and the ups and downs of life outside of writing. I’ve since attended several more conferences and learn so much each time. I highly recommend writing conferences to aspiring writers and am excited for the opportunity to teach at a few of them this year.
DL: I hope I can attend one of those conferences. Alright, here's my most important question for readers of REMAKE. I know you have just finished the manuscript for REMAKE 2. Any teasers for those of us who can't wait to read it?
Ilima: Book Two will start about three months after the end of REMAKE and will be told from a different character’s point of view. We’ll get to revisit favorite characters from book one and meet a few new ones. We’ll also get a deeper look into Freedom One and a certain rising rebellion.
DL: I can't wait to read it. What are you working on now that you have finished REMAKE 2?
Ilima: More science fiction for teens. I’m hoping to publish a story I wrote about a girl who has to marry a stranger to survive the apocalypse. I’ve also been working on a book set in a future where everything is bartered or traded…including my main character. I’m super excited about the rich culture and themes of self-worth and virtue in that one.
DL: What is your favorite thing about being a writer?
Ilima: As much as I love the creative process of writing, publishing my first book and sharing it with readers has been such a fulfilling experience. Hearing from readers who love my book and who tell me how it resonates with them in some way has been really neat. I love having discussions about the themes and characters in REMAKE and appreciate the positive support I’ve received for writing what many consider a controversial book.
DL: Thank you, Ilima, for being here today to talk books with me. You can stay in touch with Ilima by visiting her at http://ilimawrites.blogspot.com/