Ways of the Doomed is the first in the Sun Song trilogy by Scottish author Moira Mcpartlin, who came to Blackwells in Edinburgh to talk about it. The book is set in 2089, a futuristic land where class comes in two forms, Privileged and Native. Sorlie has the luxury of being a Privileged, but as he’s forced to stay with his grandfather on a mysterious island, the story starts to unfold.
Her first book is The Incomers, a story about a west African woman living in Fife in the 1960s, but Ways of the Doomed is a completely new direction.
But was that transition difficult? Why change? “It wasn’t willing,” admits Moira. She always saw herself as an adult/Scottish literature writer. “I had a fabulous dream and had to write it down” – and so, Ways of the Doomed was born. It began as a short story, then a novel. She resisted the future world needed for the story she had, but one NaNoWriMo (where you write a novel in November alone) she went in with the idea, “and this is the story that came out of it.”
It was on holiday in France that she finished it. She didn’t intend to write a young adult book, but the protagonist, who is 16, sat well with the genre; the themes are strong enough for adults too, she adds. You’ve got to make the plot faster, cut back the level of description she would go to so as not to be tedious to young readers.
But how was it to write as a 16 year old boy? “It was quite hard and formal to begin with,” she explains. “I had to work hard to get the voice right. I don’t believe in giving myself an easy time.” It’s not based on anyone, she says, but she likes to get a picture in her mind. She does this by Googling descriptions until she has ‘the’ image, sometimes someone famous, sometimes not.
As for the choice of 2089, she says “It didn’t really have a significance, but I wanted to have a period close enough that people alive today still are then, but changes that have occurred in the book could have occurred.” It’s a world she kept in the back of her head, often having ‘a-ha!’ moments at random times.
As an avid used of Goodreads and reviewing herself, how does she approach her own reviews. “It’s always good to get reviews,” she begins, telling of advice she was given in that you want 3* reviews as they show that people outside your immediate remit at least ‘get’ it, as not everyone will like what you do, but they don’t hate it with reviews like that.
The Sun Song series has been compared, so far, to The Hunger Games and Divergent – how does that feel? “I haven’t read Divergent, and I didn’t read The Hunger Games until after writing the book. I didn’t want to be influenced, as I thought they could be similar. I think it’s more like 1984.
“But it is great to be compared to books like that, as they’re hugely successful. I’m delighted, especially from such a credible reader.”
One audience member asks an interesting question, wanting to know what the young people in the audience think of it, so she can understand better how the target demographic view it. They say the language is different, it’s unique, and one says that though it’s not her usual genre, it plays to her sensibilities as a graphic novel fan, with futuristic leanings.
Another asks how you know your work is a trilogy before you write it. “Well, the dream became a short story, became a novel. You only know when you’re going through it. For the specific thing, I had to create a world, but then I think, ‘Oh, what about that? What about this?’ There’s a possibility for doing a whole series, I don’t want to do that, but I’ve got a story for a trilogy.”
The process of designing the cover is question and Saraband’s Laura Jones explains that it was a long one. With a male protagonist do you target boys, or open it up to a broader audience? Some covers were pretty, but not appropriate. They settled on an emblem to go through the trilogy, a Celtic cross with a DNA helix, which is on point for the book.
Moira has been described as an exciting new voice in YA, and her book is excellent! For more information check out Saraband’s website. You can also keep up to date with Moira via Twitter and her blog.