DUALED. Elsie is a fellow Friday the Thirteener, and we have a heck of a lot of inappropriate fun together. I got my hands on an ARC of DUALED and I wanted to have an extra special interview with her tailored to help get the awesomeness that is this debut title out into the world. DUALED releases TODAY from Random House Books for Young Readers.
The city of Kersh is a safe haven, but the price of safety is high. Everyone has a genetic Alternate—a twin raised by another family—and citizens must prove their worth by eliminating their Alts before their twentieth birthday. Survival means advanced schooling, a good job, marriage—life.
Fifteen-year-old West Grayer has trained as a fighter, preparing for the day when her assignment arrives and she will have one month to hunt down and kill her Alt. But then a tragic misstep shakes West’s confidence. Stricken with grief and guilt, she’s no longer certain that she’s the best version of herself, the version worthy of a future. If she is to have any chance of winning, she must stop running not only from her Alt, but also from love . . . though both have the power to destroy her.
MM: DUALED’s world is a militant place where the survival of the fittest has been taken to new heights. Where did you get the idea?
EC: My son got the wheels turning, actually. He asked me one day, How did we know for sure we didn’t all have someone out there just like us, and we just didn’t know about them? It was a really interesting question because the implications would be incredible. Imagine someone out there walking around with your face, your body, living a whole other life. So then I started thinking about parallel worlds, and which world would get to be the real one and why, and it took off from there.
MM: West Grayer isn’t a conventional character. She’s got big issues in a world where everyone is faced with dealing death to their alter ego. Was it hard to write a character that isn’t going to be easy to swallow for some readers?
EC: I hope it doesn’t make me a horrible person if I say no, because it came really easily. Mostly because I had to get into West’s headspace, and from her point of view, you can’t be anything but ruthless. I also wanted her actions to be truly hers, right or wrong. Whatever she does is not because of forced circumstances but truly her own decisions. That we get to see how it all weighs on her makes her more relatable, too, I think.
MM: In DUALED, every teen has a window of time once they are “activated” to take down their Alt. Violence is dealt in the streets and bystanders know to make themselves scarce in the face of it. Not only is there a sense of kill-or-be-killed, but also every-person-for-themselves type mentality. Yet West forms strong relationships with her brothers and sisters, as well as Chord, her brother’s best friend. How can relationships like that persevere in an environment where anyone can be taken from you, any moment?
EC: I think for Alts to know such love and experience a loving childhood only emphasizes what a completion is worth. It makes Alts want to do their best and to be the ones who end up surviving. Not only to return to such relationships—for someone like West who’s lost nearly everyone, this wouldn’t be possible—but for the chance to create more once they’ve completed. It’s a pretty hardcore society, and it’s human nature to try to justify a system that asks them to live the way they do.
MM: Along with other children, West spent her early years training to kill someone who looks exactly like her. What kind of impact has this had on her?
EC: In the beginning of the book, West comes across as pretty confident. She needs to believe she’ll win, otherwise she’s already at a disadvantage. But she’s also a realist, like most idles are before going active. She doesn’t actually allow herself to dream, or even think about the future that much, knowing that until she’s complete, there’s no point. It’s when she experiences a huge loss that her confidence gets shaken, and all of a sudden she starts questioning her own capabilities. I really liked seeing how she changed throughout the course of the novel.