Thursday, October 22, 2015

16-Year-Old Pens Dystopian YA Novel

When homeschooled Claire Fraise was 13 years old, she founded and incorporated an animal rescue company. Over the next year-and-a-half, she saved the lives of 20 dogs that were residing in kill shelters, often within days of euthanasia, many of them in the South.  She placed them first in a network of foster families she developed herself and found permanent families for all of them.  It’s no surprise that just three years later, at age 16, this bright, spunky girl has written and published her first book – a 344-page, sci-fi thriller in the spirit of bestselling YA fare like The Hunger Games, Divergent and Fifth Wave.

Her debut novel, Imperfect, projects a dark world some 400 years ahead, where a tyrannical, corporation-controlled government sees fit to experiment on children and to use its lab-based enhancements to build a superior army.  Summer Greenwood, the orphaned heroine living in an impoverished ghetto, seeks to save herself and siblings from dire consequences while discovering some life-shattering truths about her parents, her life, and the world she’s lived in.

“Imperfect was a challenging book to write,” says Claire. “It took many drafts and re-writes but it was the story I wanted to tell.  It offers a different perspective and I hope people really enjoy reading it.”

Imperfect is sure to spark numerous conversations, including these:
·         Will the United States break apart one day, destroyed by another civil war?
·         What happens when corporations have the power to run a nation?
·         Can anything rival the human instinct for survival and the spirit to live?
·         How do you balance scientific advances with individual liberty?
·         Will technology and scientific advancements always be used as weapons, as tools to kill or oppress rather than to advance the quality and quantity of life?
·         How can one person rise up to make a difference?
·         How do the bonds of family and strong friendships motivate one’s actions beyond any other relationship?

Imperfect explores topics and moral dilemmas I have always been interested in,’ concludes Claire. “But above all it’s a story about characters I really love.”

The story reads like a movie and that is by design. The talented Connecticut resident is also passionate about musical theater and has been chosen to participate in the exclusive Broadway Artist Alliance summer program for the past two years.  She loves playing guitar and the piano when she is not cuddling with her two rescue dogs.

Life may be imperfect, but Claire certainly is showing how one ambitious teenager can strive towards perfection.

Here is a Q & A with Claire:

1.        Claire, what inspired you to write your debut book, an action-packed YA sci-fi thriller?  Throughout middle school, I loved YA thrillers. I read any book from that genre that I could get my hands on. After a while, though, many of the stories began to feel the same to me and it was difficult to find something fresh and original. So, I decided to write the story that I wanted to read. I came up with the concept for Imperfect in eighth grade but actually started writing it in my freshman year of high school. What’s funny is that it started out as a sci-fi story about Roman gladiators—it’s obviously changed a lot since then.

2.        As a teenager penning her first book, what challenges did you have to overcome in order to put together such a good book?  The process was full of experimentation. As Imperfect was my first novel, I had no idea how to approach this kind of project. I re-wrote the entire manuscript about six times, constantly brainstorming and time-lining as I went. Also, I never received any sort of formal creative writing training, so I taught myself to write by reading all sorts of novels paying special attention to how those authors structured their plot arcs and developed their characters. 

3.        What is Imperfect about? Imperfect is the story of a fifteen year old girl, Summer Greenwood  and her struggle against Making Perfect, a huge, genetic research corporation that runs the country and captures orphans to be part of their illegal experiments. Set in 2441, the story is told primarily through Summer’s point of view as she uncovers the dark secrets behind the company and as she struggles to return to her family. 

4.        It takes place some 400 years from now. How hard was it to see that far out into the future in terms of society, technology, and how life might be by then? It’s actually been really fun. There isn’t any way to know for sure what life will be like in the future—all we can do is guess and that’s the fun part. What’s interesting is that over the past decade, large corporations have grown in terms of their influence on the lives of people and I wanted to explore what would happen if it got out of control. Imperfect focuses on both the rising power of corporations and advances in genetic research. What would life be like if Monsanto took over the country? What if “perfecting” the human race was finally within reach? Should we do it? Who decides what perfect is? What could possibly go wrong with that?

5.        Your book is about Summer, a young girl who seeks to find a way to survive amidst a chaotic world. How are you similar to her? I feel that I share characteristics with all of my characters. Summer is, at her core, an extremely resilient character and I’d like to think that I have some of her in me. She’s very outspoken, never bothering to consider the consequences of her words. That is both good and bad but she is very genuine and I really like people like that. She and I both have a tendency to question authority and not blindly follow a crowd but she also has a pretty strong moral compass.  One thing that I want to come across is that she is not one dimensional.  We are all packages of good traits and some that are less good, and I really wanted to make sure she had that mix.

6.        Throughout the book she has to determine whom she can trust in a world filled with liars, manipulators, and evil-doers. How does she go about deciding what to reveal and to whom? Summer is extremely guarded. This isn’t surprising considering all the horrors she’s had to face. For a large portion of the novel, the only person she really trusts is herself. After her parents abandoned her, she lost all faith in people’s ability to be there for her. Even Tyler, who’d been her friend for her entire life, is held at arm’s length. When she is taken to Making Perfect, although her guard is still up initially, she realizes that making connections with others in necessary to survive. Slowly, she learns to trust, and eventually learns that sharing her burdens with others makes life so much easier.

7.        At times you tell the story through the voices and eyes of multiple narrators. Why do you use such a technique? I realize that this is a bit unconventional. When I first wrote the story, the whole thing was told through Summer’s eyes and I felt the story was very one-sided. That has been a problem for me as a reader of many first-person POV stories and I decided to break with convention and include other perspectives.  Because Summer is kept in captivity for a portion of the book, her point of view is limited. There are so many smaller plot lines happening outside of her story that I wanted to include but couldn’t by looking only through her eyes. By occasionally switching the point of view, the readers not only experience Summer’s journey first-hand, but they also get invested in the other characters, making the story feel more real.

8.        It seems that throughout the book, Summer is constantly being chased, experimented on, under attack, starving, and always surrounded by dangerous foes. She’s constantly in pain, confused, and exhausted. How does she endure and keep up against all odds? Summer is extremely tough, but I think the thing that keeps her sane is her sense of humor. No matter how horrible her situation is, she finds a way to laugh about it, even if she has to force it out of herself. She is also driven by an overriding desire to get back to her sisters who have always relied on her, and that allows her to stay focused despite the horrors around her.

9.        The bonds of family played a huge role both in what Summer does and what another key character does. Both will risk their lives to get what they want, but only Summer seems to be acting with a clear mind. Why is family so important to her? Family is the foundation of everyone’s life. Those are the people that, for better or for worse, are always a part of you. In Summer’s case, her sisters are her support system and at the same time they rely on her for their survival.  By keeping her sisters safe, she safeguards the only people in the world who she loves and also give her life a purpose. This is the reason that she feels so guilty when she’s taken by Making Perfect and does everything she can to get back to them.  

10.     In your story, we have learned that the government experimented on fetuses and is seeking to create a superhuman race that could act as elite soldiers. Why? Throughout history, we have seen horrific things done to create the perfect group of people according to someone’s distorted view of perfection.  Whether it was Hitler’s concept of Master Race or what ISIS is doing today, some people will do the most horrible things to other people in the name of creating the “perfect” society. Making Perfect has a lot more scientific tools at its disposal so its methods appear less crude but only on the surface.  As for its ultimate purpose, well, you are just going to have to wait for the story to play out in the next book… 

11.     Should we fear where science can take us? In some ways we should. The rising power of technology and science has always scared me. Research is all great until it falls into the wrong hands and that’s inevitable as these new discoveries become more common. That fear is really what motivated me to write this story. I got to explore the consequences of this thirst for advancement and where it could take our society. I’m not naive, I know that there’s nothing I could ever do to stop people experimenting and coming out with new developments, I just hope that the people of our society’s future will be smart enough not to let it escape their control.

12.     What do you think it feels like to have some kind of enhancement or special power, but not be in a position to use it? We all dream of having special powers right? To feel a power that only we have. This is a very common theme in stories of all genres and in many cultures. And with the great advances in science we may actually see something special in my lifetime. At the same time, just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. 

13.     In the future world depicted in your book, few seem happy. There are warring factions that threaten the society Summer lives in, and her own government is oppressive, abusive, and inhumane when it comes to its own people. Is this what we have to look forward to?  I sure hope not! Throughout history, however, many different societies have been victimized by authoritarian governments similar to Making Perfect. I mean, Hitler was elected! History has a tendency to repeat itself and when people’s personal freedom is taken away from them, sometimes gradually so it is not noticeable, it leaves them unable to counter oppressive forces.  And that’s what we have to be careful with.  We have to make sure that we protect the inherent rights to individual liberty so that we all have the ability to make decisions for ourselves.

14.     How much of recently published books, like The Hunger Games or Divergent, influence your writing? How does your book differ from other YA books? I think that all YA books share certain characteristics. Oppressive governments, class warfare, apocalyptic environments, and the struggle of young individuals against morally corrupt establishments are all widely accepted concepts scattered throughout the many books in this genre.  I think that Imperfect’s themes of genetic experimentations, and corporate control set it apart from others, as does the rich set of characters. Also, the characters are all multi-dimensional and don’t adhere to any stereotypes. Even the villains, like Ian Cooper, the son of Making Perfect’s CEO, have motivations they believe are morally clear. Ian’s motivations conflict with Summer’s and he does horrible things, but everything he does makes sense to him. He is also capable of kindness and that makes him real in my view.

15.     What do you feel other teens or young adults are searching for in the novels that they read? I think we like reading books that we feel connected to. Whether it’s the story’s protagonist, the overall arc of the plot or the emotional journey of the characters, people want to be invested in the story. I can’t name anything else that feels as good as becoming so immersed in a story that it becomes the only thing you think about until long after you finish it. That’s definitely what I look for when choosing the books I want to read. That connection between reader and story is such a precious thing, and probably the reason why people love literature so much.

16.     How is your talent developed to get you to the point you published a well-written, 344-page novel at the age of 16? How have your peers received you?  I don’t know.  I’ve always loved telling stories.  Ever since I was really little I’ve always come up with stories.  My parents were always encouraging and listened to many stories nobody should have been subjected to! Writing is my passion and I just set out to write a story I wanted to read.  It wasn’t easy, but I’m just doing what I love. If you really apply yourself and you don’t give up when it gets hard, you can do anything, regardless of your age.  I think too many people think they have to wait until after college to start their lives. You don’t.  If you want to do something, do it. Don’t wait. As for my peers, we don’t talk much about it. This is just my thing.

17.     Your story opens up by explaining how a civil war permanently ripped apart the United States. Do you think this could happen one day? Anything’s possible.  The Civil War ended only 150 years ago. In 400 years could we see another huge conflict?  I hope we are smarter than that.  I just find it amazing that World War II ended only 70 years ago and that 400 years ago Europe was being torn apart by the Thirty Years War. A lot can happen in 400 years.

18.     How would you fare in the dark world you created in Imperfect? Oh man, not well. I mean, I guess if I really had to I might be able to figure something out. But sitting on my couch writing about it is much more my style.

19.     How would you define your writing style or approach to your craft? Some people who know far more about this than I do have told me that my writing style is very clear. And, because I am a teenager, my characters tend to have very youthful, authentic voices. They speak and act like we do, as opposed to how adults think teenagers speak and act. As far as my craft, I just want to learn as much as possible about the many ways to tell a powerful story.  And I have a lot of them to tell.

20.     What’s the take-away from your book? What should resonate or linger with the reader? Never give up.  Don’t let people tell you that you can’t do it. It may be hard, it may not always work out but keep at it and never, ever give up.

21.     Claire, how do you feel being home-schooled has shaped you as a writer or provided an opportunity to be a writer? It’s definitely given me far more freedom to write than I would get in a traditional school setting. Even from an early age, homeschooling allowed me to take my education into my own hands and really dive deep into projects I was passionate about. It’s enabled me to start a company when I was 13 and to write this book. I still have to do a lot of work in many subjects and I am preparing for college, so my workload is quite challenging but I also have a lot of freedom to structure my time. Because of this freedom, I was able to spend hours upon hours honing my craft, which was important not only for Imperfect, but also for my development as a writer. 

The year is 2441.  The world is a mess. The Second Civil War ended with the Great Divide which carved out the United States into seven regions, each run by a huge corporation.  The powerful Making Perfect corporation specializes in genetic research and controls the region that fifteen-year-old Summer Greenwood lives in with her sisters, Lily and Tory, and her dog Theo.  Abandoned by their parents for reasons they don’t understand, Summer and her sisters struggle to survive in the Slump, a border city of ruins, along with other orphans where they fight hunger, violence and the ever present threat of Red Pox, the devastating plague tearing through the region.

Once a month, Making Perfect officials flood the city ruins, rounding up street kids and transporting them to secret facilities where they’re never heard from again.  Due to a fateful turn of events, Summer falls victim to their latest sweep along with her childhood best friend Tyler, leaving Tory, who had just contracted Red Pox, and Lily to fend for themselves.  She is transported to a scientific facility in the center of the region. Over a period of months, she and the many other captives undergo a slew of grueling tests and experiments, culminating in various genetic alterations that Making Perfect claims will advance the human race.


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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. Please note: I am promoting Imperfect to the news media. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2015

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