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This blog was featured on 04/13/2020
An Exclusive Interview with Christina Dalcher
Contributor
Written by
She Writes
April 2020
Contributor
Written by
She Writes
April 2020

Our April Guest Editor is a popular name in the dystopian fiction genre and for good reason. With books like Vox and her latest novel Master Class under her belt, she creates stories fans of The Handmaid's Tale will love! Get to know more about Christina Dalcher in this exclusive interview now.

Describe your writing routine.

Like all routines, it’s changed over the years. Before my debut Vox sold, I was writing every day from the time I woke up through the early afternoon. If insomnia came to visit at three in the morning, I would get up and crank out a new piece of flash or finish a novel scene. As any author will tell you, publication thrusts a writer into a brave new world of administration, publicity, travel and events. Don’t get me wrong—I love this world, and I’m honored to be able to do the novelist dance, but it has definitely altered my habits. When I am working on a book, I start and end my day with a few quick Twitter posts. In between, I try for one to two thousand words, always with a cup of coffee at my elbow and a very thick filter to shut the world around me out.

What is the first thing you can remember writing?

My name in Sister Mary Cosmos’ first-grade class. If you mean creative writing, that came about 40 years later when I speed-drafted a young adult paranormal romance set in Charleston, South Carolina. Let’s say my attempt at setting the reading world on fire à la Stephenie Meyer didn’t quite work out. But I had the writing bug. I dove in again during NaNoWriMo 2014 with an adult thriller and, by a happy accident, fell in with a flash fiction crowd early the next year. I haven’t stopped yet.

What inspired you to write your latest novel Master Class?

As soon as Vox went out, I knew I wanted to write another book and resurrect a radical movement from the past. In Vox, it was the Culture of Domesticity; this time, I focused on the eugenics craze of the early twentieth century.

A few years ago, I read Michael D’Antonio’s The State Boys Rebellion, a piece of non-fiction I don’t think I’ll ever forget. Michael shed a spotlight on the state school system and rampant IQ-testing that had been part of the twentieth-century eugenics movement. The more I researched eugenics, the more shocked I was at how this culture developed and spread in the United States. The institutionalization of adults and children deemed to be “feebleminded,” the forced sterilizations beginning with Carrie Buck (and continuing through the late 1970s), and the link between American eugenicists and what would become Hitler’s Final Solution all hit me hard.

I thought it was a part of American history that needed to be talked about, and why not in an accessible way through commercial fiction?

What’s your best trick for getting over writer’s block?

Is drinking a good answer? Kidding. I think two completely opposed answers both work here. One is distance, the other is plowing ahead and getting the work done. Sometimes we need to take the pressure off, whether that means going for a long walk or shifting gears from novel to flash fiction. That said, the only way through is going through, and for me, that means writing consistently.

Your past two books have placed your characters in a terrifying dystopian universe. Was it a conscious decision to choose this genre? Are there any authors writing in the genre that you find particularly inspirational?

The first book was meant to be a thriller and ended up as a dystopia. I liked the result, and I think it paved the way for a genre mash-up: commercial fiction with a sociopolitical edge. When it was time to write Master Class, I wanted to continue in this vein (and I plan to do so with future books). This all stems from a deep-seated fear I have of extremism, and by that I mean extremist views on either side of the spectrum. Bertrand Russell once said, “All movements go too far,” and a look at the present world seems to confirm this.

I also think our tendency is to take the status quo—whether political, economic, environmental or social—for granted. We wake up each day with the expectation that nothing will have altered. But if history teaches us anything, it’s that our world is always in flux, and it can devolve into a nightmarish dystopia of radicalism without us realizing.

As for current reads, I loved Claire Wade’s The Choice because it takes a hard look at the nanny state and its control over our health. Andrew Hunter Murray’s The Last Day shows us a world with either too much sun or none at all. And A User’s Guide to Make-Believe by Jane Alexander examines our addiction to technology.

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