Sunday, June 30, 2013

Interview with Maureen McGowan, author of The Dust Chronicles - June 30, 2013

Please welcome Maureen McGowan to The Qwillery. Compliance (The Dust Chronicles 2), Maureen's latest novel, was published on June 4, 2013.

TQ:  Welcome back to The Qwillery. Since we last 'spoke' you have a new series out - The Dust Chronicles. Can you tell us why you wrote this series?

Maureen:  The initial idea sparked when global travel was interrupted by the 2010 eruption of the volcano Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland. I imagined what might happen if the world suffered a similar event, but on a much larger and more catastrophic scale.

Then I started researching asteroids and really got scared! I realized it’s entirely possible that Earth could suffer asteroid strikes. And the strikes could conceivably trigger earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

I wondered, if something like that happened, would governments react quickly enough? If they couldn’t save everyone how could they choose who lived? And what if corporations took charge, instead of governments?

At the time, I was working on an urban fantasy story idea about a female double agent (with a supernatural power) who had to hide her true identity from everyone in her life—especially from the two men whose love puts her life in great danger. That idea was originally for an adult series, but when I started to develop Glory as a character with deadly emotions, I realized how well that fit with a teen character. When you’re a teen, all your emotions are heightened, so I imagined how horrible life might be for a teen girl whose emotions could kill!

By melding those two ideas, The Dust Chronicles was born.

TQ:  What is most challenging thing about writing a series? More generally, what is the most challenging thing about writing for you?

Maureen:  The most challenging thing about writing a trilogy (for me) was to ensure each book stands on its own, while having the series tell an overarching story. I expect that the trilogy is best enjoyed in order: Deviants (2012), Compliance (June 2013), Glory (June 2014). But I also hope that readers, who dive into the trilogy at any book, can enjoy it as a standalone. My goal was to spark enough interest in readers, of any of the books, that they’d want to read the others. But at the same time I wanted to entertain readers of each of the books separately. ☺

For generally, one of the hardest things in writing for me is not losing faith mid-way through my first draft. No matter how excited I am about a story idea, there’s always a point when I decide it’s garbage and not worth finishing. That’s when I rely on my writer friends and my fabulous agent to give me honest feedback and remind me that I always feel that way at some point.

TQ:  What sort of research have you done for The Dust Chronicles, Deviants and Compliance?

Maureen:  I did some research about asteroids, and some other aspects of the events that happened 75 years before the books begin. But one of the things that I love about writing speculative fiction is that most of the world-building for the story came out of my imagination. That might sound easier, and in some ways it is I suppose, but even in fantastical, imagined worlds, authors need to create and adhere to a story’s internal “rules”, and ensure that all the world’s elements are fully fleshed out, interesting, understandable—and if not realistic, internally consistent.

I had a previous career in the corporate world, so I could argue that my life to date was research for Haven, the domed, corporate-run city in The Dust Chronicles. ☺

Because of my background, I loved speculating about which corporate departments might become most powerful and important. For example, departments like sales or marketing or customer relations might be less important—or redundant—whereas the compliance (or internal audit) department, might become the defacto police.

In Haven, the enforcers are Compliance Officers, or Comps. They make sure everyone follows company policies (the new laws) and their investigations are called audits. The human resources department is powerful in Haven, too. Not only to they assign everyone to jobs, but they also approve whom everyone dates and marries.

Before teens can date in Haven, the potential couple needs a dating license, in the form of bracelets. I figured that was a logical step beyond the legal releases many companies now make employees sign before starting a relationship with a fellow employee.

TQ:  The second book in The Dust Chronicles, Compliance, was recently published. Tell us something about Compliance that is not in the book description.

MaureenCompliance explores the blurry line between right and wrong, and when and if the ends justify the means. In Compliance, we also learn a lot more about the Health and Safety department, the VP of that department, and the dreaded Hospital she runs.

Readers will learn more about Shredders, (the sadistic scab-covered monsters outside the dome), and, of course, Glory’s love life will grow even more complicated. (It’s hard to find love when your emotions can kill your boyfriend if you look into his eyes.)

TQ:  Which character in the series so far has surprised you the most?

Maureen:  Surprised me? Hmm... Great question, but one I’m having trouble answering without giving spoilers. ☺ The plot of my series is fairly “twisty”.

In Compliance, I think Burn will surprise a lot of readers who read Deviants. But if you already fell for Burn in Deviants, don’t judge him too soon! When Glory first encounters him in Compliance, she doesn’t know what’s going on.

TQ:  You write YA fiction. Are there any plans to write for adults? Do you think that The Dust Chronicles has cross-over appeal?

Maureen:  The Dust Chronicles definitely has cross-over appeal! In fact, based on my Amazon reviews and the readers I’ve heard from directly, I think that, to date, I’ve had more adult than teen readers. I think that’s because the hardcover is hard to find in physical stores—due to conflict between my publisher and the big book chains—and fewer teens read on kindles, as compared to adults. Therefore, more adults are discovering the series than teens. Luckily, most seem to love the books!

I have written adult fiction in the past, and signed with my first literary agent with an adult book, but to date my one published work for adults is a short story in The Mammoth Book of Time Travel Romance. I definitely enjoy writing for adults, and will again. But right now, I’m loving how wide open and exciting the YA market is.

I love how the publishers (and readers) want great stories, without worrying about genre conventions. I’m finding that in YA, more than in adult fiction, I’m allowed to color outside the lines. ☺ The Dust Chronicles, is a sci-fi thriller series with a post-apocalyptic setting, and elements of dystopian fiction, romance and even a dash of horror. Try selling that to an adult publisher!

I read a great quote lately, attributed to author Nick Hornby. “I see now that dismissing YA books because you’re not a young adult is a little bit like refusing to watch thrillers on the grounds that you’re not a policeman or a dangerous criminal...”

TQ:  What's next?

MaureenGlory, book 3 in The Dust Chronicles has a planned release date of June 10, 2014. I’m working on a few other things... One is another YA sci-fi (with aliens!) and another is a “New Adult” book. But I can’t really talk about either of them, yet.

TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Maureen:  Thank you!!! I love stopping by here, and enjoyed answering your questions.

I’d like to ask your readers a question if I may.

In The Dust Chronicles, asteroid dust has mutated the DNA of some humans, giving them special survival powers for the new, cruel world. (Inside the dome of Haven, those with powers are called Deviants.)

If you could have some kind of super-human power, what would you choose?

One commenter will receive a signed hardcover edition of Compliance! (Or Deviants, if the winner prefers.) And their very own dating bracelet!

(Note:  See the Rafflecopter below for Maureen's giveaway.)

About The Dust Chronicles

Series:  The Dust Chronicles 2
Publisher:  Skyscape, June 4, 2013
Format:  Hardcover and Kindle eBook, 378 pages
Price:  $16.99 (print)
ISBN:  978-1477816530 (print)

Haven Equals Safety.

This slogan is emblazoned on the minds of every Haven employee. But for Glory, life inside Haven is anything but safe. She must hide her Deviant gift--the ability to kill with her eyes--or face death. Training to be a Compliance Officer, expected to hunt her own kind, she secretly works undercover to save fellow Deviants, but when people she trusts turn against her and a powerful member of Management takes her under her wing, Glory questions everything she believes and can no longer tell her allies from her enemies.

Series:  The Dust Chronicles 1
Publisher:  Skyscape, October 30, 2012
Format: Hardcover and Kindle eBook, 312 pages
Price: $16.99 (print)
ISBN:  978-1612183671 (print)

In Glory's world, different means deviant--and dead.

In a post-apocalyptic world, where the earth is buried by asteroid dust that’s mutated the DNA of some humans, orphaned, sixteen-year-old Glory must hide and protect her younger brother. If their Deviant abilities are discovered, they’ll be expunged—kicked out of the dome to be tortured and killed by the Shredders. Glory would give anything to get rid of her unique ability to kill with her emotions, especially when Cal, the boy she’s always liked, becomes a spy for the authorities. But when her brother is discovered, and she learns their father, who was expunged for killing their mother, is still alive, she must escape the domed city that’s been her entire world.

Outside in the ruins, they’re pursued by the authorities and by sadistic, scab-covered Shredders who are addicted to the lethal-to-humans dust now covering the planet. Glory’s quests to transport herself and her brother to safety make up the thrilling and fascinating first volume of The Dust Chronicles.

About Maureen

Maureen McGowan always loved writing fiction, but side-tracked by a persistent practical side, it took her a few years to channel her energy into novels. After leaving a career in finance and accounting, she hasn't looked back.

Aside from her love of books, she's passionate about films, fine handcrafted objects and shoes. Maureen grew up in various Canadian cities and her previous career moved her to Palo Alto and Philadelphia, before she settled in Toronto, Canada where she attends the Toronto International Film Festival each year.

Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter @MaureenMcGowan  ~  Join Maureen's Newsletter

The Giveaway

What:  One commenter will win a signed hardcover edition of Compliance or Deviants (winner's choice) along with a dating bracelet from Maureen.

How:  Log into and follow the directions in the Rafflecopter below.

Who and When:  The contest is open to all humans on the planet earth a mailing address. This contest will be judged subjectively. Contest ends at 11:59 PM US Eastern Time on July 9 , 2013. Void where prohibited by law. No purchase necessary. You must be 13 years old or older to enter.

*Giveaway rules and duration are subject to change.*

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. Oh, this sounds interesting. Must put it on my wishlist.

    And I want the power to teleport! Just think how cool it would be to be able to just pop over to the other side of the world for ice cream or to buy a book that isn't available in my local bookstore.

    1. I'd love to teleport too! One of the characters in the series can teleport. :) BTW, The kindle and audible versions of Deviants are on for only $1.99 right now! (Sale might end tomorrow... It's being promoted in June.)

  2. Definitely teleportation. My wife and I travel a lot and there are some days that feel like they take forever. A little bit of teleportation would give us some free time back!

    1. Me too. I can't tell you how many times I've wished I could snap my fingers and be with someone I love who's far away.

  3. I always answer teleportation because I hate sitting in traffic, but if I were in the world of The Dust Chronicles, the ability to heal myself and others would probably come in handy in order to survive

  4. Congrats to Maureen on the newest release! I'd have to pick healing too :)

  5. I'd like to be able to survive indefinitely without food or water. Thanks for the giveaway.

  6. I want the power to heal and help people. Thanks for the giveaway.

  7. I'd like to be able to manipulate time. It could be fun & useful.

  8. Hmm... i wanna have power to control water and flying.