Lissa Price talks debut YA novel, 'Starters'

STARTERS-PRICE

I read a lot of YA, and I’ll confess, some of it I read begrudgingly. Starters was one of those books. “I’m not going to like this,” I told myself. Famous last words.

Starters, the debut novel from author Lissa Price, follows 16-year-old Callie in a high-concept futuristic thriller. Callie lost her parents after a genocide spore wiped out everyone except those who were vaccinated first—the very young (Starters) and the very old (Enders). In an effort to make a better life for herself and her 7-year-old brother, Callie looks to Prime Destinations, a company run by a mysterious figure only know as The Old Man. Prime Destinations hires teens to rent their bodies to seniors. Callie, lured by the hope of a better life, agrees to rent out her body. And it all seems like the perfect plan until she realizes her renter plans to commit murder in her body if she can’t figure out a way to stop it.

Price took some time to chat with EW about Starters, which hit shelves yesterday, and Enders, the sequel due in December. Check out the interview after the jump, and then sound off in the comments: Will you be adding Starters to your to-read list?

LISSA-PRICE

Image Credit: Paul Gregory

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Where did you come up with the idea for Starters?
LISSA PRICE: I was trying to get a flu shot a few years ago and they didn’t have enough vaccine. I think one of the batches spoiled. Anyway, the U.S. government set up a triage system that gave it out to the very young and the elderly, as well as the infirm. I thought, what if this was a deadly, killer disease? The only ones left would be the weakest members of our society.

How far in the future is Starters set? You don’t specify, but it doesn’t seem too different from our current world.
I purposely did not lock in any year, partly because once you pass that date, then you’ve lost the suspension of disbelief. You’re absolutely right, it’s a near-future. I wanted the readers to identify enough with the setting so they could then take in what was new about the world—the strange post-Spore War environment of the Starters and Enders.

We don’t know too much about Michael so far. Do we get more of their story in book two?
It’s the one comment I’m getting before the book is even out—“We want to know more about Michael!” I wrote an e-short story prequel called Portrait of a Starter that is told from Michael’s point of view. It gives the reader insight into his character. And in book two, there is a lot more of Michael.

Enders is up next, and I’m already dying to read it. What can you spoil about book two?
[Laughs] That’s great. I don’t want to spoil anything, but I promise there will be major twists and surprises.

Where does it pick up from Starters?
It begins exactly where Starters left off—no time gap. I thought that moment was intriguing, and I had more to say.

In Starters, The Old Man is the main antagonist. Is he still the “bad guy” in Enders?
Someone would have to inhabit your body if I told you that.

YA trilogies seem to be all the rage right now. Why only two books in this series?
It was my agent’s idea. She’s brilliant. She asked me, “Could you tell this story as a duology?” Since I had only written book one, and I wanted to be cooperative, I said, “Sure.” Now I’m finding I really like telling a story in this format.

Anything else you want to add about Starters or Enders?
Random House made a wonderfully creepy live-action book trailer. It will be shown in some 80 theaters in 10 cities before The Hunger Games movie on opening weekend, and Starters chapter samplers will be distributed to moviegoers. Some of the reviewers have loved that Starters reads like a movie. In fact, this month, my film agent at ICM will be taking out the screenplay that I wrote based on the book.  This is unusual and we’re very excited.

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