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Jessica Khoury talks YA debut, 'Origin'

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“Hidden deep in the Amazon rain forest is a secret laboratory where a group of scientists have created the first (and only) member of a new immortal race. But after Pia sneaks out of the compound and meets a local village boy, she begins to question—wait for it—her origin.” That was the blurb featured in EW’s recent roundup of the latest YA novels. Now that Jessica Khoury’s debut novel has been on shelves for a few weeks, we decided to catch up with her and get the, well, origin story of Origin. Check it out, and then read an excerpt from the first chapter after the jump.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Where did you come up with the idea for Origin
JESSICA KHOURY: 
All at once! I was taking a walk one day and an image popped into my head of a girl trapped by glass walls and surrounded by jungle, separated from the boy she loved. I was so intrigued by her that I asked myself question after questions about her and her situation, and several minutes later ran home with the whole story in my mind. I started on chapter one that very day and kept writing until I had a finished draft, one month later. I was so in love with Pia and her story that I couldn’t pull myself away.

The Amazon rain forest is an interesting setting. Any particular reason you chose that place?
The Amazon is one of the last true frontiers left on our planet. With so much of it still to be explored and so many plants and species yet to be identified, it’s the perfect setting for Pia’s laboratory. This precious resource is drenched in beauty and mystery, and I loved digging deep into the rich color and life hidden beneath the jungle canopy. It truly becomes a character of its own in the story.


Origin has been out for a month now. What’s the general reaction been so far?
We’ve had such wonderful support from sellers like Barnes & Noble and Apple’s iBookstore, both of which chose Origin as one of their best books of September. The response has been just phenomenal; I love opening my email to see letters from readers! It validates every moment I spend putting one word after another.

This is a standalone book, which goes against the current trend of YA trilogies. Why decide to do just one book?
From the start, Origin felt like a complete story on its own. I toyed briefly with the idea of stretching it to more books, but instead of overextending the storyline, I decided to keep it compact and self-sufficient. I think it’s great to give readers a book in which they can get the whole story without having to wait a year on a cliffhanger. 


Do you think you’ll ever revisit this story?
I think readers will enjoy envisioning the characters’ futures beyond Origin. There’s certainly room for more adventures to happen, but for now, I’ll leave it as it stands. But you never know what the future will hold! 


Origin is your first novel, do you have anything else in the works?
Yes. I’m currently working on my next book for Razorbill. It will be similar to Origin, but not a sequel.


What are some of your favorite YA books right now?
I really loved Elizabeth Richards’ Black City and Morgan Rhodes’ Falling Kingdoms, both of which are coming out later this year. In fact, all of the Penguin Breathless Reads are fantastic. Right now I’m halfway through Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Boys, and it’s just fabulous.

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