Em Bailey stops by the blog today as part of the official blog tour for her new book The Special Ones. After you check out her Q&A below, be sure to keep reading for more about this creeptastic summer read and how you can win a copy!
With The Special Ones there wasn’t one single spark that ignited the idea, but a couple of elements that rubbed up against each other. I’ve long had a fascination with cults – what it is that draws people in, the psychology of cult leaders and what it’s like trying to adjust to life outside the cult if you end up leaving one. Additionally, I was interested in thinking about the ways modern technology and the internet might affect how a cult operates. In ‘classic’ 1970s cults, the cult leader tended to live together with his or her followers in a compound so the followers could be kept in line psychically and mentally. It occurred to me that a modern day cult leader could embrace technology to assist with the control.
Did you do any research on cults while writing this book? Did you learn anything surprising?
I read a number of first person accounts from people who had become involved in cults, including some of the famous ones such as the Jonestown Cult in the 1970s and the Heaven’s Gate cult from the 1990s. One thing that shocked me was a testimony from one man who’d left the Heaven’s Gate cult just before all the remaining members committed mass suicide (they believed their souls were going to be picked up by a UFO trailing the Hale-Bopp comet). Instead of feeling that he’d been lucky to escape, this man said that he’d made a mistake not ‘leaving’ with the others. It amazed me to see how strong a hold the brainwashing had on him.
How much did the role of media and the internet in our every day lives influence your writing of THE SPECIAL ONES?
Right from the planning stage of The Special Ones I wanted to have a contrast between the cult’s apparently very simple, old-fashioned ways and the modern technology that had them constantly under surveillance. I also wanted to explore the idea that after the special ones leave the cult they are put under an equal amount of scrutiny by the press and in some ways they are just as trapped as they were within the cult itself.
Part of the story is told from the antagonist’s perspective. What was it like writing his chapters?
It was really hard! I would find myself writing from a ‘normal’ perspective, thinking about how someone with typical human emotions would react in various situations. Then I’d remember I had to forget all that and describe reactions that didn’t feel comfortable at all. A book that helped me a lot for the antagonist’s voice was The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson. In it he includes a list of typical psychopathic traits and I wrote these out and pinned them near my desk to remind myself to think like a psychopath. It was very uncomfortable though. I would find that after writing this passages my jaw would be tightly clenched!
Did anything surprise you while writing THE SPECIAL ONES?
I’m always surprised when people tell me they find my books scary. I mean, they’re meant to be, but they aren’t scary to me at all because I’m so familiar with them. I am a total coward when it comes to scary stuff (books or movies) so it often surprises me that I enjoy writing it so much.
Must-have writing snack?
Does coffee count as a snack? OK, then almonds.
Favorite Disney movie?
The Jungle Book (great songs)
Pen or pencil?
Either is fine, but the pen has to be a black fine-liner
Song you can’t get out of your head right now?
Book you’d like to read “for the first time” again?
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
Esther is one of the Special Ones: four young spiritual guides who live in a remote farmhouse under the protection of a mysterious cult leader. He watches them around the clock, ready to punish them if they forget who they are—and all the while, broadcasting their lives to eager followers on the outside. Esther knows that if she stops being Special, he will “renew” her. Nobody knows what happens to the Special Ones who are taken away from the farm for renewal, but Esther fears the worst. Like an actor caught up in an endless play, she must keep up the performance if she wants to survive long enough to escape.
Em Bailey is an Australian living in Germany where, despite having been a vegetarian for many years, she now enjoys the occasional Wurst. Em used to be a new-media designer for a children’s television production house and is now a full-time author. Shift is her first YA novel, although she has written a number of books for children under the name Meredith Badger.
When she’s not writing, Em is generally getting lost, losing stuff, reading, hanging out with her friends and family, and listening to Radiolab podcasts. Like Olive, she doesn’t like leggings that look like jeans, but has no problem with tofu schnitzels.
Find her on: Goodreads
- 7/10/2017- YA Books Central– Interview
- 7/11/2017- Here’s to Happy Endings– Review
- 7/12/2017- YA Book Madness– Guest Post
- 7/13/2017- A Dream Within A Dream– Review
- 7/14/2017- Novel Novice– Interview