Welcome to Lee Murray’s New Zealand Speculative Fiction Show, an interview series featuring star acts from NZ’s science fiction, fantasy and horror community, including news, insights, and sneak-peeks of their latest performances.
Today my guest is Meg Buchanan, author of the wonderful Trojan Gene YA series. Welcome, Meg!
Hi, Lee. Thanks.
Tell us about your Trojan Gene series. What inspired you to write it?
I read The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood a few years ago. In the story most of the population in the states is sterile. I started wondering what would happen if a few countries could still have children and the rest of the world was infertile.
I had also read Ernest Hemmingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls quite recently and liked the idea of basing the story around a resistance movement fighting draconian rules imposed on the country to force them to help repopulate the world and the Trojan Gene series was born
In Trojan Gene, Awakening, New Zealand is one of the countries where children are still conceived. The Administration runs the country and a Quarantine has been imposed supposedly to protect the population but really, it’s there to control them. Vector enforces the new rules and the resistance movement made up of locals fights against Vector.
Jack Fraser is the hero of Trojan Gene. He wants to be accepted by the Resistance. But after a bad call ending in the death of an elderly couple, he doubts the resistance will still trust him. He is going to have to prove himself all over again.
Then he’s assigned to keep Ela Hennessey, the granddaughter of his boss, Jacob safe. He knew Ela when she was younger but instead of the young girl he remembers she is older and really hot.
According to Jacob the reason she needs protected is, she’s the answer to the world’s infertility problems. Vector will kill her if they discover her secret.
Ela and Jack fight against Vector, save a family, rescue a girl and slowly discover why Ela is so important to Vector. All the time Vincent, an agent Vector has sent to find Ela, is getting closer.
The story is action packed. Jack and Ela try to save the world, fall in love, and avoid Vincent. So much fun to write.
Care to share a short excerpt?
In this excerpt Vincent has captured Jack and his mother and is trying to force Jack to tell him where Ela is.
“So, there are things to know,” says Vincent, in that cat playing with a mouse way. “You have a pretty mother, Jack. I will leave her face as it is for a while if you play ball.” He turns back to Mum. “Mrs Fraser, please put your hand on the table.”
“Fuck you.” Mum clasps both hands tight together and pushes them down between her legs.
I watch Vincent as he puts his pistol on the table again, still well away from Mum’s reach, takes the sidekick’s gun out of his pocket, refits the silencer, runs the silencer in a line from Mum’s forehead, down her face to her chin, then down between her breasts, over her stomach, until he gets to where she has her hands clutched together between her thighs. It’s sickening, but Vincent is a bit too competent and ruthless to risk rushing him. Mum will get hurt. There’s nothing I can do yet
“Put your hand on the table, Mrs Fraser,” Vincent says again, less silk, more iron this time, “or I will put a shot in it now.” And he pushes harder against her hands and starts putting pressure on the trigger.
Trapped in Auckland since the Quarantine, books are a rare commodity, but you come across a stash tucked away in the back of an old storage unit. You open the box. Draw in a breath. What five books do you hope are in there, in why?
The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje
Atonement by Ian McEwan.
The Messenger by Markus Zusak
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
The Affair by Lee Child
I enjoy books that are beautifully written and like to read a variety of genre. I guess what I read is as varied as what I write.
Have you always been a writer? In what ways does your personal life spill into your writing?
I decided to try writing about eight years ago. I wasn’t working so I had the time to do it. I spent four months writing a book that eventually became The Claim and Trojan Gene. I really didn’t know what to do with them after I’d written them but then I learned about the Storylines Tessa Duder Competition for YA writers. I spent the next few months making the characters younger and turning what I’d written into two books. I called them, Ella Hennessey and William Hennessey, which wasn’t very original of me.
Ella was shortlisted, and William came back to me with a note saying that it wasn’t a children’s book. I probably should have realised that myself. One of the main characters runs a brothel and another is a sadist who enjoys slowly carving his victims.
But, I decided if I could be a finalist in a national competition with my first book I’d keep writing. The next year I won the competition with Scavenger Hunt, which was published last year. Now, eight years later, I have a stack of manuscripts that Junction Publishing and The Wild Rose Press are planning to publish over the next two years, which is very exciting.
My personal life does influence my writing. The reason William Hennessey left England in The Claim is my great grandfather’s story. Song for Jess is the result of combining the past of someone I worked with, with a story my son told me. My books are fiction but the ideas for them come from many sources. The Prelude Series is set around the beaches of the Coromandel. Scavenger Hunt was set in Palmerston North, both places I have lived and know well.
Your work includes action adventure, science fiction/dystopia, as well as contemporary and historical fiction. Are you happy to be a jack of all genres or is one of these your true spiritual home?
I really have no favourite genre. I love whatever I’m working on. At the moment it is contemporary romance, in a few weeks it will be historical fiction as I give The Furnace it’s final polish, and then I’ll really enjoy writing about Jack and Ela again in a dystopian future New Zealand.
How important is New Zealand landscape to your writing? (feel free to include your historical fiction series here).
All my books are set in New Zealand. We have a beautiful country full interesting people and a rich history. This is particularly important in the historical fiction series I have written around gold mining in the Coromandel.
The Hennessey Series is fiction but is based on events that happened. The Claim, which is due to be published about July, is the first book in the series. It is set in 1875 and is about the goldrush on Mount Karangahake. The Furnace, is set in 1885 just after the discovery of gold in Waihi and the opening of the Martha Mine. The Battery covers 1890 and the discovery of the cyanide extraction process for gold. The next two books, The First Contingent and The Bothering Bell are about NZ sending soldiers to the Boer War in 1899 and the Waihi miner’s strike in 1912.
The landscape and history of New Zealand are an integral part of the books.
You recently wrote a collaborative speculative novella entitled Angelfire with Deryn Pittar. Is this the first time you’ve worked with another author? Can you describe your collaborative process?
Writing Angelfire with Deryn was brilliant. I’d never worked with another writer before and didn’t really know what to expect but it worked well. Deryn had written a short story about an angel fending off fallen angels during Halloween. We divided the story into small chunks and then took turns at writing each chunk as a chapter. It was a really interesting process and the word count grew so quickly.
I loved the new chapter arriving and finding out where Deryn had taken it. We each made changes to what the other had written to fit in with what was going to happen next. It just flowed easily.
Initially we thought we were writing a horror, but I think our sense of humour got in the way. We finished up with a very sweet and funny love story between an angel and a soldier. But I really like what we wrote. Why wouldn’t a soldier borrow an antique fire engine to rescue the angel he loves?
I guess we were lucky our writing styles blended so well together. It is hard to tell where one of us stopped writing and the other took over. It was a really enjoyable experience.
Any other work planned in that series?
We’re thinking about ideas. Angelfire is set around Halloween. Perhaps there is scope for a Christmas sequel?
If you could be a character in any novel you’ve ever read, who would you be and why?
I think Jack Reacher is fabulous. He is completely free. If I lived like that I probably wouldn’t bother with the crime fighting or saving people, I’d just enjoy the freedom.
What projects are on the horizon for you?
At the moment, I’m finishing the Prelude series. It’s about a group of musicians that start off as a school band and then decide to take music seriously and try to make it their career. It’s been fun to write. The series of ten contemporary romances set in the Coromandel is being published by Junction Publishing over the next year and a bit.
When I’ve finished Prelude, my next project will be to finish the sequel to Trojan Gene and then Scavenger Hunt needs its sequel polished and made ready for publication. And with The Claim coming out later this year with The Wild Rose Press I need to find time to edit its sequel, The Furnace, and send it away.
So much to do and so little time.
Meg Buchanan - I live in Paeroa, a small town in New Zealand, with my husband and a black labrador. Most of my books are set in my home. It has a rich history, and the streets already have names, so do the rivers and the mountain nearby, so I save time on world building.
I love creating books about ordinary people doing interesting things. The characters in my stories are just a little better looking and more charismatic than in real life.