[Note From Frolic: Our resident YA expert Aurora Dominguez got the opportunity to interview author Victoria Lee and ask her five(ish) questions]
Aurora: What was your inspiration behind your most recent novel?
Victoria: That’s hard to nail down, because The Fever King is the amalgamation of a lot of separate initial ideas…and I actually wrote like six different initial drafts of this book trying to figure out what story I was actually trying to tell.
One of the main things I wanted to write about was the intersection of intergenerational and personal trauma. Specifically, I wanted to write about what it means to face our trauma, and the way the world can demand that we “have” to confront our abusers in order for trauma to be viewed as legitimate. On the intergenerational trauma side, I wanted to write a story that touched on the experience of feeling like an outsider in your own country. For me, I wrote this through the lens of being Jewish American (for Noam: Atlantian-Carolinian), but I think this is an experience a lot of different groups have shared.
I also may or may not have had this massive playlist of songs I’d listen to on repeat when writing. Song lyrics are one of my biggest influences. I’ve written whole books just ‘cause I wanted to turn a certain song into novel form. They end up being really different in the end, of course, but a lot of my books have that musical inspiration.
What character do you most relate to and why?
I relate to both Noam and Dara in different ways. Like…if you mixed up their DNA in a vat and came up with some genetically engineered product of the pair of them, that’d be me. Noam’s anger and passion resonates a lot with me, but Dara and I have shared a lot of specific experiences that are very formative. That’s all I can say really without giving too much away!
Why do you feel young adult books are so popular and have such a voice right now? What’s your favorite young adult author?
I feel like young adult books take a lot of risks that the adult market either can’t or won’t. YA books engage with so many incredibly timely topics in such an unflinching and real way—partly driven by the recent push in YA for authentic storytelling voices. Plus teens themselves—especially this generation of teens—are so socially-aware and driven, and the types of books being published now reflect that passion.
I feel like my favorite author changes every day! But right now it’s probably Natasha Ngan. Her Malaysian-inspired fantasy Girls of Paper and Fire deals with so many important subjects—particularly sexual abuse and survivorship—and also has one of my favorite sapphic romances in YA literature. I recommend it to pretty much everyone I know.
Please describe the content of your latest book and what can readers expect from the read.
The Fever King is set in a speculative North Carolina. In this world, magic is a fatal virus. If you survive—and you probably won’t—you’re infected with the ability to use magic. Noam, the main character, has always been protested the anti-immigrant government…even when that means leveraging a little judicious cyberterrorism. But when Noam’s infected with magic and survives, he has to join a government magical training program to learn the science behind his magic. He studies under the mentorship of Carolinia’s charismatic Minister of Defense…but secretly plans to use everything the Minister teaches him to bring down the government from the inside. Only things get complicated, because the Minister has a revolutionary past and may or may not be sympathetic to Noam’s cause. Meanwhile the father figure from Noam’s old life has turned against him, and the Minister’s brilliant son—whom Noam is falling for—warns him that the Minister can’t be trusted.
As for what to expect—well. If you like books with antiheroes, political maneuvering, moral ambiguity, and queer Jewish casts in fantasy…this is the book for you.
What’s next for you in the book world?
I’m working on revisions for the sequel to The Fever King. It’s called The Electric Heir, and it’ll release in 2020. (Probably in March.) The book picks up six months after The Fever King leaves off, and it’s about twice as dark and twisted as the first.
Other than that, I have a few projects underway, but I can’t say too much about them just yet! Hopefully soon.
What’s your favorite writing method that you follow for inspiration?
I usually make sure I know all the main plot points of a book before I start, but I don’t like to outline too much! I need to walk that healthy line, where I have a clear path forward but I also have the opportunity to keep surprising myself. That’s what makes writing fun for me.
I also like to work in unique places. There’s something about getting outside your comfort zone and exposing yourself to brand new stimuli that really helps you think laterally and come up with sharp new plotlines.
About Victoria Lee and The Fever King
As a moral psychologist, Victoria Lee is fascinated by how our emotions affect and influence the ethical decisions we make. Inspired by her extensive research and study of the grey area between heroic and villainous acts and how both can be justified by the individual’s own subjective point of view, she’s written her debut novel, THE FEVER KING. Skyscape will publish this deeply personal story, blended with science, technology and magic in a post-apocalyptic setting, on March 1, 2019.
In THE FEVER KING, magic is a virus that kills almost everyone it infects in the former United States. There are rare survivors who have antibodies in their blood that allow them to use magic, rather than being consumed by it. Sixteen-year-old Noam Álvaro wakes up in a hospital bed to find his family killed by the viral magic and himself imbued with technopathy—the ability to control technology with his mind. His new power attracts the attention of the minister of defense and thrusts him into the magical elite of the nation of Carolinia. The son of undocumented immigrants, Noam has spent his life fighting for the rights of refugees fleeing magical outbreaks—refugees Carolinia routinely deports with vicious efficiency. Sensing an opportunity to make change, Noam accepts the minister’s offer to teach him the science behind his magic, secretly planning to use it against the government. But then he meets the minister’s son—cruel, dangerous, and achingly beautiful—and the way forward becomes less clear for him.
Caught between his mission and his heart, Noam must decide who he can trust and how far he’s willing to go in pursuit of the greater good.