Swanky Seventeen author Heidi Lang recently chatted with Sweet Sixteen author Elizabeth Briggs about her new YA sci-fi, FUTURE SHOCK (Albert Whitman and Company, April 1, 2016).
Elena Martinez has hidden her eidetic memory all her life—or so she thinks. When powerful tech giant Aether Corporation selects her for a top-secret project, she can’t say no. All she has to do is participate in a trip to the future to bring back data, and she’ll be set for life. Elena joins a team of four other teens with special skills, including Adam, a science prodigy with his own reason for being there.
But when the time travelers arrive thirty years in the future, something goes wrong, and they break the only rule they were given: do not look into their own fates. Now they have twenty-four hours to get back to the present and find a way to stop a seemingly inevitable future from unfolding. With time running out and deadly secrets uncovered, Elena must use her eidetic memory, street smarts, and a growing trust in Adam to save her new friends and herself.
Elizabeth Briggs is a full-time geek who writes books for teens and adults. She graduated from UCLA with a degree in Sociology, currently mentors teens in writing, and volunteers with a dog rescue group. She’s the author of the new adult Chasing The Dream series and the young adult novel Future Shock. Elizabeth lives in Los Angeles with her husband and a pack of fluffy dogs. Find her online at http://www.elizabethbriggs.net/, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Goodreads.
Heidi: Time travel is such a tricky thing to write about, and you do it so well, seamlessly transitioning between present and future and back. When did you know you wanted to write about this? What gave you the idea?
Elizabeth: Thanks! It was definitely a challenge getting all the time travel stuff right. I actually told myself I would never write time travel because it would be so complicated, but then I was hit by the idea for the book and couldn’t stop thinking about it.
I got the idea when agent Kate Testerman of KT Literary had a contest on her website where you had to answer the question, “If you could travel anywhere in time for 24 hours, where would you go and why?” My answer was that I would go to the future to see what would happen to myself and to the world. But then I wondered, what would happen if I saw something horrible? Would I be able to change it? Funny enough, Kate became my agent a short while later with a different book, so I guess it was fate!
Heidi: And part two of the time travel question, I’m always so interested in predictions of what things will be like in the future. You have self driving cars, ID chips to pay for everything in place of money or credit cards, new weapons, and new medical cures. How did you determine what changes would be made thirty years from now? Any more predictions you want to share with us?
Elizabeth: I did a lot of research on what scientists predicted might happen in the next 30 or so years, plus looked at things already in development and tried to think about how those technologies might be used. I also came up with some fun stuff on my own too!
Here’s another prediction: I think 3d printers are going to completely revolutionize everything in the future, including how we shop, how we make food, and so forth. You can see a tiny hint of this in Future Shock with the fast food dispensers.
Heidi: One of the many things I loved so much about FUTURE SHOCK was the diversity of the characters. How did you come up with their backgrounds? What gave you the idea for each of them, and for having them (mostly) be foster kids?
Elizabeth: I was a Sociology major at UCLA and studied the California foster care system with plans to become a social worker. I ended up not going that route, but the experiences of the foster kids I studied and worked with stayed with me. Many years later, I began volunteering with a group in Los Angeles called Write Girl to mentor at-risk teenagers (many of whom were in foster care or going through other difficult situations). The kids I met were incredibly resilient, brave, and talented, even after all they’d been through, and I knew I wanted to write a book about them.
Heidi: I heard a rumor that Adam, the love interest, was inspired by your husband. Any truth to this?
Elizabeth: Ha! Sort of. All the love interests I write are a tiny bit inspired by my husband, but only in the details. For example, Adam wears glasses and does origami, and so does my husband. In fact, my husband made all the origami unicorns for my pre-order campaign!
Heidi: I’m so excited there’s going to be a sequel! Can we get a hint of what to expect in FUTURE SHOCK 2? Or is it all top secret?
Elizabeth: I’m not sure how much I can share yet, but I can tell you that Future Threat comes out later this year and has an all-new time travel mystery! It features many of the same characters from Future Shock, but each book also stands alone – no cliffhanger endings here!
Heidi: In addition to FUTURE SHOCK, you have a series of NA romances that you self-published. As someone who has gone down both the traditional and self published paths, what would you say have been the major differences between them? Pros and cons of each? Can you share with us a little about your journey to publication?
Elizabeth: My journey to publication is somewhat unusual, so I’m happy to share! I got my agent with my third book, but it didn’t sell. Some time later I self-published my fifth book, More Than Music, and after it came out my fourth book sold, which was Future Shock.
The major difference is that when you self-publish you have all the control, which is both a pro and a con. Self-publishing gives you a lot of creative freedom (along with higher royalties), but it also means that everything is on your shoulders – editing, production, design, distribution, marketing, etc. I love having all that freedom, but it’s also nice to sometimes hand my book over to a team of people and let them handle all of that. Plus, traditional publishers are stronger in certain areas, such as bookstore and library distribution and getting trade reviews, which is important for YA in particular.
Heidi: You’ve also been a mentor in Pitch Wars for a couple of years now. Best mentor ever, in fact, but I might be a little biased. 😉 Has the experience of choosing manuscripts and then working with different writers to polish them changed your own views of writing at all? What tips have you learned? What seems to work best in opening pages and pitches?
Elizabeth: Aw, thanks! I love all my #TeamBriggs members! Going through all the hundreds of applications in Pitch Wars and working with my teams over the years has definitely made me focus on two things in my own writing: 1) making sure my books have a clear, easy-to-summarize high concept pitch, and 2) making sure my opening pages grab the reader, whether it’s an agent or an editor or a teenager.
And now, on to the lighting round!
TARDIS or DeLorean?
Han Solo or young Captain Kirk?
Favorite sci fi movie?
Favorite fictional time traveler?
If you could go into the future and bring one thing back, what would it be?
Winning lotto numbers
You’re granted the ability to see your own future. Would you take it, or leave it unknown?
Take it for sure!
Heidi Lang spends her days running and walking packs of dogs. When she’s not out on the trails, she’s usually hunched over a computer writing, or deep into a good book. No matter where she is, she’s almost certainly covered in dog fur. She co-writes with her sister, Kati Bartkowski. Their debut MG fantasy, LAILU LOGANBERRY’S MYSTIC COOKING, is scheduled to come out Summer 2017.