Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/33876440-this-mortal-coil
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Catarina Agatta is a hacker. She can cripple mainframes and crash through firewalls, but that’s not what makes her special. In Cat’s world, people are implanted with technology to recode their DNA, allowing them to change their bodies in any way they want. And Cat happens to be a gene-hacking genius.
That’s no surprise, since Cat’s father is Dr. Lachlan Agatta, a legendary geneticist who may be the last hope for defeating a plague that has brought humanity to the brink of extinction. But during the outbreak, Lachlan was kidnapped by a shadowy organization called Cartaxus, leaving Cat to survive the last two years on her own.
When a Cartaxus soldier, Cole, arrives with news that her father has been killed, Cat’s instincts tell her it’s just another Cartaxus lie. But Cole also brings a message: before Lachlan died, he managed to create a vaccine, and Cole needs Cat’s help to release it and save the human race.
Now Cat must decide who she can trust: The soldier with secrets of his own? The father who made her promise to hide from Cartaxus at all costs? In a world where nature itself can be rewritten, how much can she even trust herself?
1) If you were able to recode your DNA what would you change about yourself?
I’d love to have the option to reduce my risk of various illnesses through DNA-editing, and get super-human eyesight. I’m a vegetarian, so the ability to synthesize B12, along with amino acids and a bunch of other vitamins would be great! I think it could be a lot of fun to change what color your hair grows in as, and I’d probably get some crazy modifications, like tiger fur on my arms or something, if it was available!
2) Did the book or video game Parasite Eve play any part or influence for this
It didn’t – I haven’t heard of that game before but it sounds so cool! I’ll have to read it. Spontaneous human combustion has fascinated me ever since I read about it as a kid. I had this wild encyclopedia-style book full of pseudoscience and conspiracy theories, growing up. I have no idea what it was, but I know I loved it. I really wanted to imagine a unique take on a virus – something visually graphic – so I decided it could be fun if it made its victims explode into plumes of infectious mist 🙂
3) How easy/difficult was it for you as the writer to keep Cat and Cole in line and in the direction you wanted them to go in the book, how much free reign did you give them as characters to decide where they wanted the story to go?
This is such a great question. Writing is a real tug-of-war between the characters, who frequently just want to sit around and banter or flirt with each other, and the plot, which moves relentlessly in this book. I knew where the book was heading fairly early on, but what the characters did along the way was definitely left open to them. Almost all the plot points in the book are the direct result of Cat making a choice, and it was important to give her some room to play to bring us to those choices.
4) Did being a data scientist help you in anyway with the book?
Working as a data scientist definitely helped write a character like Cat. She’s very analytical and often thinks through different variables in a situation, and correlations between events. She attacks everything that she encounters with a problem-solving lens, which I think is one of the things that makes her engaging. My background also helps with writing – I create pretty complicated spreadsheets and statistics to manage the pacing and plot arcs in my books. I also try to include many of the lessons I learned from working with data: that reality is messy, people don’t follow formulas, and the truth usually isn’t what you expect it to be.
5) If I was to pass Cat on the street, is there anything about her that would stick out to catch my eye and remember her ( a wild hair color/style, facial tattoo/piercing, etc)
At the beginning of the book, Cat isn’t in great shape – she’s underfed and dirty, her skin is scarred and her lips are chapped. She’s been sleeping on a mattress on the floor in a cabin in the woods for two years. She’s also faced a lot of horrors along the way, so she likely has a look in her eyes that tells you she’s guarded, fierce, but still hopeful. In the world of This Mortal Coil, though – you would have a panel in your arm – a glowing bar of cobalt light stretching along the inside of your forearm. And the first thing you’d notice is that Cat’s panel is just a few small dots of light, which you would think is pretty weird!
6) What kind of go to food/snack/drink would be with Cat while she puts her hacking skills to use?
Ever since the outbreak, Cat hasn’t had much access to food, but if it were up to her she’d probably eat some cool genehacked snack, like crunchy peas that taste like popcorn. I can also see her drinking vast quantities of flavored iced tea.
About the Author:
Emily Suvada was born and raised in Australia, where she went on to study mathematics and astrophysics. She previously worked as a data scientist, and still spends hours writing algorithms to perform tasks which would only take minutes to complete on her own. When not writing, she can be found hiking, cycling, and conducting chemistry experiments in her kitchen. She currently lives in Portland, OR, with her husband.
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