Today I’m interviewing Amira K. Makansi, who is one third of the team that wrote The Sowing, the first book in the Seeds trilogy, by “K. Makansi”. Welcome to the blog, Amira.
Did I read correctly that you and your two co-authors, Kristina and Elena, are all related – that they are your mother and sister? How did the three of you come to write a book together?
It happened so naturally! About four years ago now, my mother Kristina had a dream that proved to be the genesis of The Sowing. She told my sister Elena about it, and they mapped out a basic story outline, and then forgot about it. Later, still haunted by the memory of that dream, Kristy revived the story and told me about it. Together we decided it had merit and that we’d sit down and try to really write the thing. She wrote a chapter; I wrote a chapter. Then Elena wrote a chapter, then I wrote another. It just kept going that way until eight months later, we had a completed manuscript! We were bound and determined to tell the story of Remy and Vale, and we all believed in it.
Do you think writing with people so close to you has made it easier or harder to co-write a novel? How do you handle creative differences? Do you glare daggers over the breakfast table?
For me personally, I definitely think it made it easier to have co-writers. I don’t know if I could have written a book without their help. When I got stuck, one of my co-writers was always there to help me past writer’s block, or a boring character, or a dumb plot idea. When we argued over different directions, we were always able to come to a consensus, even if it was a hard-fought battle. Some of the best ideas in the story were a result of the three of us just brainstorming casually: one person would say, “Hey, what about this?” and the other two would respond, “Yeah, that sounds awesome! And what if we did this other thing, too?” That’s actually how we came up with the idea of the seed bank database that ended up being a key component of our story.
The Sowing is set in a post-apocalyptic world where genetically modified crops and environmental destruction are major themes. Are these issues you feel strongly about in the world outside your novel?
Yes. All of us feel very strongly about the need for environmental preservation and awareness, especially when it comes to food, water, and land maintenance. We are also passionate about learning more about genetic modification and its potential beneficial or harmful effects on the human body and on the environment. It’s such a developing field, and food companies are jumping into it too quickly for us to anticipate all the possible effects. It has incredible potential, both good and bad, and we are firmly of the opinion that Monsanto et al. are moving too quickly for us to avoid the bad side and fully realize the good side. The Seeds Trilogy is a story about the dark side of GMO – a cautionary tale of the way that GMO crops, combined with mind-altering pharmaceuticals, could be used to control an entire population.
On your blog that you talk about plans for expanding the Seeds trilogy into other media forms, such as apps. Can you tell us a little about that?
We love the idea of serializing our story—that is, releasing it in pieces so that the reader can follow it much as you would a TV show. We’ve definitely toyed with the idea of working with a developer to create an app that would allow you to download the latest instalments of the books, while at the same time interacting with the world we’ve created. I’d love to get to a point where you can click on, say, “The Okarian Sector” in the text, and that would link you to a few paragraphs of history and background on the state we’ve created. Likewise, you could click on “Elijah Tawfiq”, one of the characters in the book, and pull up an illustration, a short bio, and a description of his role in the book. Maps, illustrations, history, technology, and links to information about why this is relevant in today’s world would all feature in as a part of this app. It’s a dream, but I think it’ll be realizable sometime in the future.
As well as writing, you’re also an acquisitions editor at Blank Slate Press. What really grabs you in a pitch? What puts you off?
Good writing is the first thing I look for. I’m a pretty avid reader of science fiction, fantasy, and historical fiction, but I’ll read absolutely anything if the writing is good enough, and at Blank Slate Press, we’re passionate about finding and nurturing talented writers, no matter what the genre.
What puts me off? Arrogance. Don’t tell me you’ve written the next bestseller or that you’re the best writer to come along since Hemingway. (I’ve seen some pitches like that!) I love seeing that a writer really believes in his or her work, but I don’t need to hear about why you think your book is going to be the next Hunger Games.
Thanks, Amira, for dropping by!
About The Sowing:
Remy Alexander was born into the elite meritocracy of the Okarian Sector. From an early age, she and her friends were programmed for intellectual and physical superiority through specialized dietary regimes administered by the Okarian Agricultural Consortium. But when her older sister Tai was murdered in a brutal classroom massacre, her parents began to suspect foul play. They fled the Sector, taking their surviving daughter underground to join the nascent Resistance movement. But now, three years later, Remy’s former schoolgirl crush, Valerian Orleán, is put in charge of hunting and destroying the Resistance. As Remy and her friends race to unravel the mystery behind her sister’s murder, Vale is haunted by the memory of his friendship with Remy and is determined to find out why she disappeared. As the Resistance begins to fight back against the Sector, and Vale and Remy search for the answers to their own questions, the two are set on a collision course that could bring everyone together—or tear everything apart.
Amira is a twenty-four year old writer and editor with a passion for food justice and sustainability. When not writing, working with Blank Slate Press, or promoting and marketing The Sowing, she also works in the wine industry, selling, drinking, or making wine. You can find her mushroom hunting in Oregon, writing in cafes while severely over-caffeinated, or eating buffalo wings just about anywhere.