Monday 18 September 2023

Writing Characters: Zya & Co


November 14th, my next book, Invisible, releases (pre-order here). It's the first in a young adult dystopian quartet that deals with a lot of disability and has a whole heap of disabled rep. I thought that this week and next, I would take a bit of a deep dive into the characters that make up the book. The story is dual POV and so this week I'll start with Zya and her friends and the things she and they bring to the story and then next week I'll delve into the other POV.

So what's the book about? The UK is split into nine self-governing segments. South-West, where Zya is based and has lived her whole life is pretty much similar to the other eight segments with how they deal with things. Zya was not born disabled, but she did have a stroke when she was a baby that paralysed the left side of her body. She's been in a wheelchair, and mostly segregated schools every since.

With the book set in the far distant future, it allowed for some tech advances like wheelchairs that were charged by solar power, and were able to be steer by the user's torso movements. Zya's is like this and it gives her more independence than a different kind of chair would. She's seventeen, about to face the Exit Exam, which should, hopefully, allow her to be placed into a working position. Of course there's always the risk of Further Training, something that's painted as a way to help those less able to learn skills that will one day help the segment. Zya, being disabled, is terrified on F.T. It's usually disabled teens who fail the EE and end up there, and they are usually never heard from again.

Zya has her best friend, Lena, who's completely abled, and looking forward to the EE herself. The day the book starts, they're both just at school, in lessons, and then all hell breaks loose when several bombs are dropped in the segment, decimating the population, and leaving many injured or sick with an unknown virus. Going from pretty sure she'll never see the working world, to being thrown into the aftermath of the attack, seeing new diagnoses comes from seemingly nowhere, Zya can only watch as one by one every one of her abled friends becomes disabled in some way.

And that's when the real work begins. That's when everything starts to slot into place and we follow Zya through her navigating this new and strange world. When I was planning this novel, I had a different kind of plot in mind, but once I got to know Zya, and got to know the world better, I knew it could only go a certain way. Zya was a loud voice in my head telling me what she expected from me and where things were going to go and there was little I could do to disagree.

Writing Zya, writing her friends, those disabled before the bombs, and those who became so because of them, was a delight for me. I've had sensitivity readers, editors and the like, all point out the mirror this book holds up to society and the way they view disability and disabled people. I didn't write it with that intent, and this book was written long before COVID became a thing as well, but it does seem fitting to be releasing it into a world that has somewhat experienced the feeling of terror that comes from the unknown.

Zya felt like a character that would look at our world and realise that a lot of things were the same as in hers, only hers had gone more extreme in another way. I wanted to tell this story because it wouldn't leave me alone. I'd sit there and think about other plots, and there would be Invisible just demanding to be told. I adore the story, I adore the characters, and while the next three books are written, I'm itching to get started on revising them because I know where this story goes, and know how it ends and I want people to be able to go along this journey with Zya and the others as well!

If you want to pre-order Invisible, you can do so here, and if you do pre-order, you can sign up for the pre-order SWAG here, which is open internationally.

Any questions? Lemme know in the comments!

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