I’m beyond excited to be a part of the blog tour for Beauty Sleep by Kathryn Evans – I’m super grateful to Jess at Osborne for allowing me to be a part of this tour & I’m so excited to show you Kathryn’s answers to my questions about why she chose to write a book set in the medical zone of science-fiction, why she chose to talk about stasis & whether she’ll be writing another book with a similar theme.
You can read my review of Beauty Sleep here.
1. I was attracted to Beauty Sleep because of my incurable illness but what led you to the medical zone of science fiction?
Crumbs, that’s a good question. I guess the fragility of life has hovered over me since I was little. My mum died when I was very young and then my dad remarried and my step-mum got breast cancer. It was at a time when most people didn’t survive, that’s changed a lot now, but we went through this terrible period where several of her friends died and we were scared stiff she’d die too. She’s now 80 years old and quite incredible really.
I’ve always been interested in science and the ethical dilemmas around new discoveries. No where is that brought more sharply into focus than in the experiments Nazis did on human beings. For example, in one experiment they submerged people into icy water to see how long it took for hypothermia to set in. Many of the people died but that data was still being cited in scientific papers in the 1980’s – what does that mean? Is it good that their dreadful treatment wasn’t wasted or should all the data have been destroyed because the methods of obtaining it were so utterly abhorrent?
2. Are there any books that helped inspire Beauty Sleep? Or was it something else that made you want to write it?
All my writing is fed by the diet of books I read as a child, and continue to read as an adult. I was a huge fan of science fiction – Aldous Huxley, John Wyndham, H.G. Wells, Margaret Atwood – and later Kazuo Ishiguro, Teri Terry and David Leviathan . Marcus Sedgwick wrote a story in Ghosts of Heaven where a whole ship of people are in cryostasis and I think that gave me the courage to write Beauty Sleep the way I wanted to.
There’s a lot of snobbery around science fiction – that it’s somehow ‘less’ than literary fiction. Even some people who write it seem kind of embarrassed about it. Ian McEwan was scathing about science fiction as a genre, claiming the way he’d written Machines Like Me was a new take on sci-fi because it was exploring modern dilemmas. That’s what it’s ALWAYS done – look at Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein – what is that if it’s not science fiction exploring ethical dilemmas?
3. Why did you choose to write about stasis? Is it something you’ve always been curious about?
Yes. I think, as a child surrounded by the potential of death, I was quite afraid. The thought of being able to postpone that some how, it’s very attractive. Then I started to see more and more about cryogenics in magazines and online – quite recently a young woman dying of cancer went to court in the UK to be allowed to have her body frozen so she might have another chance at life in the future. It’s also been proven that brain cooling can help head trauma cases have a better recovery and then there are these weird pods that people have cryotherapy as a beauty treatment. It was kind of screaming at me to be written.
Also, I am a massive fan of Red Dwarf – while one of the main characters, Lister, is in stasis for thousands of years, his pet cat produces an entire new race of walking talking cat people! The story opportunities are endless.
4. How did you decide on the illness you wanted Laura to have?
The Big C. It’s terrifying. Just mention of it sort of stuns people into shocked silence. It’s claimed so many of my friends, and continues to do so. It was just an obvious choice – a big horrific cloud that no one would question.
5. Do you plan to write any other stories set in the medical zone of science fiction? How about another book set in the same world?
Sort of. Not my next book but the one after that is kind of in the medical zone…at a stretch. But I think Laura and Shem’s story is done. They’re going to be fine. They don’t need me anymore.
6. My final question isn’t really medically related but it’s something that I’ve been very curious about… Most of Beauty Sleep is set in the not-so-distant future; what made you decide on a time zone so close to ours, rather than one far in the future?
I want my books to feel relevant and real – I don’t want them to feel too separate, too other worldly. By setting Beauty Sleep in the very near future I’m presenting possibilities that feel touchable. Amongst other things, I’m raising questions about how we’re effected by social media, or how homeless people are being disenfranchised right now – it’s very important to me that my readers can’t dismiss it as something that isn’t relevant because it’s so far in the future it’ll never happen. It is happening, and it might get worse if we don’t stand up and rebel against it.
Thanks so much for having me.
I’ve really enjoyed your questions – hope I didn’t waffle on too much!
I seriously loved this book & I think you will too – some of the themes are difficult to deal with (content warnings are on my review post), but it’s a great story & Kathryn’s writing is first class.
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