A Conversation with Dystopian Science Fiction author, Julia K. Poulet
MA: Welcome to The Coffee Pot Book Club, Julia. Before we begin, could you please tell my readers a little about yourself?
JP: Hi. I am Julia. I am 31 years old and I have always written stories. I live in Germany but ever since I did my Master’s degree in Edinburgh, part of my heart has stayed in Scotland. I earn my money as a scientist but I enjoy building worlds and creating relatable characters in my free time. I play several instruments, love dancing and have become an avid rock climber and aerialist in the last few years.
MA: It is so lovely to meet you, Julia. Let’s crack on and talk about your new book, “Prodigy.” What inspired you to write “Prodigy”?
JP: A friend of mine, Josh, sent me a link to an article about a stolen violin. We both play the fiddle, so he knew this might be an interesting read for me. He never expected it to be the start of a book-idea. In the beginning, I thought about making it a contemporary detective novel, but with news coverage about climate change being omnipresent at the time, it ended up being a dystopian YA novel in the end. The music-aspect is quite important to the novel and this comes directly from my heart: I am absolutely convinced that music can save a life. I have used music as an emotional catalyst ever since I was in primary school and playing has a liberating and therapeutic effect on me.
MA: I know just what you mean about music. How did you come up with your setting and your characters?
JP: “City 5”, where most of the plot is set, is loosely based on Berlin, what I imagine Berlin to look like in 250 years. I lived in Berlin for five years and never came to love the city, but it has great potential in a dystopian context.
The story has two main characters with very different backgrounds. I find that Robyn is very similar to me in some aspects, especially in terms of how she perceives music. On the other hand, we have the “Oliver Twist” aspect of her: She lives in the underground and operates as a thief and she is independent, fierce and incredibly loyal to her found family. She definitely comes across as much older than she is, because circumstances forced her to grow up quickly.
Akira is the musical prodigy whose instrument Robyn steals. I read a few interviews with classical musicians who were pushed onto the stage very early on. I also have friends who were forced to learn an instrument as children and were pushed into practicing and for whom playing music is only a chore. I used these aspects to create Akira: She is extremely lonely and isolated in her position. She didn’t have a proper childhood, never got the opportunity to question her choices or to find her own way in life. On one hand, the violin and the music is all she knows, but on the other hand it’s her prison. When the violin is stolen, it’s the first opportunity for her to discover who she really is.
Your book sounds fantastic. There are many books in the dystopian sci-fi genre. Can you tell us three things that set your novel apart?
I find that very often, the technology and the people behind it are depicted as “bad”. This is definitely not the case with “Prodigy”. Other aspects of society are questionable and problematic, but the science is rather a good thing. “Prodigy” also doesn’t focus on the sci-fi aspect as much as on the characters’ journey. In a way it’s a coming-of-age drama. Finally, I don’t think I have seen music play a big role in Sci-Fi before. The music plays a crucial role in “Prodigy”, being a life-saver in more than one way. A substantial part of my research went into finding the right instrument for Akira to play. “The Lady Tennant” is an actual Stradivarius violin and it’s still in playing condition today.
MA: One last question, what are you currently working on?
JP: I am currently working on a light-hearted fantasy YA project. It’s set in the Scottish lowlands and has a brother and sister as main characters. It also has elves, leprechauns and ghosts. I put a lot of my love for music into “Prodigy” and I am putting a lot of my love for dancing into this new story.
MA: Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to chat with us today. If you like to learn more about Julia’s fabulous book, you know what to do. Scroll down!
IMAGES: I am going to send you an image of the book cover and I might also send you one of Akira which could go next to question 3 (I have commissioned one, but haven’t got it yet).
By Julia K. Poulet
In the not-so-distant future where droughts and rainstorms are contant phenomena, most people live in the nameless cities of a globalized world. In the safety of the artificial atmosphere, housing and food is provided for everyone as long as they are productive members of the system. Those who don’t fit in end up on the streets in a parallel society with different rules.
When 17-year-old Robyn steals the priceless violin of young prodigy Akira Sato, she sets a series of events in motion that will change both girls’ lives fundamentally.
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Julia K. Poulet
Julia K. Poulet is a scientist, journalist, writer and multi-instrumentalist. She lives in Leipzig, Germany. “Prodigy” is her debut novel.