I first featured Emily Skrutskie here. Her newest book, HULLMETAL GIRLS, debuts on July 17, 2018, and I can’t wait to read it:

Aisha Un-Haad would do anything for her family. When her brother contracts a plague, she knows her janitor’s salary isn’t enough to fund his treatment. So she volunteers to become a Scela, a mechanically enhanced soldier sworn to protect and serve the governing body of the Fleet, the collective of starships they call home. If Aisha can survive the harrowing modifications and earn an elite place in the Scela ranks, she may be able to save her brother.

Key Tanaka awakens in a Scela body with only hazy memories of her life before. She knows she’s from the privileged end of the Fleet, but she has no recollection of why she chose to give up a life of luxury to become a hulking cyborg soldier. If she can make it through the training, she might have a shot at recovering her missing past.

In a unit of new recruits vying for top placement, Aisha’s and Key’s paths collide, and the two must learn to work together–a tall order for girls from opposite ends of the Fleet. But a rebellion is stirring, pitting those who yearn for independence from the Fleet against a government struggling to maintain unity.

With violence brewing and dark secrets surfacing, Aisha and Key find themselves questioning their loyalties. They will have to put aside their differences, though, if they want to keep humanity from tearing itself apart.

In our last interview, you said, “Allowing myself to leave a question stated, but unsolved, is very, very difficult for me, and it’s one of the reasons coming up with short stories is so much harder for me than figuring out novel plots.” What is the last unsolved question you had, and how did you resolve it?

That’s the thing about storytelling: it’s nonstop problem solving all the way down. Little things like how a character transitions from the first emotional beat of the scene to the second, which is a matter of untangling thought processes and understanding how the mind follows trains of association. Big things like how the overarching external conflict of a book reflects a character’s overarching emotional journey. And usually solving one question creates several others, so it’s difficult to isolate them. This is also a difficult question to answer in detail because either you don’t know what I’m talking about or I’m spoiling something by telling you both the question and its answer!

It’s a helpful answer all the same! HULLMETAL GIRLS explores collaboration in the midst of conflict. What was the most challenging part of writing Aisha’s and Key’s story?

HULLMETAL GIRLS is the first time I’ve tried to tackle dual first person POVs. The story started out in only Aisha’s perspective, but as I got deeper and deeper into that first draft, I realized that Key had a lot more going on beneath the surface and needed a voice in the narrative. And even though they’re two very different characters, it took multiple attempts to really nail the distinctions between them. Aisha and Key come from vastly different classes, which affects their way of thinking. Key’s more likely to throw a fit when told she can’t do something, whereas Aisha is more likely to accept it (but quietly seethe). Key wears her anger on the surface because she’s never had to hide it, whereas Aisha is more likely to hide her emotions for the sake of the people around her. Key’s the foul-mouthed cynic to Aisha’s more poetic voice, which affects the writing down to the sentence level.

And then, of course, I made everything a thousand times more complicated by having the two of them mentally linked. There are moments in the story where Aisha will swear because Key’s vocabulary has bled into hers or Key will use a more Aisha-like turn of phrase. Keeping two perspectives straight, allowing them to mix, and making it clear whose voice is whose were the most challenging aspects of writing this story.

What a fascinating way to explore character! This year, you participated in Colleen Houck’s bi-annual YA Scavenger Hunt. How did you get involved with this, and what has been most rewarding about it?

I was invited to join the hunt back before THE ABYSS SURROUNDS US was released, and I’ve been doing it ever since. One of my favorite things about doing the YA Scavenger Hunt is coming up with unique bonus content. It’s always a bit of a challenge to figure out something to create that would be both interesting for the unfamiliar reader and valuable for the familiar one. In the past, I’ve done playlists, lists of easter eggs, and this season I wrote a letter from Dr. Isaac Ikande, the head of Medical in HULLMETAL GIRLS, explaining the process of becoming Scela. Not only was that a fun way of introducing new readers to an important part of the book, it was also a unique writing challenge for me. I had to figure out both what Isaac’s written voice sounded like and how he would write a letter to a group of people he knew were mostly about to die.

And now I want to read that letter. What are three books you would recommend to your readers and why?

Readers of HULLMETAL GIRLS absolutely need to check out THIS MORTAL COIL, by Emily Suvada. It’s a sci-fi thriller with all sorts of fun (and occasionally SUPER GROSS) body mod stuff, extremely good science, and a disease that EXPLODES PEOPLE. And if you love sci-fi action with enhanced humans and rebellion, definitely check out Fonda Lee’s EXO, which is about a boy trapped between the alien invaders who turned him into an enhanced soldier and the human resistance trying to throw them off the planet. I also deeply enjoyed HONOR AMONG THIEVES, by Ann Aguirre and Rachel Caine, because who DOESN’T want to read about psychic space whales that you travel the cosmos inside?

Buy: BookPassage ~ Amazon.com Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

Buy: BookPassage ~ Amazon.com Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound




Emily’s recommendations:

Buy: BookPassage ~ Amazon.com Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

Buy: BookPassage ~ Amazon.com Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

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