Author Interview: Emma Trevayne on Coda

Emma Trevayne author photoEmma Trevayne is here today to talk about her debut novel Coda–a futuristic, sci-fi read where music a a controlled substance and being in a band could get you arrested. Or worse.

Miss Print (MP): Can you tell us a bit about your path as a writer? How did you get to this point?

Emma Trevayne (ET): I’ve spent years writing various things – a few attempts at books that never got finished, plays that never saw the light of day outside workshops. Coda was the first project I really completed.

MP: What was the inspiration for Coda?

ET: I’m not sure that it had any one thing I can say “that was the inspiration.” I wanted to write the kind of book I’d like to read. Several things–movies (The Matrix and Hackers) and a few particular songs were influential. It started to feel like a real thing when Anthem, the main character, popped into my head. He was such a complete person to me so quickly, within a matter of minutes of me first thinking of him, that I knew I had to tell his story.

MP: Coda has a very strong atmosphere with the Web and the world Anthem calls home. Did any real locations help you conjure Anthem’s world? Did you vision for this world start with any particular place?

ET: It was always–and still is–a slightly skewed version of Manhattan. Why I always pictured it there, I don’t know. Maybe because I love the city, maybe because it was easy to isolate and that was necessary for the plot. In terms of making it look the way I did for the book, it was just always the look in my head.

Reality sometimes imitates art, though. Not long after I finished writing Coda I was in Manhattan during a hurricane and seeing the streets gray and deserted was pretty eerie and very, very close to a lot of scenes I’d written months before.

MP: In Coda music is a tightly controlled drug and your narrator, Anthem, is in an illegal band. Were these plot aspects inspired by your own love of music? Do you play any instruments?

ET: The whole book is definitely inspired by my love of music, but I have no special talent at playing any instruments. I’m just an avid researcher and listener. I did, however, deliberately have to have Anthem make mistakes in his composition and terminology so that he didn’t appear more perfect, talented, or knowledgeable than he should.

MP: One of the cool things about Anthem’s sometimes scary world is that people get something called chrome work—metal adornments on their body kind of like tattoos. One character has chrome eyebrows. If you had the chance would you get chrome work done? If so, what kind?

ET: I would! Though I’m not sure what I’d get. A design on my back, maybe, or intricate armbands of some kind.

MP: Another cool thing: Everyone in Coda is known by a citizen code. But they also have handles which are names of their own choosing. If you could pick your own handle, what would it be?

ET: OH MAN. Believe it or not, you are the first person who has ever asked me this and I have no idea. I think I actually gave mine to one of the characters in the second book: Lynx.

MP: Coda has a diverse cast of characters. Is there any character that was especially fun to write? Any character you’re really excited for readers to meet?

ET: They were all fun to write, in their own ways, even the “bad” ones. But if I had to pick a favorite, I’d say Scope was the most fun. I loved his humor and attitude, and that was all him, very little to do with me. These characters really took on lives of their own while I was writing them.

MP: There is a sequel to Coda, called Chorus, set to release in 2014. Can you tell us anything about it? When you were writing Coda did you know that you would be returning to this world with a sequel?

ET: I’d actually pretty much intended not to write a sequel; I was determined that it would be a stand-alone book. Just after I signed with my first agent (who sold Coda for me) I got the idea for Chorus in the middle of the night and had to say to her the next day, “So, uh, you know how I said I didn’t want to write a sequel? Well…” Later on in the process, my editor decided she wanted me to write it, so I did.

MP: You have a few projects on deck, besides the sequel to Coda, can you tell us anything about them?

ET: I have a book for younger (middle grade) readers coming out next year, which is a really classic kind of fairytale with a steampunk twist. It’s about a young boy named Jack who accidentally (though not really accidentally) goes through a magical doorway and winds up in a strange, steam-powered London. He makes some strange friends and gets caught up in the legend of a clockwork bird.

I also have an anthology of short stories coming out next summer for which I’m one of four contributors. The stories are all for middle grade readers and are all dark, spooky, or creepy in some way. Masters of that particular genre–Stefan Bachmann, Claire Legrand, and Katherine Catmull–are the other three writers. We started a blog to share the stories for fun and were later offered a chance to publish them as a physical book.

MP: Do you have any advice to offer aspiring authors?

ET: Turn off the internet when you want to work. Seriously. Other than that, just write what makes you happy, write what you love, write what you would read if you saw it in a bookstore. That’s what you’re passionate about and that passion will show through in your voice on the page. After the first book deal, it gets harder and harder to hang onto the idea that you’re writing for yourself, so enjoy it for as long as you possible can. Once you do get that first book deal, try to remember that you’re doing what you love.

Thanks again to Emma Trevayne for answering some of my questions! You can read more about her and her books on her website.

You can also read my review of Coda here on the blog.

Coda: A Review

Coda by Emma TrevayneMusic is a highly regulated device in the distant future of the Web. The Corp uses it as an opiate for the masses to keep the public under control.

In a world where music is a drug, playing music is illegal. But it’s also the only thing that keeps Anthem sane as he struggles to navigate the Corp’s authoritarian regime while supporting his family and caring for his dying father and his younger twin brother and sister.

Eventually, music kills everyone. Overdoses are common. Certain tracks can relieve pain or destroy your eardrums. But usually death from drugged music is a waiting game–a wasting illness. It isn’t supposed to be sudden or unexpected.

Until it is.

Everything is changing. As Anthem learns more about the Web and the Corp he’ll have to decide what he stands for and who he wants to be in Coda (2013) by Emma Trevayne.

Coda is Trevayne’s first novel. It will be followed in 2014 by a sequel/companion called Chorus.

Trevayne has created a compelling and fascinating world in Coda. She also asks hard questions about revolution and the price of freedom making some parts of Coda especially heavy.

With so many details and terms to build this new world, the beginning of the novel can be confusing as readers have a lot of details to parse and absorb. While Anthem is a great narrator and a strong character, his treatment of his friend Haven (the girl he loves) during the story was incredibly frustrating. As Anthem becomes embroiled in a plot to bring down the Corp, he inexplicably shuts Haven out in order to protect her. Aside from being completely counterintuitive given Haven’s personality, it was deeply problematic that the only well-developed female character in the novel* needed to be shielded for most of the story.

More frustrating is that despite Haven’s complete loyalty, Anthem soon doubts and distrusts her. This trend comes up a lot in books since it’s an effective plot device and a good way to keep things moving. At the same time–when so often in real life trust is a tangible, immovable thing–it’s incredibly annoying to meet a character that is so easily swayed by circumstance.

Eventually all of the frustrating things do resolve themselves to make Coda a decent if not completely satisfying read. (Trevayne’s ending is very well-handled and very realistic but not always very uplifting. You have been warned.) Music lovers and musicians will definitely enjoy this clever premise. Similarly, readers looking for a fresh dystopia to get lost in or a thoughtful meditation on revolution and rebellion will find a lot to enjoy here.

*To be fair Anthem has a sister but she is a child with a marginal role and we learn very little about her or the other female characters in Coda. This might change in the sequel, Chorus, since Anthem’s little sister is the protagonist.

Possible Pairings: Little Brother by Cory Doctorow, A Confusion of Princes by Garth Nix, The Archived by Victoria Schwab, Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

You can also read my exclusive interview with Emma Trevayne starting Monday.

*This book was acquired for review from the publisher*