Interview with A.J. Betts
Gold Inky Shortlisted novel Hive introduces us to Hayley, a young girl with a questioning mind who discovers a breach that leads her to adventure and difficult truths. Better still, Hive is the first book in a duology, with the second book, Rogue, released earlier this year.
Our Inky Judge Alisa thought up with six thought provoking questions for Hive author A.J. Betts.
What inspired you to create the interesting storyline?
You may not believe me but…the idea came to me in 2005 as I was driving through a tunnel in Perth. I noticed a drip coming from the ceiling (it was raining outside) and it got me wondering how strange (and kind of scary) it would be if I didn’t understand where that drip came from. I had an image of a teenage girl holding up her hand in wonder. I began writing the story seven years later, and by then I’d worked out how a society lives underwater, and what has happened to the world to make this situation happen.
Has anything in the story ever slightly happened to you or others in real life, or is it entirely fictitious?
Thankfully, everything in the story is fictional! But we are surrounded by societal rules, and every now and then a surprise or mystery arrives to make us question the rules and what we think we know. If we are lucky, we get many opportunities to see the world with fresh eyes.
Do you relate to Hayley in any way?
Absolutely! Hayley is my curious self. I’ve always been a daydreamer and amateur philosopher. Is there more to this world? And the next? What don’t we know? Hayley’s curiosity comes directly from me. And, like Hayley, I’m more interested in finding out my own truth than being placated by someone else’s ideas or lies. I want to get closer to truth, even if it’s challenging or dangerous.
How long did it take you to fully polish this book and the plot, and what motivated you to keep going?
After having the idea in 2005, I dreamed about the world and story for seven years before beginning properly in 2012. It then took another six years of research and writing (and rewriting and rewriting and…you get the idea) before it was published in 2018. So it’s been obsessing me for about thirteen years J That’s perfectly normal, right? What motivated me was a gut feeling that it mattered. If I don’t have that gut feeling about a story, I don’t pursue it.
Did you always know this would be part of a duology?
At first it was a standalone book, but I realised I couldn’t end it on that cliffhanger so I kept writing the story! I then planned it out as a trilogy, before cutting it back into two parts.
Finally, what would you like readers to take away from your book?
I’d like readers – like Hayley – to be brave enough to ask questions. I’d like the novel to remind them that just because this is the way the world is, it doesn’t mean it’s the ‘right’ way. There is greater reward in looking for the truth than following the crowd and not wondering ‘what if?’ and ‘what else is possible?’.