Saturday, August 20, 2016

1 Paula Stokes, author of VICARIOUS, on the importance of trust

We're delighted to have Paula Stokes stop by to chat about her latest novel VICARIOUS.

Paula, what was your inspiration for writing VICARIOUS?

My inspiration came from a few different places. When I started working on this book, I was finishing up a work-for-hire project, a trilogy set in Renaissance Venice. I was having some trouble because I wanted to make the heroine really tough and cool but her established station in society and the Renaissance setting made that really difficult, so I had to pull back on her character to maintain plausibility. I remember telling my crit partner "I wish I could write this kickass action hero girl" and my crit partner said "Why don't you?"

But an action hero girl without any action is no good, so Winter's role in this story of being a sensory stunt girl who goes out and engages in high-adrenaline activities and records her sensory impulses so that her boss can sell them as vicarious experiences actually came from a dystopian drawer novel I wrote back in 2010. That project was inspired in part by cool tech-oriented movies like Inception, The Matrix, and Strange Days.

Finally, my blog tour will tackle this in depth, but one of the reasons most of the main characters are Korean is because I taught English in South Korea and wanted to share the amazing setting of Seoul with people who aren't able to see it for themselves. Seoul is very fast-paced and futuristic (they had smart phones years before they were common here) and is a great setting for a high-tech thriller. However, the book ended up splitting itself into two books (something which gave me great sadness because everyone knows I am #TeamStandalone), and so the first book is set in St. Louis and the sequel is set mostly in Seoul. It will make sense when you read it, I swear ;)

What scene was really hard for you to write and why, and is that the one of which you are most proud? Or is there another scene you particularly love?

Winter has an incredibly sad backstory and early in this book her sister is killed, which sends my already struggling main character into deep, deep despair. There are multiple places in the book where Winter fantasizes about harming herself, and although she doesn't actually go through with it, just embracing her thought processes was really hard for me.

A scene I particularly love is one where she and her friend Jesse are sent to Florida to swim with sharks to record a ViSE (vicarious sensory experience). I have not swam with sharks but I have always wanted to, and researching this scene was so much fun. Not only did I get to learn about different shark species and SNUBA/scuba equipment, but I watched a lot of videos and took the time to imagine the scene over and over, and focusing on the tiniest details like the way a shadow might look underwater or they way your body moves when you're wearing scuba fins.

What book or books would most resonate with readers who love your book--or visa versa?

I would recommend VICARIOUS for readers who enjoyed Lissa Price's STARTERS, Lindsay Cummings THE MURDER COMPLEX, Suzanne Young's THE PROGRAM and Stieg Larsson's THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO. Basically if you like light sci-fi and/or dark murder mysteries, this is your book!

What did this book teach you about writing or about yourself?

This book taught me that I need to trust my characters, trust my editor, and trust my first instincts. I wrote VICARIOUS in 2012 and finished revisions in early 2013. Due to contract clauses and the whims of publishing, this book didn't end up going out on wide submission until early 2014. It sold in May of 2014, but scheduling issues pushed the publication date back a few months to August 2016. From mid-2014 to mid-2015, I stumbled across a couple of to-be-published titles that had some plot similarities. Well-meaning friends who had beta-read VICARIOUS pointed out at least three more (after that I quit counting) "possibly similar books" that were going to be publishing first. This was enough to nearly give me a nervous breakdown and I am not even kidding. I almost ripped the book apart and tried to rebuild it into something completely different because I was so worried that my beloved story was going to be labeled as derivative and not given a chance.

But my editor told me she wasn't worried, that despite some superficial plot similarities with other books, VICARIOUS was unique in terms of world-building, characters, and overall story. I actually replotted the entire book just to see what would change if I pulled out the similar elements, and I decided that I would lose too much of who Winter is, that I would be sacrificing her identity for the sake of trying to be different. I didn't want to do that, to carve away things I had written in a state of freedom and fearlessness just because I wasn't sure how they would be received. Winter's experiences are valid, even if she shares some of them with other book heroines who experienced them first.

What are you working on now?

So many secret things :D I still have line-edits for one 2017 release and copy-edits for two of them to get through, plus a finished new adult book I'll be self-publishing that I need to deal with, but after several months of nonstop revision I am finally working on outlining and drafting two new projects--an adult thriller and a YA action/adventure. I LOVE NEW PROJECTS! :D


by Paula Stokes
Tor Teen
Released 8/16/2016

Winter Kim and her sister, Rose, have always been inseparable. Together, the two of them survived growing up in a Korean orphanage and being trafficked into the United States.

Now they work as digital stunt girls for Rose’s ex-boyfriend, Gideon, engaging in dangerous and enticing activities while recording their neural impulses for his Vicarious Sensory Experiences, or ViSEs. Whether it’s bungee jumping, shark diving, or grinding up against celebrities at the city’s hottest dance clubs, Gideon can make it happen for you, for a price.

When Rose disappears and a ViSE recording of her murder is delivered to Gideon, Winter won’t rest until she finds her sister’s killer. But when the clues she uncovers conflict with the neural recordings her sister made, Winter isn’t sure what to believe. To find out what happened to Rose, she’ll have to untangle what’s real from what only seems real, risking her life in the process.

Purchase Vicarious at Amazon
Purchase Vicarious at IndieBound
View Vicarious on Goodreads


Paula Stokes is the author of several novels, most recently Vicarious and Girl Against the Universe. Her writing has been translated into eleven foreign languages. Paula loves kayaking, hiking, reading, and seeking out new adventures in faraway lands. She also loves interacting with readers. Find her online at or on twitter as @pstokesbooks.


Have you had a chance to read VICARIOUS yet? What type of research do you do to make a scene feel real? Do you get stressed when you see a book with a premise similar to the one you're working on? Share your thoughts about the interview in the comments!

Happy reading,

Jocelyn, Shelly, Martina, Anisaa, Sam, Erin, Susan, Michelle, Laura, and Kristin

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