It is a thrill to welcome the bestselling author of Tipping Point, Michelle Cook back to the blog to discuss the dystopian fiction she writes.
People call me a pessimist. I like to think it’s more constructive than that. I’m quite talented at spotting problems so I can work on their solutions, that’s how I prefer to phrase it. Granted, I find it a tad easier to identify the problems than the solutions, but don’t we all?
I think that’s why I like writing dystopian fiction so much. The huge attraction for me is being able to take problems in our lives or society and make them so much worse. Fictionally speaking, of course.
See, quite a lot of the issues that incense me don’t seem to bother others so much. Nobody likes to see power abused, human cruelty, or the destruction of the natural world for profit. But many people are able to assimilate this knowledge, register their distaste, and carry on with their lives. If I’m not careful, for me it builds up until it makes me feel physically ill.
It sounds dramatic, but it’s true. The last time it happened--UK readers will remember back in March this year the trouble at the Sarah Everard vigil and the debate that ensued. For those who don’t know, Sarah Everard is a young woman who was randomly murdered while walking home in London one night by an off-duty officer in the Metropolitan police. Organisers of a vigil in her memory were told they could not gather due to Covid restrictions. Some did anyway, and things got out of hand, leading to several attendees being arrested by officers serving in the very force that employed Sarah’s murderer. The spectacle of women being man-handled and hand-cuffed at a vigil to mourn violence against women could almost have been a scene cut from The Handmaid’s Tale.
That weekend, I was jumpy and irritable. My heart pounded and I was unable to relax with my family because of the futile rage in my belly. There are other examples, but you get the picture.
So what do I do with this rage? I write it out. I take a problem that seems tolerable to most people, and I exaggerate it so I can say, “See? Look what this will become if we don’t do something.”
Ah, but then I’ve put myself in the position of having to come up with the something. Fictionally speaking, of course.
That’s how it was when I came to write my eco-thriller Tipping Point. The story is set in the near future, in an England where poverty, terrorism and catastrophic climate change are facts of our lives; none more so than that of the main character, Essie Glass. Essie, traumatised by the loss of her family in a bombing, ekes out a living as a waitress. When she uncovers a murderous conspiracy to suppress technology that could save the environment from disaster, she must decide how far she’s willing to go to expose it.
The book doesn’t shy away from issues that scare me, climate collapse being the most terrifying of all. And I had to try even harder to solve the problems I posed. For both Tipping Point and the sequel I am working on right now, there was a fair bit of geeky scientific research—another bonus—into such subjects as carbon capture and conversion, and what might happen to Norfolk if sea levels rise. Sorry Norfolk, but I did also target Havana, if that’s any consolation.
So I suppose you could say my genre choice is a coping mechanism of sorts. From the sanctuary of my armchair, it’s my way of changing the world for the better. Fictionally speaking, of course.
Michelle Cook writes thrillers and dystopian fiction. She lives in the UK with her husband, their two young children, and a cat called Lyra Belacqua. Her first joyful steps into creative writing were at the age of ten, when the teacher read out her short story in class. A slapstick tale of two talking kangaroos breaking out of a zoo, the work was sadly lost to history. Still, Michelle never forgot the buzz of others enjoying her words. More recently, she has had several flash pieces published, was longlisted for the Cambridge 2020 prize for flash fiction, and placed first in the February 2020 Writers' Forum competition with her short story The Truth About Cherry House. Tipping Point is her debut novel, with a sequel in the pipeline.
Social Media: https://linktr.ee/michellecookwriter
Buy Tipping Point: mybook.to/tippingpoint