An Interview with Lissa Price, Author, ‘Starters’


Lissa Price is the author of Starters, a dystopian science fiction tale set in a world where the very old can rent the bodies of the very young:

In a world ravaged by war and genocide, becoming someone else is now possible. Sixteen-year-old Callie discovers the Body Bank where teens rent their bodies to seniors who want to be young again. When her neurochip malfunctions, she wakes up in the mansion of her rich renter and finds she is going out with a senator’s grandson. It’s a fairy-tale new life, until she discovers her renter’s deadly plan.

What’s Starters all about? What inspired you to create this story?

Sometimes inspiration comes in the form of a spectacular opening sentence, sometimes with the vision of a complex protagonist. In my case? It was with the hope of a flu shot- not as romantic but just as inspiring. We had a shortage of vaccines in the US a few years ago and so they allowed the old and infirm and the young to be vaccinated first. Well, I started musing over the fact that if a deadly flu pandemic DID hit, we would be left with only the very young and the very old! This imaginary flu pandemic became the Spore Wars and that was the seed of Starters.

Tell me a little bit about your protagonist. Is she anything like you?

I would like to think so. But really, she is more an amalgamation of many. I didn’t want my protagonist to be perceived as needing to be “rescued” from what her life had become, but someone who was doing her best to survive and thrive in the environment she lived in, using whatever “tools” she has at her disposal. She is a reflection of the strengths and courage in a lot of the teens today, and I had a blast spending time with her in these two books!

The world of Starters is a pretty scary place. Do you think we’re heading toward a similar future?

Gosh, I hope not. But when you look at our past, we have survived some things that COULD have come straight out of a horror novel. Callie embodies the fight to survive within the human condition, and I would like to think that many would stand as she does in an effort to prevent the unthinkable.

The premise of Starters sounds like it could have some resonance with real-world issues, child exploitation and abuse among them. Were any of these issues in mind when you wrote the book?

When I write, even though I have an outline to work from, there is always a point where I become simply a stenographer for what the characters are telling me happens next. I was not interested in talking about abuse. I wanted to get to the ideas, and some of the themes I had planned to explore appeared on the page next to some that surprised me- but initially, I wanted to tell the story of one girl’s strength to do whatever it took in order to keep what was left of her “family” safe. Something which I think a lot of readers of any age can identify with.

Body swapping is a time-honored trope of fantastic entertainment, from Freaky Friday to present day movies like The Change-Up. In these instances it’s used to comic effect, but not so in Starters. How did you go about developing the “rules” behind your book’s technology?

In an organic way. Step by step, as Callie’s needs arose.

Would you be tempted to use this technology yourself if it was available?

It really depends on the situation.

What’s next for you?

I am finishing Enders, the second and final book in the series, which is shaping up to once again surprise even me. And we are finally releasing the film rights to the series the beginning of next week, after the Starters book trailer will play before The Hunger Games movie opening weekend in selected theaters. So expect to hear news about that shortly.