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Mind Games

Teri Terry

In this society, standing out from the crowd is dangerous and misfit Luna has secrets to hide.

To protect herself, she refuses to enter the virtual world created by the all-powerful organisation PareCo, yet they still have their eye on her. How long can her explosive secrets remain hidden?

Teri Terry talked to us about MIND GAMES:

Q: In the world you create in Mind Games, rationality is prized more than intelligence. What sparked your interest in this area?

A: I read this article by Keith Stanovich who researched rationality and intelligence. He proposed that someone can be both intelligent and irrational because they are separate traits.

The whole issue of intelligence and IQ is something that interests me. It probably also resonates with teenagers, who are constantly being tested at school.

But I don't think intelligence has got any bearing on how worthwhile you are as a human. I have spent way too much time at university and I have got to know people who are very intelligent but who can't handle the basic things of life.

Plus, we put our faith in institutions like banks that hire the brightest and best, but they have crashed due to corporate stupidity. So, what if we had a society that valued rationality instead of intelligence? Would that be any better?

To explore something like this I needed a changed world and I decided that to do it as a futuristic world would work. I would say Mind Games is more sci-fi than dystopian.

Q: Did you need to become a gamer as part of your research for the virtual world you create in Mind Games?

A: I have friends who are into gaming but I am not, mostly because I get vertigo really easily. I used to love Nintendo when it first came out but, as video games got better and more realistic, playing them made me feel more sick. In Mind Games, my main character Luna also feels nauseous when she has to straddle the real and virtual worlds.

But I have had a taste of how enticing the virtual can be. I remember I was in the US, trying out this part-virtual, part-physical game in which you are physically moved as you watch a movie on a screen. It was amazing and it made me think how enticing that kind of world is, the escapism of it.

If you could really devise a world that looks how you want and populate it with the people you want, how attractive would that be? Although I think it might also get a bit boring.

Q: The virtual world you create in Mind Games is very inviting - but are there dangers in how appealing the virtual could become?

A: The online world is a very seductive one and I can see why teens would love a virtual life because they can change whatever they want to about themselves and communicate through this 'enhanced' self. Teen life today is so different from just a few years ago. I can remember our school having a computer that we weren't allowed to touch but for teenagers now, social networking is ingrained in their social lives.

In Mind Games, the two worlds become so much a part of each other. Whatever you think and feel and do in the real world is reflected in the virtual world and vice versa, you can't separate them, and Luna has this special ability where she can be in both worlds at the same time, so she's an extreme example of that.

Q: The organisation that controls this virtual world, PareCo, is all-powerful. Do you sense that we already have the seeds for a future 'PareCo' in today's global corporates?

A: It's a bit alarming how a few very big organisations like Google, Amazon and Apple are in control of so much of our lives. Everything you buy or access online can be tied in with one company and it becomes part of your everyday life.

The online world is also becoming very commercialised. I'm very careful what I put online; as an author I use social networks so I know what it involves. But you can still see how they use information from your searches to try to sell you other things.

Q: Many of the 'future worlds' we read about in literature for young people are pretty bleak and there have been calls for a more positive outlook. Do you agree?

A: Do young people need stories with more hope? I don't think that anything I've published doesn't provide hope at the end and I'm mindful of doing so. I do think that anytime you want to write a story, bad things have to happen. If you set it in a future world where everything is lovely, you won't have much of a story...

Q: Have you always wanted to be an author?

A: I remember being told to write a book in school when I was about ten and the one I wrote was 50 pages long and with chapters, a title etc. By my last year in high school I knew I wanted to write but I didn't think it was something that ordinary people did, it seemed unobtainable, so my writing ebbed and flowed.

I first started writing seriously when I moved to the UK 11 years ago. I had been working as an optometrist In Australia and had to think about what it was I wanted to do in the UK. I thought, I've always wanted to write a novel, and so I started writing.

Slated is the ninth novel I wrote, there were a lot more unpublished ones before that. I'm always amazed when people get their first ever book published, it's a lucky thing but I think you also suffer after that because it's a tough learning curve and there are huge pressures on your next books.

Q: What has been one of your best moments as an author?

A: A big thing for me last year was going to Germany, to the Frankfurt Book Fair. Slated has done really well in Germany and people queued up for over an hour to have their book signed.

In the past when you had a book published, that was it - your book would disappear off and you'd never hear anything about it, but now it's nice that you get messages from fans all the time.

Q: How careful are you to plan before you start writing?

A: I do a lot more planning than I used to. Even so, Mind Games evolved a lot. I thought I would make it into two books, the first one ending when Luna goes to the Island, but what really drew the whole book together was the decision to divide it into parts using numerology. I knew that there was something missing from the story and when that fell into place, all of it just clicked.

Q: What have you been working on since Mind Games?

A: I've already written another stand-alone novel, Book of Lies.

I might do a series next although by the time I had finished Slated, I had decided I didn't want to do another series but that might change.

Series are more demanding and less so at the same time because you've established the world and its characters and you know where you're starting and where you're going to end, but the Slated trilogy was also very complex and it was challenging to write.

Plus I haven't ruled out a follow-up to Mind Games, so watch this space!

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