Today I am so excited to be participating in the blog tour for Shell by Paula Rawsthorne! This book has been on my radar for a while, and I finally read it in December, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it! I will begin by sharing a bit about the book itself, before moving on to an interview with Paula Rawsthorne about her writing process.
What if you thought you had died, only to wake up to find that your brain and eyes had been transplanted into someone else’s body?
When Lucy, a teen diagnosed with terminal cancer wakes up cancer-free, it should be a dream come true. But faced with a life she didn’t choose and trapped in a new body, Lucy must face the biggest question of all . . . How far would you go to save the one you love?
Paula Rawsthorne is the award-winning author of Blood Tracks and The Truth about Celia Frost. She first found success when she won the BBC National ‘Get Writing’ competition with her prize-winning story read on Radio 4. She has also been a winner of SCBWI’s ‘Undiscovered Voices. She is passionate about enthusing teenagers to get reading and is a writer in residence in a secondary school for the national literacy charity ‘First Story’. SHELL is her third novel for young adults.
What three words would you use to describe Shell?
Body transplant thriller
What inspired you to write a modern-day retelling of Frankenstein?
Whilst Shell isn’t attempting to be a retelling of Frankenstein it definitely drew inspiration from Mary Shelley’s incredible gothic novel (which is often considered to be the first work of science fiction). The main element of Frankenstein that inspired Shell was the theme of a scientist playing God and creating something that was considered ‘against nature’. In Shell I put Lucy (the scientist’s ‘creation’) centre stage. We’re inside her head, experiencing all the physical, emotional and psychological trauma that she goes through when a body transplant is performed on her without her consent. I reference Frankenstein in Lucy’s English class and she acutely feels the parallels between her and the creature, as she considers herself a freak and is terrified that society will reject her if she’s exposed.
What was the most challenging thing you faced whilst writing Shell?
I loved writing Shell but it was challenging in that it was an intense book to work-on due to the subject matter and being inside Lucy’s head with all she has to cope with. I hope that it’s paid off and that the reader finds it an immersive read.
Science is quite a big theme in this book – did you do any research to prepare for writing Shell?
Yes, I certainly did and I found it fascinating. I read so much research on the mechanics that would be involved in a body transplant operation. I discovered cases of scientists attempting the procedure. I examined debates about whether it would ever be possible and if it should ever be possible. I thought a great deal about the physicality of being in a donor body and what aspects of the donor body might possibly override the transplant patient’s brain. I read up on neurosurgery (also watching brain surgery on Youtube where the patient is awake during the procedure) and the question of what is and where is your consciousness. All these aspects were vital for my research because, for me, the biggest question amongst all of Shell’s themes is ‘what makes us who we are?’
Why did you choose to set the book in America (as a British author yourself)?
I made a decision to set Shell in America as I wanted somewhere geographically distant from the UK and I felt there was more scope for someone who’d had a body transplant not to be discovered in a country the size of America. I really enjoyed the challenge of writing a story based there and I used American spellings throughout the book for authenticity as Lucy (my sole narrator) is American and we’re listening to her voice.
What was your favourite part or scene in the book to write?
Without giving away too much, I’ll say that I particularly loved writing the graveyard scene with Lucy and Mak. You never know how it will come across to a reader, but for me writing it was an emotional experience.
What would your ideal cast be?
That’s a difficult one because I never imagined the characters as real actors, even though they feel very real to me and I could see what they looked like as I was writing. However, I’d say that Nicole Kidman would be a great choice to play Lucy’s mom as she has that sophisticated exterior but with a rather frightening steely core that means she’ll go to extremes to get what she wants. Also, I think George Clooney would be up to the challenge of playing Dr. Radnor – he has the ‘silver-fox’ looks and charm of Dr. Radnor whilst having so much more going on beneath the surface. Amber Riley (in her teen days) would be great to play Lucy’s best friend, Makayla. She has the right look, demeanour and attitude to be someone as appealing as Mak. As for Lucy herself well, she of course starts off with her original body but is then given the donor’s body, so I’d rather leave it up to readers to decide who they see playing her. That’s the great thing about books, ultimately the reader can decide how they picture everything.
And finally – what would be your advice for aspiring writers?
My advice is basic but crucial – Don’t just keep saying you want to write a novel, you’ve got to make a start and get writing. Then keep the momentum going and stay excited about your story.
I loved reading Paula’s answers, and gaining further insight into Shell, and I really hope you did too! Shell is out now, and if you, like me, think the summary and interview sounded pretty amazing, I would urge you to buy a copy for yourself! Thank you so much to Olivia over at Scholastic for organising this interview, and to Paula for answering my questions in such excellent detail. This interview is taking place mid way through the blog tour, so make sure to check out the stops before mine, and the other content coming later this week!