Five minutes with Jack Heath
Published on: 01 August 2014
First things first, Replica had us on the edge of our seats, fiendishly turning the pages for more (and even had some of us wishing for a longer commute!) How did the story come about?
Thanks for the praise! This must sound grim, but a few people close to me died in fairly quick succession. I found myself at funerals, dealing with coffins and ashes and wondering how my loved ones would cope when someday I was the one going into the ground. Maybe by the time that happened, it would be possible to build a mechanical duplicate of myself so no-one even realised I was gone.
And then I thought - what would it be like to be that duplicate? Pretending to be human, wearing someone else's face, lying to all these people who didn't know they should be grieving?
It was less like having an idea and more like being struck by lightning. Replica was born.
Reading Replica almost feels like you're watching a film as the story really comes alive - how do you achieve this effect?
I think even the most exciting plot in the world can be boring if it isn't told right, so I tried to focus on three things. Firstly, surprise; I threw in as many important but misleading clues as possible, to keep Chloe and the reader guessing. Secondly, sensation; Chloe is a machine who's been programmed to have thoughts and emotions, so I spent a long time trying to imagine what that would really feel like. And lastly, empathy. I wanted the reader to fall in love with Chloe, so I made sure that all her actions were consistent with those of a good person in a horrible situation.
What kind of research did you do for the book? Did you find out any fun facts?
As usual, I turned up a number of alarming things. Just for starters, quantum computers are getting closer and closer to the point where they'll be able to break the sort of encryption used by all the world's banks. Also, you can order frighteningly realistic silicone replicas of human bodies over the internet. Both of those facts make me uneasy, for different reasons.
Do you have any more books in store for us?
I actually have five books coming out next year! Four of them are horror novels for kids aged 9-12, and the other one is a YA espionage thriller set in Eastern Europe. None of them is Replica 2, but that's also something I am very keen to write. Not sure what to call it, though. Duplicate? Or perhaps Replica 2: The Duplicationing. That has a nice ring to it.
If someone loved reading Replica, what other books would you recommend to them?
If they loved the 'What is real? What is fake? What is human?' stuff, it's hard to go past Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick, which is a thousand times better than the movie. If they liked the fusion of sci-fi, action and YA, I recommend BZRK by Michael Grant. And if they enjoyed the emotional core of the story - and Chloe's desperate web of lies - then they will love Liar, by Justine Larbalestier.