Charlie Jane Anders is the author of Victories Greater Than Death, the first book in a new young-adult trilogy coming in April 2021, along with the forthcoming short story collection Even Greater Mistakes. Her other books include The City in the Middle of the Night and All the Birds in the Sky. Her fiction and journalism have appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Slate, McSweeney’s, Mother Jones, the Boston Review, Tor.com, Tin House, Teen Vogue, Conjunctions, Wired Magazine, and other places. Her TED Talk, “Go Ahead, Dream About the Future” got 700,000 views in its first week. With Annalee Newitz, she co-hosts the podcast Our Opinions Are Correct.
Voyage: What was the inspiration behind your novel, Victories Greater than Death? What made you want to tell this story?
Charlie Jane Anders: When I was a kid, all I wanted was for a spaceship to swoop down and take me away from this planet—especially if the aliens revealed that I was really one of them, and I never belonged here on Earth (as I had always suspected.) I was a nerdy, queer kid with a severe learning disability, and I spent a lot of time on my own, making up stories in my head about starships and superheroes. That dream of being rescued by aliens turned into the story of Tina waiting to reclaim her destiny as an alien—but the more I thought about it, the more I felt like Tina would need to discover the limitations of being a heroic savior as part of her journey.
V: When you write your stories, what is the one thing you hope readers will take away?
CJA: I used to think that the point of my fiction was absurdism, pointing out the absurdity of life and the unshakable fact that all of our institutions and governing ideals are pure nonsense. And there’s still some of that in the mix, a lot of the time. But increasingly, I think the main thing I want to write about is human connection and the communities that sustain us. I like to write stories about relationships, and how they are tested and change and grow and sometimes fall apart. And of course, chosen family, which is a huge theme in Victories.
V: What was the hardest scene of Victories Greater than Death to write?
CJA: I’m tempted to say “all of them.” I think the hardest scene to get right was probably the big Rachael/Tina scene before the final battle (no spoilers here), in which Rachael finally talks to Tina about why Rachael really admires her. This scene changed a lot over the course of revisions, partly because the Rachael/Tina relationship kept changing. And it’s vital, because even with all the other relationships in the book, the Rachael/Tina friendship is the core of the story—that’s why the first scene and the last scene of the book are both Rachael/Tina scenes. That one scene, on board the Skin of Our Teeth, was a huge turning point and I had to get it right at all costs.
V: If you could tell your younger writer self anything, what would it be?
CJA: Don’t try so hard to be clever. Try harder to be empathetic.
V: What are your writing must-haves?
CJA: Coffee. Lots and lots of coffee. Also, some good writing music—depending on the day, it’s Parliament-Funkadelic, the Mountain Goats, Tower of Power or Liniker e os Caramelows. And lately, my cat. He’s a great sounding board and never fails to give me helpful feedback.
Head to our Instagram page (@voyageya) to hear Charlie read the first page of Victories Greater Than Death! Find Charlie’s video under the IGTV tab.
*This post contains affiliate links to the Voyage YA Bookshop.