Born in Texas, Scott Westerfeld grew up there, in California, and Connecticut. Prior to his current career, Westerfeld was a factory worker, substitute teacher, textbook editor, software designer, and ghost writer before becoming a professional writer. Now, Westerfeld is the author of over 25 novels. His latest series is the “Imposters” and Mirror’s Edge is the third volume under this banner. Wanting to learn more about his background and Mirror’s Edge, I was able to interview Westerfeld for ScifiPulse.
Nicholas Yanes: Growing up, what stories did you love? Are there any you still enjoy revisiting?
Scott Westerfeld: Charlotte’s Web was my favorite book, and I just reread it a year ago. Still great, because it’s all about the power of words to save your friends from being eaten. As a writer, if I can save just one person from being eaten, it’s all been worth it.
Yanes: When did you know you wanted to pursue a career in writing? Was there a moment this goal crystalized for you?
Westerfeld: I come from a big family of storytellers. Reunions could be sprawling and chaotic, but eventually there would be an older person holding several generations of us rapt with stories of their life. So the power of language and story was always around me.
Yanes: Becoming a professional writer is almost like winning the lotto. When did you know you had made it as a professional author?
Westerfeld: Hah. One is never fully secure in this career, and there’s always some sense that you have to reinvent yourself for every novel. But there comes a time about two-thirds of the way through that I say, “Oh yeah, I DO know how to do this.”
Yanes: You have published a lot of novels. What is your work ethic like? Specifically, do you follow a strict routine when it comes to publishing?
Westerfeld: I write after coffee and before whisky. Any other timing leads to disaster. When I was in my 30s, I tried for 1500 words a day. In my 40s, a thousand. Now I just shoot for 500. This trend bodes well for the future.
Yanes: Your career has spanned over two decades. What do you see as the biggest changes in the publishing industry?
Westerfeld: YA fiction has gone from a sleepy backwater to an industry-leading powerhouse, and has lately slipped back into something between the two. These mood swings are to be expected, I guess. Teenagers are still being invented, after all, being a category created only in the last 80 years or so. It’s been fun to ride those waves.
Yanes: Your upcoming book is Mirror’s Edge. What was the inspiration for this novel? As the third volume in the Imposters series, which story arcs did you want to focus in on?
Westerfeld: Mirror’s Edge is about life in a total surveillance city. Some people manage to disappear, while others embrace being watched all the time. There’s even a clique who perform their lives for future historians, knowing that the data they create will last a long time after they die. I wanted to explore how social media makes us all performers of our own selfhood.
Yanes: The world of the Imposters is set in the future but feels based on technology we almost have. What type of research did you do while shaping the settings for the Imposters? Were there elements of social media and surveillance you wanted to focus on?
Westerfeld: I’m mostly interested in how humans react to technology. So many young people “self surveil,” offering their data (and pics of their breakfast) to the social media gods every day. The people trying to lead “historic lives” in Mirror’s Edge are just logical extensions of that process.
Yanes: The dynamic relationship between sisters Frey and Rafi feels very authentic. Was there connection based on people you know?
Westerfeld: Frey and Rafi are more like the two parts of me. Rafi is gregarious and public, Frey is hidden and private, a bit dangerous, a bit wounded. I think we all have those two pieces of ourselves—the Instagram us and the behind-the-scenes version.
Yanes: When people finish reading Mirror’s Edge what do you hope they take away from the experience?
Westerfeld: We all perform our identities, even if we don’t use social media. Thinking about how we create ourselves for other people is always useful. It lets us step outside our everyday life, which opens up possibilities for different ways of existing.
Yanes: Finally, what else are you working on that people can look forward to?
Westerfeld: Book 4, the finale of the series, comes out January 2022!