Jude was born in the UK and grew up in both Sussex and Surrey, where she dabbled in various jobs from care worker to roulette croupier to language tutor, all the while scribbling down various ideas and frightening random people by asking them equally random questions about astrophysics and genetic science. She currently lives in Japan, where she divides her time between writing for a bilingual travel magazine, WAttention, binge-watching Netflix and Hulu and just about anything connected with the J-Pop band Arashi, working on her next few books and their associated media, and hunting for the perfect takoyaki vendor. She's married, with a too-curious black cat called Anko who uses his awesome hunting skills to protect her from fluffy mice, evil balls of yarn, and – if no other target presents itself - her own feet. If you should meet her in the wild, do not panic. Simply coax her back inside to her writing space with a nice, chocolate-chip cookie and a bottle of chilled yuzu soda. If she seems reluctant, promise to subscribe to her official newsletter via her website at https://www.judeaustin.net That always makes her happy. As our Author of the Day, she tells us all about her book, Project Tau.
Please give us a short introduction to what Project Tau is about.
Project Tau is about the need to fit in, and the extremes people - particularly younger people; in this case, college freshman Kalin Taylor - will go to in order to achieve that. It's about the ethics and ramifications of human cloning, and the responsibility people have to consider not just the failures of scientific research, but also the successes. Kalin does something suicidally crazy for the sake of fitting in, and he finds himself locked up in the laboratories of the mega-corporation, GenTech, facing the rest of his life as a Project, or human clone.
What inspired you to write about human clones who are seen as no more than livestock?
There was no real light bulb moment, to tell you the truth. I remember writing a short story about a corrupt government cloning its best athletes, artists etc, so that might have played a part in it. Despite its publication date, Project Tau was actually written in 2006, when a lot of the CGI tricks weren't available, so making Tau a clone also made it easier for adaptation purposes. I also absolutely hate books that feature super-computers, advanced robots and big space battles (alien races are acceptable if they're well done. Most of them aren't). The livestock part came about because slavery has been outlawed in the universe of the books for several centuries, and also because the word slave carries far more negative connotations than the word pet or livestock. Make them animals under the law and the creators can do what they like.
Tell us more about Kalin Taylor. What makes him tick?
Kalin is basically a lonely genius. We learn in the book that he has an IQ of 192, putting him light years ahead of his peers, and that he has a very strained relationship with his father. Part of his reason for choosing his college, apart from it being the most prestigious one in existence, is that it's on a planet a long way from his homeworld, enabling him - he thinks - to have a fresh start among people who have never met him. Unfortunately, it all goes very, very wrong.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
Scuba diving, hula dancing, and game design.
Readers say this book contains a lot of moral tension. Why did you take this approach?
I didn't, at least, not intentionally ;) I write reality, and in a book containing subjects such as human rights, dehumanization, and gaslighting, there obviously has to be a lot of psychological tension for it to be realistic. At the end of the day, I don't write books to say, "Okay, I want to explore THIS theme" or "I want people to think about THIS issue." Don't get me wrong; I think it's great when people talk about my books and say that they made them think, but at the end of the day, my books are purely stories to entertain. If people start thinking about deeper issues because they read them, that's just a nice bonus :)
Did you plan all the twists before you started writing, or did some of it just "happen" along the way?
Everything just happened. I tend not to plan my stories, and on the rare occasions when I do, I always end up having to change my plans anyway XD
Tell us more about the cover and how it came about.
The cover was done by a designer at 99designs. I had a couple of ideas for the cover, mostly centered around Tau in a vat, and so I ran a contest on that site. The cover design you see now is the winning entry. Unlike the sequel, Homecoming, where I was very hard-pushed to choose between them, this was a clear winner.
This is the first book in a series. Can it be read as a standalone? How do the other books in the series tie in with this one?
Yes, it can definitely be read as a standalone. The other books continue the saga of Kalin and Tau, and other main characters that show up throughout the series.
Do you have any interesting writing habits? What is an average writing day like for you?
No interesting habits, I'm afraid. An average writing day (which is basically the same as an average day) involves me getting up, coming downstairs, stopping the cat from attacking my feet, then settling in with my laptop in front of the TV and writing all day. Or until the cat jumps on me.
What are you working on right now?
Right now, I'm working on Book 3 in the Projects saga. I have no idea what it's going to be called, though! Book 2 (Homecoming) was published earlier this year and is available on Amazon.
The power of friendship plays a big role in the story. Why was this an important theme to explore?
I suppose it does, although I never really thought about it in those terms. Like I said, I don't come up with the themes before writing the book, so it's fascinating to me to learn how other people view it. Certainly, Tau and Kalin form a strong bond built on shared suffering, and they're the first friend that the other has ever had. I think their friendship is what keeps them going throughout the book.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
I have an official Twitter account at JudeAustin18, a Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/Jude-Austin-623637971366739/ and an official website at judeaustin.net, where you can keep up with everything I'm doing and subscribe to my official newsletter for behind the scenes and sneak peeks at future books!