(We’re in for another round of Variant Bonus Features! I’m blogging about three chapters every Monday, Wednesday and Friday until Feedback is released, October 2nd. These blogs will be FULL OF SPOILERS, but they’ll only spoil Variant—they won’t ruin any of your fun in reading Feedback.) THESE BONUS FEATURES ARE WRITTEN ASSUMING YOU’VE READ THE ENTIRE BOOK, NOT JUST THE CHAPTERS MENTIONED. YOU’VE BEEN WARNED.
–Jane’s act of defiance was actually based on a real experience I had in high school. A teacher had been suspended due to some allegations that I, and many of my fellow students, believed to be false. (The charges weren’t any deviant behavior–he was just alleged to be flaunting district guidelines. He was reinstated after only a few days.)
Anyway, one late night after a basketball game, a group of concerned students and I broke into the main office (it wasn’t really breaking and entering–we coerced someone in student government who had a key) and we got access to the school’s marquis. We put a big bold message up there, declaring “Bring Back Mr. _________”. We got in enormous trouble for it, particularly because it made the principal and vice-principal very embarrassed.
(I’m not recommending you students should do this sort of thing. But in high school I was very into the idea of civil disobedience.)
So, Jane’s changing the sign at the dance was a similar act of disobedience that, while seemingly minimal, seemed to me like it could really infuriate the rule keepers (The Society and the school).
–In addition to casting all of the characters, like I mentioned on Monday, I also will collect pictures that are associated with them (for example, the picture of Becky’s finger curls I mentioned a while ago). I have two reasons for doing this: first, it helps with consistency, so I don’t change a character’s haircolor halfway through the book. And second, one of my weaknesses as a writer is in physical descriptions, and it’s easier for me to work off of a photograph (especially if I’m describing something I’m not familiar with, like a hairdo or a dress). So, in my character encyclopedia, I have pictures of the dresses that a few of the girls wore to the dance.
Here are Jane and Becky’s dresses. I particularly like the one I chose for Becky, as it’s both modern and old fashioned, with an almost art deco feel to the lines (fitting The Society’s 1920′s/30′s fashions). Jane’s is more generic, but still pretty; she didn’t seem like the type of girl to go for the big glamour of The Society, and Benson’s description of her in the dress focuses on her, not on the dress: he talks about her hair and her legs and her skin.
And in case you’re wondering, I didn’t pick a photo for Mouse’s dress (which is described as “somewhere in between a dress and lingerie”).
–Originally, Jane was attacked immediately after the kiss, but my amazing editor, Erica, recommended that Benson and Jane have the fight after the kiss. I works so much better this way–it really deliniates the difference between the two of them, and it adds so much internal conflict to Benson afterward, giving him both a sense of guilt (that her last moments alive were negative) but also a tremendous suspicion that Jane only existed to keep him from running away.
–If there was one thing I was trying to convey with the end of the last chapter and the beginning of this one, it’s: brutality. I didn’t want to pull any punches. I wanted this to be a shocking, grisly murder. In the back of my mind I was thinking of Psycho: how Janet Leigh was the best known actor in the movie, and was the apparent heroine, and then she was killed 1/3 of the way through. In Variant, Jane appeared to be the heroine, and Benson’s best friend–and she’d just become his love interest, sealed with a kiss! And then she was not only killed, but killed in a horrible way: “I saw Dylan raise the pipe and hack it down onto Jane. I watched him do it again. And again.”
This was all because Variant was intended as a paranoia story. It’s about Benson, finally getting some kind personal relationship, and then having that not only snatched away from him, but also losing the ability to trust ANYONE. Anyone could be a murderer, and, worse, anyone could be an android.
–And of course, the brutality of the attack was followed up by the shocking reveal of who (or what) she actually was.
The Full List of Bonus Features: