Written by: K H Canobi
In a time when nothing is as real as virtual reality, sixteen-year-old Eila is shortlisted in a competition by a global technology giant. But then law enforcement officers force her to spy for them, underground activists reveal a murderous plot and someone uses virtual reality to fill her head with a stranger’s thoughts.
Amid secrets, lies and distortions, Eila must decide how far she will go to protect innocent lives.
“Tech-savvy readers searching for sophisticated YA science fiction with a contemporary cyberpunk twist will find Canobi’s debut a must-read.” Catherine Moller, Books + Publishing
"Mindcull is a fast-paced, intelligent, high-concept science fiction novel that is completely impossible to put down." Marie Alafaci, Magpies Magazine
"Pacy, thought-provoking, eye-opening," Michael Pryor
"YA SF at its best!" George Ivanoff
"Mindcull is a great young adult future thriller with a touch of romance. It is an exciting and fast paced book with a strong, flawed female protagonist and deals with issues such as family loss, technology addiction and mental health." Libby Boas, Reading Time, Online Journal of Children's Book Council of Australia
". . . relatable characters and fast-paced action make for an enjoyable read." Donella Reed, ReadPlus Blog
K H Canobi writes fiction for young adults and children. Mindcull is her debut novel. Prior to writing Mindcull, she worked as a cognitive scientist and university lecturer, completing a PhD and postdoctoral fellowship in developmental psychology at Melbourne University where she now holds an honorary fellowship. She is the mother of four young book devourers.
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What was the inspiration behind Mindcull?
As a cognitive scientist, I’ve been researching how people learn and change for a while and I’m really interested in how our experiences with technology affect our thinking. The teenage years are a key time for working out your identity and developing authentic relationships and those things are particularly challenging in a world where people can escape into immersive game environments and post their own versions of reality on social media.
When I was thinking about how being a teenager has changed over the last twenty or thirty years, it made me wonder about the future. Technology will almost certainly keep altering our lives in ways that we can’t imagine. I wondered what it would be like to be a teenager in a time when everyone relies on virtual reality headsets in the same way we rely on smartphones. I imagined a girl becoming popular on some future version of social media and attracting the notice of powerful people. What might happen to her?
And that was the starting point for Mindcull. It’s a thriller about 16-year old Eila who is shortlisted for a competition and gets invited to spend three days in England to try out a new line of VR skinsuits before the winner is announced. But then law enforcement officers pressure her to spy for them and she gets tangled up in a sinister conspiracy. So she is trying to work out what is right and who to trust in a world where people are using technology to mess with her mind.
Do you have a favourite character? If so, who and why?
That would have to be Mei, Eila’s best friend. She can be a bit bossy, but she is also funny, warm, clever and passionate and she always seems to get things moving in Mindcull. I really enjoyed writing her because she is an amalgamation of women and girls who have been important at different points in my life. When Mei comes into a scene, she usually makes me smile – she makes my characters smile too.
What is your process for writing?
Because Mindcull was my first novel, I gave myself permission to learn as I went. I had a very basic idea of the plot in my mind which I followed but when I sat down to write a scene, all sorts of unexpected things came out. That was one of the most enjoyable things about writing Mindcull – all these ideas that I was not really conscious of beforehand. If I got really stuck, I would move on to a scene that I had a stronger idea of then go back and fill out the bits in between later. As I was writing, I might read an article on the internet about creating strong characters or come up with a new idea about the setting and circle back and change things. Once I finished the first draft, I edited it many, many times, trying to cut words, ramp up the tension and make things more real and immediate. I also sought advice from a group of Beta Readers and got a manuscript assessment. I made extensive changes every time I got feedback.
I found putting together a one or two page synopsis early on a very painful process but one that was extremely useful when it came to completing the novel.
I am now half way through my next book – an upper middle-grade magical realism novel about a girl who gets yanked out of an ordinary life on a rural Australian island into an epic battle between otherworldly foes. My process this time has been a bit different. I am trying to keep in mind all the things I learned the first time around and plan more so that I have to revise less. That’s my hope anyway.
What steps did you take to get Mindcull published?
How did you select your publisher?
I sent versions of the manuscript to the few Australian agents and publishers that accept unsolicited YA manuscripts from debut authors and revised it every time it got knocked back. I started pitching the manuscript in person at conferences and my five-minute pitch to Meredith Costain at the CYA conference in Brisbane in July, 2018 led to Ford Street Publishing offering me a contract in October. Mindcull came out in June 2019.
What advice would you give to writers trying to get published for the first time?
I guess that would be, ‘Persevere’. I know that is a very hard thing to do when the outcome seems so uncertain. But if you believe in your writing and it moves you, keep on writing, editing, revising and submitting then revising and editing and polishing some more. Also, don’t underestimate the potential usefulness of face-to-face contact with industry professionals in the process.