Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Indie Author Spotlight: Kate Muus

The country is pressed firmly under the thumb of The Foundation, an evil empire controlling the production of produce and introducing highly genetically modified foods into society. Ceres, a young woman fresh out of school, moves in with her aunt and uncle on their farm. When her aunt passes away, she leaves Ceres a handful of seeds that turn her and farmhand, Bry, into fugitives from The Foundation. With the world’s only pure, unaltered seeds in hand, Ceres and Bry must find a way to get the seeds into the hands of the right people and not die in the process.

Secret of the Seeds was definitely a fresh take on the YA dystopian thriller. It wasn’t just another rebellious teen against a corrupt government story. This took some of the common genre tropes and used them to spread a message of the dangers of genetically modified foods. Some might think that’s an odd message for a book in this genre, but Kate did a great job blending the overall message and the story together in a way that made me want to keep reading to find out what was going to happen next at the same time I was wondering why anyone would ever want to consume GMOs.

I loved Secret of the Seeds because it was just something fresh and original in a genre that is being flooded with the same exact stories over and over again. If you like the YA dystopian genre, or just the YA genre in general, I highly recommend this book.

You can buy yourself a copy here!

Now let’s meet Kate!

Kate Muus is a mother, writer, wife, college teacher, advocate for suicide prevention, pop-culture fanatic, daughter, sister, and friend—not in that order. She has an MFA in creative writing from the University of Colorado, Boulder, and teaches English composition and philosophy to medical students in Aurora, Colorado. SECRET OF THE SEEDS is her first novel.

Check out her site!

First things first, give us a Tweet synopsis of the book (140 characters or less):

SECRET OF THE SEEDS is a YA thriller focused on genetically modified foods and the dangers facing a young girl with the only "un-engineered" seeds left in America.

Secret of the Seeds is a fresh take on the dystopian thriller genre. What inspired you to write this book?

A colleague asked if we could co-teach a philosophy course I was teaching. She is a microbiologist and had been reading a lot of independent research on the effects of genetically modified organisms on human and animal DNA. Each student had a different GMO that they were responsible for and they were required to present whether or not it was ethically responsible to present these kinds of genetic mutations into the food supply. To be honest, I was really angry after those presentations. I still am. I figured the best way to get the most people involved was to write a YA novel about it. YA is so popular these days, and I thought if I could make people care about the characters, maybe I could make them care about what biotech companies are doing behind closed doors as well. It is frustrating that there are countries in Europe and South America that are avidly disallowing GMOs into their food system and in the United States we are increasing production.

Your book warns of the dangers for genetically modified foods. Why did you choose to send that message via fiction instead of non-fiction?

I chose fiction because it's more fun. Also, I'm no scientist. I'm just a mom and a wife trying to feed my family in a world inundated with crappy, processed foods! Even writing fiction, I feel like the topic really strikes a nerve with people who think that everything about GMOs is hunky-dory and the biotech industry would never, ever lie about the safety or the efficacy of their processes [insert smiley face emoji here...]. Again, we have a government that lets companies get away with a lot, with the EPA, for example, causing environmental disasters (the recent mine leak that hugely polluted rivers) rather than fixing them. Unfortunately, as a population, we are satisfied with companies throwing money at people for restitution when in all actuality, people are accepting money to compensate the loss of personal liberty in knowing what is in their food and water, as well as long term health effects that may or may not ever be tied to the environmental disasters that seem government sanctioned.

One of the things that makes this book so interesting is that the concept isn’t that farfetched. Do you think the world will ever get to a state like it is in Secret of the Seeds?

I hope not. However, there was just a gigantic merger of two of the biggest biotech companies in the world, essentially making a company even bigger and scarier than the Foundation. 

Are we going to see more from Ceres and Bry in the future?

Absolutely. I am working on the sequel, which works itself as a kind of time-hop, starting somewhere in the middle of SECRET OF THE SEEDS. I'm not finished. There are definitely stories that need to be told.

What’s the best advice you can give to someone looking to get away from genetically modified foods?

Eat organic. That is the easiest way. Plus, even if you are not eating things that are genetically modified, pesticides and herbicides are endocrine disruptors and just as bad for you, if not worse. Here is a link to an interesting article about it: It's peer reviewed!

Who would you like to see in the role of Ceres and Bry if your book ever made it to the big screen?

First of all, that would be my ultimate DREAM! I would like Amy Adams to be in it, because she went to Douglas County High School in Castle Rock, as did I. I think I would want her to play Ladybelle. I don't know who I would want to play Ceres, maybe Caitlin Carmichael? Asa Butterfield would play Jack.

As for Bry, I see some unknown heartthrob that is so amazingly kind in his real life that fame would never get to him. Bry is a hard one. He would be hard to cast.

What author has the most influence in your writing?

I know so many talented and amazing writers and teachers that it would be difficult to say who has had the most influence on my writing. I would say that my college mentor's voice is the most clear in my head whenever I feel like I should stop writing. He would tell me that I'm not doing it because I'm not doing it, and that the only one stopping you from success is you. He passed away suddenly a few years ago. His poetry is touching and profound. Check it out:

What can we expect next from Kate Muus?

I will be on an author panel at the Colorado Teen Literature Conference April 2nd at the Tivoli Student Union Building (I am VERY excited) and the sequel to SECRET OF THE SEEDS will release in late 2016. Fingers crossed!

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