Teen Author-turned-College Student Isamu Fukui talks about his new novel, Truancy Origins
Isamu Fukui was fifteen years old when he wrote his first novel, Truancy, a dystopian YA novel set in a nameless totalitarian City. Ruled by the autocratic Mayor and his team of Educators, the tightly regimented city and school system was marked by grey uniforms, inflexible teachers, student barcode tracking, and secrets many would die to keep. Against this backdrop rose a group of former students called the Truancy.
Truancy Origins tells the story of what happened before the Truancy was created. Fifteen years earlier, the Mayor had reluctantly adopted twin boys, who would grow up to fulfill very different destinies: one would try to destroy the City—and the other would try to stop him.
How did the experience of writing Truancy Origins differ from that of Truancy?
When I first started writing Truancy, I had no idea if I was going to be able to finish a whole novel. Having answered that question, my goal for Truancy Origins was different—it wasn’t just about seeing if I could do it or not, it was about raising my bar and exploring my limits.
You wrote your first book at the age of fifteen—how do you think your writing has changed since then?
To be honest, I believe that it’s improved dramatically. Today when I look back at Truancy, I think about parts that could have been better and things that I might have done differently. When I read Truancy Origins, however, I’m fully satisfied from start to finish. This is a book that I can be 100% proud of.
What inspired the story behind Truancy Origins? Tell us a little bit about the book.
From the very beginning I envisioned Truancy as a trilogy with a beginning, middle, and end. Before I started on anything, I had to decide which part of the story to tell first. I considered starting with what is now Truancy Origins, but I figured that it would be too challenging. So instead I started in the middle, when the war is already ongoing.
Truancy Origins goes back to tell the story of the beginning. It tells how the Truancy got started and how the war began. Readers will meet both new characters and familiar ones—though in Origins, many of them are very different from how they are in Truancy. Many of the questions raised in Truancy are answered, and you will learn a lot about the history of the characters and the City itself. Truancy Origins also sets up the third and final entry in the series.
You’re a freshman at NYU now; how has that impacted your writing schedule or process?
I have always found it difficult to write during the academic year, and I still do. However, I’ve found myself enjoying college a great deal more than I did high school. I’m generally more relaxed, so I have more time to think about writing, but at the same time I feel a little less urgency in a less stressful environment.
What’s up next for you?
All of my literary effort now is directed towards finishing the Truancy series and giving it a worthy ending. In a way, all of my work until now has led to this, and in my opinion Truancy Origins has set the bar fairly high. I can never be sure if I will outdo myself again, but I am doing my best to try.
(from the Tor/Forge March 2009 newsletter)