Thanks so much to Nori for featuring me in a guest post about Transferral and the inspiration behind the book! Transferral is set in an alternate present-day UK, where criminals are punished by having the diseases of the innocent transferred to them. Talia Hale is the daughter of a Prime Ministerial candidate. When she saves a young girl from a cleaver-wielding madman, she’s hailed as a tough-on-crime hero. But she quickly discovers that the attack, and her world, are not what they seem.
Transferral came out of bits and pieces of real life, from my own experiences and from history. The initial idea for the book came a nurse talking about the SARS epidemic, which killed 44 people in Canada in 2003. Many nurses were infected, and two died. She said that when she was in her scrubs, people crossed the road to avoid her – she said they treated her like a criminal.
This was the statement that planted the seed, and got me thinking about criminality and disease, which lead me to the central idea of the book – giving diseases to criminals through a process that removes sickness from the innocent, and gives it to the guilty.
I couldn’t see the National Transfer Service being introduced in the modern world, so my world splits from our real one in the Victorian era, when in my alternate history, the Transfer process was discovered. The brutal court systems of the period would not have hesitated to use it, as it would have seemed merciful, compared to public hanging for petty crimes. In this period, there was little sympathy for law-breakers, and punishment – like in my book – was particularly skewed against the poor.
I used to live in London, so it was a natural location to use. I set a lot of it in the Barbican, a housing estate built after the area of Cripplegate was completely destroyed by German bombers during the Blitz in what became known as ‘The Second Great Fire of London’. The real Barbican is beautiful, with an arts centre, a museum, and many gardens. Larger apartments in the Barbican sell for several million dollars.
My re-imagining of the Barbican as a menacing sink estate comes from a strange weekend I spent there years ago, taking part in the 48-hour Film Project with friends. The aim of the project was to make a short movie from scratch in two days. We didn’t have permission to shoot, and so we had to creep around the dark passageways and dodge security guards. There was no time for rest, and by the end of the weekend, the sleep deprivation and paranoia of sneaking around (and frequently getting lost) in a confusing estate at night warped the beautiful Barbican in a dystopian complex in my mind.
I also used the real locations of the Old Bailey and St. Barts Hospital in London, as together, they symbolize the connection between disease and justice.
Bringing reality into speculative fiction strengthens it. The old writing advice is ‘write what you know’ and the only way for me to do that in the unreal world of Transferral was to weave in history, my own experiences, and the real city of London.
About the Author
Born on a tiny island stuck to the south of England, Kate Blair has worked as a museum curator, a clown and at an amusement park on the Jersey Shore. She is now a young adult author and a speculative fiction geek living in Toronto. Transferral is her debut novel.
There also is a GIVEAWAY on Goodreads for Transferral!!!