Yes, it's me, Anjenique “Jen” Hughes, a wacky high school English and math teacher who loves to travel and loves my students. Saying I am “young at heart” is an understatement; I happen to be fluent in sarcasm, I can break the sound barrier with my loud teacher voice (students have complained when they were within earshot), and I am never short of snappy comebacks. I am blessed to be doing what I absolutely love doing in life: teach and write. My work with ethnically and socio-economically diverse youth has inspired me to write books that appeal to a broad variety of students seeking stories of bravery, perseverance, loyalty, and success.
W: Hello there, Anjenique. Good to have you aboard.
W: So why don't you tell us about your new release, get the readers into your world.
A: My book, Sovereignty, is a thrilling dytopian YA fiction novel centering around the life of three 18-year-old guys living in the 23rd century. In a city once known as Los Angeles, families live under an oppressive government regime that controls their every move through human identity chip implantation. Naturally, the teen leader of these three, Goro, is itching to rebel against the powers that be; he and his two friends embark on a treacherous road to accomplishing just that. Goro unwittingly possesses an important piece of intel that his ISIS-style dictatorship wishes to acquire, as well as the underground resistance movement. Goro has his own plan of how to proceed in rebelling, however, things never go according to plan; Goro is hurtled down a unknown path which causes him to question everything he knows to be true in life. It’s a scenario in which we human beings may very well find ourselves in the near future.
“Nothing is sacred, secret, or safe.”
W: Wow! I hadn't really thought about the ISIS connection potential, but having just finished Sovereignty, I can certainly see the similarities. I was more reminded of George Orwell's 1984 and the Divergent series initially. But you are right. This seems like it could really happen in the not-so-distant future. How does this world differ from our normal world?
A: The world in Sovereignty is different than our world in the sense that we currently do not have the government controlling everything we do and say, at least not here in the United States. We still have ample freedom and tolerance is present. In my world, hardly anything is tolerated; how you dress and how you wear your hair is strictly regulated. The technology is not that far off, though. Eventually we will have something akin to implanted micro-chips. We already have surveillance systems that allow for monitoring environments. For example, my colleague has a system set up in her home in which she can swipe an app on her phone and she can see what her daughters are doing in the living room, what her dog is doing in the yard, etc. It’s fascinating!
W: Whoa, fascinating yes... and a little scary. This is where it's so similar to 1984, like I mentioned. With the future in people's minds and the upcoming election, it's certainly a fear. So who or what inspired you to write this book?
A: In all honesty, I wrote this book for my students. They inspired me every day, and though all of them are now graduated, I still think of them often. The three main characters that are most prominent throughout the book, Cory, Alex, and Goro, are named after three students throughout my teaching career with whom I built strong relationships and whom I individually mentored. They say, “To teach is to touch a life forever.” Well, those three young men touched my life and probably taught me more than I taught them!
W: Isn't that the truth. My inspiration for writing A Life of Death came mostly from my students, so I completely understand. We grow and learn from the people we meet, even our students. I just hope I've helped them learn more than they taught me. Speaking of characters, do you have a special formula for creating characters' names? Do you try to match a name with a certain meaning, attributes of the character, or do you search for names popular in certain time periods or regions?
A: Great question! Most of the names I chose in the book are named after real people, either a student or a family member. Just a few names, such as Mickey and Josiah, I chose because I just liked them. The names of those who are in power were specifically chosen because they signify a darker reality and allegorically identify certain themes in the book. That is for the reader to discover and decide on their own, however!
W: And I'm sure they'll enjoy the read. Was one of your characters more challenging to write than another?
A: I would say the most challenging character to write was the ruler of the Sovereign Regime, named Davio. He is so palpably evil that I had a tough time getting him to the degree of “wicked” I wanted to portray to readers. A lot of times evil dictators can come off looking corny or cartoonish almost, and it’s a real skill to have the bad guy appear believable and seem really real, so to speak. Not sure if I accomplished this, hoping I did! LOL.
W: I can honestly say you did without going overboard. I'm a bit more gruesome in my books so have to worry about adding too much, but your balance was good. Readers will love Goro and the main characters and love to hate Davio and his subordinates. Switching gears a little bit, what is the most interesting thing you have physically done for book-related research purposes?
A: I had one of my personal Krav Maga trainers help me choreograph one of the final fight scenes during one of our training sessions! It was amazing. Krav Maga is a large part of my life, so naturally this style of combat plays a huge part in the novel.
W: I'm impressed. I think I got my green belt in Tae Kwon Do when I was a kid, but that's about as far as I went. It didn't help that my instructor took off with the money our parents paid ahead of time and ran, so I'm not so sure how accurate his teaching was... or his credentials. I think the police probably still have warrants out for his arrest in Texas twenty-five years after the fact. So, did you find anything really interesting while researching Sovereignty?
A: I found all the research I completed surrounding Navy Seals and SWAT really fascinating! I had the opportunity to speak with LAPD officers, as well as SWAT officers, in researching the tactical scenes in the novel. The Navy Seals research I conducted had me practicing knife drills and handgun disarmament as well. I also consulted my Krav instructors on a regular basis.
W: Oh man! I'd hate to be the stalker who stumbles upon you one day, not that I want you to be stalked at all. (Insert foot in mouth.) I just don't see good things in anyone's future who stumbles across your path with less than honorable intentions. Look out readers, don't mess with Anjenique Hughes! :) It's been great having you here, Anjenique. Where can readers find you on the web?
A: They can find me at www.sovereigntyseries.com. My Twitter, Facebook, Blog, and Snapchat info is all there on the home page…
W: I look forward to reading the sequel when it's finished. Have a great one!
And now for reviews. As I mentioned, I just finished this novel myself... but before I tell you what I thought, I found a Kirkus review of Sovereignty, which is a great place for very critical reviews in order to find new books. Check it out here.
And without further ado, here are my thoughts on Anjenique Hughes' first novel, Sovereignty!
Goro never realized how far his teenage rebellious streak would take him in standing up against the totalitarian reign of the 23rd century's world government, the Sovereign Regime (SR). And in Anjenique Hughes's break-out novel Sovereignty, Goro is put up against a multitude of hurdles and road blocks. It's a little slow at first, and like many first novels could benefit with some tightening for sentence structure and flow, but that doesn't stop the enjoyment. The novel picks up speed quickly when Goro ventures to his father's work during one of his deliveries, becoming a fast-paced thrill ride with revenge for personal and societal wrongs as a driving force. Reminiscent of George Orwell's 1984, The Giver, and Veronica Roth's Divergent series, Sovereignty is a page turner that fans of YA dystopian fiction will love. What's more, there's clearly a sequel on the way! Four stars across the board.
Weston Kincade ~ Author of the A Life of Death collection, The Priors, and Strange Circumstances