Altered (The Academy #1) by Aubrey Coletti
Age Group: Young Adult
Genre: Mystery, Horror
Release Date: June 6, 2012
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When Toni, Joseph and Charlie arrive at their new boarding school, they are glad to leave their families - and respective problems - behind. Isolated as boarders, they meet a handsome senior with a personality like iced snake's blood, teachers with a penchant for physical punishment, and four other outcasts who reveal that their being brought to the Academy wasn't random at all.
When the arrivals discover that their new school is engaged in "behavior modification" through electric shocks, isolation, restraints, and an ever-evolving set of methods to "fix" them, they declare war on their Academy. During their campaign of sabotage, they fight, hate, scorn, love, and begin to uncover the reasons why they were brought to the school.
But as their war against the school escalates beyond their control, will they become the very things the Academy believes they are: dangerous, delinquent - and mad?
What was the plot of your very first piece of unpublished fiction you ever wrote?
Oh wow, I don’t even know. Probably something about teenagers with super powers, doing the sorts of things you would expect teens with super powers to do.
Writers tend to have a pretty active imagination for obvious reasons, if you had to describe what the inside of your head was like what would you tell us?
Oh Gods, do you really want to know? At any given time I usually have at least four different worlds of characters bouncing around in there - the characters for Altered are blabbering on, telling me ideas for the movie and how they want it filmed; X-Men characters for my fan fiction are trying to argue that they deserve more of my attention; a possible future TV show idea is being planned out season by season; and then all the other riffraff who sneak in and start loudly explaining why THEY deserve some screen time.
I’ll listen to music and cry over emotional scenes happening to one couple, and then walk along listening to a conversation between a hero and the antagonist, and then spend some incredibly productive minutes imagining what I would say if I were being interviewed, and how funny everyone would find me, and how I would gain millions of fans, have all the money in the world, and then pick up some obscure and strange hobby because you can do that once you are successful and adored.
How did you come up with the idea for Altered?
Altered began with me simply taking down notes of everything my friends, family, and peers said that was funny, interesting, dark, and so on. I then began to build up the characters based upon these lines of dialogue, the people around me, and then that extra spark that makes a character different from its inspiration. Once I had the characters clear in my head, I went searching around for what exactly was happening to them, where they were going to live and tell their stories.
Then my high school English teacher explained about behavioral modification centers and schools which use incredibly controversial and draconian methods on those within them as part of a unit on One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. That’s when I knew I had the story - I did some research on these places and how they operated, created one of my own design using the main elements, and then followed the characters as they traveled through it.
As you were writing Altered, was there a particular scene or character that surprised you, like doing something you didn't expect or a scene taking you somewhere you hadn't planned?
The ending, actually. I really didn't have a specific ending planned, and it kind of jumped out at me as I was finishing, but in the most perfect way. When it happens like that, you know it’s the right choice, because it feels both shocking and inevitable, and you have to just go with it.
Was Altered the original title of your book? If yes how did it come about, if no what was the original and why was it changed?
Yes, it was. Once I had the name of the school - J. Alter Academy - I knew Altered worked. The whole story revolves around the characters being altered, others attempting to alter them...actually, pretty much every definition of the word ‘alter’ comes into play in the novel!
What are you most satisfied about when it comes to Altered?
Probably the realism of the characters. I love the plot, and how I managed to keep it fast paced and exciting, but if people don’t love your characters, then the story is not going to ring that deep emotional bell. From the reactions of many to Altered, I know that I was able to accurately get across realistic, lovable (and hateable!) characters, and tell a story that is emotionally honest to how people truly react to these kinds of situations.
Do you prefer hard copy books or e-readers, why?
Oh, hard copies all the way. I just love the look and feel of books, it’s more comfortable for me to hold a nice book in my hands, see the cover, read it slowly. But I don’t hate e-readers, they can be very useful!
When you’re not writing, what do you like to do?
Read! Also watch shows - anything Joss Whedon, Friday Night Lights, Xena Warrior Princess, Scrubs, The Big Bang Theory, the list goes on and on. I also enjoy writing songs and producing them (even when it’s frustrating as all get out!), singing, hanging out with my cadre of crazy friends, dancing, and petting my large, fat, diva of a cat.
Read any good books recently?
Why yes! I’m currently re-reading Women of the Golden Dawn: Rebels and Priestesses: Maud Gonne, Moina Bergson Mathers, Annie Horniman, Florence Farr. It’s always nice to find a book that focuses on historical women in a way that is very vibrant and alive, rather than dry. The last YA novel I read was The Hunger Games trilogy, and I have to say, I was very impressed. I think what makes those novels stand out for me is how well Suzanne Collins is able to articulate the way someone who is fighting for their life and that of their family would actually react to going up against an oppressive regime.
We all would love to think we’d go in, guns blazing, and fight the good fight: but the fact of the matter is, like Katniss, most of us would think first and foremost about protecting ourselves and those we love. Katniss is a wonderful heroine because she only slowly, realistically comes around to wanting to bring down the Capitol, after experiencing first hand the horror and pain that they inflict, and realizing that toeing the line will never keep them safe. I also loved how the rebels weren’t all shiny and virtuous, but again, realistic and believable. The ending really didn’t stint either on the scars war and violence leave, and I was just overjoyed to read a trilogy that took young readers seriously, and really respected them.
Who are your five favorite authors and why?
1.) Tamora Pierce: She is just an incredible character writer and world builder, who manages to address some very serious, very complex issues in a way that young readers can understand without watering them down. Highly recommend her The Song of the Lioness series and Trickster’s Queen!
2.) Anne Lamott: I would never have been able to write Altered if it wasn’t for her book Bird by Bird. I recommend it to aspiring and long-time writers alike, it just perfectly explains how writing is, why we do it, and how to do it well.
3.) Marion Zimmer Bradley: It’s not an overstatement to say her novel The Mists of Avalon changed my life. Like many who read it, I found it pinpointed exactly how I felt about spirituality and gave it a voice, and every time I finish it I cry. It is truly an epic, and takes you on a complete journey through multiple characters’ lives that is truly moving.
4.) Philippa Gregory: I love good historical fiction, and she just excels at it. She is wonderful at truly writing from the perspective of women in that time period, making strong female characters without needing to impose our current modes of thinking on them.
5.) Toni Morrison: Her style can vary widely and get very dreamy and experimental, but she has just a great understanding of people, and I truly enjoy the way she can just sum up a person in a few poetic, devastating lines.
Aubrey is a twenty year old author, singer-songwriter, dancer and choreographer who attends Sarah Lawrence College. In love with reading since she was young, her favorite writers include Tamora Pierce, Joss Whedon, and Chris Claremont. A passionate fan of those artists and writers she enjoys, she may be found answering questions for fans on her own website any day of the week. Ms. Coletti is currently working on the sequel to "Altered."