Who Wants to Live Forever? by Gemma Malley

When I started planning this years YA Dystopian reading challenge, I knew I wanted to include at least a few guest posts or interviews from authors writing in the genre, and today I couldn’t be more pleased to welcome Gemma Malley, author of The Declaration Trilogy to talk about her reasons for writing the books.

You can see my review of The Declaration, here.


It’s hard to talk about The Legacy without talking about the whole Declaration trilogy because they were really conceived as one; as soon as I started writing The Declaration I knew that I couldn’t say everything I wanted to in just one book.

The idea really came to me because I felt like every day I was reading about some huge breakthrough in increasing the longevity of humans, and although I could see how it was great on a personal level, I felt like no one was asking a really important question: do we really want to live much longer and if we did, what would it mean to the world as we know it? There are eminent scientists who have dedicated their lives to ‘curing’ ageing, who really truly believe that this achievement is possible. But would it really be such a good thing?

Then the word ‘Surplus’ popped into my head and the character of Anna, and I knew I had to write her story. Anna is a ‘Surplus’ child in a world where everyone lives forever and the price of eternal life is forgoing the right to have children – the world can’t cope with more people when no one is dying. Some people have children illegally and these children are taken away by Catchers and sent to Surplus Halls where they have to work to atone for their sin of existence.


So The Declaration starts with Anna, a Surplus, who believes that she’s worthless, that she has no right to exist… And then Peter turns up. Peter is also a Surplus, but he’s been in hiding all his life, protected by The Underground (the resistance movement), and he’s angry, determined and sure that he and Anna have as much right – if not more – to exist than the old people clinging on.

He convinces Anna that her parents aren’t evil; that she isn’t worthless; that she has a life to live and that they have to escape from the Surplus Hall if they are to survive.

I don’t want to ruin the story for those who haven’t read it, but I think the Declaration is really a coming-of-age story – we all get to our teenage years and realise that the world isn’t as black and white as we thought it was; that there are difficult decisions to make; that sometimes there’s more than one right answer.

For Anna this is just exaggerated as she gradually realises that so much she took for granted isn’t true, that all her beliefs are groundless. It’s also a love story, as Anna and Peter discover happiness with each other, a happiness that neither has ever experienced before. But it’s also a book about fighting for what you believe in. I like my books to make the reader think hard about things – would they take longevity drugs if they got the chance?


So that was the Declaration – a little glimpse in on a new and very real world – but I wanted to explore the world further; I wanted to test Anna and Peter, too. So I wrote the Resistance, which is really Peter’s story, and where he faces one of the biggest challenges of his life as his own belief system is tested.

He and Anna are living on the Outside and he’s asked by the Underground to work undercover for Pincent Pharma, producers (and inventors) of Longevity drugs. At first he is seduced by the science, by the simplicity of the drugs; he’s swayed by Richard Pincent’s arguments – why is new life better than existing life?

Why sacrifice your own life for children that don’t exist yet? But then he begins to uncover a much darker side to Pincent Pharma, and to Richard Pincent who traps Anna and uses her to force Peter to do his bidding. Peter finally sees Pincent for what he is and he has a race against time to save Anna before it’s too late, helped by Pip, the leader of the Underground and Jude, his half brother.


The Legacy is the final piece in the jigsaw – and possibly the most thrilling of the three books. In the Legacy, I wanted to pose what for me was the really fundamental question: if we rely on science completely, then what happens if something goes wrong? Can science really hold back nature indefinitely?

Anyone who’s seen a weed somehow push its way through concrete will know that nature doesn’t like to be held back. The book starts with unexplained, gruesome deaths, which Pincent Pharma is desperately trying to cover up. The drugs aren’t working and Richard Pincent has to find out why – otherwise the human race could literally be wiped out. To buy time, he blames the deaths on the Underground, leading to riots on the streets as Underground sympathisers are hounded out and attacked.

Jude, meanwhile, thinks he knows what’s happened to the drugs, but nothing prepares him for the truth. As he battles to save his friend Sheila and Pip disappears, Jude realises he has to take the fight to where it all started – back to Pincent Pharma. But nothing prepares him for what he discovers when he gets there.

It’s been a huge joy to write The Declaration trilogy, and I have loved hearing from readers every step of the way – that’s the wonderful thing about the internet age; blogs like this, networking sites, all enable writers to hear directly from their readers and it’s just so exciting.

I really hope you enjoy the books – and that you discover all the other wonderful dystopian YA out there!

All the very best,

Gemma Malley

Gemma Malley studied Philosophy at Reading University before working as a journalist. She edited several business magazines and contributed regularly to Company Magazine and The Sunday Telegraph before moving into the Civil Service in a senior communications role at Ofsted.

The Declaration, her first novel for a teenage audience, and its sequel, The Resistance, were published to critical acclaim. The Legacy, published in September 2010, is the thrilling conclusion to the story.

The Returners, published by Bloomsbury in February 2010, is a powerful novel that questions how we take responsibility for our actions.

Gemma lives in south London.

Gemma can also be found at her:

Facebook | Twitter | Website

Many thanks to Gemma for agreeing to stop by and talk about writing her trilogy.

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