Show Us Who You Are

When Cora’s brother drags her along to his boss’s house, she doesn’t expect to strike up a friendship with Adrien, son of the intimidating CEO of Pomegranate Technologies. As she becomes part of Adrien’s life, she is also drawn into the mysterious projects at Pomegranate.

At first, she’s intrigued by them – Pomegranate is using AI to recreate real people in hologram form. As she digs deeper, however, she uncovers darker secrets…

Cora knows she must unravel their plans, but can she fight to make her voice heard, whilst never losing sight of herself?

Knights Of
Cover design by Kay Wilson

A Kind of Spark was one of my top 5 books of 2020, an outstanding debut, so I was anxious to not have too high expectations of Show Us Who You Are…but I worried for nothing because it is completely different but equally brilliant! I asked the author, Elle McNicoll, a few questions (which she answered brilliantly):

In SHOW US WHO YOU ARE, artificial intelligence is not shown in a particularly positive light. Did you do a lot of research into the technology or did a piece of tech news spark the idea?

I think it’s the humans controlling the AI that are not shown in a particularly positive light, but I’ll leave that to readers. A lot of AI stories are about AI vs humans and a sentient new being rising up to take over the world. I think that’s a fear that powerful people have about the marginalised–that they will rise up if granted humanity. An interesting fear that says a lot, but not what my AI Grams do. It’s not something that happens in Show Us Who You Are. The AI are very innocent and reactive and the uprising happens elsewhere. The idea was sparked by Prince’s death, when people said they wanted to show a hologram of him performing at concerts. I thought it was a revolting idea.

It feels like SHOW US WHO YOU ARE came extremely quickly after your debut! Had you started writing the idea before A KIND OF SPARK was published or did it come to you all of a sudden?

I was writing it from March 2020, so it was something to get me through the first lockdown. I had Covid and was stuck in my room, feeling horrid and wanting to write about a future with no virus and lots of adventure. I was deep into Show Us Who You Are when A Kind of Spark came out, so 2020 was a very eventful year. 

Both of your protagonists are autistic, and wonderfully different, were you thinking about stereotypes that you wanted to challenge or did you simply want to create representative characters?

I think the latter. I always want to create dynamic neurodivergent heroines who are full of brains and heart and have complete agency over their story. 

In both your books, a growing friendship plays a really important part in the story. Why does it matter so much, do you think, to include such relationships?

Being general here, but a lot of neurodivergent children experience extreme isolation and loneliness. I had a very difficult childhood when it came to making and maintaining friendships and I was bullied a lot for being different. So, that need for connection and being understood is very strong in my work. Adrien and Cora sort of save each other by becoming best friends. They’re kindred spirits and I think it’s essential for ND readers to know that they can find their people someday, and that they deserve to be celebrated. Not just tolerated.

Publishing two books in lockdown has…not been ideal, but have you found remote events a positive thing?

I’m grateful for virtual events, they’ve been wonderful. Doing virtual school visits has been fantastic. But it’s deeply frustrating to have fallen into two lockdown periods. I’ve never been able to walk into a bookshop on publication day. Never met a reader in the flesh. It’s really demoralising and makes it harder to go home and write uplifting things. I’m so grateful to Twitter for allowing me a way to speak to readers. 

When things are “back to normal”, have you thought about what kind of events you might enjoy doing with readers?

I’m desperate to do physical events where I can talk for more than ten minutes about my work and why neurodivergent representation matters. I wrote a middle grade so that I could have these important conversations with young people. Awards have been lovely, but I need to be able to speak to readers and young people about why these books are needed. So I’d love to do more events with booksellers, schools and libraries. That’s the dream.

What are you reading at the moment and who would you recommend it to?

I’m about to start Crater Lake: Evolution by Jennifer Killick. If you love comedic horror, she’s for you. I’m looking forward to seeing her fab characters again.

What’s next for you?

I am writing two books I’m really passionate about at the moment. One is a YA, so will need to go out into the world and find its home. I’m the only one that believes in it right now, but I have the same feeling that I did with A Kind of Spark. So, I’m following it.

Show Us Who You Are by Elle McNicoll is published 4th March by Knights Of in paperback original (thank you Ed PR for sending me a copy and organising the interview).

About Caroline Fielding

Chartered School Librarian, CILIP YLG London Chair, Bea-keeper

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