Introduction of K H Canobi – Author
1) Who were you and what problem did you have when you started out?
When I started out, I was a cognitive scientist doing research in developmental psychology, but I was longing to write creatively and follow my long-held dream of publishing a novel.
My research looked at how people change in their thinking. And when I thought about how technological advances like the internet, smartphones and social media have affected us all, it made me wonder what the future will be like.
The teenage years are a key time for working out who you are and forming real connections and I think those things are especially hard in our current context of immersive game worlds and social media.
So, I wondered what it would be like to be a teenager in a future time when everyone dives into virtual worlds. What would it be like if people relied on VR headsets the same way we rely on smart phones? What would it be like to spend more time interacting in the virtual world than the physical world?
2) How did you solve it?
I took a career break from academia and started writing fiction. This involved many false starts, setbacks, rewrites, mugs of tea, and dark chocolate kit kats. But I learnt as I went and found myself writing a novel that combined my interest in psychology with my love of fast-paced thrillers. My kids were just moving into the teenage phase at that point, so I was thinking a lot about the role of technology in teenagers’ identities and relationships from a personal as well as a professional perspective.
I explored those ideas in my debut novel, Mindcull, which came out with Ford Street Publishing in 2019. It’s the story of Eila, a 16-year-old who posts VR clips of herself on a future version of social media. Her clips are so successful that she is shortlisted for an international competition by a global tech giant. This involves her travelling to a mansion in England to meet the other short-listees and trying out a cutting-edge new VR skin suit. But law enforcement officers coerce her into spying for them, underground activists reveal a murderous plot and Eila realises that her own mind is at risk. Surrounded by secrets and lies, she has to race to uncover the truth. And in the process, she must decide who to trust, and how far she’s willing to go to protect innocent lives.
3) What was the one thing that impressed you the most about following your passion?
How much I learned, was changed. and craved dark chocolate in the process.
4) How is sharing your story making a difference for you right now?
I love the connection with readers. It is very precious thing to try to write words that entertain and move people and make them think. I know from psychological studies how much people learn through stories, how they grow in empathy, and enter into the fictional character’s experiences.
The themes of Mindcull are important to me and I am really enjoying being a part of discussion with teens and communities about how we use technology and where we are heading.
5) As a child, what was your relationship with books?
I loved fiction – to the point of addiction. I lost myself in stories and would miss out on sleep and lose track of everything else. There were a few times when I walked into things on the way home from school while reading!
I spent decades trying to train myself to be able to read a chapter or two of a good novel then put it away to finish later. In my twenties, I worked and studied from home a lot and I used to ask my husband to take my current novel with him to his work so I would not be distracted by it.
6) What is the most important thing about what you want to do?
I want readers to connect with my protagonist Eila as she tries to uncover the truth. I want Mindcull to be give them the kind of joy that I felt as a teenager when I was plunged into an exciting story. And as they get pulled into Eila’s world, I want them to think about who they are, the kind of future that they’re hoping for, and the role of technology in their lives and relationships.
7) Do you believe books can change the world?
Absolutely. The stories of our whole lives can be deeply affected by stories in books. If a person reads a book that connects them to something true and profound, that changes them forever.
8) What do you hope people will take away from your story?
The tagline of Mindcull is, “Who can you trust when nothing is as real as virtual reality?” because it is about trying to work out what is authentic and what is right in a murky, confusing world. So when people ask me to sign their copy of Mindcull I often write, ‘May you see what is real.’ And that is what I hope they will take away from Mindcull – a reflection on what is real and what really matters in a world where they are bombarded with competing messages via technology.
9) What is your ultimate goal?
As a writer my ultimate goal is to write the very best stories I can. To entertain, challenge, stimulate and connect with my readers.
10) If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?
Love, justice, kindness, mercy, and dark chocolate for all.