I started writing The Program at the end of 2010, and it hit stores nearly two years later. When I first subbed it for publication, it was a stand-alone novel—the ending a moment where Sloane crushes the orange pill on the porch, and she and James drive off, never to think of the past again. But it was after talking to the editor that I realized there was a sequel to write. What if Sloane didn’t crush that pill? What if there was only one? How hard would Sloane and James fight to get their lives back?
The Treatment expanded on those ideas, and I was thrilled because it also gave me a chance to expand on the world surrounding The Program. It was never a cure. It was about parents fighting to save their children; they weren’t the bad guys. They would have done anything. But The Program was corrupted by a corporation, made into a results-only operation. What started as a misguided attempt at a cure became a crusade to make teens well-behaved. An approved version of happy.
That doesn’t work out for The Program. In the end, people thrive on hope. People fight back. And the characters learn that they matter, their experiences—good and bad—matter.
It was almost a year later when I was working on a new book called The Closers. I write a lot about grief in my books. In my life, the death of my grandmother was so devastating that it wrecked my world for a long while. I would have given anything for another moment with her. I still would. That was the idea that began The Remedy.
Quinlan McKee works for the grief department, a company that helps grieving parents. When parents lose a child unexpectedly and suffer from symptoms of complicated grief, they contact the department, and a closer is sent in. Quinn is one of those closers. For a few days, she will take on the role of the recently deceased, wearing their clothes, changing her hair, using their mannerisms. Parents would then get the chance to tell their child (Quinn) all the things they never got the chance to say. They get closure. Only Quinn has done this so many times, she’s started to forget which life is hers.
I was about halfway through this story, when I thought—this sounds like the world of The Program—that attempt to control grief and emotions. Bring it to a socially acceptable level despite the consequences. And then I realized it WAS the world of The Program. The inability to deal with grief, a parent’s extreme loss, led the creator of The Program to develop his procedure. Protect the heart. Choose numbness instead of pain.
The Epidemic, the sequel, finished Quinn’s story and outlined how wrong the world went to end up with The Program. These are prequels, which can be confusing, but each set of books is both part of the larger series and ready to read on its own.
And that brings us to The Adjustment—which takes place after The Treatment with new characters. What happened to the world once The Program was gone? What would happen to all the patients who had to return to their lives after being erased. And then I thought… someone would create yet another procedure. This time, one to implant memories rather than take them out.
The Adjustment is a procedure that takes donated memories and implants them into a returner. These donated memories help spark the returner’s own bits of retained memory, fills in the blanks, so they can get a small piece of themselves back. Only in this story, the donated memories that Wes gets from his long-term girlfriend Tatum are corrupted. The book explores how we idealize our relationships, how memory is perspective based on the person recalling it.
In The Program, I asked who we are without our memories. In The Adjustment, the question becomes are we more than the memories other people have of us?
After The Adjustment, Tatum and Wes’s story ends in The Complication—out next April.
I was happy to expand the world of The Program over and over, because I truly believe each book gives us a deeper perspective into the stories, how they click together to form a clearer picture of a world not that far off from our own.
In the end, I’d like there to be a total of seven books. One last one to come. One last shot for Sloane and James to fix what’s brewing in The Complication. And one last look at the consequences of good intentions.