Inside the World of Subject A36 (The Colony #1), an Interview with Teri Polen

Love the fantastical worlds of sci-fi and fantasy? Grab a cup of your favorite beverage and check out this interview with Teri Polen, one of my Black Rose Writing “sisters.”

Welcome Teri!

Before we dive in to the nitty gritty, what is Subject A36 about?

If genetic engineering could guarantee you and your family perfect health and unparalleled beauty, would you pay top dollar for it? Would you kill for it?

Residents of the Colony would. And do.

Only the Insurgents can stop them.

Seventeen-year-old Asher Solomon is a premier operative with the Insurgents. He and his team have rescued countless hostages, saving them from painful deaths in Colony labs as desirable genetic traits are stripped from their bodies.

He’s also suffered more losses than anyone should have to.

Then Asher gets intel that might give his people the upper hand. The Colony is searching for Subject A36. If the Insurgents determine the subject’s identity first, they might be able to turn the tide of the war.

Asher and his team embark on their riskiest mission ever, and the stakes have never been higher. But even if he survives the physical dangers, the devastating secrets he uncovers might destroy him.

What first inspired the world you created for this book?

I’m kind of a science geek. Sometimes an idea gets stuck in my brain, goes through sort of an assembly line where I strip it down and rebuild it, and then out comes some twisted version of the original. In the case of Subject A36, I was watching an old episode of La Femme Nikita from the 90s (totally dating myself), and the seed was planted.

What do people in your invented world do for fun? Are there sports, games, music, or other activities they do in their free time?

In Subject A36, the operatives are under a tremendous amount of stress, so they need an outlet.  Some downtime to recharge their brains. For Asher, it’s games of strategy – he loves playing chess with Noah.  With Noah, it’s books. He reads anything he can get his hands on (there might be a little bit – okay, maybe a lot – of me in Noah).  Brynn is into physical activities – mainly rock climbing and dirt bikes.

Teri’s Process

When you build a world, what is your process like? Do you do a lot of research upfront, wing it completely, or something in between?

I’m something in between.  I’ll get the idea, begin shaping the world – what it looks like, how advanced it is compared to Earth, etc. – but then it evolves as I write the story.  Types of food, manner of transportation, technology. What’s right with this world? What problems is it facing? I write sci-fi, but it’s not hard sci-fi.  No way am I creative enough to come up with a different language or species. With this book involving genetic engineering, I did a fair amount of research and went down plenty of rabbit holes.  It’s fascinating, and a little scary, with what’s being done in the field. Of course, I took several liberties for Subject A36. That’s why it’s called science fiction, right?

How central is the setting of your story to the story itself? Is it more of an interesting backdrop, or is it integral to the events of the story?

The setting of Subject A36 isn’t integral to the story.  It’s more about what’s happening within the world – how innocent people are killed solely for the whims of the rich and how the Insurgents fight back and try to right the wrongs. 

When helping the reader get to know the world you built, what techniques do you use? 

I’m not a fan of info dumps whether I’m reading or writing.  I prefer to weave most of the details of the world into the story through character dialogue or actions.  Sure, there may be a couple paragraphs of explanation occasionally, but it doesn’t go on for pages.

How much of a role does realism play in your world-building? 

Gene stripping isn’t a real thing, but the world of Subject A36 is very similar to our own – just more dystopian.

Do you have any specialized training or background from your “real life” that has informed your world-building? 

Not one bit.  In this case, I can tell you the high school biology chapters involving genetics really stuck with me.  Thanks go to Mr. New.

How do you keep all of the details of your world and characters straight? Do you have a system for deciding on different factors and keeping it all organized, or does it live more in your head?

I’ve gotten better about writing things down.  I learned the hard way that if it doesn’t get written down or put in notes on my phone, it gets lost somewhere in my brain.  I’m not organized to the point of spreadsheets, but I have a pretty full notebook when it’s all said and done.  

Did you experience any difficulties while building your world? 

Not really with building the world, but I had a character jump into my head one Friday night.  While I was watching a movie, he appeared out of nowhere and announced he’d play a large part in my story.  And he does. The addition of his character changed the course of not only this book, but also the sequel.  

Thanks for sharing Subject A36 with us today! Where can people find you on the web?

Thanks so much for hosting me today, Phoebe!  I could spend hours talking about books – just ask my hubby, whose eyes usually glaze over after a short while (he’s not much of a reader).  You can find me at any of the links below. Drop by – I love it when people visit me on my social media!

You can find all of my books on Amazon and Subject A36 here on Barnes and Noble.

Contact Links:








Did you enjoy diving in to the world of this fab author? Stop by the rest of the series for even more cool stuff to enjoy! 

(All images in this post were provided by the author)


  1. I loved that a character just appeared and demanded to be included in the story, Teri. And now I’m wondering which character it was 🙂
    Great interview and a cool look at want went into the creative process for Subject A36!


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