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Melissa Welliver: Why soulmates might be real, but you probably don’t want one

Melissa Welliver: Why soulmates might be real, but you probably don’t want one

When people ask me what gave me the idea for writing Soulmates and Other Ways to Die, I tell them it was a video game, which is true. In the game, you are split into pairs or sometimes larger teams and when your teammate takes damage, you do too, so it’s important to protect and look after each other during play. I wanted to capture the essence of that dystopian idea, that we are never completely responsible for our own safety, and make it work in a book. As I write rom-coms for teens, and I love the soulmates trope, what better way to dive in? And then, Soulmates and Other Ways to Die was born.

But it wasn’t so simple. What started off as a fun idea inspired by a daft game became something else, an exploration of what a soulmate is and what it means to love someone. A quick google told me that the idea of soulmates, that there is one single person out there that is a perfect match for you, had been around for a long time, millennia even, all across the globe. Everyone knows essentially what a soulmate is, and they download apps everyday looking for the one.

But what if we have it all wrong?

The core dynamic of my novel is as follows: everyone has an allocated soulmate, decided through DNA testing and a multi-million pound app designed by an eccentric billionaire. But just because an app decided who you were best suited to, did that take away someone’s right to choose? That was the battle that formed at the centre of the novel: choice versus control. Do you hand over control to someone that promises you happiness based on an idea from a thousand years ago, or do you choose what’s right for you?

I wanted to explore what happens in polyamorous relationships, when there isn’t just one other person in the relationship. I was fascinated by how such a thing would affect the queer community – that is to say, what happens if science confirms that gay relationships are not only viable, but indeed, are the pinnacle of happiness for people? For some, the discovery of the ‘KinTwin Gene’ – the mutation in my book which makes soulmate matching measurable and indeed, commercialised – is a blessing, the support they always needed from the scientific community. For others, like my control-enthusiast character Zoe who wants to lead her own life, it’s a nightmare. If her soulmate hurts themselves, she feels their pain. And if they die, she does too.

It’s a high price to pay for what most would call the ultimate chance at a Happily Ever After. And at that point, when all choice is stripped away, is it even a happy ending anymore? Do soulmates exist and more importantly, should they? That’s the question I hoped to answer by the end of Soulmates and Other Ways to Die. Pick up a copy to find out if I managed it.

Soulmates and Other Ways to Die by Melissa Welliver is out now in paperback (£8.99, Chicken House)

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