Q&A: Kacen Callender Talks About 'Chosen Ones' and Reflecting Their Identity in 'Infinity Alchemist'

Just ahead of the release of their YA fantasy novel Infinity Alchemist, author Kacen Callender talked with SLJ about the idea of "chosen ones," reflecting their community and identity in their writing, and more.

Just ahead of the release of their YA fantasy novel Infinity Alchemist, author Kacen Callender talked with SLJ about the idea of "chosen ones," reflecting their community and identity in their fantasy YA novel Infinity Alchemist, out February 6.

School Library Journal: What gave you the idea for Infinity Alchemist? Tell us a little bit about how the story came to be.

Kacen Callender: Three sparks motivated me: first, I wanted to write a story that dispelled the idea of “the chosen one” with a concept that suggests we’re all chosen. Second, I’d always wanted to write a fantasy that explored the connections between science and magic. The magic system of Infinity Alchemist is loosely based on quantum physics, and the idea that everything in the universe—in existence—comprises Source, or the Creator, fuels the book’s concept. And, finally, I really wanted to write a YA fantasy with a queer, mostly trans, mostly POC, polyamorous cast of characters—the people who reflect my identity and community.

SLJ: Your book dedication is “For the younger me, who always wanted to write a YA fantasy.” How has writing a YA fantasy been different from writing the others books you’ve published?

KC: YA fantasy is different for me because it’s the first genre I really fell in love with, reading books like Graceling and Finnikin of the Rock. I never allowed myself to let go and truly write what I wanted to write, because these were the first books of my heart, and because I was so afraid that my novel wouldn’t be accepted. It was a massive triumph that I finally managed to push through, and write what I wanted to write.

SLJ: Infinity Alchemist is an exploration of powerwho has it in society, how it can be used and abused, and how one can find it within themselves. Can you talk a little bit about this theme? Why do you think it will resonate with teen readers?

KC: Maybe it’s because I’ve been so immersed in the world of Infinity Alchemist, but I actually have started to wonder if the universe, existence, and God (of any religion and belief) really is all one in the same—and if that’s true, then everything in existence, in a way, is God. This would mean looking at another human being, and realizing that you are witnessing God; looking in the mirror, and allowing yourself to feel acceptance for who you are, because you are seeing a reflection of God, too. I think a lot about how differently we would treat fellow humans if we did not decide that God is something outside of ourselves, choosing who is worthy; how much would change, if some didn’t see themselves as God’s chosen one, and realized instead that we’re all chosen. People deciding they are the chosen ones translates into humans using and abusing power and others struggling to find power within themselves, too. I hope this is a theme that will resonate with all humans on some level.

SLJ: Without spoilers, what is your favorite part of the book, and why?

KC: I loved writing about Ash, Ramsay, and Callum’s relationship—figuring out their feelings for each other, and how to make their shared love work. It was also a lot of fun to write about Ash and Ramsay’s exploration of other realms.

SLJ: Can we expect more stories from the Infinity Alchemist world?

KC: Yes, there will be a sequel!  

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