Former Kahuku Woman Finds Her Calling In Science Fiction

The cover of ‘Remake,' Ilima Todd's first published novel. Image from Shadow Mountain Publishing.

The cover of ‘Remake,’ Ilima Todd’s first published novel. Image from Shadow Mountain Publishing.

Never have dystopian societies been so wonderfully popular. Thanks to novels like The Hunger Games and Divergent, a generation of young readers has been entertained by the tales of oppressive governments and post-apocalyptic societies.

Add to that growing list of entertainment through dysfunction is Remake, the first book in a trilogy by former Kahuku resident and Kamehameha Schools graduate Ilima Todd, who learned this month that the book is a finalist for the Whitney award (best novels by Latter-day Saints writers) in the Young Adult Speculative category.

The 38-year-old author, who spent Christmas here with her Hawaii family, borrows from and redevelops Twilight Zone‘s Number 12 Looks Just Like You, in creating a society where families have been eliminated, children are raised in batches, and at the age of 17 everyone is remade, choosing how they look, their name, their occupation and even their gender. In the Rod Serling classic, a young woman rebels against having her appearance changed to one of several approved by an overbearing government.

Todd’s story starts with Nine, a teenager approaching the remake date, who is struggling to determine who she will become. Along the way, Nine discovers society isn’t what she had been taught and that her home-town, Freedom City, isn’t free.

“Despite things being dreary,” said Todd, “you find that light of hope that you can stand up for something and find that light in the dark.” So there is good news for Nine.

Despite coming from a family in which reading was a popular activity, Todd hadn’t given much thought to writing. Finally, in 2010, she made it her New Year’s resolution to write a book. She just didn’t know how.

“I didn’t know what I was doing,” she admitted. “I Googled ‘how to write a novel.’ I found a plotting method, and I went from there and wrote my first book.”

That book, A Single Feather, about an ancient Hawaiian chief who falls for a commoner, was well-received by friends, but apparently not necessarily by those who publish books. Remake is her first published novel.

“I went to my first writer’s conference, where I learned I had no idea of how to write, and that my first one wasn’t very good,” laughed Todd. She attended more conferences, formed critique groups and kept writing. Other books followed, eight in all.

That Todd became a science fiction author shouldn’t be much of a surprise. She grew up wanting to be an astronaut, even securing a congressional appointment to the U.S. Air Force Academy. Todd changed course and studied physics at BYU, where she met husband Daniel. The couple now live in Utah with their children, Emma, Parker, Stirling and Hailey.

“Deep down, I knew I had to go to BYU,” said Todd, recalling why she gave up space exploration.

Though her book was written for teens, like Todd’s favorite Twilight, Remake has been grasped by adult readers who appreciate the political elements of the novel. “The biggest comment I’ve had from readers is they want to talk about it. They want to form book clubs, there are a lot of political discussions,” she said.

Todd’s sequel to Remake is being edited and should be released this year. To learn more about her or to find book-signing dates, go to