MFT Guest: Jo Treggiari interview

Today is the start of Dystopian/ Post Apocalyptic week and I’m kicking it off with Jo Treggiari the author of Ashes Ashes.  I thought this was a fabulous book and you can find my review HERE.   Make sure you read to the end where you’ll find a giveaway for the book.
If you’re not familiar with Ashes Ashes here’s the description:

A thrilling tale of adventure, romance, and one girl’s unyielding courage through the darkest of nightmares.
Epidemics, floods, droughts–for sixteen-year-old Lucy, the end of the world came and went, taking 99% of the population with it. As the weather continues to rage out of control, and Sweepers clean the streets of plague victims, Lucy survives alone in the wilds of Central Park. But when she’s rescued from a pack of hunting dogs by a mysterious boy named Aidan, she reluctantly realizes she can’t continue on her own. She joins his band of survivors, yet, a new danger awaits her: the Sweepers are looking for her. There’s something special about Lucy, and they will stop at nothing to have her.

What made you decide to write post apocalyptic?  
I started out just wanting to write an adventure story with a teen heroine. The details came later. Sometimes it’s hard to remember exactly where the inspiration comes from. I was living in NY, so that was a setting I was familiar with- though of course I completely destroyed the landscape in my book. One of my dearest friends had been swept out to sea during the Indian tsunami and barely escaped with her life, so I was thinking about natural disasters and death and bravery. I think I was reading a book on foraging at the time. So all these things came together in my messy head and eventually emerged as a post-apocalyptic adventure with a 16 year old girl at the center of everything.

I’ve had this asked me several times and I find myself having a hard time answering it to where people who aren’t familiar with the genre understand, so I’ll ask you, what is the difference between dystopian and post apocalyptic? 
Basically a dystopian novel is also a post-apocalyptic novel by definition but a post-apocalyptic novel is not necessarily a dystopian. All dystopians begin with an apocalypse (could be nuclear war, natural disaster, epidemic disease, biological warfare for instance) and from that arises a new social order. Many of them strive to be utopias and then morph into dystopias. It could happen quickly following the apocalypse but usually it’s a number of years in the future. Many of the most popular- the Giver by Lois Lowry for example- happen so far into the future than most vestiges of familiarity with our world have disappeared. In my book the apocalypse is on-going so there’s been no time to set up much of any kind of order.

What are some things that inspire you and help the writing process?
I’m inspired by everything. Art, music, books, nature, architecture, but also by people I know, don’t know, imagine lives for.  I never know where an idea is going to come from. Sometimes I am so filled with ideas that I worry I will never remember them all or have time to write them all down. When I am not inspired, I suppose I won’t write. I hope that day never comes.
I post photos and maps on my walls, and research bits of relevant information when I am working on a book. I have folders of notes and character descriptions and sketches which help me imagine my characters and the setting. The clearer I can see it in my mind, the easier it is to write it.

What is it that you think makes dystopian and post apocalyptic books so fascinating?  Predominantly they are tales of survival- everyone is interested in survivors because they have lived through the unimaginable- and/or rebellion against a restrictive, cruel, or unfair society. I think the genre really captures the human spirit, both in its excellence and in its failings. And even in the most dire stories there is usually a glimmer of hope for the future.

Do you think that we should take some of it seriously and start preparing for a disaster? 
I think we certainly need to be aware. It’s our responsibility as humans sharing the earth to educate ourselves as to alternatives and certainly try to live in a way that is less wasteful. I think as long as people are doing the best they can, making some kind of effort even if it is just recycling, we’ll find a way to make things better and we will survive.

Are any of your characters based on real people in any way?
Sometimes. Often on me. Sometimes on family members (not so much my immediate family but slightly removed). Mostly though they come from place in my imagination. There might have been a real person there once, but I’ve forgotten who they were. Now they exist on the page as something I’ve made up. I think, that if a character is well-thought out then they begin to live and act like real people anyway, and sometimes they take over the plot in unexpected ways.

When you started writing did you know you wanted it to be YA?  
When I first started writing I just knew I wanted to write. I listened to the loudest voice in my head, the one demanding that a particular story be told. I didn’t, and don’t think about genre or age group necessarily. I just visualize a character or a place or a situation, but I do feel that the breadth and diversity of YA makes it very attractive to writers. Teen and young adult readers are sophisticated and there’s a lot of room to work. Everything I’ve written since Ashes, Ashes has been YA. I would like to write middle-grade as well, and hopefully I’ll have time to do that some day.

What was the most challenging part of writing Ashes Ashes?
Writing is hard work. There’s no concealing that. It’s a grind to show up everyday and sit down and concentrate even when the words come slowly or not at all. When I am working on a book, I set myself minimum daily word count goals. It’s usually 1000 wpd but most of the time I exceed that. I’m telling you, some days I just want to type out the word ‘blah’ one thousand times and be done with it. But then–and they are rare enough to really feel magical- there are days when the words just flow and that makes it all worthwhile. The challenge is to keep going on those days when that doesn’t happen. I always find the middle section of the book difficult. And then even when you’re done, you’re not DONE. (One could say that you are never done but I won’t say that because it will bum out all the aspiring writers). Because then comes revision, and again, and again, and again. I think that once you get over the hurdle of thinking that reaching the end of the first draft is the end, you can learn to enjoy revision. That’s where you really get to choose your words.

Did you ever find it emotionally challenging to write about such a tragedy as the world coming to that point of destruction? 
Yes. I tend to sink myself into my stories. So much so, that I vicariously live through my characters. Whenever Lucy or Del or someone else had to make a difficult choice, I felt as if I was making it as well. The thought of my beloved NYC almost completely destroyed just killed me too. And imagine if you lost your entire family and all your friends and neighbors? How sad would that be?

Will Grayson, Will GraysonGolden CompassWhat are 10 of your most favorite books?
The Golden Compass (Philip Pullman
The Amulet of Samarkand (Jonathan Stroud)
A Wizard of Earthsea (Ursula K. Leguin)
Gossamer (Lois Lowry)
Dust of 100 Dogs (A.S. King)
The Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins)
The Sparrow (Mary Doria Russell)
Wind Singer (William Nicholson)
White Cat (Holly Black)
Will Grayson Will Grayon (John GreenDavid Levithan)

If you could visit any place in the world where would you go?
The Galapagos (but there are 100s of places I want to go to).

Okay, so is Ashes Ashes a stand alone?  Or do you plan to write more?  (Hope so!) And do you have anything else in the works you can share with us?
I definitely have more stories set in the same world as Ashes, Ashes. I just finished a punk rock road-trip book about 2 teen girls searching for beauty in an ugly world. And I’m almost done with an urban fantasy fish-out-of water story with great white sharks. 

Thanks so much for being on for My Favorite Things!  
Thank you!
You can find Jo at:

The Giveaway: *Ended*
Scholastic is generously providing one winner a copy of Ashes Ashes.
Open to US only.
Must be 13 or older to enter.
Ends July 5th, 2011

To Enter: *This Giveaway has ended*
If you have read dystopia or post apolocalyptic before do you feel it makes you more prepared if a disaster does occur?  If you haven’t read any, do you think you’re prepared if a disaster strikes (you know, as prepared as you can be, with food stocked up, your own gardens, etc)?  Leave a comment with your answer and remember to leave contact info!

Thanks for subscribing!


  1. Oh my gosh! That’s so amazing that his friend survived being swept out to sea! I cannot even begin to imagine how terrifying that would be.

    Wow, that’s a tough question. I read a lot of dystopian and post-apocalyptic, but honestly I can’t really imagine the world ever becoming quite that extreme — it’s fiction, you know? So I don’t think it’s really prepared me for real world disasters. I don’t think you can every really be prepared for something that catastrophic. When the time comes, you find out what you’re made of.

    Thanks for the giveaway! I’m really excited for this one!

    thebookishtypereviews AT gmail DOT com

  2. What a great interview!!! I LOVE post-apocalyptic and dystopian novels (though I disagree that all dystopians are post-apocalyptic; I think society could evolve, not cataclysmically shift, into a dystopia, like in Memento Nora, Fahrenheit 451, Brave New World, etc.).

    Reading these books only makes me think how UNprepared we are for disasters. We’re soooo dependent on modern inventions – frozen food, microwaves, electricity, cars, and so on – and have moved so far away from living off the land that it’s almost impossible to be adequately prepared for disasters, especially when we don’t know what they are or what their effects will be.

    Thanks for the giveaway!

    susanna DOT pyatt AT student DOT rcsnc DOT org

  3. I’ve read quite a few dystopian & post-apocalyptic books. I don’t know if they would help me be prepared for a disaster or not though. I think real life experiences are always going to be different from what you read in books or watch on TV. It’s hard to imagine my reality changing that much.

    Thanks for the giveaway!

  4. I think having read dystopian has made me more aware of the things that could happen but not neccessarily prepared. The future is a scary thing, and I’ve read so many possible futures that it’s even scarier!


  5. I also think reading so much dystopia and post-apocalyptic fiction lately has made me more aware about what could possibly happen to our world, though I don’t think it has really prepared me or made me more paranoid. :)

    I love Jo’s list of books– I also love His Dark Materials, Dust of 100 Dogs, The Hunger Games, and White Cat. Can’t wait to read this one!

  6. I definitely thinks it makes me more prepared. Everyone knows the basic things you need in a disaster, but these books make you realize things. Like, what about long term survival? They also bring up situations and other things that you might not have thought of otherwise.

  7. I’ve definitely read quite a bit of dystopian fiction, but no, I can’t say that any of it could prepare anyone for such widespread disaster. Dystopian fiction does, however, often make me stop to think about the current human actions that could have dangerous & profound consequences in the not too far off future.

    Anyways, thanks for the giveaway!


  8. I’ve read a lot of dystopian, and in a way I think it’s prepared me. But how do you really know how you’ll react when disaster strikes?

    shutupjessicasreading @ gmaildotcom

  9. Thanks for the giveaway!

    I guess I feel a bit prepared, but not particularly. Most of the books I’ve read deal with the aftermath, not the initial takeover/natural disaster/zombie invasion/etc.

    captainsarahsparrow at hotmail dot com

  10. I have read a few dystopians, but I don’t think they better prepared me if anything ever happened. If something were to happen today, I wouldn’t survive lol. Not only do I not know how to cook anything that doesn’t come prepackaged, but my kids eat anything and everything that comes into the house the minute it comes in. We wouldn’t last a week :(


  11. I don’t think dystopians prepare you as much as post apocalyptic fiction does. The book that I loved after reading was Life as we Knew it by Susan beth Pfeffer. It was great! It can prepare you a little. Any information is better than none!

    deadtossedwaves at gmail dot com

  12. maybe a bit, I mean I’ve read dystoptian but I don’t really think anything can prepare you until you’re living it! ^-^
    you’ll either adapt and try to survive or give up and die! lol


  13. I like to think I’d be prepared just because I have a mental checklist of things in my mind (the big worry here is earthquakes), but really who knows. I need an Earthquake Preparedness Kit ready and I don’t exactly have one. I um, should definitely do that. I have read dystopian, but I don’t really think that they can prepare you for something actually happening since anything that happens will most likely be different from what’s in books anyway.

  14. I’ve always thought about this question whenever I read Dystopia. I like to think reading it would help me be prepared. I also like to think I wouldn’t be like characters that pretty much whine for awhile and then give up. I’m not prepared as far as food and water etc but seriously, I think reading dystopia makes you think about how different types of people react in bad situations and that could come in handy some day.

    thank you for the chance to win!

  15. I don’t think dystopian novels really prepare me for a situation, but it do think it’d help me think about things more clearly than usual.


  16. I don’t know if I feel more prepared from reading all this dystopia, but I think it makes me more aware of what’s going on around me. Usually in dystopia the government is corrupt/ there’s some weird new disease. I think some people are far too content with letting the government rule everything instead of thinking for themselves. I mean, I could totally see us heading towards a Matched society…ha!

    arallison at gmail dot com

  17. I don’t think I feel prepared after reading a fiction novel, but I do have a plan for survival in case of a disaster. I have others to consider. However, are we ever truly prepared for a disaster?

    books (Dot) things (at) yahoo (Dot) com

  18. I am NOT prepared, but I live next door to walmart, so I just have to hope that I can make it that 1/4 mile there! Then we can hunker down there and survive…lol!! We have nowhere to store annything in our current house, maybe when we move I’ll start storing stuff up if we have the space..

    YAY for Dust of 100 Dogs being on the fav book list!

    Thanks for the giveaway!
    dukesangel002 AT yahoo DOT com

  19. I read a lot of apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction and I’d like to think I’m prepared, but if zombies rose up tomorrow, I think I’d be pretty screwed.

    Now as far as natural disasters, I don’t feel prepared, but I think I’d at least have an idea of what to do. Books… who knew they were educational?

    workingforthemandroid at gmail dot com

  20. I’ve read dystopia and post apocalyptic before, but I don’t think it makes me any more prepared. Living in Florida with hurricane season upon us, I do have some basic supplies like batteries and some canned goods, but that’s about it. I think I’d be in trouble if the big disaster struck. But I do have a pool, so I have lots of water I could use. 😀

    Barbed1951 at aol dot com

  21. Thanks for the giveaway! I’ve read a few dystopian books now and I don’t think I’m more prepared. Haha. I would probably be one of the first to die. Haha.

    misslaurenwilk at gmail dot com

  22. I don’t think it makes me any more prepared…although in case of emergency, I’d probably keep chirping, “I read about this once!” They’d probably make me a little more suspicious though, in case of disaster.

    whatinabox at gmail dot com

  23. If disaster strikes, I doubt any amount of preparation will make me ready unless I’m just sitting in a bunk surrounded by canned goods waiting for the world to end! 😛


    Fantastic interview! :) I’m really glad to hear that Will Grayson made her top ten books! I love that one.

  24. Great question. I have been reading quite a bot of dystopians and honestly, I think it helps some with being prepared, gives you some ideas. But no matter what, it is never something people want to think about. But I do believe they do help.

    Great interview. I love that you cleared up the difference between post-apocalypse and dystopian. Thank you. I bet writing this was difficult. A lot of the times they can be too emotional read, you have to take a breather. I can only imagine how it is like to actually write the words. Great interview and giveaway guys. Thank you so much.

    drharleyquinn87 (at) gmail (dot) com

  25. I’ve read quite a few dystopian books, but I don’t feel that they have prepared me for a real life emergency. I think I’d still be as freaked out and at a loss as everyone else.

    Thanks for the contest!


  26. Am I more prepared, ?! Totally. I know that when the zombie hordes start abounding I need to first take over the SuperWalMart down the street since I will have food supplies ammo and books!! Then I will take to the hills armed and read up.
    I love the influx of Dystopians they make me so happy. This one looks great!

    terilhack at yahoo dot com

  27. I read Wither: Lauren DeStefano, which I thought was terrific; however, it didn’t really seem realistic…so I don’t really feel prepared. When a novel feels realistic, I do sometimes find myself considering what happens in the novel and if it would work in a disaster…I think I am fairly well-prepared, I have stocked up thanks to Costco (talking stockpiles in basement) and have taken several survival courses. Thank you for the giveaway, I have been wanting to read this novel since Good Reads :) edysicecreamlover18ATgmailDOTcom

  28. Great interview! I think this book sounds very interesting.

    I honestly don’t think we could ever be prepared enough. Even if I had tons of food stored it would never be enough. That’s sad to think about… :)

  29. I haven’t read any dystonia YET, but it is all over my TBR list! No, I don’t think I’m prepared if something awful happened, but I agree that we could never really be prepared. Too awful to think of, really.

    jwitt33 at live dot com


  30. I haven’t read any of those books before but I would love to. I especially want to really read this one. And no I am not really prepared for any kind of disaster. Please enter me in contest.

  31. I think reading dystopians and the like lead me to understand how unprepared we really are. I don’t think there is any way to prepare for everything that could possibly happen. I have food and water stored, we have a garden, we have emergency kits in our home but will that cover everything? Absolutely not. I’m trying hard to teach my children to be selfless, tolerant and kind in hopes that if everyone does this, our society will be better…

    brandonaimee AT gmail DOT com

  32. I read a lot of dystopian and can’t say I feel prepared for disaster if it strikes. I live in S. Florida so we get ready for hurricane season by getting our supplies but we only get enough stuff for about a week. If society as we know it ends, a week’s worth of canned goods and water won’t cut it….
    Truly Bookish

  33. I’ve read a lot of dystopian/post apocalyptic, and I think I am more prepared if something happens because of these books. Maybe not the technical stuff, like setting up a water filtration system or hard wiring a car alternator to a windmill to charge a battery, but just the possible choice that will have to be made. It takes the shock away from all that could possibly happen, when it all goes down.

    Thanks for the giveaway.

    candicerjames (at) gmail (dot) com

  34. I have not read dystopian yet, but have it on my list. I think we are probably not a prepared as we would need to be, but perhaps the best we can be at this time. My son is certainly a fan and he would be the general in charge of our situation. Thank you for the giveaway opportunity today.


  35. I have only read a couple dystopians to date and I really don’t think that they have made an impact on my preparedness. My job as a property manager for a ocmmercial highrise on the other hand requires that we be prepared for all types of disasters at all times.

    mmafsmith at gmail dot com

  36. Jo, it’s good to hear that your friend made it out of the tsunami disaster. I can only imagine how much that dominated your thoughts.

    Just so you know, I’m all for the puck rock road-trip book! That description alone makes me want to read it!

    I’ve read plenty of dysptopia and post-apocalyptic, but I’m not sure if they’ve really played into my disaster preparedness. I don’t think I could actually say it has without being faced with that kind of situation. My family has zero food stocked up, no garden, and it would be very difficult for me to hunt. Just thinking about killing innocent little bunnies (I had one before) makes me queasy. I have watched some disaster documentaries and I think they’ve put some great thoughts into my head about what to do if something happened. Whew, that was long!


  37. Dystopian and post-apocalyptic are one of my favorites genres because it’s mostly an imperfect world living as if they were perfect. I’m sure what read will probably never happen, but it’s nice to think about what people would do if it did. Who knows, twenty or thirty years from now, the world could be completely different, although I’m hoping not. I can say I am not prepared. At all. But I’m hoping to hang out with people who are. :)

    The interview was the perfect way to start off the week. She has great taste in books.

    Lindadao2060 at yahoo dot com

  38. I don’t think reading dystopian has made me more prepared. There are just too many possibilities of what could happen
    Thanks for the giveaway!
    throuthehaze at gmail dot com

  39. I think it might have made me more prepared because now i have an idea about what skills i will need depending on what sort of apocalypse it will be.


  40. I have only read like one so I don’t think I’ll be that prepared. I don’t think any amount of these books could prepare us enough for a disaster.


  41. -I’ve never read a dystopia before. I think I would be prepared. I’d have everything I need stacked up to the ceiling. All the food and weapons I could possibly get. :)


  42. i’ve read a lot of dystopian/ post-apocalyptic books before, and i must say i feel prepared. ive read about zombies and factions, and ive learned a lot of new things about a new society :)

    starlightgirl678 at aol dot com

  43. I don’t believe dystopian or post-apocalypitic works can prepare us for disaster since there are too many ways how the world could potentially destroy itself. I’m not prepared at all for a disaster, and I don’t believe that it’s possible to fully prepare ourselves for the “end of the world.”

    If I really did try to prepare for disaster, I’d move from the city to a ranch.

    elfdrop at gmail dot com

  44. I don’t know that I necessarily feel more prepared for disaster, but I know that it makes me think more about my world BEFORE disaster hits. Which is, definitely, very important .

    basicallyamazingbooks [at] gmail [dot] com

  45. Haha I have read plenty of dystopians, but I don’t think I would be more prepared. I would just hope I could survive!


  46. I love love love dystopian novels. They are my absolute favorite books. Now that I have read so many I feel sure that if the goverment ever did something that I felt to be wrong, I would definitely rise up for what I thought right. These dystopian worlds make me feel like I have so much to get ready if this were to happen but the characters in these books are so amazing and filled with courage that I would like to think I would survive the same way they did.

  47. i love dystopian novels, though I don’t think they prepare me for surviving a huge event. I do often wonder, based on a lot of the books, would I be one of the masses that goes along with things or not.

    tommygirl828 (at) gmail (dot) com

  48. Awesome giveaway! I love dystopian and post-apocalyptic novels! But reading them would not prepare me if a disaster occurs! I wouldn’t survive one bit!

    jadedlittlegirlx [at] gmail [dot] com

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