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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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?
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 Green, David Levithan)
The Galapagos (but there are 100s of places I want to go to).
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.