What was the inspiration this series? I was inspired to write the series in late 2010 when the fervor over global warming was escalating. When the mighty Mississippi River was at historically low levels, stranding barges, I let my imagination run wild. What would happen if things got worse? With politics in the U.S. as polarized as ever, I imagined government regulations leading to a second civil war and things escalated from there. But rather than tell the story of the turmoil during the environmental catastrophe and war, I decided to go another 100 years in the future and imagine how the country would recover.
Can you describe the process of world building for the Union and the Ruins? I started with the Union. I tried to imagine what the survivors would do after the war was over and realized they’d need to go to the water. With the middle of the country devastated, that means the coasts. I chose to design a nearly utopian society because I think when they started over, they wouldn’t make the same mistakes. They chose a green society where everyone’s basic needs were guaranteed and people could either pay ten percent of their wages in taxes, or donate ten percent of their workweek to community service. But like any society, it has it’s flaws, so I needed to make sure I wove those in.
Once I had the Union defined, the Ruins was easy. It was the old west. Small towns with local justice. People banding together to help one another and ensure survival. More modern conveniences than the 1800s, but not as many as we have now. I wanted it to be very different from the Union, but not completely opposite, either. I wanted there to be similarities in both societies.
What was the most difficult thing about writing these books? Trying to maintain a sense of the setting being 150 years from now, but also being relatable enough for current teens. I wanted some aspects of science fiction without going all the way. I stuck with language and concepts teens could understand and didn’t go too crazy with technology. But in order for that to be plausible, I had to ensure that the rebuilding effort taxed resources so they had to focus on the immediate needs like desalination of ocean water for drinking, green energy, and medical advances rather than flying cars, food generators, and jetpacks.
What was your favorite or chapter/ scene to write? In the first book, I think it was the last chapter. Evan learns a lot about herself. Up until then, she’d been focused so much on what she wanted. She was directionless in life and her focus on what would make her happy. By the end of the first book, she takes the first step toward realizing her life is more than about her own happiness. It was good to finally write a scene where she begins to grow up.
In the second book, there’s a twist about two thirds of the way in that I won’t spoil, but if you read the series, you’ll know the scene. I rewrote it scene maybe a dozen times to get it just right. I wanted Evan’s shock to come across as a living, breathing thing.
Is there a message you want your audience to take away from this series? I think the main message is that people are more than where they’re born or how they’re raised. That the value of a person comes more from what they do than what they believe.
What actor/ actress would you choose to play Evan and Cyrus? This is tough because I don’t think any actor really embodies who I think they are. But if we’re going on looks alone, maybe Molly Quinn for Evan and Liam Hemsworth for Cyrus.
Why do you write for the young adults genre? I love writing for young adults. The characters are still so much in flux, trying to figure out who they are and where they fit in the world around them. It allows me to explore strong emotions and permit them to make big mistakes that wouldn’t come across as authentic for adults.
When not visiting the imaginary worlds inside my head, I live in San Diego, California, with one husband, three children, two cats, and one dog. In addition to my day job as a technical writer and editor, I write young adult fiction and blog about books, movies about books, and anything else that moves me. I particularly love the young adult genre with the intensity of teen emotions and the way they’re still figuring out life.
When I’m not writing, you can find me with my nose in a book, hanging out with family and friends, hiking, or knitting. I’m obsessed with pumpkin spice lattes, social media, binge watching TV shows on Netflix, microbrewed beers, bad lip reading videos, and the San Diego Chargers.