What inspired you to write this series?
The initial spark of the idea came after a nightmare--I realized the only two books I've ever read that have given me nightmares both had to do with viruses, so obviously viruses and epidemics scare me more than just about anything in the world! And then it occurred to me that I could probably write a pretty intense story about something I was that scared of. So I started playing with the idea of an epidemic story.
I'd also wanted to write something generally apocalyptic for a while. A lot of the time, when I read a post-apocalyptic or dystopian story, I find myself most curious about what it was like while society was going through the state of change that resulted in this new world. It seemed to me that transition period, between our current world and something different, would be a fascinating time to examine. The virus was just one possible way that could happen.
How did you come up with the ‘sickness?’
One of the biggest inspirations for my "friendly flu" was an issue I've had with zombie story lines. Most zombie stories start after most people are already dead and zombies have pretty much taken over, and I always wonder how on earth they managed to. I mean, usually they're very slow and stupid, and so scary and threatening that if you saw one you'd run the other way. So how did they manage to catch and kill so many people when the zombie plague was just getting started? A really smart virus, I thought, would spread itself not by making its host attack other people, but by making its host extra social and friendly, giving it access to as many new hosts to jump to as possible.
So, I think of my virus as sort of anti-zombieism. ;)
For those who are interested, I go into a lot more detail of the decisions I made in designing the virus and the science behind it here.
What kind of research did you do for this series?
I did a lot of reading about viruses and epidemics, of course. Learning how viruses work, so I could make mine as believable as possible; learning how people and societies have responded to outbreaks in the past. I also did a lot of reading and watching of nature documentaries, to supplement my knowledge of animal behavior, since Kaelyn is such a wildlife enthusiast. And I had to do a lot of reading on survival techniques to figure out how to get the group through the long winter.
I spent a lot of time on Google maps, too, charting the characters' course after they left the island, calculating how long a tank of gas would last them, etc.
I really loved how you used the diary format in telling the story of Kaelyn. Why did you decide to use this format?
I wanted the story to be more of a day-by-day record of the gradual decline Kaelyn's world goes through, rather than just focusing on the big events that are usually needed to make a full scene. The journal format worked perfectly for that. I also liked the idea that the reader is following along at exactly the same pace Kaelyn is living through these events. There are never things about the future that Kaelyn knows and just isn't telling yet--the next day is as much a mystery to her as the reader. I think that adds a certain type of suspense that I really enjoy in this type of story.
In terms of character development, how did you mold Kaelyn?
I've tried to give Kaelyn a distinctive character arc in each book in the series--to have her be different by the end than she was in the beginning. In the first, for example, it's mainly about her coming to recognize her value and strengths as a person, even if they aren't what's typically seen as important. The challenges she faces during the epidemic and the relationships she forms all play a role in shaping her growth.
Which part was the most difficult to write in Book 2: beginning, middle or end? Why?
I pretty much always find beginnings and endings harder than middles, and usually beginnings the hardest of all. With the second book in the trilogy, the beginning was especially hard because I had to balance getting the story moving and grabbing the readers' interest with reminding readers who might not have read Book 1 in several months who these people were and what they'd most recently been through. On the other hand, the ending was more difficult than usual because I'd originally intended for this to be a two book series, and it only became a trilogy when I realized the story I'd wanted to tell for the sequel wouldn't fit into just one book. So I had to take the first half of what I'd seen as one story and make it into a story that stood at least somewhat on its own with a reasonably satisfying ending. That was tricky! It changed a lot over time, too. In the first two drafts of the book, the story ended one chapter later, after events that now play out in the first two chapters of Book 3.
To evade the typical second-book-isis aka the halt in action and dropping of interest in the second book of this series, what did you do?
It was important to me not to fall into the trap of repeating myself or having the characters regress as if their grown in the first book hadn't happened. So I went for a big change--I forced them off the island and onto the mainland, which they hadn't seen at all in the first book, and gave them a totally new quest. I also introduced several new characters, and a new set of villains, to add complexity to the conflicts and character development.
Aside from this series, is there anything else you’re working on?
I'm always working on new things! I have my new trilogy that I recently sold, and I'm also working on a yet another new project that I can't say anything about yet, other than it's another YA.
What’s next for Megan Crewe?
After Book 3 in the Fallen World trilogy, THE WORLDS WE MAKE, which is coming out next February, I have a new SF trilogy on the way. This one involves aliens, time travel, and space ships--three of my favorite SF elements! It's about a girl who finds out that aliens have been using Earth as a laboratory, experimenting with changes in the past to see what effects they'll have, and joins up with an alien rebel to try to stop them before their experimentation causes a total catastrophe. At the moment it's called EARTH & SKY, but it's looking as though that will become the series title and we'll come up with a different title for the first book.
Thanks for the interview!
Like many authors, Megan Crewe finds writing about herself much more difficult than making things up. A few definite facts: she lives in Toronto, Canada with her husband and two cats (and does on occasion say "eh"), she tutors children and teens with special needs, and she has yet to make friends with a ghost, though she welcomes the opportunity. Her first novel, GIVE UP THE GHOST, was published by Henry Holt in 2009 and is now out in paperback. THE WAY WE FALL and THE LIVES WE LOST are now available from Disney-Hyperion.
Follow Megan: Website | Blog | Twitter
Hardcover, 288 pages
February 12th 2013, Disney Hyperion
First, the virus took Kaelyn’s friends. Then, her family. Now it’s taken away her home.
But she can't look back—the life she once had is gone forever.
A deadly virus has destroyed Kaelyn’s small island community and spread beyond the quarantine. No one is safe. But when Kaelyn finds samples of a vaccine in her father's abandoned lab, she knows there must be someone, somewhere, who can replicate it. As Kaelyn and her friends head to the mainland, they encounter a world beyond recognition. It’s not only the “friendly flu” that’s a killer—there are people who will stop at nothing to get their hands on the vaccine. How much will Kaelyn risk for an unproven cure, when the search could either destroy those she loves or save the human race?
Megan Crewe's second volume in the Fallen World trilogy is an action-packed journey that explores the resilience of friendship, the ache of lost love, and Kaelyn’s enduring hope in the face of the sacrifices she must make to stay alive.
What's up for grabs? Signed Copy of The Lives We Lost by Megan Crewe.
You should be at least 13 years old.
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