Q&A: Jonathan Friesen (Aquifer)
YOUR RECENT BOOK IS ABOUT A FUTURISTIC WORLD WHERE WATER EQUALS POWER DUE TO ITS RARITY. WHERE DID YOU COME UP WITH THE IDEA FOR THIS NOVEL?
I was thinking about those things most precious to me: family, friends, and faith, and in the physical world, water and light. How long could I survive without those needs? Not long. I imagined a world absent of the things I hold most dear. What kind of world would that be? How could those needs be restored to society? I created a thirsty future in which two civilizations developed independent of each other, yet dependent on each other; one on the surface, one deep below the surface. Those below would need light. Parched surface dwellers would need water. There would need to be an exchange. And what if that life-giving exchange fell on the shoulders of a sixteen year old boy? What a terrible weight for one young man to bear. That idea was the genesis of the story.
DID YOU FIND YOURSELF LOOKING TO PLACES ON THE PLANET WHERE WATER TRULY IS AS VALUABLE AS GOLD IN ORDER TO WRITE THIS BOOK?
As I thought about the setting, I wanted to find regions where giant underground aquifers truly do exist. One tremendous aquifer, which some scientists believe contains the majority of fresh water on our planet, stretches beneath Asia and Australia. Australia then became a natural choice given the language issue. Ironically, Australia is also the home to many gold mines. This made for an interesting paradox: in the present, we dig and scratch for shiny rocks, which end up in the hands of a few. It is not a stretch to imagine a future in which we dig and scratch for enough water to sustain us all. Would it also end up controlled by a few? It's a fascinating premise.
WATER CHARITIES ARE VERY POPULAR RIGHT NOW. DO YOU SUPPORT ONE PERSONALLY?
Our family loves the gift magazine put out by Samaritan's Purse, Franklin Graham's organization. My kids always gravitate toward the giving of animals which in turn sustain poor families. My wife and I tend to get excited about well projects. While on a mission trip to Mali, Africa, we saw how a new well became the lifeblood of a village. Those images of what clean water means to people who do not have it have stayed with me, and truly animated this book!
YOUR MAIN CHARACTER, LUCA, IS THE HERO FIGURE IN THE BOOK. WHAT IS IT ABOUT LUCA THAT WILL CONNECT WITH READERS?
His sense of being Other. In this future world, yes, water is power, but the council which controls the Topper civilization realizes that though water is the currency of the day, passion is the real threat to their control. People who are passionate are difficult to manipulate, and so strong emotion has been bred out of the citizenry. Except for Luca! Being the one who must make this terrible exchange is isolating enough. Being the only one who feels, who appears to love, to feel rage; this makes him feel alone in this world. That feeling of loneliness is one of our universal emotions. We all want to know that people see us, and like what they see! Readers will connect with this ache strongly.
HOW DID WRITING THIS BOOK CHANGE YOU?
It made me realize how deeply I need real relationship. Luca's struggle to find this is, and has been, my own life's struggle. Those precious ones in my life are now impossible to take for granted!
WHAT CAN WE EXPECT FROM YOU IN THE FUTURE?
Two exciting new young adult books! Next April, look for Mayday to release with Penguin, and later in the year, keep your eyes peeled for Cracks, another Blink title. I'm returning to smaller stories. Sometimes the most profound truths can be found in the simple things, and I'm thrilled with how these two stories about returning home turned out!