Q&A: Lisa T. Bergren (Remnants)
THIS NOVEL IS SET IN THE FUTURE AND THE WORLD LOOKS VERY DIFFERENT FROM TODAY. CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THAT FUTURE AND WHAT INSPIRED YOUR PERSPECTIVE?
It's dystopian--I call it "Hunger Games with Hope"--and a key element for dystopians is that the world has gone very wrong. So, basically, everything I see going wrong in our current world was taken to the tenth power. In my Remnants series, the few faithful have had to go underground for many generations because any talk of the "Maker" is forbidden; there's been a global nuclear war, destroying most cities of note and severing global community. There is significant climate change--which has sent the world into two main seasons--a short summer ("Harvest") and a long winter ("Hoarfrost"), disrupting food production/supply. Even years after the toxins have dissipated, a form of "Cancer" continues to ravage the population.
Few people have survived, but those who did, band together. Some are in pockets of decent community, but most are in a very rough setting, which I see as more of a medieval lord/peasant scenario, and each pocket has it's own shade of gray. For example, there's the city called Zanzibar, which is very short of women, because they've limited families to one child and girls were second-rate citizens for a long while; now women are a commodity and human trafficking is how they find their supply (inspired by China, which has 39 million more men than women today).
There are the Drifters, who basically loot and raid and pick the meat off the bones of anyone they come across. There are traders who make it with the backing of the bigger cities who want them in place, and a good number of firearms. And then there are people who have done better than others in the West, and they've built a massive wall to keep the rest out; they exit to trade and make the most of the Union beyond the Wall, but they do not allow any outsiders in. They have money, technology and weapons. And they want to create an empire of what's left of this world. But they are sick too...skewed morally, physically, theologically, and ethically. It's harsh and dark, for sure. But that's where my Remnants come in, to help bring hope, and healing to a world on the brink of demise. They're gathering the few faithful they find, in order to battle the evil that threatens them all. To me, there's always hope. And in this genre, perhaps more than any other, I really wanted to see a faith angle in the mix.
HOW IS WRITING A YOUNG ADULT NOVEL DIFFERENT FROM WRITING OTHER GENRES?
It's not very different at all. I try not to keep the language a bit more accessible, thinking of younger readers, but I never want to "dumb-down" my fiction. Kids are sophisticated these days. They want access, but they want to be challenged and engaged too. With that in mind, I set out to write a really fast-paced, action-packed novel, with a bit of romance too.
You've written novels in almost every genre. How is it that you switch gears and manage to deliver to all types of fans from romance to speculative? Well, I hope I'm successful at that. But I find each series has its own flavor, which helps me create nuances that make it unique from other series. Setting, characters, and plot help me achieve that too.
WITH OVER 2.5 MILLION COPIES OF YOUR BOOKS SOLD TO DATE, HOW DO YOU KEEP GETTING FRESH IDEAS FOR FUTURE PROJECTS?
God. Seriously. But mostly, it is things that move me. I wrote the Grand Tour Series (Glamorous Illusions et al) because I was fascinated by the idea of a year away on tour, as well as the year 1913 and what life might've been like then; I wrote the River of Time Series (Waterfall et al) because I wanted to give my teen daughters and their friends a fast-paced romance without paranormal creatures like vampires and werewolves--and because I've always wanted to time travel myself; I wrote the Homeward Series (Breathe, Sing, Claim) because I live in spectacular Colorado Springs and I found out that in the beginning, thirty percent of our population was here to treat their tuberculosis. I wrote this series because I loved Hunger Games, but I was disappointed in the end---because there was no hope. No spirituality, which helps me make sense of my own world, no matter how crazy it gets. So, I'm constantly thinking the "What if..." question that gives all writers their next idea.
WHAT WRITERS HAVE INFLUENCED YOU THE MOST OVER YOUR CAREER?
Dean R. Koontz, Francine Rivers, Frank Peretti, and a hundred different romance writers.