Speculative fiction and YA writer Jill Williamson answers a few questions about the first volume in her The Safe Lands series, Captives (Zondervan): Levi, a scavenger, returns home to find his community destroyed and his family and friends slaughtered or captured. Now he’s on his way into the “safe land” to rescue his fiancée unaware that he’s been sold out by his own brother.
Q: WHAT WERE YOUR GOALS WRITING CAPTIVES?
I wanted to write a story inspired by chapter one from the book of Daniel. How would teen guys cope when thrown into Babylon? So my goal was to send three brothers into such a place and try to show how each of them would react differently.
Q: HOW DO YOU CHOOSE WHICH STORY TO WRITE?
I choose based on what excites me most. I have several ideas that I’m thrilled about right now, but I’ll have to wait to write those. Because what I choose to write isn’t necessarily the story that a publisher will buy. Publishers buy stories they like, sure, but they also have to believe that they can sell the story. Dystopian stories have been very popular, so my publisher was excited to publish one for the young adult market.
Q: IN CAPTIVES, WHICH CHARACTER SURPRISED YOU MOST?
Mason. When I finished my first draft, I was shocked to have learned that Mason was my Daniel. This story isn’t an allegory of the book of Daniel or anything, but Mason was clearly my hero, not Levi. And I had pitched the story to my publisher as if Levi would be the main character! Levi is the strong hero who has to rush in and try to rescue his people. But Mason, the silent and smart brother, took over the story, and that was okay. I love Mason’s character. I think readers will too.
Q: WHEN WRITING FICTION, HOW MUCH DO YOU DRAW ON YOUR OWN LIFE EXPERIENCES AND PEOPLE YOU KNOW, VERSUS DRAWING ON RESEARCH ABOUT COMPLETE STRANGERS?
I used to draw on my own life experiences for everything. Much of The New Recruit, which is the first book I ever wrote (though it was published much later), comes from my own story. I was the non-Christian kid on a mission trip who thought the Christians were crazy. I was Spencer. But the more books I wrote, I learned to create original characters. And I do that now. I don’t parallel characters after people I know.
Q: WHAT PROJECTS ARE YOU WORKING ON NOW?
Outcasts, book two in The Safe Lands series, comes out in October 2013. Right now I’m finishing up Project Gemini, book two in The Mission League series. And I’m also plotting two different new fantasy series that will be similar to the Blood of Kings books. I’m hoping to write one of those after I finish up The Safe Lands and The Mission League.