Fear and Hoping in 2013

One year ago today, I was sitting in a hospital waiting room as Mom underwent surgery to remove a tumor from her brain. And while 2013 looks like it will start off on a better foot than 2012, it’s also the first time in a while where I look on the coming twelve months and am scared. Not happy, or depressed, or hopeful, or disappointed, or angry– all emotions I’ve felt in the past– but scared. Because even though the surgery was successful, and there’s been no sign of recurrence in her brain, Mom’s cancer is still at the front of our minds. The tumors in her lungs have resisted chemo so far, and she’s having radiation treatment for tumors under her skin. It’s been a rough year– full of good things, yes, but also full of scary things, and 2013 looks to be more of the same.

So with that in mind, My New Year’s Resolution Number One: Be as supportive as I can be for my family, make frequent trips back to North Carolina, and stay engaged. I have to tendency to distance myself from emotionally volatile situations. It’s a natural defensive reflex for me, but it’s caused problems in the past year, and needs to change.

I suppose that’s a heftier resolution than most people put forward, which tend to be along the lines of “lose five pounds” or “redecorate the bathroom.” But that’s the kind of year 2013 is going to be for us.

As for as myself– my own feelings and goals– I actually feel pretty good about where I am. I’ve sought treatment for some longstanding depression, and started taking Sertraline. It’s helped a lot. And to be honest, I don’t know how much of that can be attributed to general improvement in my life– enjoying work, pursuing hobbies, getting published– and how much can be attributed to the medication. Probably it’s both. The medication has helped me appreciate what I’ve accomplished, and moreover it’s prevented the sort of long-term, multi-day and sometimes even multi-week depressive episodes I used to fall into, where my whole soul just seemed to hurt, where everything felt like a weight, and I felt so overwhelmed I didn’t want to move. I still do have depressive episodes occasionally, but they’re usually sparked by something specific, and when I do have episodes, they last hours, not days.

There’s been another change, too, that’s harder to explain. As I’ve crawled up from the pits of depression– whether through my own efforts, the medication, or both– I feel, well, more like I’m somebody. I don’t mean metaphorically, I mean in actuality, like there’s a core part of my being which was missing before. This is mostly manifested in how I interact with other people. Previously, when I hung out with people, I often felt like a mirror– like I had to “reflect” the mood and the energy level and even the temperament of the people I was with. I think everybody does this to some degree, but now I feel like I’m not just reflecting. Like I have a better grip on who I am, I’m more confident and comfortable in my own skin, and rather than just trying to act like a fully functional human being I actually am a fully functional human being.

To be honest, I think part of that was reaching an acceptance that everyone else is just as messed up as I am, that everyone has their own anxieties and neuroses and weaknesses, and that even if someone acts supremely awesome and confident it’s often (maybe even usually) just a facade behind the same flawed humanity. That there are things I actually am good at, and I’m not just faking it, and my accomplishments are actually pretty darn cool. I mean, I suppose that’s odd, isn’t it? But it’s one thing to know it rationally, and another to actually feel it in your gut.

So, New Year’s Resolution Number Two: find a new talk therapist (I tried one and didn’t mesh well with him), keep taking Sertraline, and for the love of pete do not fall back into the pit. It’s only now, looking back on it, that I’m starting to feel like I know what I escaped. When I was in the midst of it, I didn’t even realize it– or at least, I didn’t realize exactly how bad it was.

So some New Year’s advice to you: if you think you might be depressed, or if you feel depressed a lot of the time, seek help. It’s not normal. And you may feel like you’re doing okay, like you can struggle through it on your own, but getting help can be the difference between climbing up a mountain with a backpack full of bricks and climbing up a mountain with no backpack at all. Sure, the first way is possible, but the second way’s gonna be a lot more enjoyable, and you’re probably going to find yourself able to climb far more mountains than you used to.

I could keep going on this, but I’m getting ready to head out for New Year’s. Maybe I’ll expound more in future blog posts. This was typed up in a bit of a rush, so I can’t even guarantee that it will make complete sense. But to sum it up, if I could have a wish for 2013, it would be that I stay on the same track I’m currently on, and that Mom gets shifted to a better track than what she’s on. And of course, I’d also wish for a wonderful 2013 for you and yours.

Thanks for reading.

With Love,

Andrew S. Williams

Newtown Reflections, II: An American God

Part I here.

When I wrote a story for Eric J. Guignard’s Dark Tales of Lost Civilizations anthology, I selected the ancient city of Hatra as my subject, specifically one of the goddesses they worshipped, named Atargatis (aka Atar’atha). As I researched, I followed the stories of Atar’atha across cultures, from Ishtar of the Babylonians, to Astarte of the Phoenicians, to Aphrodite of the Greeks and Venus of the Romans, perhaps even the Egyptian goddess Isis. Not all of these are explicitly the same deity, but even when they aren’t, it seems clear that their legends and stories influenced each other. In a sense, the goddess changed forms, adapting to new cultures across the centuries and millennia.

If Eric J. Guignard ever compiles a sequel to Dark Tales of Lost Civilizations, I will write a story of the god Moloch.

Here’s what the Bible has to say about Moloch (rendered here as Molek), in Leviticus Chapter 20:

The Lord said to Moses, 2 “Say to the Israelites: ‘Any Israelite or any foreigner residing in Israel who sacrifices any of his children to Molek is to be put to death. The members of the community are to stone him. 3 I myself will set my face against him and will cut him off from his people; for by sacrificing his children to Molek, he has defiled my sanctuary and profaned my holy name. 4 If the members of the community close their eyes when that man sacrifices one of his children to Molek and if they fail to put him to death, 5 I myself will set my face against him and his family and will cut them off from their people together with all who follow him in prostituting themselves to Molek.

Okay, now Leviticus is not exactly the most up-to-date of Biblical texts, as anyone who’s been involved in the fight for gay rights knows quite well. But in this case it would seem Leviticus has a point. Child sacrifice? That, if anything, is surely worthy of such punishment.

The sacrifice of living children, particularly through fire, as depicted above, was Moloch’s calling card. It was practiced in many ancient cultures, from Canaan to Carthage. In fact, when the Romans destroyed Carthage, one of their justifications was the brutal child sacrifice that happened there, sometimes, according to history, dozens or even hundreds of children at a time.

But has Moloch stayed with us over the centuries? Like Atar’atha, has he adapted forms, changed guise and name as civilizations rise and fall?

Today, a friend sent me this article from the New York Review, which points out some fairly obvious parallels between Moloch and gun culture in modern-day America. I won’t recap the entire article; it argues its point better than I could, so please go read it for yourself. But its gist is this: the deaths in Sandy Hook; the deaths in Aurora; in Clackamas; at Cafe Racer in Seattle; at Virginia Tech and Fort Hood and Columbine; on the streets of Chicago and New York and D.C. and every other city where gun-fueled urban violence proliferates; they are our sacrifices to this modern-day Moloch. The Second Amendment, originally meant to allow for the maintenance of a militia, has been warped and twisted, used much like fundamentalists use the Bible: as a way to shut down any discussion or debate of their religion. Do not question the Word, for it is infallible.

Here in America, we desperately need to have a conversation on stemming gun violence. For a moment, in the wake of Newtown, it seemed that such a moment might have finally arrived. Over the past few days, I’ve engaged both friends and strangers across social media, trying to discuss some of the ways we could combat gun control. But in the course of things, I’ve found myself arguing points that are so distanced from the problem, or points that are so utterly, blatantly self-obvious, that I begin to realize: even in the wake of twenty dead children and six dead teachers, rational discussion is impossible. I am arguing with zealots, who will not cede the slightest bit of ground, for fear that someone will knock on the door and take away their godsguns. For example:

  • A couple days ago, someone on Twitter refused to concede that a soldier with an M-16 is more deadly than a soldier with a wooden spear.
  • Today, I was mocked for stating that people should not have to carry concealed lethal weapons everywhere they go in order to feel safe.
  • When I suggested technological innovations (better non-lethal self-defense weapons, for example), the discussion degenerated into a debate on minutiae about Tasers.
  • When I suggested more focus on trigger locks and secured storage of assault rifles and semi-automatic handguns (offering revolvers as a concession for emergency defense), the discussion degenerated into a debate on revolver speedloaders. Again, thoughts of saving lives? Lost in minutiae.

Over and over again, across multiple people, I’ve seen this pattern. A refusal to acknowledge the obvious, and to pick fights over details for the sake of picking fights. A determination that if they can poke a single hole in your argument, find a single loophole that might exist, then it’s useless. It’s so maddeningly similar to the pattern I see with religious fundamentalists: if science can’t explain everything, then clearly God is a better answer! Except for gun fundamentalists, the argument is that if gun control isn’t perfect, or if there’s one conceivable way that a bad guy could still get a gun, then the only potential fix is more guns.

Guns are the new American religion.

Seriously, go read that New York Review article. Tell me they don’t have a point. Reassure me that despite my own experience, a rational discussion focused on plausible solutions and improvements is possible.

Because when I read, for example, this article by Megan McArdle, which ends with her suggesting as an actual fix that we train kids to rush shooters in the hopes that they can overwhelm him, I kind of lose hope. If we have to debate why training kids to bum rush school shooters is a bad idea, how are we ever going to have a serious discussion on effective gun control?

Okay, so you want a starting point for actual solutions, rather than just whining?

  • A strengthened version of the assault weapons ban, one that focuses more on purpose, ammo caliber, and potential rate of fire than cosmetics– in other words, an improved version of the 1994 law. (Gun advocates will often point to the failure of a particular gun control law and cite that as a failure of all gun control laws. We can, and must do better.)
  • Strengthened laws governing the storage of guns, particularly semiautomatic weapons of all kinds.
  • Banning of high-capacity magazines.
  • Closing of the federal gun show loophole.
  • Require registration and background checks for all firearms, and mandatory safety/training courses, much like we do for issuing drivers’ licenses today.
  • Take a page from Australia’s extremely effective gun control, and do background checks on folks who reside with the potential gun owner.
  • Government grants for technology research: for example, if we can put biometric locks and electronic codes on cell phones, we should be able to put them on guns.
  • In the same vein, come up with improved non-lethal defense weapons to reduce the need for guns. Don’t tell me it’s impossible because current technology sucks; we could totally come up with better technologies.
  • Restrictions on gun advertisements. Gun culture needs to change, and the first step is regulating how the gun industry markets itself, much like we already do with the cigarette industry. The screenshot below is from a campaign run by Bushmaster, manufacturer of the Newtown shooter’s AR-15. I wonder if he saw it.

That’s just a few starting points, most of them fairly independent of each other, which I’ve seen discussed (to very little positive reception) over the past several days. Now, do I really think that discussions on Facebook, Twitter, and blogs will be the catalyst for long-term change in American gun policy? Not really, but maybe. Maybe if enough people chime in, things will start to shift, and we’ll be able to save lives.

As I mentioned in my first Newtown blog post, there’s other fixes that need to be made, too. Our nation’s mental health care system is shattered, and it needs to be rebuilt. But the political willpower for that sort of spending seems even more unlikely. Health care, spending, and taxes are governed by their own sort of religion in America.

The last few days have made me pretty discouraged. It’s been less than a week since the shooting, but already the old lines are hardening. Names like Emilie Parker, Jack Pinto, and Grace McDonnell, having been mourned by the country for an appropriate period of time, are already being less mentioned as the status quo reasserts with a vengeance, and the debate gets lost in hypotheticals and little details. School shootings are tragic, but make changes? Even if we could save thousands of lives, or just make some noticeable dent in the 30,000+ Americans killed by firearms every year? Impossible! Unthinkable!

All hail Moloch.

Podcast Up At Every Day Fiction

The first story I ever got accepted, From Here to the Sargasso, is now available as a podcast on Every Day Fiction. The podcast is produced and narrated by the inimitable Folly Blaine, who has my sincerest gratitude and thanks.

From Here to the Sargasso is special to me because even though it appeared on Every Day Fiction, it’s not really fiction at all. One evening in August 2006, my mother, my aunt, and I went walking at dusk on a Florida beach, shortly after my brother had left home for Los Angeles. And we watched the sea turtles hatch.

I wrote the first draft of this story that same evening in a paper notebook. It was the first story I had written since college, and it was the first tiny little snowball that started rolling down a hill, until I ended up where I am today as far as my writing. Given that I moved to Seattle at least partly to focus more on my writing, it’s safe to say that Freddy the Sea Turtle may have drastically changed the course of events in my life.

In the intervening six years, a lot has happened:

My brother, Charlie Williams, has taken roles in two major Broadway Productions, Memphis and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, where he performed alongside Daniel Radcliffe and John Larrouqette. He’s also been in numerous other productions and events (including the Tony Awards and the Radio City Christmas Spectacular), and has done some choreography work as well.

My mother took ill with breast cancer in 2009, and after a masectomy and chemotherapy, the cancer went into remission. A year ago, she had a seizure, at which point it became clear the cancer had metastasized into her brain and lungs. Surgery and radiation appear to have successfully removed the cancer from her brain, but the tumors in her lungs have so far resisted chemotherapy. The cancer also manifested in the form of two cysts under her skin, and she’s undergoing radiation treatment for those. Her cancer appears to be very aggressive, and we will be extraordinarily lucky if we achieve remission again.

As for me, I’ve moved across the country, had some stories published, dabbled in various hobbies, and probably fallen in love, though I wasn’t willing to admit it at the time. Of the three of us, I’ve lived the most mundane life, although perhaps I should be grateful for that.

So when Folly asked me about doing From Here to the Sargasso as a podcast, I readily said yes, and then didn’t think too much about it afterward. I went home to North Carolina over Thanksgiving, where I had Thanksgiving Dinner with both my Mom and my brother for the first time in several years. I spent ten days at home, accompanying Mom to doctor visits and catching up with Charlie; going to see Lincoln; decorating the Christmas tree. For the first time in a while, I wished I didn’t live in Seattle.

A few days after I got back, Folly sent me the mp3 of the podcast. I was staying late at work that evening, and I played it over my headphones as I worked. And everything cracked. I work in a large, wide-open room, and I found myself shaking quietly, suppressing sobs, as Folly read back to me the words I had first written six years ago. When it was over, I had to go to the restroom and shut the door, where I could cry without drawing questions from co-workers.

I suppose it goes without saying that I’m emotionally fragile these days. You only had to see my reaction to the Newtown shootings, both on Twitter and on this blog, to realize that. I don’t hold any illusions that other folks will have the same emotional reaction to this story as I did; it’s pretty much impossible to get across years of context in a few hundred words, and the fact that the story is so dependent on context and knowledge of my family is, in fact, one of its objective weaknesses.

But still, even if nobody else has even a tenth of the same emotional reaction I did, I’m glad it’s out there. It almost seems like an emotional disorder these days, that I feel this compulsion to vent my emotions in the form of public stories and blog entries and letters and tweets. I suppose it’s called “being a writer.”

Thanks for listening.

Rage, Depression, and Action: a Post-Newtown Discussion

Over the past twenty-four hours, I’ve scattered my thoughts across Facebook, Twitter, and e-mails. But for my own sake, as much as anyone else, I wanted to consolidate them here, and come up some cohesive thoughts on the topic so I can continue to function. I’m a writer. I think better with my fingers than with my brain.

My soul hurts today. It’s that deep, aching hurt that seems to penetrate every limb, that feels like an ulcer in your gut, that leaves your entire body tense and leaves your tear ducts permanently on the edge of pouring open. I haven’t felt this in pain from the news since 9/11.

But at least with 9/11 there was the cathartic knowledge (as raw and barbaric as it is) that we would have our revenge, that we would take our planes and aircraft carriers and cruise missiles and bomb the ever-living shit out of the folks who made it possible. It wouldn’t bring back our murdered friends and family. But it would be an act of revenge, a healing process for the nation.

I suppose that sounds pretty bad, that we went to war to find healing. And in the process we created a lot more hurt. Was it worth it? I don’t know. That’s a topic for another time.

See, in a mass shooting like we witnessed in Newtown yesterday, there is no revenge to be had. Even if the gunman had survived, there is no act we could inflict that would make us feel better, except maybe the sort of excruciating personal torture that always makes us feel a bit uncomfortable when it’s lived out in fantasy on a movie screen.

And even that wouldn’t help. It wouldn’t honor or respect the victims, and it wouldn’t provide the sort of needed change in the world to prevent such acts in the future.

There is only possible thing we can do in response to this– hug our families, tell our friends how much we love them, and then have a reasonable, adult discussion about how to prevent these sort of atrocities from occurring again. And in today’s political climate– amid polarization and pundits and a media that thrives on short-term conflict– that sort of thing is far harder to start than a war.

But the debate on gun control is already raging, and for once, I agree that it should be. Even after the shooting in Aurora, I was reluctant to “politicize tragedy.” But here’s the thing: politics are how we, as a society, set standards and rules for behavior (i.e. “laws”). It’s the forum in which we discuss, via our elected representatives, how to solve society-wide problems.

At least that’s how it’s supposed to work. Our political system is pretty dysfunctional. But if discussing concrete actions on how to prevent mass shootings is “politicizing tragedy,” then so be it. Because simply grieving is no longer enough, just like it wasn’t enough after 9/11. Then, we went to war. Now? Now we have no choice but to turn to politics.

I think when having this debate, it’s important to realize one thing: we can’t truly prevent these tragedies, in the sense of guaranteeing that they will never happen again. Every policy is flawed. But if we can reduce the probability of one of these events, or reduce their potential severity, isn’t that worth pursuing? Just because we can’t do everything, doesn’t mean we should do nothing.

My intention in this post isn’t to have a comprehensive debate on gun control. That would take a whole other blog. But as an example, let’s consider tighter restrictions on semi-automatic handguns and assault weapons, which are responsible for the vast majority of shootings in America. Well, we could register and track every sale (more on this in a moment). On an easier note, I’d suggest requiring they be kept in a gun safe, or locked down in some manner when stored.

“But people won’t necessarily follow those rules!” I hear you say. Maybe not, but maybe they will. And maybe the next school shooter will live in a house where their law-abiding parent does follow the law, and lives will be saved. Reduce the chances. That’s all I’m asking. And as for emergency “under the pillow” sort of home defense, you could still use a revolver.

My intention here isn’t to resolve every argument. It’s more just to demonstrate the sort of discussion we need to have. Could someone still shoot up a school with a revolver? Yes, but if it happened, the death toll would probably be less. Reduce the probability. Reduce the catatostrophe. We can’t prevent. All we can do is reduce.

If we tracked the sale and ownership of semi-automatic weapons, we could potentially build a national database which could be used– much like counter-terrorism efforts already do– to correlate data and identify potential problems. Like, if a guidance counselor received reports of a deeply troubled kid, they could use a database to determine if that child’s parents had a 9 mm Browning at home. Please understand, I do not like making these arguments. It strikes hugely of a “Big Brother” sort of government playing an overly paternalistic role, and that drives me crazy.

But here’s the thing: in the Declaration of Independence– the very founding document of our country, arguably more so than the Constitution– there is the following text:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.

Yesterday in Newtown, 27 elementary school children were deprived of their right to be alive. On Tuesday, it was two people in a mall in Oregon. This summer, it was twelve people in a theater in Colorado. In May, it was five people in a coffee shop in my own city, Seattle. In fact, fuck it, here’s a list. How many of those do you actually remember? And that’s just from this year! And that’s just mass shootings. It doesn’t even consider individual crimes and gang-related violence.

So as much as I don’t want to talk about restricting freedom– as much as I don’t want to see government take on more of a Big Brother role– everything needs to be on the table now. If we need to apply counterterrorism-type efforts to domestic weapons, then maybe we should, because as much as it sucks to restrict freedom, the alternative is more and more deaths from gun violence.

Here’s an example from my personal life. I could own a gun– in fact, I’d kind of like to. There’s a raw, emotional appeal to them, and in their mechanisms and variety, guns are an interesting topic. It’d be fun to take up shooting as a hobby.

But over the past few years, I’ve battled with depression: heavy, clinical depression. It’s only recently that I’ve even realized it, or at least come to accept it. I’m getting treatment– taking Sertraline, if you must know– and it’s helping quite a lot.

If I had owned a gun, in the time since I was eighteen, I am pretty sure– and this utterly terrifies me to admit– that there would probably have been at least once where I would have turned it on myself. Even now, I would be too frightened to have a gun in my house, because I simply don’t trust myself with one. I have made the personal decision that I should not own a firearm.

That is my personal choice. It’s not one forced on me by anybody else; it’s a realistic acknowledgement of my own restrictions. It’s a decision to limit my freedom for the sake of my life and my safety. Now, it’s time for us to have that same discussion, but on a society-wide level. We– as a country– have proven, consistently, that we cannot be trusted with firearms laws as they stand.

I am very, very angry; I feel like my temper is a molecule-thin string. I read Mike Huckabee’s thoughts on the massacre, and got so mad I wanted to burst. (For the record, if your God is dependent on government sponsorship to enter schools, you need to get a new God.)

But I’m holding onto that anger, because the alternative is depression. Anger can be channeled into positive and productive motivation; depression, clinical depression, cannot.

I think my project over Christmas is going to be to write a letter I can send by postal mail to Barack Obama, and to every incoming Senator and Congressman– yes, every single one— asking them to take part in this discussion, motivated not by lobbyists or political agendas but by moral imperative. We need to do something. And for the record, it’s not just gun control that we need to discuss. It’s the rebuilding of our broken and shattered mental health care system; it’s adequate funding for our schools. It’s investing and encouraging technological solutions, like the development of better nonlethal defensive weapons, or biometric IDs for firearms.

I kind of feel like if we can’t have this discussion, if we can’t take some sort of concrete action on this, then America is fundamentally broken. I’m just one person, and I know it probably won’t do shit, but writing letters still strikes me as something concrete that I can do– I’m a writer, after all. If you’re in the Seattle area, and you want to join me for a letter-folding and envelope-sealing party, let me know. I’d welcome donations to pay for postage, but I am willing to pay for 536 stamps myself if I have to. So that’s my plan. I hope our country can come up with one.

For now, I’ll hold onto my anger because as long as I do, I can still be optimistic, about my country, and about humanity. As long as I’m angry, I still have hope. Depression is the lack of hope. And I can’t do that anymore.

The Next Big Thing: My Current Project and Three Awesome New Writers

I’ve now written two stories for Eric J. Guignard‘s fantastic anthologies, and so last week when he invited me to take part in The Next Big Thing, I immediately said yes. It’s a simple exercise, really, just a fun little combination of a questionnaire, self-promotion, and promotion of others, too.

To start off, I’ll answer ten questions about my current project. Then, I’ll tag three other up-and-coming authors, folks who I think you’ll be hearing more from in the next few years. All of them have plenty of novels and short stories under their belts, and may very well end up becoming The Next Big Thing.

I’ve written a fair amount about my first novel, which is on hold pending editing (and coming up with a better pitch). My second novel was largely written as a lark during last year’s NaNoWriMo, so today I’m discussing my third novel, which is my favorite concept yet. It’s still in the early stages of planning and writing, but the ending is stuck in my head, which bodes well for me actually finishing it.

So to start off, some Q & A:

1) What is the working title of your next book?

Ravensong.

2) Where did the idea come from for the book?

The idea came at the Rainforest Writers’ Retreat last March. I was doing some brainstorming, when the idea came to me of a siren (a la the ancient, mesmerizing singers of old) living amidst the ruins of a post-apocalyptic world. But as I fleshed out various characters, I realized the origin story of the siren was more interesting, and from there it sort of lost the siren part entirely (although maybe it’ll reappear in a sequel).

3) What genre does your book fall under?

Post-apocalyptic Science Fiction, with an eye toward the Young Adult audience.

4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Fallon Ravensong: Isabelle Fuhrman

Regulus: Idris Elba

Ezra: Dakota Goyo

Antares: Vinnie Jones

Warlord Staern: Ben Kingsley

Fallon’s Mother: Charlize Theron

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

In a bid to gain her freedom from the court of a post-apocalyptic warlord, Fallon flees South across the harsh landscape of a dead America, encountering fellow survivors as she flees for her life and chases stories of a place known only as The Green.

6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I’ll be exploring options, but my preference would be to find an agency.

7) How long will it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

I false-started on the original draft, and have been doing some additional planning in order to find a better beginning and overall arc. In the New Year, I’ll be hitting the first draft hard and hope to finish it within a few months. At which point it will have been… a little over a year since I came up with the original idea. Here’s hoping I can stick to plan.

8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

My uber-short pitch for this novel is that it’s The Wizard of Oz meets The Road.

It’s in the same genre (and shooting for the same target audience) as The Hunger Games, but that’s about all they have in common.

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Well, the original story was the result of a fairly straightforward brainstorming session. I pictured an interesting character, in an interesting situation, then tried to imagine how she got to where she was. That in turn led me chasing down a tangled web of ideas and themes until I ended up in a comfortable little nook that bore only a vague resemblance to my original starting point.

There are other inspirations, too. I love ravens and crows– they’re some of the most intelligent birds out there, despite the fact that they often get cast as minions of evil or bad omens. So I wanted the main character’s loyal companion to be a raven. Hence the name of the book (and Fallon’s last name, which she earns in the course of events).

10) What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

Even though it’s post-apocalyptic, I want this story to be optimistic, to speak to the ability of people to help each other out even in dark times. My goal is to write a story that combines an epic physical journey with an epic emotional one, and to tell the story of a girl who finds her place in a world that seems as if it has no place for anyone.

If all goes well, it will be the first book in a trilogy. Fallon’s scattered family, and the rest of the world, play a bigger role in the later books.

My Three Tagged Authors:

Luna Lindsey

Mark Andrew Edwards

Stephanie Herman

Look for their entries around Wednesday of next week, when they’ll answer the same ten questions about their own upcoming projects.