Jo Treggiari is the author of one of the most anticipated 2011 novels, Ashes, Ashes, which was released earlier this month! If you've read my book review here, then you'll probably already know that I thought it was amazing! Post-apocalyptic and the general dystopian novels have become a great favourite of mine in YA books and since I thought Ashes, Ashes was such a fun read, I thought it would be cool to ask Jo herself a couple of questions and she graciously agreed to have a small interview with me! Enjoy folks! :)
1. How did you come up with the idea of Ashes, Ashes? Did you always plan for it to be a post-apocalyptic novel?
Originally when I thought of the story my main goal was to write an adventure in the vein of the books I had read as a kid and teenager, but replacing the traditional hero with a heroine. I wanted to portray a girl who was strong but flawed, confident about some things, insecure about others. Someone forced to live with her own choices. Then one day I was with my young daughter at the Alice in Wonderland statue in Central Park and I started re-imagining my surroundings. I visualized lake water lapping at the edge of the statue, and a tossing sea beyond, toppled skyscrapers and black smoke in the sky, and I had the setting for my story. So many things seemed serendipitous when I started my research. Details just fell into place from there.
2. I absolutely love Lucy and Aidan's character! So, out of the many characters mentioned, which one was the most fun to write?
Oh that's a hard question - I loved writing all of them. I guess I'd say that besides Lucy and Aidan, it's a toss-up between Grammalie Rose, an 80 year old woman with an undimmed spirit, and Del, a 17 year old teenage girl who is stubborn, hot-tempered, and majorly conflicted. I had a lot of back story figured out for the both of them. They are complex characters and I had them face difficult moral choices. The whole book really poses the question "what would you do if faced with having to decide between the individual and the fate of many?" My characters all approach the choice differently.
3. Some of society's worst fears come to play in the book - the likes of natural disasters and disease. The fact that it COULD happen one day in the near future . . . out of all the struggles Lucy has to face in Ashes, Ashes, which one would you fear the most?
The tsunami scene terrifies me. I could hardly bear to watch the footage of the Indian Ocean disaster on YouTube when I was doing my research. It made me look at the ocean in an entirely different way. The sheer mass of it, the unpredictability, our helplessness . . . (shudders). Compounding that is the fact that one of my dearest friends almost died in it.
4. Dystopian is becoming quite a popular trend in the Young Adult market. What do you think makes them so popular? What makes Ashes, Ashes something a little different?
I think it's that whole 'what if' thing? What if global warming caused rising sea levels and widespread flooding on a catastrophic scale, what if the government installed video cameras on every street corner or monitored our website searches, what if love was outlawed, or reproductive rights controlled? Some of these things have already happened which makes the fictional scenarios in books even more scary and plausible.
We are always interested in the tales of survivors because they have lived through horrors the rest of us can only dream of. That aspect of the human spirit intrigues me and I explored it in my book. I think that a focus on human spirit, strength, adaptability and hope is what makes Ashes, Ashes a bit different, and the fact that it is post-apocalyptic rather than dystopian and set in the near future.
5. Name your favourite scene in Ashes, Ashes?
Writing the tsunami scene was difficult and taxing but I am proud of my writing in it. I also loved writing the dancing scene with Aidan and Lucy - all that emotion and awkwardness that the characters were feeling!
6. If you were in Lucy's place and thrown into her dystopian world, if flooding occured . . . name the three items you would take with you and why?
Matches/tinderbox or magnifying glass so I could start a fire. Blanket which I could wear or make a tent out of. A knife which I could use as a tool and a weapon.
7. Any advice to aspiring authors?
If you want to write you must persevere. This means reading widely and across other genres, writing as close to every day as you can manage, revising and polishing your work as much as it is required, and above all believing in yourself and LOVING the process. It is hard work but in my opinion there is nothing so rewarding. Educate yourself about the submission process/query letter - there are tons of great resources on the web, network with other writers on Twitter and through critique groups. Try and have a long view as well, aspire to a career rather than a blockbuster book which comes out of nowhere and makes you rich and famous. Those book are rare and few.
8. Last question: Will there be a sequel to Ashes, Ashes? Are there any other books that you're working on at the moment?
I certainly hope so. I have a companion novel outlined already which gives more history on Del, Aidan and Sammy. I have a punk rock road trip featuring 2 teen girls in 1983 California out on submission. And I just finished a polished draft on a coming of age/fish out of water urban fantasy with great white sharks.
A big thanks to Jo for answering my questions!
Ashes, Ashes is available now and if you haven't already read it, you can add it to your goodreads page here!