: Welcome to The Qwillery. What is the first fiction piece you remember
: I wrote this truly bonkers story for a kindergarten assignment… we would dictate
the story to our teacher, and they would write it out for us. For most kids, it
was just a couple sentences, something like “The cat ran into the tree to chase
a squirrel. Then a bird flew away.” Mine was this long run-on paragraph about an
alien in a cloud spaceship coming down to earth to bury the severed limbs of his
ancestors. It drew some weird looks from the teachers, but six-year-old me was
very happy with the finished product.
: Are you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?
: I’d say I’m a hybrid. I love outlines, but I also strongly believe that you
should let your characters change and grow as you’re writing them, which means
sometimes they’re going to change the story on you. When that happens, you just
kind of have to go with it.
: What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?
: When writing a story, I always get bogged down in the middle. I always have a
sense of how a book is going to begin, and how I want it to end, but the middle
is where I get stuck. Sometimes it’s because I’m trying to force a plot through
that’s not quite the right fit anymore, or because I’m avoiding the necessary
conflict or change for my characters. But somewhere, about 150 pages in, I
usually have to take a step back and shake off my preconceived notions of the
story in order to keep going.
: What has influenced / influences your writing?
: Everything influences my writing. I’m a very big fan of reading all genres, and
even outside of literature, just taking in as much of the world as possible;
paintings, dance, history, travel, politics, scientific theorems, you name it.
For this book, I read a lot of Calvino, a lot of Beckett, Douglas Adams, Karen
Thompson Walker, and Emily St. John Mandel. Lots of existentialism and lots of
humanity. One of my main characters is also an art appreciator, so I got to pull
from some of my favorite artists, like Alma Thomas and Roman Opalka.
: Describe The World Gives Way using only 5 words.
: A warm, humane, aesthetic, apocalypse.
: Tell us something about The World Gives Way that is not found in the book
: Most of the descriptions talk a lot about the class structure in the book, the
fact that my main character is an indentured servant. I don’t think many of them
directly state that the book is an apocalypse story.
: What inspired you to write The World Gives Way?
: I’ve had apocalypses on the brain for a few years now (I’m sure the 2016
election had something to do with it), and I kept thinking about what it would
be like to know that the end of the world is coming, and to just sit with that
knowledge. There are plenty of thrillers and action movies about characters
fighting to avert the end of the world, but I was interested in writing a
character who was fighting to come to terms with the end of everything, and
fighting to live their best life with the time left.
: What sort of research did you do for The World Gives Way?
: I did a lot of research on what I consider to be the world’s most beautiful
places: Tokyo, Mexico City, Istanbul, Petra, Tunisian deserts, Mediterranean
coasts, the Himalayas. I was creating a world that had to be a little bit of
everything all compacted into one, so I wanted to blend as much of the world
together as possible. That meant also finding ways to blend cultures with food,
religion, architecture, technology, etc. I did a lot of research and then tried
to pepper it into the world of the story as subtly as possible.
: Please tell us about the cover for The World Gives Way.
: Lisa Marie Pompilio designed the book cover, and it’s beautiful. There’s a lot
of teal and warm peachy-orange colors; we’ve been joking that the color palette
accidentally matches the decorating in our house. It’s been very convenient for
The cover shows a woman in profile, against a moon and backdrop of stars. The
woman is meant to be Myrra, my main character. I don’t know specifically if this
was the intent, but her posture to me suggests someone who has been beaten down
a bit, but is also resolute and strong. It fits the character very well.
: In The World Gives Way who was the easiest character to write and why? The
hardest and why?
: Tobias was the easiest character to write, I think because he’s fastidious. I
like writing characters who are buttoned up, who want everything just so; I
think I’m a little like that, which might be why they’re easy to write.
Myrra was the hardest (and most rewarding) character to write-- she’s faced with
pretty terrible circumstances throughout The World Gives Way
, and I had to
constantly reassess and delve more deeply into what was driving her, what pushed
her to keep going.
: Does The World Gives Way touch on any social issues?
: I ended up having quite a bit to say about class structure in The World Gives
, which is funny to me because I don’t think I intended to write a book that
was so focused on that. But the circumstances of the story, the nature of the
social structure aboard a generation ship where people must buy their passage--
it very much demanded that class, wealth, and power all be evaluated, and I got
more and more passionate about it the more I wrote. Now it’s one of the first
things people note when they’re describing the book, this element of class
dystopia. I didn’t know how many opinions I had about class and the wealth gap
until I started writing them down, but it turns out I’m pretty angry about it.
: Which question about The World Gives Way do you wish someone would ask? Ask
it and answer it!
: I’m sometimes surprised that people don’t ask more about the thread of
motherhood in The World Gives Way
. This was another thing that came into the
book by accident, but became very meaningful as I kept writing. Early in the
book, Myrra is given charge of a baby, Charlotte, and as she deals with all the
other conflicts thrown her way, navigating an apocalypse, running from the
government, etc, she is also learning how to be a mother. Myrra’s own mother
disappeared, and the push-pull of her caring for Charlotte and coming to terms
with her own fraught upbringing becomes a huge driving force in the story. I’m
at a time in my life where I’m on the precipice of having a family of my own,
and I spend a decent amount of time wondering what kind of mother I’ll be, if
I’m capable of such a monumental thing. I think that definitely found its way
into the book.
: Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from The World Gives
“The world is a relative concept”
“Who knows what keeps us from letting death in. Even now, when death waits at
the threshold for the whole world.”
: What's next?
: I’ve been working on a haunted house book, which has been an absolute blast to
write. It means I get to read a bunch of ghost stories and gothic romances, all
in the name of research. I’ve set it on the Oregon Coast, an area where I grew
up, which makes a nice change after all the worldbuilding I did in The World
Gives Way. Earlier this year I took a trip out to Oregon to reacquaint myself
with the landscape. I’m honestly surprised more people don’t set horror stories
in the Pacific Northwest. It’s fantastically moody, with all the clouds and rain
and dense impenetrable forests. I know Stephen King loves Maine, and the English
have their wild moors, but the Pacific Northwest has always felt wonderfully
haunted to me. I’m finishing up my first draft now. I’ll be eager to share it
: Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.