Guest Review and Interview by Jennifer Hensley
The End of All Things is a book that stays with you long after you finish reading it. When I picked up this book, I didn’t expect the beautiful love story that emerged. After finishing, I had to know more about the author and how this story came to be. She was gracious enough to answer my questions. I am excited to read the sequel to find out what is next for these beautiful characters.
What was your inspiration for writing this book?
I’ve always loved EOTWAWKI (End of the World as We Know It) books and movies, and just like I do with most subjects that interest me, I had to “write” my own post-apocalyptic story. The quotation marks are because, at the time, it was “written” in my mind. I never actually intended to write down any of my stories or try to publish them; it was only for my own amusement.
The inspiration often came from aspects that irked me in those stories, like people driving cars years after the disaster (no, the gas would go bad), or not thinking of simple things like water purification. It made me start thinking about how people would have to adapt to those situations. My imagination took flight from there.
I wanted my book to be about an ordinary girl in a horribly un-ordinary situation. The current trend has been for kick-ass heroines who can take on the whole world by themselves, thank you very much, and might shoot you just for the hell of it. And while I enjoy those stories, I’m more fascinated with the tales of people who aren’t prepared for anything, who have to find a core of strength inside themselves they never knew they had.
When Justin first finds Carly, she’s deeply in shock, not thinking clearly about her situation or what she needs to do to survive. He can tell she has fire and steel inside her, underneath that soft, naïve exterior, but she spends a good portion of the first novel discovering it. You’re going to see her come into her own in the sequel and learn to trust her own strength.
Did you personally identify with any of the characters?
I think I identify more with Justin because I have a similarly practical nature, and I over-prepare for everything.
I’d like to have some of Carly’s traits, such as her unyielding optimism. I share her love for animals and reading, but that’s about it
What kind of disease do you think was the cause of the apocalypse?
I envision it as a kind of weaponized super-flu.
Did you have any other agenda in mind when writing this book, such as advocating for vaccinations or dealing with governmental cover ups?
My sole agenda when I write a novel is to entertain. I’m always amazed at the messages readers tell me they took away from my stories. It makes me think of that old saying, An author only begins a book; the reader finishes it. We all see through different lenses and our areas of focus vary as well.
The only conspiracy theory I espouse is the one that says Truman Capote was the real author of To Kill a Mockingbird. I really like that one, and I refuse to let facts get in the way of it.
Did you do any traveling to Alaska to research the area for the book?
No, but I wish I could have! Visiting Alaska is on my bucket list. I relied on a friend who used to live there and Google Maps. The Street View function allowed me to “walk” alongside Carly and Justin for portions of their journey. I was even able to find topographical maps that told me whether they were going uphill or downhill. On a couple of occasions, I used tourists’ vacation photos to describe the interior of buildings. I went over that route so many times in the 3D simulation mode, I think I could probably walk from Skagway to Toad River blindfolded.
I tend to get a little pedantic about details like that. I had two sentences in the early portion of the novel where I mentioned Carly’s job and the fact she was calculating sales taxes on her purchases. I actually looked up the salary offerings on Juneau job postings and the cost of the average apartment rent to make sure she could afford it, and then checked to make sure there was sales tax in Juneau.
Will we get to read anymore about Carly and Justin or their daughter and how things changed for them once they made it to the South?
Yes. The End of All Things is actually the first half of a longer novel. I never know how long these things are going to be while they’re still inside my head, so I had confidently asserted to the acquisitions editor I could tell the whole story in under 120,000 words. Turns out I was wrong about that, so I ended it where it seems logical: as they completed one journey and were about to begin another.
I’m going to start writing the sequel this summer, as soon as I finish up the edits on my historical novel. I’m going to try to get it out as quickly as possible so readers don’t have to wait long. There will also be a collection of short stories coming out which has backstories on some of the characters, a couple of whom you’ll meet in the sequel.
My True Love is urging me to consider making it a series. He says, and I quote, “You know with parents like that, Dagny would grow up to be a real badass.
Who influenced you to become a writer?
Sylvain Reynard, actually. I read Gabriel’s Inferno in the fall of 2011 and when I went to Amazon to leave a review, I saw one reviewer state —rather scathingly— it had once been Twilight fan fiction. I had to go find out what that was.
It was like one of those moments of epiphany you see in movies where the sky opens up and golden sunlight pours down, and a host of heavenly angels sings the Hallelujah Chorus. I had discovered that other people re-wrote books and movies, too, and there were massive online communities devoted to it.
I’d never written anything before, unless you count the novels I’d “written” in my head over the years. It took me a while to talk myself into it, because I was afraid reviewers would be cruel. But the fan fiction community was incredibly supportive and kind. I started my first story in September and in February, I was contacted by a publisher. 2012 was a crazy year.
I sent Sylvain Reynard a thank you note a little while ago, and he was very kind and gracious in his response.
If you had 24 hours with nothing to do but read, what books would you read?
How many do I have to narrow it down to? My appetite for books is legendary, and I read everything from graphic novels to ancient Japanese literature. I have a library of non-fiction books on bizarrely esoteric subjects like ketchup, and the history of lawn care, and two sagging book cases filled with nothing but vampire romance novels. I never know what I’m going to be in the mood to read.
About the Book
After a terrible virus ravages the planet, Carly Daniels, one of the few survivors, hides in her apartment in Juneau trying to survive the best she can with only occasional forays to gather food. With her is Sam, a wolf puppy she found starving on the streets. He becomes her companion and a reason to continue when giving up sometimes seems like the more attractive option. Still dazed with shock and grief, she hopes for the world to go back to normal soon.
She is discovered by Justin, an ex-soldier who is intent on making his way to Florida before the winter sets in. Justin coaxes her out of her hiding place and convinces her to join him on his journey, because a warmer climate will be their best chance against the extremes of Mother Nature.
Together, they begin a perilous journey through a nation laid to waste by the disaster. Challenges abound along the way. The weather, injury, and shortage of supplies all help to slow them down. In time, they discover that they aren’t the only survivors. Some are friendly but some have had their minds destroyed by the high fever. Then there are those who simply take what they want, leaving Carly and Justin with no choice but to defend what is theirs.
But their journey is not without joy and love. Together, they face every struggle, including an unplanned pregnancy. Despite the perils of bringing a child into a world of chaos, their baby is a new beginning for themselves and a symbol of hope for the other survivors they find along the way.
This is the story of their journey to find a place to begin a new life, and a home in each other.
About the Author
Lissa Bryan is an astronaut, renowned Kabuki actress, Olympic pole vault gold medalist, Iron Chef champion, and scientist who recently discovered the cure for athlete’s foot … though only in her head. Real life isn’t so interesting, which is why she spends most of her time writing.