Note: This is not an interview I carried out but I was sent it by Lauren's publisher to feature for dystopian month. A big thanks to Anna McKean from Simon and Schuster Publishing for letting me use this interview.
I may never know exactly where is came from. This story is the culmination of many strange factors. I was bedridden with the flu, for starters, and I was getting frustrated with an adult writing project I had going. My agent suggested that I try something out of my comfort zone, something that I would normally never write, and she also linked me to a site that was taking short story submissions. I began Wither with the intention of making it a short story, and I had no idea where it would take me. Page one began with a girl in a dark place; she didn't know where she was going, and she was scared. That girl turned out to be my protagonist, Rhine, and at the time she knew about as much of her story as I did.
Describe your debut novel, Wither, in three words.
A broken fairytale.
If you could pair Rhine, Linden and Gabriel with any character from any book, who would your pick for each be?
I probably wouldn't do that. It's hard to imagine the characters in this world entering another world. But for Rhine, I would say that being paired up is the last thing she's want. She's a strong-willed girl who values freedom above all else; love is not something she's ever thought to look for.
Can you tell us why you chose the title Wither, and how it correlated with Rhine's story?
It was a title that the publisher and I generated from a long list, after the story had been through copyediting. It can be interpreted any number of ways, but for me it describes what's happening not only to my characters, but to everything around them. Flowers, trees, crumbling buildings - it's a world where everything is slowly dying.
How long did it take you to write Wither?
The first draft took about a month, which isn't typical for me. I have some unpublished stories that have taken years to complete.
What can we expect from future books in this series?
For some big questions to be answered, and for some bigger questions to arise.
Is there any certain person who instilled the passion for reading and writing in you? A family member or teacher maybe?
I've been writing for as long as I can remember. It's something I've always enjoyed, and when I was young I didn't give much thought to why I loved it, nor did I share it with anyone. I saw it as a private thing, like keeping a diary, except all the entries were fictitious. In fifth grade I was assigned to write a short story for school, and I remember my teacher pulling me aside and asking me if I had ever considered writing books when I grew up. Before that moment, publication had never occured to me, but as I got older I began to take the idea more seriously.
Were you inspired by other dystopian stories? What other dystopian would you recommend we read?
I have seen a lot of comparisons between my story and The Handmaid's Tale which frankly surprises me. I am a huge admirer of Margaret Atwood and would absolutely recommend her dystopian, but I think her story and mine focus on different topics and paint different worlds. As far as recommending dystopian's, it would really depend on what the reader is looking for. The beauty of dystopian fiction is that it breaks the boundaries we're used to; it makes us uncomfortable, and it makes us see our own world in a new light, and so I would only recommend, whatever dystopian each reader chooses, that it is met with an open mind.
A big thanks to Lauren, Anna and everyone at Simon and Schuster publishing for letting me reprint it on this blog.