The first in the YA dystopian thriller series:
In addition to an excerpt from the novel, this month’s Spotlight also features a guest post on writing post-apocalyptic fiction …
Happy Apocalyptic Reading !
A post-apocalyptic romance thriller.
The world of the future is divided by Perimeters: high-security gated communities where life goes on as normal. If you’re inside you’re lucky, if you’re outside life expectancy takes a nose dive. Riley is fortunate to have been born on the right side of the fence. But her life of privilege comes crashing down when someone breaks through the Perimeter and murders her sister. She forsakes her own safety to go in search of the killer. Luc decides to go with her otherwise she’ll be dead before she’s past the security gate. But what awaits her outside is more unbelievable than she ever expected. Cut to the present day where Eleanor’s world is falling apart. This time next year, civilisation won’t be quite so civilised . . .
What is being said :
‘I was completely shocked at how all the events unfolded at the end. I really did not see it coming … If you like post-apocalyptic books, this story is for you.’ – Cynthia Shepp Book Reviews. ‘Outside is written in a way that kept me flipping through the pages, biting my fingernails and that good old ‘one more chapter’ feeling was ever-present.’ – The Aussie Zombie.
Excerpt from Outside:
‘I doubt they’ve got any automatic weapons, but when they see ours they’re going to start drooling. They’ll want what we’ve got. Here are the binoculars, keep scanning around for trouble.’ He smiles. ‘We’ll do this, okay? It’ll be fine.’ I nod again, mute, and sling the bins around my neck as Luc opens the roof hatch. At least I’ve had good training, as have all of us Perimeter kids. Pa taught Skye and me from the age of eight. We had advanced driving lessons, comprehensive weapons training and survival skills. Of course it had all been great fun, but I see now that Pa was equipping us for every eventuality. It all feels like it’s happening in slow motion. There’s no time to feel scared anymore. One minute Luc and I are discussing what we should do. The next minute we’re firing off rounds into the dark, silent countryside. They come at us from the far distance, to the left, where the sun has recently set. From what I can see, most of them are on horseback, but there are a lot on foot, swarming down from the hills. I can’t see how Luc is doing so I just spray bullets, even though my targets are way out of range. But if the raiders keep on coming, it won’t be long until I hit something … or someone. The riders are wearing what looks like old fashioned riot-police helmets and bullet proof vests over their clothes. They look like futuristic cowboys. Surreal and menacing. They’ve got weapons, but I can’t feel bullets anywhere close. After what must be less than thirty seconds or so, the raiders turn tail and disappear back up the hillside. Luc stops firing and so do I. I look at the fallen log. It’s been decimated, reduced to a million splinters. Luc grins at me. ‘That was quick,’ I gasp, the adrenalin still racing around my body. ‘You okay?’ he whispers in the sudden silence. Just then, something cold presses at the side of my head. Luc swings his weapon towards me, but he’s too late. ‘I’ll shoot.’ It’s a man’s voice, steady and confident. His breath smells rank, his body odour sickening. I don’t dare turn my head to look at him. His arm slithers around my shoulders and his gun presses harder into my temple. Luc lowers his weapon as the man relieves me of my machine gun with his left hand. I’m rigid with fear, hardly able to breathe. He must’ve crawled up the other side of the AV while we were distracted by the raiders coming down the hill. Why hadn’t we anticipated something like this? We should have activated the shockplates before carrying out our hasty plan. Luc must have the same thought as me, because I see his hand snaking down inside the AV towards the shock button. But before Luc has a chance to do anything, another man appears over the top of the AV and cracks Luc on the side of the head with his gun. Luc crumples down into his seat like a rag doll and I see thick globs of blood on the roof-opening. ‘No,’ I moan. My vision blurs and I feel like I’m about to pass out. ‘Don’t worry,’ says the man next to me. ‘He’ll just have a bit of a headache when he wakes up and I feel so much better now he’s asleep.’ He’s well-spoken and, when I glance at him, he smiles, smug and in control of the situation. He looks to be in his twenties, clean shaven and good looking. Pity about his personal hygiene. He slings my Kalashnikov over his body and reaches past me into the AV to pull Luc up by his hair so he’s now slumped upright in the driver’s seat. But he hasn’t done this out of any concern for Luc; he’s trying to reach Luc’s weapon which fell onto the floor when he was knocked out. I weigh up my options and find them very limited. The revolver is still jammed against my head, my gun hangs from the man’s malodorous body and my lovely Luc is unconscious, with another raider trying to reach the M60 down in the footwell. Then things get suddenly worse.
How to Write Post-Apocalyptic Fiction – Top Ten Tips
I’m currently writing The Clearing, Book Two in the Outside Series. It’s set in the near future on the south coast of England, in a world which has suffered a social and economic collapse. When I wrote Book One, back in 2004, there was a dearth of post-apocalyptic and dystopian fiction. I wrote Outside because it was the type of novel I enjoyed reading, but I couldn’t find what I wanted on the shelves. Now, eight years later, we are awash with post-apocalyptic fiction and I couldn’t be happier. So here are my personal top ten elements for writing a great post-apocalyptic novel:
Make your setting original
There have been oodles of futuristic New Yorks and Londons and a plethora of abandoned dystopian ‘facilities’. We’ve had kids battling to the death in arenas and gory zombie apocalypses. Worlds have been divided into ‘Factions’ and ‘Areas’, ‘Districts’ and ‘Zones’. Put your own personal twist on the fall of society.
Locating them, getting into them and saving them from destruction. That’s all part of great post-apocalyptic fiction. Along with finding food, medical supplies, clothing and other survival gear.
Decide whether your story is about struggling to save and change the world or whether it’s about a character’s struggle to adapt and survive within that world. It can be both, but have a clear idea about it before you go in. Do they succeed in their struggle? Or does everything unravel?
Why is your character special?
Did they get lucky? Are they equipped with specialist survival skills? Are they a victim? Why did they make it when everyone else died?
Who or what is it? A person? A creature? A hostile environment? Are there multiple threats?
Authenticity and continuity
There are two main types of post-apocalyptic fiction. There’s gritty reality – the ‘what if’ scenario where life-as-we-know-it ends. And then there’s pure fantasy – zombies and dystopian societies etc. But whatever you choose to write about, make it as authentic as you can. If you’re writing about zombies, set parameters for them. What can they do? How can they harm you? And remember to never ever call them ‘zombies’ – there are ‘walkers’ ‘deadheads’, ‘the unconsecrated’ and a gazillion other names for the undead. Make up your own. Be consistent and make your world totally believable.
Does your world have any? Or did it all die with the end of civilisation? Or is there now even more advanced technology? Either way, talk about it and show it or the lack of it. What are the implications?
Create a distinctive atmosphere for your novel. Whether it’s dark and claustrophobic or menacing and suspenseful, try and keep that feeling running through the story so your reader gets a real sense of being in another time and place. Perhaps it’s a world of extremes where you have luxury and decadence in the face of poverty and oppression. Either way, make the scenes ooze with atmosphere.
Before and After
What was the world like before the fall? What is it like now? Was it the same as the real world or was it something else? I want to know details. I want to see landscapes or cityscapes. I want to picture the before and after.
Even if everything is bleak and horrendous and it all seems futile, you have to plant a tiny nugget of hope somewhere in the story or we might as well all lie down and die.
Feel free to leave a comment below if you think I’ve left anything out!
Where to buy :
& on the author’s own website: someonewotwrites