I’m not a famous author or anything (that’s true, but it’s not one of the two), so people don’t often ask me questions about my debut novel, Year Zero. And if I sit around and wait, I’ll never get all this stuff swimming around in my head out there into the universe. Thus, this post.
Number One: I started writing Year Zero in late spring of 2017. I am by nature a hopeful person, though it’s buried under what someone I worked with at a Barnes & Noble called an “onionskin façade of misanthropy.” I can’t help it. It’s a defense mechanism from the unending torment of my school bullies who targeted me both for being shy and half Puerto-Rican. Since I’m hopeful, I assumed when the full weight of being President fell upon Donald Trump, he would rise to the occasion. Of course, nothing in my experience of him from growing up in the greater New York area and watching his flim-flam snake oil salesmen antics for my entire life gave me reason to think this. Did I mention I’m hopeful?
I think I want to pause here a minute, for the people going “You’re a writer stay in your lane and leave politics out of it.” Have you read my book? It is overtly political. Most, if not all, Dystopian books are. Also, I’m a citizen of the United States and of New Hampshire. Politics is in my blood.
Anyhow, as I watched things grew, at least from my prospective, progressively worse. More coarse. So, I put aside the book I was writing, and will get back to after I finish this trilogy, and began writing Year Zero. It was my catharsis for what the Trump administration was shaping up to be. This isn’t a big secret or anything. It’s not hard to see what and who I’m talking about. I do think as the author it is my responsibility to be clear about this. Beside a fanatical Trump supporter isn’t likely to read it, much less finish it. Though I wish they would. I’d really like to have a conversation with the other side. Well, one that doesn’t devolve into me being called a Libtard or something. It always does though, which makes me sad. Both for the death of civil discourse, and for what kind of life someone must have endured to be so full of anger. (truth)
Number Two: I’ve said this before, but I think it’s worth repeating. Joey isn’t meant to be any particular sex or gender. This is for you, the reader to decide, and there is no wrong answer. Personally, I float between all the choices. But that’s because I wrote parts like Joey was he, and sometimes he was she, and at other times he and she were they. Let me put it this way. In my perfect world if I could make an audiobook version, I’d do at least two. One with a male actor, and one with a female. However, if there was ever a movie made of Year Zero, my dream actor for the role of Joey has always been Amber Midthunder.
What was important to me was the human aspect of Joey. In the end, what matters most to me is what Joey experiences, who that shapes them to be, how they interact with the other characters, and what they are willing to sacrifice. So, you can call Joey by whatever pronoun you’d like, as long as you don’t forget what it means to be Joey. (truth).
Number Three: Year Zero wasn’t originally going to be a trilogy. I’m notoriously anti-series. At least in theory. I mean some of my favorite movies are stand alone. When you get to the end of Casablanca or Black Christmas (the original), you know everything you need to about the situation and the characters. Nothing more needs to be said. However, many of my favorite books are serial books. Octavia Butler, and Ursula Le Guin are long time favorites of mine. Okay to be fair many of Le Guin’s books are part of a continuum and don’t need to be read in order.
As I reached the end of Year Zero other characters began demanding I write books about them. Particularly, and this has never been a big secret, nor does it confirm they survive Year Zero, Harlan and Julia. Let me tell you, when Julia plants her little feet, balls up her tiny fist and put them on her hips then looks at you in that way she has, you can’t say no. And Harlan. Well, one does not say no to Harlan Grundy unless one wants to slurp their meals through a straw for forever after. (truth)
I know what you’re thinking. I said two truths and a lie, and these are all truths. The lie was that I’d ever lie about my work. I prefer truth. As Merlin says in Excalibur, “When a man lies, he murders some part of the world.”