After years of writing literary fiction and querying and meeting rejection after rejection, I hadn’t thought of delving into genre writing. Then I met Kevin. In many ways, Kevin saved me—he was the catalyst for a shift in the way I viewed story and the way I approached fiction.
Kevin was a struggling freshman with an attitude, a potty mouth, and litany of complaints against reading. He arrived to my class five years ago hating every book I tried to pitch him, and he was so vocal about his hatred that I almost gave up hope. We had just finished a post-apocalyptic book that I was certain he would love, but even that one fell short of his lofty expectations.
“That book was so bad,” Kevin told me. “I bet even you could write something better than this.” He meant it as a dig, but I took it at face value. I asked him to craft a list of his desires, and a year later, I had the first draft of VIRULENT sitting in the bottom of my desk drawer.
Prior to Kevin’s literary request, I had thought of myself as a reader of the dystopian genre, but not a writer of the dystopian genre. However, now that I have spent time in the speculative fiction world, I’m a convert. There is something thrilling about the creation of new worlds and engaging in the decimation of old worlds. Speculative fiction at its core draws readers into the depths of the human experience.
There is so much to explore about human nature and behavior, and that is what I love the most about dystopian literature. When I wrote VIRULENT, I wanted to start pre-dystopia and show how a dystopian society could develop, and I wanted it to feel like something that could happen tomorrow with no warning. The idea that we don’t know what tomorrow will bring is not a source of anxiety, but excitement when looked at through the lens of fiction. It gives us a blank slate to imagine any multitude of possibilities.
For speculative fiction writers, the plot may be dystopian, but the story is about the people. What started as an experiment for a student ended with a trilogy whose scope and sequence sets out to look into the heart of a holocaust and explore the humanity of the survivors. Thank you for reading.