Ilsa, who started writing in 1997 on a dare, started off by asking if anyone was familiar with the term EMPs. A young man in the audience gave us a great definition but I’ll let you read it here. Ilsa said the reason she used this concept in Ashes is because she is a doctor and she likes the real science. A lot of horror isn’t believable, so she wanted to do something that might be possible.
“Science fiction is a literature of possibilities,” says Ilsa. She asked the teens in the audience to define dystopia. Totalitarianism, they said. Individuality is squelched, like school, like Mom and Dad.
“That,” said Ilsa, “is why these books are so popular with adolescents, because they are about living under someone’s thumb.”
Ilsa said she was thinking about those things while writing Ashes. “If you destroy the world as in Ashes, nothing will ever be the same. All elders must die. Kids are more plastic—if you can revive them, they end up being fine. In Ashes, all the older folks die so everyone who knows how to survive dies. Young kids all survive. Some of the older people survive. The teens change in ways that make you not want to be close to them.”
The main character, Alex, is seventeen, an orphan. Her parents died in a crash three years before. She has a brain tumor that is terminal. She decides she is tired of people telling her what to do. She takes off into the mountains on her own as one last thing to do before dying. Maybe she’ll walk out—maybe she won’t. But when the event happens, she meets a bratty eight-year-old, Ellie, and a twenty-year-old army guy, Tom.
Something special happens when people bond together in an emergency to keep other people safe.
Ilsa said she included an army person because the people in our military are young people and they are just as much a part of our young population as anyone. Plus, she was military and has been around military people all her life. Part of being a doctor is being able to take charge. This made it hard for her to learn to give up decisions to her commanding officer.
All the survival tactics used in the book are real. She has done it and continues to do it. Ilsa gave us the Rules in 3s for Survival:
1st 3 hours—stay warm and dry
1st 3 days—find water
1st 3 weeks—find a food source
Book 2, SHADOWS, will be out in fall 2012. She is still working on Book 3, MONSTERS.
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p.s. I won that cool backpack filled with survival gear and a signed copy of Ashes! Woohoo!