Today’s episode is written by Melissa Dykes, the author of All the Elders Orphans, a powerful & moving post-apocalyptic novel that pits one woman’s humanity against the dark realities of a brutal new world – and at the heart of it all, a child’s life hangs in the balance.

The story we’re sharing today is part of Melissa’s debut novel. It’s one of the best indie novels I’ve come across in the last few months (and that’s saying something), and if you’re down to find out how the story finishes, you can find All the Elders Orphans on Amazon.

After reading Melissa’s work, I was keen to find out about the story behind the story, so I talked to Melissa about the post apocalyptic genre, her background and inspiration, and her plans for the follow-up to All the Elders Orphans.

An Interview with Melissa Dykes

What’s your background? How did you get into creative writing?
Technically, I’m an academic. I hold a PhD in English literature and have been a university professor for years. What that really means for my relationship with creative writing, though, is that I’m a highly devoted reader. Creative writing is a natural extension of that. My dream is to make others feel the way books make me feel.
How would you describe All the Elders Orphans?
All the Elders Orphans is very much about trauma. The basic storyline is about a woman who really is a kind of hermit ending up trying to help an adolescent boy find his missing sister. She doesn’t want to help him. He’s not her problem and she’s not the maternal type at all. But she does decide to help him, at first only because she doesn’t want to see him turn into yet another violent raider out in the countryside. Later, she develops affection for him and cares about what happens to him.That’s the basic storyline. But the true heart of the novel lies within its villains and what they do and why they do it. I think that’s all I should say about that.
What inspired the story?
The protagonist is a former history professor, so that part I’ll own. Ha. But the overall story, really, was heavily inspired by the character of Carol in The Walking Dead tv show. “Older” women are seldom seen as heroes, and I wanted to create a realistic mature female hero. Fee is in her late 30s/early 40s, a reader, and starts the story suffering from depression. She’s also a severe introvert. All of these things together make her a very unlikely hero. And yet, that’s what she is. She is heroic in whatever ways she’s able to be. And in some ways she teaches herself to be.
How do you feel about traditional publishing versus self-publishing?
I have only self-published my creative work, so I have no experience with traditional publishing. I haven’t even tried, and I don’t have an agent either. Based on what I see and hear, though, I think self-publishing might be especially good for those just starting out. I think you learn so much about building, communicating, and marketing a story if you do it yourself the first time. Then, if you like the overall process, see about branching out. At least, if a new writer were to do it this way, he or she would know exactly what a publishing house will and can do. Or not. And how much they’re going to charge you for what they do.
You have to choose one book to champion the entire post apocalyptic genre: what would you choose, and why?
This probably won’t surprise anyone, but The Road. It’s beautifully written, for one. But I think it really takes to heart the fundamental concept of apocalypse. The end of life as you know it. If you read a number of post-apocalyptic novels, you’ll soon learn that the actual bomb (or disease, or war) is really the least of your problems.
What does your writing process look like?
I like to set daily goals. When I’m in a writing phase, I’ll set a goal of 1,000 words a day and then hit that mark no matter what. I don’t do more because I don’t want to force issues. I want stories to evolve organically, and if I force things, they could come out wrong. Sometimes I just don’t know what should or will happen next.Right now, I’ve been off writing for a few months because a certain character needs to die and I just can’t face it yet. Actually, I’ve faced it now but I haven’t written it yet. I’ll probably do that in the next week or so.
What are you working on at the moment?
Right now I’m writing the sequel to All the Elders Orphans. I hope to finish it by the end of summer or, at the latest, the end of the year.
Where’s the best place for people to keep up with your work?
I’m on Twitter at @drvictorian and have a new blog, Fireflies, on speculative texts at melissadykes.wordpress.com.

 
 

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Written by Ryan