Welcome to the new United States of America. Kristen Simmons is the creator of this new world, and you can learn all about it in her Young Adult post-apocalyptic novel, Article 5. I picked her book up off the shelf at Barnes & Noble some time ago, and I'm finally getting to read it. It centers around a girl named Ember Miller in a United States that no longer recognizes the Bill of Rights and frequently sends soldiers into the streets to enforce the new rules, The Moral Statutes. Sound scary? It should. Kristen's affinity to write post-apocalyptic fiction intrigued me (since I write in the same genre, as well), and she was gracious enough to treat us with an interview! Without further ado, here's Kristen:
Welcome to Writing Belle! Who are you and where are you from?
Thank YOU for having me, Summer! I'm honored to be here!
My name is Kristen Simmons, and I'm the author of the ARTICLE 5 series and the upcoming GLASS ARROW. I'm also a toddler mama, wife, previous social worker and mental health therapist, and walker of a very spoiled greyhound. I'm a Cancer, I love cupcakes, and I hate coffee. I was raised in Sparks, Nevada on a cattle ranch, but have lived in 5 states since I graduated from high school. Currently, I'm in Ohio. It's lovely.
You've written a trilogy of young adult post-apocalyptic novels. Why did you choose this genre? How did you get started?
Honestly, I didn't choose this genre. I wrote the kind of book I wanted to read - the story that I couldn't get out of my head. It wasn't until I had an agent that I learned about the "dystopian" genre, or even what that word meant. I hadn't realized so many of my favorite books were categorized that way! I started writing seriously when I was in college, but it took a long time (and several books) to find the right agent. It was ten years from when I first started querying until I saw one of my books on a shelf.
What was the inspiration for Article 5?
I was driving to work one day and passed a bookstore where people were outside protesting the release of the last Harry Potter book based on morality issues - specifically the "witchcraft" element. I pulled over, unable to look away. Of course I knew this happened, but I'd never witnessed it before. Obviously, they had the right to protest - that's one of the great things about living in this country - but I wondered what would happen if they got their way. What else could you ban, based on a disagreement in values and beliefs? Music? Movies? And then what about things like divorce, or having a child out of wedlock? That would obviously change things in the US. The Bill of Rights would no longer be useful. From all this came the Moral Statutes, the governing documents in ARTICLE 5. Everything spiraled out from there.
What was the publication process like for your debut novel?
Well, like I mentioned, it took a long time for me to get published. Over two hundred rejections on my querying journey. A lot of lost hope. It was a hard road, and I feel for anyone struggling with that! When I wrote ARTICLE 5 it felt like the planets finally aligned - I found the perfect agent who just so happened to be looking for a book like I had written. We went through three extensive rounds of revisions before she sent the manuscript out to publishers. Then, more revisions with my editor. Over 50,000 words were cut from the first draft. Then there were line edits, and copy edits...but it was so exciting. I was finally seeing my dream come true. When ARTICLE 5 came out, I cried. A lot. And I screamed (a lot). I'm still so grateful for the chance to do what I love.
Tell me about The Glass Arrow, your newest upcoming release.
I'm really excited about this book. It's very different from the ARTICLE 5 books. Aya is in many ways Ember's opposite. She's a survivor, born and raised in the mountains, used to defending herself and her family. She lives in a world where women have become endangered, and are hunted and sold for breeding purposes. As careful as she is, her time runs out, and she's caught by hunters to be sold at auction. Will she escape and be reunited with her family? I sure hope so! But you'll have to read to find out.
What is your favorite part about being an author?
Living in the worlds of my creation. Oh, and wearing pajamas all day long.
What's your favorite writing snack?
I'm a tea person - I drink tea pretty consistently while I write. Also, cookies. Also, cupcakes. Also, anything sweet.
What is the best part of writing - and what is the hardest?
For me, the best part is carrying different worlds along with me. Imagining how my characters will survive what comes next. Listening to their voices in my head. This also can be tough though, because too much living in another world makes you not the most active participant in this world. I often have to extract myself from my own thoughts, and live in the here and now. It's not as easy as it might sound, and it's totally necessary. Writing can be overwhelming. Balance is key.
If there was any advice you could offer to young writers hoping to break into the publishing world, what would it be?
Don't give up. It took me forever to get where I wanted to be. Be patient, and keep trying, and if you're a writer, you're a writer. You don't need anyone else telling you what you are. There will be an open door somewhere, you just need to walk through it.
Any final words?
Thank you again for having me! I hope you enjoy the ARTICLE 5 series, and THE GLASS ARROW! Also, I love to talk with people about bookly stuff. Please feel free to contact me on twitter, facebook, or by email. I'd love to hear from you!
About Kristen Simmons
Kristen Simmons has a master’s degree in social work and is an advocate for mental health. She lives with her family and their precious greyhound Rudy in Cincinnati, Ohio.
(bio provided from Kristen's website)
Connect with Kristen:
Email her: firstname.lastname@example.org