Book Description:After a virus claimed nearly the entire global population, the world changed. The United States splintered into fifty walled cities where the surviving citizens clustered to start over. The Company, which ended the plague by bringing a life-saving vaccine back from the future, controls everything. They ration the scant food and supplies through a lottery system, mandate daily doses of virus suppressant, and even monitor future timelines to stop crimes before they can be committed.
Brilliant but autistic, sixteen-year-old Clover Donovan has always dreamed of studying at the Waverly-Stead Academy. Her brother and caretaker, West, has done everything in his power to make her dream a reality. But Clover’s refusal to part with her beloved service dog denies her entry into the school. Instead, she is drafted into the Time Mariners, a team of Company operatives who travel through time to gather news about the future.
When one of Clover’s missions reveals that West’s life is in danger, the Donovans are shattered. To change West’s fate, they’ll have to take on the mysterious Company. But as its secrets are revealed, they realize that the Company’s rule may not be as benevolent as it seems. In saving her brother, Clover will face a more powerful force than she ever imagined and will team up with a band of fellow misfits and outsiders to incite a revolution that will change their destinies forever.
What inspired you to write Viral Nation?
I was inspired by a lot of things when I wrote Viral Nation. One thing that really inspired the character of James Donovan, the father of the main characters Clover and West, was the execution of Ronnie Lee Gardner in Utah in 2010. Gardner was put to death by firing squad. So many people wanted to be on the firing squad that they had to hold a lottery. At the time I lived close to where he was executed, and I was really affected. I started thinking about the men on the firing squad, and how at least some of them probably had families at home and how it would affect someone to fire a gun at a target on a human being's chest, no matter what that person was convicted of doing. James Donovan grew out of those wonderings.
Is it Dystopian?
I think of Viral Nation as a story about a broken Utopia. Most modern dystopian stories take place during the apocalypse or just after, or if they take place years later they deal with the collapse of society as a result. In my story, society has had 16 years to rebuild. The world looks different, and people are still struggling, but everyone works, everyone has just enough, and thanks to time travel there is very little capital crime. But things aren't what they seem. So, yes, Viral Nation is a dystopia. Clover and West and Jude and the rest of the Freaks uncover the broken parts of their society that the Company is trying so hard to hide.
Can you tell us a bit about the main character, Clover?
Oh, Clover. I love her so much. She was such a joy and such a pain the ass to write. She has autism in a world where differences are even less tolerated than they are in our society today. Her service bulldog Mango helps her get through school and gives her the unconditional support and friendship that she absolutely needs. Her brother might get frustrated with her and with the sacrifices he's had to make to take care of her, but he is her rock. Writing her relationships with West and with her new friend, Jude, were the best parts of writing Viral Nation. Clover is brilliant and a little weird and a real mix of strength and fragility that I think readers will connect with.
What books do you look forward to reading this year?
I'm a full time student, studying English, so during the school year I don’t have a lot of time for pleasure reading. I love the summers, where I get to dig in and read the long, epic books that I love. This summer, I'm reading George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire books. They're magnificent! The world building is awe inspiring.
Any advice to aspiring authors?
I think any writer would tell someone who aspired to be one to keep writing, and to read a lot. Those are the two basic building blocks. Learn to read like a writer by asking questions about why you love certain books, what about them make them resonate with you, and try to figure out how to incorporate what you learn into your writing. Everything you write is an opportunity to become a better writer. Also, try to insert yourself into a community of writers. Find a local writers group, hang out with other people you know who want to be writers, go to conferences, readings, take classes.