A thought-provoking and exciting start to a riveting new dystopian trilogy.
As an obedient orphan of the U.N.A. (the super-country that was once Mexico, the U.S., and Canada), Alenna learned at an early age to blend in and be quiet—having your parents taken by the police will do that to a girl. But Alenna can’t help but stand out when she fails a test that all sixteen-year-olds have to take: The test says she has a high capacity for brutal violence, and so she is sent to The Wheel, an island where all would-be criminals end up.
The life expectancy of prisoners on The Wheel is just two years, but with dirty, violent, and chaotic conditions, the time seems a lot longer as Alenna is forced to deal with civil wars for land ownership and machines that snatch kids out of their makeshift homes. Desperate, she and the other prisoners concoct a potentially fatal plan to flee the island. Survival may seem impossible, but Alenna is determined to achieve it anyway.
Describe your book in five words or less.
A gritty dystopian thriller/romance.
What has your road to publication been like?
I feel incredibly lucky that things turned out for me the way they did. I managed to get my dream agent (Mollie Glick at Foundry Literary + Media) and she sold THE FORSAKEN as a trilogy to Simon & Schuster in a pre-emptive deal. The sale happened fast, which was a big relief, because I was more nervous about it than anything ever in my whole life! Probably even more nervous than I was on my wedding day! (Ok, maybe not, but close.) But of course, writing the book took a while. I worked on it for about a year until it was in good enough shape that I could begin querying agents. I almost gave up a couple times along the way when I was writing. It was my first book, and I wasn't sure I could see it through to the end. My husband and my friends kept encouraging me to keep working on it. I would give them pages to read, and they would give me notes and feedback (they were brutally honest, which I think helped the book a lot!) Anyway, it still seems surreal that it actually sold to Simon & Schuster. I'm a librarian at UCLA, so I'm around books all the time, and it's been a dream of mine since I was in high school to get a book published.
How did the idea for THE FORSAKEN come to you?
I was thinking about how unfair it is that standardized tests like the SAT can determine what college you go to. I never did great on standardized tests (I mean, I did okay, but never quite as well as I wanted to!) So I began thinking, what if there were a personality test in the future that determined your entire fate. Like, if you failed this one test, instead of just having trouble getting into college, you got banished from society completely—and sent to a prison island to battle it out with other exiled teens. And of course, then (because I'm kind of a cynical person sometimes) I started thinking about how the government could rig the test and just use it to get rid of any rebellious teens who might one day pose a threat. So that's the grain of the idea that THE FORSAKEN grew from. And I ended up expanding it from there as I developed the dystopian society that would create such a test, and started world-building the prison island known as "the wheel."
What was the research process for THE FORSAKEN like for you?
Most of the research I did centered around prison systems and also fascistic societies. I wanted the world of THE FORSAKEN to be frighteningly possible and realistic. The idea that the prison island would be automated, and that different tribes of teenagers would fight each other for control of the land, came out of my research (especially reading about the Supermax prisons in the US, and also some of the terrifying prison conditions for political prisoners in North Korea and Soviet Russia). I also read a lot about tropical islands, to get all the details right.
What is your favorite part of the writing process? Least favorite?
My favorite part is writing the rough draft and just letting the story unspool. I love it when characters come to life and take the story in new and surprising directions. I love writing in general. I try to write every day, even if it's not for a novel (journal entries, short stories, blogs, etc). My least favorite part of the writing process is probably the necessary-but-boring stuff like copyediting for typos and commas (but I'm not sure any writer loves that part of the process!)
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
I learned that I had to push through my own fears and insecurities to achieve my goals. I always wanted to write a novel, but I always managed to find excuses for myself not to try. When I finally decided to dig in my heels and really do it (inspired by a friend who was doing NaNoWriMo, aka National Novel Writing Month), it was a lot more challenging than I expected. But I somehow made it through. I also learned a ton about writing from my agent Mollie (who gave me fantastic notes and edits) as well as my editors Courtney and Zareen (who really helped me tighten my prose and get THE FORSAKEN into good shape). Writing is a continual journey of discovery. My goal is to get better and better as I dive deeper into the process. My plan for THE FORSAKEN trilogy is to make each successive book even more epic and intense. I love how JK Rowling handled the HARRY POTTER series. She's a real inspiration, as is Suzanne Collins, Carrie Ryan and James Dashner.
Thank you so much Lisa for stopping by! You can learn more about Lisa and The Forsaken at: