This Wednesday is an exciting day at Reader Girls. We host The Hallowed Ones Blog Tour. This unique urban dystopian fantasy should definitely receive a lot of praise and attention when it is officially released next month. We also want to thank author Laura Bickle for graciously answering our interview questions and Bewitching Book Tours for presenting this tour.
THE HALLOWED ONES
Reading level: Ages 12 and up
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Graphia
(September 25, 2012)
If your home was the last safe place on earth, would you let a stranger in?
In this captivating thriller, an Amish settlement is the last safe haven in a world plagued by an unspeakable horror…
Katie is on the verge of her Rumspringa, the time in Amish life when teenag-ers are free to experience non-Amish culture before officially joining the church. But before Rumspringa arrives, Katie’s safe world starts to crumble. It begins with a fiery helicopter crash in the cornfields, followed by rumors of massive unrest and the disappearance of huge numbers of people all over the world. Something is out there...and it is making a killing.
Unsure why they haven’t yet been attacked, the Amish Elders make a de-cree: No one goes outside their community, and no one is allowed in. But when Katie finds a gravely injured young man lying just outside the boundary of their land, she can’t leave him to die. She refuses to submit to the Elder’s rule and secretly brings the stranger into her community—but what else is she bringing in with him?
About the Author: Laura Bickle's professional background is in criminal justice and library science. When she's not patrolling the stacks at the public library, she can be found reaming up stories about the monsters under the stairs.
She has written several contemporary fantasy novels for adults, and THE HALLOWED ONES is her first young adult novel. Laura lives in Ohio with her husband and five mostly-reformed feral cats. For more about Laura, please visit her website at: www.laurabickle.com.
An interview with Laura Bickle
1) The Amish and a dystopian world with paranormal creatures. This is a new combo and I'm curious how you thought of combining them.
I was thinking about what would happen if the end of the world came…I know this is a common thing to think about on an everyday basis! But that’s part of the joy in being a writer. I get to think about odd things.
I was wondering who would be best-equipped to survive a large-scale disaster. It occurred to me that the Amish would be uniquely equipped to survive. They are incredibly self-sufficient and are not dependent upon things we take for granted in our world, things like electricity and cars.
I live not too far from a large Amish settlement. When I was a child, my parents would take me to visit, and I was fascinated by a world very different than the one I lived in. I’d see Amish girls my age over the fence and wonder what their lives were like.
2) How did Katie's story start out? How did her strength in character and ability to be such a free thinker come about?
Katie is on the verge of her Rumspringa, the time in Amish life when teenagers can get a taste of the outside world. But the outside world comes to her when a helicopter falls out of the sky near her house. Katie must confront not only a massive disaster unfolding in the world outside her community, but also the threat of darkness in her own increasingly fragile society.
Katie was an interesting character to write because she's very strong in a quiet, enduring kind of way. She struggles to develop her own moral compass, independent of her parents and community. That requires a great deal of fortitude, just as much fortitude as dealing with the evil creatures in her world.
3) Which scene did you write first?
I always start at the beginning. I find that if I jump around in writing a story, I tend to get disorganized and leave threads dangling. I forget what I said and what I meant to say, and then I have something that’s very hard for the reader to follow. So I like to begin where the reader does: at the start.
4) Did you make any a major change(s) while writing?
I always make a lot of changes during the editing process. One of the most significant ones was the title. I originally called the book THE GATE, to symbolize the boundary between the Amish world and the world outside, safety and chaos.
5) Were any scenes difficult to write? Easy to write? Fun to write?
The hardest part for me in starting a story is the beginning. The blank page intimidates me like nothing else!
The easiest and most fun comes for me at the end. There’s more at stake at the end of the story, more action, more emotion. All the plot threads are beginning to weave together, and I feel like I’m running downhill. I forget that I’m writing and get the pleasure of watching the story unfold on its own.
6) Can you share with us your typical writing day?
I work in a library in my offline life. A really good writing day usually starts with me gathering research materials from the library. There’s something about having a stack of books that’s inspiring.
I do my best to keep a writing calendar and to commit to writing a certain number of words a day. My favorite place to write is out on the patio, where I can hear the frogs and the crickets. I can’t write very fast or well in front of the television…I have to really shut the door on distractions to get focus. I know a lot of writers who can write in busy coffee shops, but that’s not me. Too much going on, and I can’t get immersed in the work if there’s the constant temptation of chocolate…
7) How long did The Hallowed Ones take from start to completion?
It took me a few months. I started on it during National Novel Writing month, which always serves as a kick in the pants to get moving on a project!
8) I know you write adult urban fantasies. How was writing for the young adult market? Why the switch and would you write more?
I always have a lot of fun writing fantasy. I love asking those ‘what if’ questions and building worlds around the answers. Writing as Laura Bickle and Alayna Williams, I wrote four urban fantasies. Two are best summed up as “Ghostbusters in Detroit with dragons and arson” (EMBERS and SPARKS). The other two, DARK ORACLE and ROGUE ORACLE, are about a criminal profiler who uses Tarot cards to solve crimes.
There’s something special about writing YA. I think it’s because there are fewer ‘rules’ about the structure of the story and the path the characters need to take. It feels easier to spread my wings and explore ideas in ways that I wouldn’t necessarily be able to do in a book for adults.
9) Besides Katie, which character do you feel most pleased with? Did you struggle with any?
I was very pleased with how Alex turned out. Alex is an injured man Katie finds outside the boundaries of her community. Katie brings him inside her barn to recover, but can’t be sure what kind of evil he’s bringing in with him.
I think Alex works because he challenges Katie. He’s an anthropology student in the outside world, and he both infuriates her and makes her consider ideas that she might not otherwise have encountered. His presence forces her to take risks, and she learns a great deal about herself and her own ethics in attempting to protect him.
10) Which song/album (or combination of) signifies your story best?
Hmmm. Katie doesn’t spend much time listening to popular music, but she was caught by her father humming “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction” by the Rolling Stones while milking the cows.
One of the songs I listened to while writing was Peter Gabriel’s “Red Rain.” There’s something very post-apocalyptic about that song that worked for me.
I immediately knew when I read the blurb for The Hallowed Ones that this was one story I HAD to read. Little did I know that waiting inside this book's pages was the literary equivalent to The Devil's Playground meets Witness and Let the Right One In with some Aliens and Night of the Living Dead mixed in. All I can say is what a wonderful and weird trip this is.
This book is incredibly unique in concept--an Amish teen on the eve of her rumspringa finds out the Outside world has fallen apart and her one chance at experiencing life on the other side of the gate is upsurged by an act of terrorism--by vampires. In what could have become something campy in less experienced hands, has become a work of wonder. I loved everything about Katie, the main character and our narrator. By writing in first person, I got a true sense of Katie's viewpoint, of who she thought she was and who she wanted to be. Her story is revealed with a poignant, brutally honest voice and her mind is a beautiful thing to behold. She is an independent thinker, always asking and seeking answers, a careful observer and quick reactor. She knows her people, their rituals, their ways and means of living and surviving. When their very existence is threatened, Katie is forced to decide whether she wants to be baptized and give up ever going into the other world or marrying her best friend, Elijah.
Both characters are well developed and we witness Elijah as he is affected by another family tragedy, suddenly take charge of his life, even if it means leaving Katie on the sidelines. Meanwhile, Katie has enough to deal with when she ventures beyond the fence to help an Outsider in need. Her selfless actions may just get her killed.
By being a quick thinker and determined to live, Katie continues to question the decisions of the Elders, in particular the one in charge, the Bishop. When the outside forces of evil threaten her peaceful community, one teen has to find the temerity to stand up for her beliefs and protect those she cares for, even if her actions have her expunged from the group and the so-called safety of their land. The Hallowed Ones shows that evil comes in the guises of many, even those we may believe do not exist and those we are raised to always listen to unfailingly. Katie's simple act of defiance--secretly helping an injured young man named Alex--sets her life and her town on an intersecting course of conflict. Sometimes what we think we know is not always correct and a young teen girl has to learn when not to remain silent.
The Hallowed Ones is incredibly thought-provoking, from Katie's never ending questioning nature and pure heart to Alex's anthropological background, knowledge and fascinating tattoos, this story kept me firmly seated, fingers gliding across my Kindle. Tight pacing, suspenseful scenes, Wow! moments of tension, and exposure into a world I knew little about, The Hallowed Ones is an exciting, terse read. Zombie-like vampires, a blossoming love, a crumbling friendship, and the threat of those in power making incorrect decisions, Laura Bickle's debut novel for young adults has quickly become my favorite dystopian novel of 2012. This author was not afraid to add gore and action to an intense urban fantasy setting. It left me wanting more, so much more.
Cover comment: I like the starkness of this image of Katie from the side. I'm glad they included the crows, the menacing image in the fields, and her white bonnet floating in the wind. Everything on this cover corresponds to what happens in the story.
Book source: I received an eArc from Netgalley for my honest review during a book tour.
Next on the tour:
August 30: Letters Inside Out
September 1: Pearls Cast Before A McPig
For the entire tour line-up, go here