How many books have you written (you can include published and non published works)
I have written two books. My debut novel was published in May and I have just finished the sequel, which will be released on November 17th. The story, which spans both books, imagines a world ravaged by drought where water is the global currency. Considering what is happening environmentally in the world today, it is a relevant topic and I hope the theme resonates with readers.
What inspired you to first start writing?
My writing aspirations began in 7th grade when my English teacher likened my writing to Saki, the author of The Interlopers. From that point on, I have written numerous poems, not all good, and have begun many stories that I hope to continue to develop and eventually publish.
I was inspired to write this first book while writing a graduate course in environmental education. As I read numerous topics regarding the history of the earth to the present, I couldn’t help but be struck by the incredible responsibility that humans have to the future of our planet.
What is your writing kryptonite?
Time is my biggest writing hurdle. Working full time and raising three boys means that my time is very limited. This is why my first book took five years to write!
What is the best way to market your book?
Marketing is one of the most challenging parts of being a writer. Being a new voice in the book community means that I am starting from scratch as I work toward getting my work in front of readers and developing a following. I am in the very early stages of this and hope that in the future I am able to reach many readers!
What is your favorite unappreciated novel?
I love to reread the stories that I enjoy. In fact, the true test of whether I love a book, or just like it, is if I want to reread it. Being able to reread a favorite allows me to delve back into a world with characters I fell in love with. My very favorite book to enjoy every couple of years or so is Phantom by Susan Kay. I absolutely love the musical and her telling of Phantom’s character brings this tragic story to such a deep level that I have never looked at the stage production in the same way since reading her book. I’ve found that many people haven’t read this work and highly recommend it!
Which character from any literary world do you wish you could meet?
While I would love to meet Snape from the Harry Potter series, if I truly go to my roots and consider one of the first books I fell in love with then I need to go back thirty years. One book stands out as the catalyst for my writing and love of reading. Therefore, I would love to meet Ponyboy and Johnny from The Outsiders. As a teenager, both of these characters were huge book crushes and still hold a special place in my heart. Additionally, S.E. Hinton wrote this fantastic story as a teenager and I've always been so inspired by that.
What was the hardest scene you've ever had to write?
That’s a tough question. I honestly haven’t had a particular scene that has posed a big challenge. What I wrestle with is the book blurb and summary. It’s such a silly thing, but these two pieces are incredibly hard to write! You have to hook the reader in a few hundred words, all without giving away too much but telling enough of the story to keep them interested. I’ve agonized over these and am never satisfied.
What tips do you have for aspiring authors?
Walt Disney said it best, “If you can dream it, you can do it!” The publishing industry has changed over the years and writers are now in a position to self-publish their work instead of going through a traditional publishing house. This has perks and drawbacks. It is a very competitive industry and self-published authors are responsible for doing all of their own marketing. This is challenging for new authors, like myself, who are trying to break into the business and develop a readership. The upside is that I have complete creative control of my work. While I have an editor, his suggestions (they are amazing by the way) are there to guide me and not change my vision. I also determine the royalties and where and how my book will be published. If not for the self-publishing platform, I would not have attained my dream. My advice to aspiring authors is to reach for your publishing goals! If you dream of being an author, then make it happen. There are so many wonderful writers who collaborate and help each other develop their craft and connect with readers. You can do this!
How many hours a day do you write?
The number of hours I write is very dependent upon the day of the week and what I have going on at home after work. On a good Saturday, I can write for six or more hours. However, during the week I am lucky to be able to write for more than one hour. It all comes back to that time issue again!
Who is your favorite character that you've created and why?
I really loved writing the character, Enora. She inherited a world that has been plagued by waste and indifference. Through her experiences, she must face harsh realities and choose who she wants to be and what she wants to fight for. The choices she makes are not easy ones. Eventually, she comes face to face with a realization that changes everything. I think she has great inner strength to overcome what she experiences. Enora also has the ability to see things for what they are and know what is best, no matter how hard it is to face.
What are you currently working on?
I have numerous story ideas that I'm exploring. At the moment, I am writing a fantasy story with an environmental twist. However, my husband brought up the idea of writing another installment of my dystopian fiction work and I find that idea intriguing. I would love to hear from readers to get an idea of what they would like to read!
Can you share an excerpt with us from one of your novels/projects?
Here is the prologue for my debut novel, After the Green Withered. This sets the stage for the book and enables the reader to understand the world my main character inherited.
After the Green Withered - Prologue
We’ve all heard the stories of how it began, but no one really knows the truth because no one ever owned up and took the blame. Anyone who was there when it all started is long dead and all that remains is their awful legacy. All I know that is real, true, is that the world wasn’t always like this. It used to be green.
I suppose the awareness of a looming crisis began slowly, perhaps with a faucet that ran dry or maybe a water restriction where there had never been one. Whatever it may have been, there was a turning point and from that moment on the United States of the past disappeared under a burning sky.
This is what I have come to understand of our history, that thing buried and skewed under hidden agendas and untruths…
In the early 21stcentury, the voice and face of the country changed. An exploding population triggered an energy crisis that swiftly grew beyond our borders and enveloped the world. Wars erupted over control of these dwindling energy sources, resulting in a recession that dwarfed the crash of 1929. Our nation’s leaders responded by doubling down on efforts to extract resources in every forest, ocean, and watershed, rather than investing in what many viewed as ‘unproven technologies’. Companies that specialized in advancements in sustainable energy were forced into bankruptcy, halting the tide of progress. Environmental protections ceased to exist as everything from national parks to the once pristine Arctic disappeared under an onslaught of drilling and mining that left these places barren and poisoned. Coal, oil, and gas burned, unchecked and ignored. The results were devastating.
Massive storms, brought on by rising temperatures, began to dominate newscasts. People watched as violent hurricanes in the Indian Ocean destroyed whole communities, washing away thousands who had been unprepared for the force of the waves. The eastern seaboard saw Category Five hurricanes on a monthly basis, until many areas became uninhabitable. But the drilling continued.
Extreme weather escalated, as tornados ripped through areas in Europe and Asia that had never experienced the phenomenon before. In one night, Hautmont, France was wiped off the face of the earth as a previously inconceivable F6 tornado spent twelve minutes on the ground. And yet the event was soon forgotten, the majority of citizens preferring stories of scandal and entertainment and war.
As the climate grew hotter and drier, the last of the ice caps melted belching out methane trapped for millions of years and filling the ocean with too much fresh water, creating a chain of unfathomable and merciless events. The Maldives disappeared under the sea, followed quickly by other island nations across every ocean. Tens of millions of people were left homeless in places like Japan, the Netherlands and Bangladesh, as huge swaths of land became submerged, leaving many cities uninhabitable swamps. New York City was inundated with tides that never receded. While Florida became a ghost of its former self, as millions fled the water-ravaged state.
The desalination of the oceans, combined with high levels of acidity and rising temperatures, took effect. Beached whale species, from dolphins to orcas, became a common sight. Coral reefs died off on a global scale, looking like bleached underwater graveyards. Fishing communities went bankrupt and prices for seafood skyrocketed until only the very wealthy could afford it. The ecological imbalance further poisoned the already toxic oceans, making even the technology to convert salt water to fresh water for human consumption only possible for the elite. And still, the refineries continued to process their crude oil.
The sixth mass extinction event in Earth’s history continued. Species from insects to mammals died off at unprecedented rates, unable to acclimate to changes that occurred in years as opposed to centuries. The few remaining rainforests saw these extinction events on a massive scale and those species unlucky enough to need polar climates were gone after a few years.
Precipitation continued to dwindle while massive dust storms swept through towns and cities, choking the air and causing havoc for those stuck in their midst. The city of Las Vegas experienced a storm of such intensity that the sky turned black as sand and dust covered every road and building, until the metropolis was buried under a layer of dirt that took months to clean up. While in the western half of the country, wildfires ravaged California, displacing thousands and turning huge swaths of land to smoldering ash. And through it all, fingers of blame, rather than solutions to the root cause, became the norm as scientific evidence was censored.
Drought continued to creep across the world, silent and ruinous.
Initially, the areas hardest hit by drought were underdeveloped countries. Starving children or withered remains of cattle splashed across the screens in the living rooms of U.S. citizens who, though saddened by the images, remained ambivalent. Most people viewed the water wars raging in Africa or the battle over rights to the Amazon River, with a sense of detachment. But there were some who voiced their warnings, pitting themselves against the majority, fracturing the nation.
Environmental activists attacked refineries and shipping lines, disrupting the flow of resources to such a degree that they were labeled terrorists and hunted down by the government. Those who took a pacifist approach did no better at conveying their message, as their forewarnings were mocked and disregarded as hippie ideologies by those in power. Eventually, messages of the resistance were defined as alarmist rather than credible, making them easy for people to discount. All the while, areas experiencing water restrictions grew. But most citizens saw these measures as nuisances, rather than portents of worsening problems. This perception would not last.
It was a global drought of unprecedented proportions that cared nothing for which hemisphere you lived on nor how much money you held in your bank account. Over time, even the staunchest disbelievers were faced with undeniable truth. Emergency measures to curb the effects to the US were taken and hope stirred in the minds of the populace. Those technologies that were shuttered in the early days took on new life in ambitious plans for fusion power plants and hundreds of square miles of solar panels and wind turbines. Rumors of unmanned spaceships launched into the solar system to find a new home and escape from our dying planet, circulated throughout the country. But time eroded such fantasies and reality crushed those hopes, as years turned into decades that saw no relief from the storm of devastation. The efforts were simply too little and came far too late.
Eventually, our nation’s borders closed and all refugees were turned away, no matter their circumstances or family connections. Those citizens made homeless by severe weather migrated, desperate and angry. The land itself began to wither and no part of the country was left untouched by the unrelenting scarcity of water.
After several years, rain became a fairy tale for children to imagine. The aquifers, which provided water for the breadbasket of the country, dried up. Crops shriveled while the nation spiraled into chaos. Food shortages became common and soon starvation and civil unrest were rampant. Those starving children and dying cattle were no longer relegated to the problems of ‘other countries’. Parents struggled to feed their families, further driving people out of their homes in a frantic search for food and water. This brought out the ugliness in human nature that you only see in times of desperation.
A militarized presence emerged as violence became pervasive. Riots and looting led to lottery systems for food and water. This method ultimately failed, as seen in cities like Houston where a small war erupted and obliterated the landscape. States threatened to secede. Fearing a nationwide revolution, the president took extreme measures to preserve the majority of the country. Hawaii and Alaska were stripped of statehood, being too remote and damaged by rising seas and economic catastrophes.
The remaining lower forty-eight states were restructured to eighteen, each representing a unique river basin. This reorganization was aimed to prevent states from entering periods of civil war over water rights as each state now had its own water resources. Borders grew along these new lines, complete with heavily guarded checkpoints to keep the influx of destitute people from pouring in and overtaxing an already untenable situation. Towns followed suit as entire communities were abandoned. Soon it became apparent that to live outside a regulated community meant death. Survivalist factions arose in opposition, but were dealt with, swiftly and severely. The country became unrecognizable.
Not everyone had ignored the signs of catastrophic problems. In the shadows, one group led by a visionary man named Oren Frey, had seen an opportunity and quietly took control of water resources from reservoirs to real estate above aquifers. When things began to look desperate, this agency, The Drought Mitigation Corporation, offered their assistance in distribution and long-term water usage. Under the leadership of an impotent president, the DMC’s power grew, while the pillars of democracy became more divided and vulnerable. By the time the DMC was fully entrenched, the drought had taken the lives of millions and changed the face of the country forever.
I live in the aftermath.
My memories of childhood are plagued by water, or rather the lack of water. Laundry sitting in a dry wash tub or covered in dust on the floor. Food containers we have to scrape and wipe down with a towel so they never really get clean. Dirt that never leaves the underside of my fingernails because washing my hands is not always an option. Dust storms that roll through and leave behind a coating of grime on every surface, even the inside of my nostrils. And then there are the nightly, televised announcements of civil wars, border violence, and rationing. These are the images and realities of my life at seventeen years of age because, by the time I was born, water was the global currency.
Before you go, is there anything else you would like to share with us?
I am just beginning my journey as an author, but my goal is simple. I would like to have written someone’s favorite book!
Kristin Ward, author of After the Green Withered and Burden of Truth, lives in a small town in Connecticut with her husband, three sons, and many furry and feathered friends. Fueled by dark chocolate and coffee, she has been writing poems, prose, and academia for over twenty years.