An interview with Veronica Rossi, author of Under the Never Sky
Full disclosure: Veronica Rossi and I used to be in the same writer’s critique group – which is where I had the distinct honor of seeing Under the Never Sky take shape in its later stages. It’s a pleasure to see her novel take off as it has, with two more in the series already under contract. An artist, a mom, and now a hot new YA author, she is warm, funny, and probably one of the most fearless push-ahead writers I know. We chatted about Under the Never Sky via email. MM
What originally drew you to writing an apocalyptic story? It’s such a hugely popular genre at the moment? What are your thoughts on its surge among YA readers?
I didn’t set out to write an apocalyptic story, or even sci-fi. I started with the idea of contrasting two very different societies, one based on past/primitive and the other based on future/advanced. I ruled out writing a time-travel (I always get confused in time-travel logistics), and so I played around with a future in which two such societies might have evolved.
If you look at fiction on a broader-scope, post-apocalyptic stories have been popular for quite some time but they were generally confined to genre fiction (sci-fi). The YA genre, in my opinion, has all these sub-genres in it. Sci-fi, Fantasy, Chick-Lit, etc, but the protagonists are teens, and the storytelling itself is fast-paced and centered around the coming-of-age journey.
With the increasing popularity of YA, a whole new audience is reading these kinds of stories and enjoying them, and I love that. I love that the YA genre is thriving. I feel very fortunate to be a YA writer.
All that said, a specific reason why apocalyptic books are booming in YA: THE HUNGER GAMES.
Did you have the three-book arc already conceived when you started writing Under the Never Sky or did you think you were writing just one novel? How did you know your tale was larger than what one book could cover?
I tend to write big stories that don’t fit in one book. It’s the same thing for me when I paint: I need big canvases. Who knows why? It’s just how I feel comfortable. And I did have the series arc roughly in mind when I began.
Aria is a heroine that grows into her role. She starts out as a genetically-engineered perfect girl and even leans toward damsel in distress early on. By the end of this novel, though, she’s just as likely to kick a cannibal’s butt. What are the qualities that you most like about her as a character? What makes her a strong girl?
It was always my goal to write a strong transformation for her character. In order to do that, I had to put her at a steep disadvantage early in the book. I never thought of her as a damsel in distress, though. I don’t know why. To me, she was just a character who was going through a hard time; similar to the experience of one of my male characters in the second book.
Aria is strong because she’s resilient in the face of adversity. She’s strong because she’s sympathetic to others. She’s strong because she’s tenacious. She’s strong because she’s forgiving. I like all of those qualities about her.
Her relationship with Peregrine is at the heart of much of the tension in this novel. What’s the process when you are blending quest and romance?
I wish I had a simple answer for this! I suppose I’ve always enjoyed stories that offer a “full” experience, in that there’s action, romance, emotional depth, transformation, etc. I sort of just feel my way along, letting my inner reader guide me. If there’s too much romance, I get bored. Same for all the other elements. I suppose I just write what I’d like to read!
The world-building in this novel is really spectacular. Everything from Smart Eyes and virtual realms to scenting and the aether – it all seems seamless and believable. Are you a gadget geek, by any chance? And more important, how do you go about keeping track of the rules of this compelling world?
Thank you! I have always felt comfortable with technology, but I’m by no means a gadget geek! I wish I were J
And to keep track of the world, I have a series bible, and I read the first book occasionally. Because I live, eat and breathe this series right now, I very rarely have to refer to anything, though. It’s all pretty much in my head.
Tell me about the process of writing a sequel. What’s different from your experience writing a first book? What has been the biggest surprise?
Sequels are harder to write than I expected! You have to find new emotional arcs for the characters and plumb deeper into their psyches, but that’s also what I’ve found so rewarding.
It was also tougher writing the sequel because I had so many demands on my time this past year. I relied a lot of my editor and close friends to guide me when the going got bumpy, and I’m really proud of what I was able to do.
You are also an artist. Any plans for working in other formats, such as picture book?
Absolutely! Lots of fun things in the works, but I can’t say anything yet or my agent will come after me : )
Finish this sentence for me. Strong girls… believe in themselves and never, ever quit.
Would you like to win a signed copy of Under the Never Sky? Please post a comment on this site (and tweet or FB our link. Honor system, folks) We will enter your name in a drawing. Winner announced July 12. (Thanks, Veronica!)
UPDATE: CONGRATULATIONS TO AMANDA AT VIVALABOOKS, OUR WINNER OF THE VERONICA ROSSI BOOK GIVEAWAY