This Wasted Land, my third published novel, was released a year ago. As I mentioned in this post, it was in 1988, when I was a senior in college, that I first began working on what would become TWL. I developed the premise, created some characters, and did extensive research, but I struggled for several years to write the story.
After several failed attempts, I resolved in late 2015 to finally make the book happen, and three years later, it did. It wasn’t easy (I spent months working on the climactic chapters), but I’m proud of how it turned out. In a nutshell, the story is:
Boy Meets Girl
Evil Witch Abducts Boy
Girl Goes to Get Boy Back
I’ve had several people tell me how much they love the protagonist, Alyx, a 17-year old Korean American girl with blue eyes (which makes her feel like a freak), a rough past, and all sorts of emotional issues. She’s the most complex character I’ve ever written, and to create her, I drew on experiences and feelings that I had growing up, as well as those that other people have shared with me.
I tongue-in-cheek call Alyx my Feisty Teenage Heroine (TM). It’s the first time I’ve ever written a book in 1st person, and I wasn’t sure if I would get her “voice” right, but apparently, I did. In this excerpt, she and her future boyfriend Sam talk about the upcoming school year:
“So, what grade are you going into?” I asked him.
“Do you know who you have for English?”
“Jean Humphreys? I had her for British Lit. You are going to love her. She is soooo cool and so funny. What else are you taking?”
“You know, the usual. Spanish. Math.” I didn’t tell him it was only Algebra 2. He’d think I was an idiot.
“Do you know who you have for math?”
“Ms. Jung.” I say it the Korean way, with the “J.”
“She pronounces it ‘Young,’ and she’s a complete bitch. I had her for pre-calc.”
“Seriously, you need to switch classes. She’s nuts, and she can’t teach for crap. What’s your other class?”
“Art. It’s the only thing I like about school.”
“That’s cool. What kind of art do you do?”
“I wish I could. Do you carry around a pad of paper and pencils and randomly sketch things, like artists are supposed to?”
“Sometimes.” Okay, all of the time.
“Could you show me some of what you’ve drawn?”
“I don’t have anything right now.” Not totally true—my pad was in my backpack. There was just nothing I wanted to show anyone. “What classes are you taking?”
“AP Bio, AP English, AP Calc, French V and Band. Trombone. You do any sports?”
“Sports are bullshit.”
“You don’t watch football?”
I’m also happy with (and somewhat astonished at) how dense a story TWL is. It has a lot of elements, a lot of layers, and there’s a lot going on with it, so much so that it was hard to tie everything together, and to bring it to a satisfying conclusion (folks who say that the ending goes on longer than they expected should know that in my original draft, it was even longer).
TWL references and touches on:
- Norse mythology;
- The Hindu epic The Ramayana;
- T.S. Eliot’s poem The Waste Land;
- Viking explorations in the New World circa 1000 AD;
- Hard rock of the 1970’s, -80’s, and -90’s (check out the TWL Playlist)
- The National Football League;
- Popular games such as Magic: The Gathering, Dungeons & Dragons, and Warhammer 40,000;
- Physical disabilities and mental illness;
- Issues related to sex and sexuality; and,
- Previous novels (Dragontamer’s Daughters, and Lost Dogs) that I have published, as well as planned novels (Stray Cats, and Land of Confusion).
I’m also pleased with how the monsters came across. It would have been very easy to use the standard vampires, werewolves, zombies, etc., but as always, I like to do something different. I found that is surprisingly difficult to create unique, interesting, and terrifying monsters, but I’ve had plenty of people tell me that the creatures were just that.
An awful smell, like crap and vomit and that stench that old, sick people get—I remember from the one time I went to the nursing home to visit my dad’s dying aunt.
A wide room here, broken windows, fireplace with faintly glowing ashes. Smashed chairs—maybe someone was burning pieces of them? Two long couches, a lumpy black sheet or tarp or something draped across most of one.
Mike yanks my wrist, turns the flashlight’s beam on it, and something under the sheet starts to sit up.
A gurgling voice—I can’t tell if it’s a man’s or a woman’s. The sun and the moon and the stars have grown cold, and yet you have come, hyacinth.
“Don’t move,” I tell…it, “or my friend will shoot you. He will. I swear, he will.”
My sister is dead, and the scarabs ingest her. Soon, they will feast on me. Of what one should I fear?
Everything’s not sunshine and puppies with TWL. Due to changes in Amazon’s search algorithms, sales have not been as strong as I would like (this phenomenon has affected every author I’ve spoken with). To remedy that, I’m looking into having TWL traditionally published through houses who have released similar work. I prefer the freedom (and the higher profit) of indie publishing, but I’m exploring my options.
If you’ve read TWL, thank you very much, and if you enjoyed it, please leave a review on Amazon. Reviews are more than just a pat on the back for the author: they help prospective readers decide if they’d like to take a chance on a book.
If you haven’t read TWL, you can check out the first chapter here, and you can get it in softcover and for Kindle here. I hope that the story will draw you in, and that you’ll follow Our Feisty Teenage Heroine across the wasted land to save the boy she loves.
Kenton Kilgore writes killer SF/F for young adults and adults who are still young. In his latest novel, This Wasted Land, high-school senior Alyx Williams learns that witches are real when one attacks her and her boyfriend Sam, dragging him off to a nightmare world where Alyx must go to get him back.
Kenton is the author of Lost Dogs, the story of the end of the world as seen, heard–and smelled–by a dog. He also wrote Dragontamer’s Daughters, like Little House on the Prairie…with dragons! With Patrick Eibel, he created Our Wild Place, a children’s book about the joy to be found in exploring Nature. Kenton also published Hand-Selling Books to help authors better their sales.
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