April 04, 2012

Guest Post with author Phillip W. Simpson!

I never set out to write a novel that would be labeled dystopian and/or post-apocalyptic.

Maybe I’m a little slow or dull, but I’d never heard of dystopian as a genre before I started writing Rapture. Sure, I’d heard of post-apocalyptic fiction (and loved it!) but not dystopian. Weird thing is, even though I hadn’t labeled it, I’d read more than my share. I knew what it meant but I just didn’t consider it as a specific genre.

Nowadays, dystopia or dystopian fiction is a big deal in publishing circles - the Hunger Games being the most obvious example. That came out in 2008. I wonder if they were calling it that back then? Who knows. I doubt whether Suzanne Collins knew she was writing a stellar example of the genre at the time. Bet she would’ve been excited if she’d known – especially consider the success of not only the books but the movie as well (saw it last week).
Speaking of the Hunger Games - I didn’t even notice when it came out in 2008. Probably too busy writing something or other to notice. I only read it this year when a reviewer mentioned that she thought Rapture was a cross between the Hunger Games and the Road. Of course I loved the Hunger Games. Who doesn’t?

Fast forward two years – that’s when I started writing Rapture (early in 2010).

Now let’s forget about labels for a moment. I didn’t even think about dystopian or post-apocalyptic. I certainly wasn’t trying to jump on what was then a fairly small yet energetic bandwagon (not the colossus it is now). All I knew was write what you know and what you love. I love end of the world scenarios, I love messed up worlds. So that’s what I decided to write. I didn’t specifically set out to write a young adult novel either – I guess my writing style just suited the demographic (I had written a lot of books for kids before this).

I wanted to do something different too. Sure, the Left Behind series had covered the Rapture pretty well but I wanted to combine my love of fantasy. Specifically swords and demons. I love fantasy with swords and demons.

Anywho, I started with the Rapture as my key premise. At the time, I’d just finished reading the Road by Cormac McCarthy. I absolutely-cannot-put-it-down-read-it-until-I’d-finished loved it. I loved the bleak, ash-covered world and the washed out colors. I loved the perseverance of the father in the face of almost overwhelming odds. Then I had a thought – how about I combine the Rapture with this sort of bleak landscape and throw in some demons and swords? Good but not great. I needed a memorable protagonist. Someone conflicted. How about I make him half-human and half-demon? You can’t get much more conflicted than that.

Then - how about he’s been trained as a samurai since birth? Better. Makes him tough and hard core. Someone to be feared. Someone who can look after himself. Someone able to fight for others. His trainer would have to be a swordmaster of course. Aha! I’ll make him Japanese because let’s face it – most samurai swordmasters are Japanese. And then to lighten the mood slightly and give the central character someone to fight for – a love interest in the form of his masters daughter. Much better.

I also wanted to explore the themes of nature versus nurture. I’m a school teacher by day and often find myself musing over children’s behavior. Do they behave the way they do because they were born that way or is it because of their upbringing? I often wonder what would happen if a certain child was brought up in a loving family. I’m positive it would turn out for the best.

That’s where I went with Sam (the main character). Even though he’s inherently bad (demon), he’s spent all his life being nurtured in a loving (albeit slightly dysfunctional) human family.

And of course when the Rapture happens, Sam (despite the fact that he’s devout and a good person) cannot go up to Heaven. Because he’s half demon. Can’t have a half demon strolling around Heaven now, can we?

So that basically sums up my thought processes when I was planning Rapture. I never intended it to be a Trilogy either but I left it fairly open just in case. Luckily, my publisher loved it and thought a trilogy would be perfect. I’ve just finished the second book (Tribulation – out in October 2012) and am starting to think of the final book (Apocalypse – due for release sometime in 2013). Sam and his world now dominate my thoughts. He’s taken on a life of his own and for that reason, I really hope I can give him a satisfying ending. He deserves it after all he’s been through.

About Rapture:

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The Rapture has occurred, just as the Bible predicted. The faithful have risen up to Heaven. Those left behind are in a living hell.

Earth burns, hell-like in its oppressive heat. Every volcano in the world has erupted, and tsunamis and earthquakes continue to devastate the planet. Clouds continually rain ash onto the scorched landscape, sparking fires all around. Plants and animals are dying. Food is scarce. The night sky is devoid of stars, and the moon - when it can be seen - is the colour of blood.

The remnants of humanity fight for survival. Most have fled the cities and now hide in caves deep in the mountains. By night, demons stalk the Earth, capturing the remaining humans and killing them - if they're lucky. The less fortunate are converted to worship of the Devil, and ushered into endless hell.

Eighteen year old, Sam (short for Samael) was raised in the town of Jacob's Ladder, Utah. It is appropriately enough near to a place of natural scenic beauty called Devil's garden. He finds himself alone, unable to rise up with his family because he is half demon. His mother, a devout Christian, was seduced by Satan and conceived his child. She smuggled the boy to an old friend Hikari, a Japanese sword master and demon expert. Since then, Hikari and his daughter, Aimi, have been all the family Sam has known.

Now they're gone, and Sam must set out on the mission Hikari charged him with long ago: to help all the humans left behind. Armed only with his beloved Japanese swords and his wits, Sam wanders the post-apocalyptic world alone, separated forever from everyone he loves. Cursed by his demonic heritage, he must now embark on a quest that will take him across the US to the City of Angels.

There he will confront his destiny. There he must fight to save a friend ... and the souls of the living.


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