We are featuring this special interview with Devastation Class authors Glen Zipper and Elaine Mongeon. Keep reading to learn more about their new release!
Congratulations on the publication of your new book! What does it feel like to have Devastation Class in the world?
Fun and exciting and super scary 😉
How would you describe Devastation Class to someone who is interested in reading it?
The book is set in the distant future, with seven military cadets and seventy civilian students aboard a starship on a scientific mission of learning. Suddenly and without warning, the ship is attacked by the Kastazi, a vicious enemy alien race that humanity had once already defeated in a brutal nine-year war. Our protagonists – best friends and cadets JD and Viv – are forced to make an impossible choice that will change their lives forever: obey their superiors and die, or rally their comrades to mutiny to save the ship and the lives of everyone aboard. However, not everything is what it seems. What at first looks like an obvious re-invasion by a former enemy turns out to be something much darker and shocking, and a mystery eons in the making will have to be unraveled for them to have any hope of surviving.
Devastation Class is also a multi-POV story, so we get to spend time in the heads of more than one character. Viv and JD are trying to succeed under the weight and long shadows of their war hero parents. There’s Nicholas, a cypher whose intentions and motivations are shrouded in mystery, and who is also struggling with terrifying questions about his own identity. And then there’s Liko, an exceedingly intelligent character who wears the “scarlet letter” of being the son of a man most people view as a traitor. While these characters are all quite different from one another in the way that they process the world around them, they all share one commonality — they must battle challenges beyond their control that are not of their making. There’s a diverse assembly of other characters we spend time with, all of whom are on the ship for a very specific reason (spoiler alert: reasons sometimes not even obvious to themselves) and while we don’t get inside all of their heads, all of them are battling the same challenges that are totally out of their control. Many of these characters also perceive one another as a threat, so a big question of the book is whether or not they’ll be able to learn to trust one another to fight the much larger threat that’s stalking them all.
What was your inspiration for Devastation Class?
We actually used to be a couple, and on our first date we bonded over our mutual love of all things genre, and specifically sci-fi. So much so that the first date turned into an overnight binge-watch of Battlestar Gallactica (the Ron Moore reboot version). Not too long after we started dating, we began talking about collaborating on a writing project together – only at the time it was in the form of a television series. With our core element being teenagers fending for themselves aboard a starship – a sort of Lord of the Flies in space – we drew inspiration from the sci-fi we loved, including Star Wars, Star Trek, and The Last Starfighter, as well as Taps (a film released in 1981 that we highly recommend with “before they were stars” performances from Sean Penn, Tom Cruise, Timothy Hutton, and Giancarlo Esposito).
What do you hope readers take away from this new release?
2020 has really placed younger generations at a crossroads. Whether it’s protesting for racial and social justice, or in any way espousing a just cause or view that is abhorrent to those in power, young women and men are making choices at their own risk and peril to do what they know is right. But what are they supposed to do when the just causes they are trying to achieve require action that could sacrifice their tomorrows for the greater good of those who will continue to suffer today if they don’t do something?
Devastation Class, through the allegorical lens of a mind-bendy YA space opera/adventure, asks some of these questions. How does someone make an impossible choice to sacrifice all or some of their future? Even if they feel like they have to make that choice, how do they overcome their fears and instincts to “obey” those in power and their rules? And how do they grapple with and navigate the domino effect of all the consequences of their choice – some of which they could never possibly have seen coming?
What makes this book special/unique, and why should readers be sure to place it on their TBR (To Be Read) list?
We make no apologies for bringing inspirations from our feature film producing experience to Devastation Class, which means cinematic pulse-pounding, palm sweat inducing action, lots of mind-bending twists and also more Easter eggs hidden throughout its pages than a Marvel movie. That being said, Devastation Class remains a human story at its core, with character influences drawn from, among other places, the best John Hughes films of the 80’s.
What kind of impact did writing Devastation Class have on you personally?
Our characters are battling life-and-death stakes from an enemy they never saw coming – and they aren’t even close to being fully ready to take that enemy on. In the context of the pandemic, these stakes and challenges feel surreally familiar to us. It almost feels like we’ve travelled these waters before from writing the book, and, strangely, that’s made it slightly easier to manage our COVID-related stress and anxieties.
How are you reflected in Devastation Class (or, how much of you is reflected in the book)?
It’s seems inevitable that we see ourselves in the characters we write, but, ultimately, they aren’t usually the most accurate reflections of us. Instead, they often possess the best characteristics we wish we had, but don’t… and some of the worst characteristics we don’t think we have, but actually do.
When you finish a book, step back, and look at the characters you’ve created it’s actually quite revealing and therapeutic. The penny just sort of drops and you think, “Oh I wrote the person who I’d like to be.” But you also see a lot of your personal baggage that you’re trying to work through by making your characters confront that baggage instead of you.
What is your favorite thing to do to promote your book?
Anything that directly engages us with readers and fans. This story has lived in our heads, belonging only to us for so long, but the whole point of writing it was to share it with people and see how it entertained them, what themes they recognized, what meanings they discovered, what secrets they uncovered, what Easter eggs they found, and just generally how it affected them. So this is the best part. Finally being able to make that connection in whatever form it takes.
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned while being a writer?
It’s super basic but: the pages won’t write themselves. No matter how much you love writing, and living with the characters and worlds you create, sometimes it’s still excruciatingly difficult to just make yourself sit down and actually write! So the lesson for us was put our butts in our chairs every single day and just start writing. Even if we weren’t feeling it. Even if everything that came out of our brains through our fingerprints and down onto the page felt like garbage. Not every day was productive, but the bigger, more important picture of habituating our writing was served as long as we wrote something every day.
Any additional thoughts?
A hot dog is not a sandwich.
Die Hard is a Christmas movie.
Deckard was not a replicant.