Lisa M. Stasse was born on a farm in a small town in upstate New York. Bitten by the travel bug, she has since lived in twelve different states and four different countries. She graduated from Cornell University with a degree in Political Science and English literature, and is currently a digital librarian at UCLA. Lisa loves watching science fiction movies, cooking Spanish food, and dancing around her house to 80’s music (when no one is watching). She lives in Santa Monica, California with her husband and their two-year-old daughter. All three of them are learning how to surf.
Dystopian. Adventure. Scary. Romantic.
It all started with a nightmare I had. I was being chased by figures in black robes on a harsh tropical prison island. So I guess the novel began with that premise. But of course the characters made the whole story worthwhile. They felt like they came alive when I was writing. Alenna’s perseverance, and her journey to discover her own strength (and to uncover secrets about her own identity), is one of the main aspects of the novel.
I’ve always loved dystopian novels (and apocalyptic ones too–Cormac McCarthy’s book THE ROAD is amazing). And of course I love classic dystopians like 1984 and FAHRENHEIT 451. So I got really inspired when dystopian lit started to get popular again a few years ago. I decided to write my own version. The Hunger Games and The Maze Runner were definitely big influences on me. I think dystopian fiction has so much potential and energy around it. There’s room to explore big, complicated ideas but also to tell intensely personal stories. And I like the fact that dystopian lit can be really scary and edgy, and even romantic. It’s a genre that embraces inventiveness. In fact, I feel like it’s one of my favorite genres of all time. I read tons of dystopian novels (right now I’m reading an ARC of LEVEL 2 by Lenore Appelhans, which is amazing, and of course I love Veronica Roth’s books). I’ve always been fascinated by prisons and islands too (I guess that’s why I had that dream about them!) When I started writing THE FORSAKEN, the story just felt like it wrote itself. It was like I was transcribing a movie or something. It was a great experience. I’m a librarian at UCLA, and I’m around books all the time, so it was a huge thrill to finally be writing a book (after many false starts!)
Most of it came from my own demented imagination, but I did read a bunch of stuff online about prisons and islands, as well as totalitarian governments and their mind control experiments.
The easiest character was Gadya because (my friends tell me) she’s a lot like me. Really impulsive and sort of outspoken, even if she doesn’t mean to be. I don’t have her tattoos or dyed hair, though! The hardest was David, who is a very elusive, mysterious guy. He’s not Alenna’s main love interest, but he’s definitely on her radar. Almost all the characters were fun to come up with. I tend to fall in love with all of them.
I’d love to write a great thriller/mystery one day. Something really edgy and unique. Maybe a story about a college-age girl who goes undercover in some dangerous subculture for some reason. I love movies like Eastern Promises and Drugstore Cowboy (an old movie from the 80’s, but it’s awesome–about undercover cops). I always figured that writing a mystery would be a lot of fun.
Choose a tribe. Watch your back. And don’t stop running.
As an obedient orphan of the U.N.A. (the super-country that was once Mexico, the US, and Canada), Alenna learned at an early age to blend in and be quiet—having your parents taken by the police will do that to a girl. But Alenna can’t help standing out when she fails a test that all sixteen-year-olds have to take: The test says she has a high capacity for brutal violence, and so she is sent to the wheel, an island where all would-be criminals end up.
The life expectancy of prisoners on the wheel is just two years, but with dirty, violent, and chaotic conditions, the time seems a lot longer as Alenna is forced to deal with civil wars for land ownership and machines that snatch kids out of their makeshift homes. Desperate, she and a charismatic warrior named Liam concoct a potentially fatal plan to flee the island. Survival may seem impossible, but Alenna is determined to achieve it anyway.