What better way to start off the New Year than with an interview with Veronica Rossi, whose highly anticipated book, UNDER THE NEVER SKY, releases today from HarperCollins! Congratulations, Veronica!
Aria is a teenager in the enclosed city of Reverie. Like all Dwellers, she spends her time with friends in virtual environments, called Realms, accessed through an eyepiece called a Smarteye. Aria enjoys the Realms and the easy life in Reverie. When she is forced out of the pod for a crime she did not commit, she believes her death is imminent. The outside world is known as The Death Shop, with danger in every direction.
As an Outsider, Perry has always known hunger, vicious predators, and violent energy storms from the swirling electrified atmosphere called the Aether. A bit of an outcast even among his hunting tribe, Perry withstands these daily tests with his exceptional abilities, as he is gifted with powerful senses that enable him to scent danger, food and even human emotions.
They come together reluctantly, for Aria must depend on Perry, whom she considers a barbarian, to help her get back to Reverie, while Perry needs Aria to help unravel the mystery of his beloved nephew’s abduction by the Dwellers. Together they embark on a journey challenged as much by their prejudices as by encounters with cannibals and wolves. But to their surprise, Aria and Perry forge an unlikely love - one that will forever change the fate of all who live UNDER THE NEVER SKY.
How did you come up with the idea for UNDER THE NEVER SKY? What were your inspirations?
UNDER THE NEVER SKY had several points of inspiration. I knew I wanted to write a story about two very different characters: a girl of the future, and a boy of the past. I was intrigued by all the story possibilities of this pairing, and I also loved that it would give me the ability to probe into my own questions about our interconnectedness with technology. I knew I didn't want to write a time-travel story, so I started to ask a lot of what if questions, and ended up with a post-apocalyptic setting that forced people to divide into two groups. One group would live in the safety of enclosed cities and their lives would be highly dependent on technology. The other group would live in a harsh exterior world, reverting to a much more primitive existence of raw survival.
A number of non-fiction books helped to inspire the societies in UNDER THE NEVER SKY. A NATURAL HISTORY OF THE SENSES and RADICAL EVOLUTION were two books that I read backward and forward, and used as spring-boards for creating the Dweller and Outsider societies. It was tough-going at first, but the more time I spent world-building, the more fun it became.
Your book takes place in a futuristic world divided between the Pods, with genetically engineered beautiful people and virtual realty realms, and the Death Shop, a radiation-tainted wilderness. Which world would you rather live in?
I'm tempted to say I'd choose real life, but I'm a dreamer at heart. I think I'd choose the Pod life and spend my days cruising the art Realms. Can you imagine stepping into a Van Gogh painting? I'd also love to fly, or attend an underwater concert. Oh, and the Mythology Realms! Who wouldn't want to see a real Minotaur? My husband thought up a Realm the other day that I'd love to see: New York Surf Realm. I'd love to surf through Central Park. That's the thing about the Realms. If you can imagine it, it can be done. There's just no limit.
UNDER THE NEVER SKY has so much to offer readers—romance, big themes, suspense, and a little science fiction. What do you hope readers will most connect with?
It's interesting that you mention the different aspects of UNDER THE NEVER SKY, because that's what I hope readers will enjoy. Personally, I love stories that are broad and offer friendship, adventure, romance, personal growth... I hope UNDER THE NEVER SKY will appeal to readers who also love those things as well. If you pinned me down to one thing, though, I'd have to say the romance is one of my favorite aspects.
Tell us about your path to publication. Were you lucky or cursed with many obstacles?
I spent almost seven years writing seriously before I wrote UNDER THE NEVEr SKY. I have two novels in a drawer that I didn't query. I knew they weren't ready. But once I had the Never Sky manuscript finished, the process was lightning fast. I was very lucky to meet people who believed in the story right away. In the span of three months, I had a US offer, international offers and a movie deal. I feel guilty even saying it. But it does make up for years and years of staring at my ceiling in the middle of the night and asking myself, Why am I doing this? Will I ever be published?
Dystopian stories are popular right now. Why do you think teenagers and adults are connecting now to the ideas and issues this genre deals with?
Well, first, I'd like to make a small clarification that my story does have some dystopian elements, but it falls more comfortably into the label of science fiction. (That's a label that has traditionally turned off many readers, but I hope that will begin to change.) Back to your question, I think many of these stories might appear heavy and dark on the surface, but they can really offer hope. And like all sci-fi, it's a great platform to examine the consequences of our current actions and choices.
UNDER THE NEVER SKY is the first in a trilogy. What can we expect from the next two books?
The Aether storms will increase, and that will put a lot of pressure on everyone. The phrase rats on a sinking ship comes to mind. It's going to get intense. Also: there will be betrayal, death, and more romance. Sorry to be vague, but... you know. Can't give it away!
Because this is the Lucky 13s blog, we like to know a little more about authors’ superstitions. Do you have any lucky charms or believe in any superstitions?
I have a few superstitions, but nothing out of the ordinary. I hold my breath when I drive through tunnels or past cemeteries. When my younger son is with me, I don't step on cracks in the sidewalk. I do have lucky charms, though. I have two necklaces that bring me luck and my best lucky charm is my mother. She's amazing at drawing good things out of the Universe. She lights a candle and prays, and nine times out of ten, something good happens.
Thanks so much for having me, Megan and Lucky 13s! I'm looking forward to reading your books!
This interview was conducted by Lucky 13 member Megan Shepherd, as part of an ongoing series of interviews with the Apocalypsies—YA, MG, and children’s book authors with 2012 debuts.
Connect with Veronica and learn more about UNDER THE NEVER SKY:
Veronica's Twitter feed
Facebook page for UNDER THE NEVER SKY series
Buy your copy of UNDER THE NEVER SKY at your favorite local bookstore, or online at:
Barnes and Noble