Imagining the worst is something that everyone does and with the climate changes we’re seeing, it’s easy to believe the premise of AFTER SUNDOWN could happen. But what would it really be like in a small town post apocalyptic-episode? Let’s pour some wine for our guests today and find out!
Lexi: Welcome and congratulations on the publication of AFTER SUNDOWN! This book starts with Sela’s normal life before it’s upended. And there’s also a thriller aspect to it, so Sela’s normal life in a tiny, sleepy town in the Smokey Mountains is tinged with something bad’s coming. How did you come up with the something bad that’s headed her way?
Linda Howard: We plot on the fly, meaning we don’t know what’s going to happen until we get to that point. In the initial planning stages we’d thought the people in Wears Valley would be most threatened from the outside, by gangs trying to plunder their meager supplies. But when it came down to dealing with the most logical threats, that would’ve been from people they knew, people who were already there. Every neighborhood has a troublemaker — or twenty. Right?
Linda Jones: We did a lot of research on solar storms, after we came up with the idea for the initiating event. The possibilities are endless, and if you get caught up in “what if” it can lead down a very scary path. While a solar storm this devastating isn’t likely, it could happen. The trick was to find a way for our characters to not just survive, but thrive. We weren’t looking to write a truly apocalyptic novel, though an event like this one would be very different in some places than it might be in a small town like Wears Valley.
Lexi: It’s interesting how you wrote AFTER SUNDOWN in that it takes place before and after a devastating solar storm. As a reader we really get to see small-town life pre and post and how they come together to help one another. What role does Sela play in Wears Valley after the storm passes?
Linda Howard: The actual solar storm passes within a day, it’s the aftermath that lingers. Full recovery from a massive solar storm would take years, possibly a decade or longer. It’s serious stuff. Sela would never want to be the leader, it makes her uncomfortable, but she sees solutions and will step up if she’s needed. For her, it was doing whatever was necessary to protect her family.
Linda Jones: Sela has to come out of her shell in order to protect her family and her neighbors. If not for the CME (Coronal Mass Ejection), she could live her entire life hiding her strengths from the world. It takes a true disaster to bring out the best in her. She’s a calming influence, she thinks critically and is more organized than most. She’s not given to hysterics, so that makes it possible for her to look ahead and see what needs to be done. Every person would react differently in this kind of situation, and I don’t think anyone knows what their strengths, or their weaknesses, would be.
Linda Howard: For Ben, the biggest hurdle is allowing anyone to get close to him. He’s so self-sufficient, life after the power grid goes down is almost the same as before. It’s more complicated for Sela. She’s an introvert, and doesn’t have a lot of self-assurance. Actually getting close to Ben is a big step for her, and without the threat to her family she might not have made the effort to go to him. She would put herself on the line for her family.
Linda Jones: Definitely their solitude-loving souls. :-) They take the challenges of the situation head-on, they don’t hide from their new responsibilities, they embrace them. They’re both survivors, people you want on your side during a crisis. But letting down their guard, allowing someone in their lives on an intimate level, challenges both of them. If not for the CME they might’ve lived their lives alone. While disaster can drive people apart, in this case it forces Ben and Sela to face one another realizing tomorrow is not guaranteed, to make the decision to take a very personal chance.