I’m so thrilled to be participating in my first blog tour, author Connie Grudzinski’s First Annual Author-Go-Round! It's week two, time to check in with my good friend Tracy Lawson. I've interviewed Tracy a few times before, and this one is just as fun and exciting, as she offers new insights into her writing, and the world she has created in her YA series.
The Resistance Series takes place in a near-future version of the United States. The powerful Office of Civilian Safety and Defense has enacted a long list of Civilian Restrictions designed to keep the people safe from frequent terrorist attacks, but it hasn’t worked: as the story opens, the threat of a chemical weapons attack is literally hanging over everyone’s heads.
Careen takes the OCSD’s offered antidote, but the side effects cause her to hallucinate. Her erratic behavior attracts the attention of a young law
enforcement officer, who mistakenly pegs her as a dissident. Careen doesn’t realize the antidote is causing her confusion…until she runs out on the day
of the anticipated attack.
Tommy, recuperating from injuries sustained in a recent auto accident, is unaware that there’s a link between that accident, which killed his parents, and the chemical weapons attack that threatens him now. When he discovers that working out before he takes his dose of the antidote helps him feel more like himself, he defies the rules to regain his strength and his sanity. On the day of the attack, he meets Careen, who just might be the girl of his dreams, and tries to save her by sharing his last dose of the antidote, even though doing so could potentially hasten his own death.
What Careen and Tommy learn about the true nature of the terrorist threat spurs them to take action; their decisions lead them to run afoul of local law enforcement, team up with an underground resistance group, and ultimately take their quest for the truth to the highest reaches of the United States government.
In Resist, the second volume in the Resistance Series, Tommy and Careen are no longer naïve, frightened teenagers who believe the Office of Civilian Safety and Defense can protect them from terrorist attacks. They’ve discovered the OCSD’s miracle antidote’s true purpose: to create a population bereft of free will, incapable of defying the tyrannical OCSD. They join the Resistance, but on their first mission, things spin out of control and soon they’re on the run, dodging the quadrant marshals in a headlong dash for the Resistance’s secret headquarters.
Being part of the Resistance presents them with new challenges. Not everyone working for change will prove trustworthy, and plans to spark revolution go awry with consequences greater than they could’ve imagined. Tommy and Careen’s relationship is tested when their philosophical differences and the pressures of interpersonal rivalries and jealousy put a strain on their romance. Can they make time for each other while trying to start a revolution?
Tracy loves to talk to readers,, and she's answered some interesting questions at book festivals and school visits. She shares some of them with us below:
Q: How did you get the idea for your books?
A: This question can be answered with a question. I was mentoring a friend of my daughter’s when the initial idea for Counteract came about. Chase is a pretty sharp guy and an excellent writer—and when he was in high school I had a lot of fun working with him and editing some of his short stories. We had finished working on a story about baseball, a broken nose, and a broken heart, and were ready to start something new, when he suggested we write scenes in response to the prompt: “What if everyone was on LSD and all thoughts were communal?” It was certainly thought provoking! Chase created the characters Tommy and Eduardo, I created Careen. Right away, we knew we were onto something. The story morphed and changed a lot before it became the finished version of Counteract—but that was how it all began.
Q: What kind of research did you do while writing Counteract?
A: A high school student asked me this question when I visited her English class, and I have to admit I totally fell for it. I responded, “Oh, I did lots of research.” Several people in the class looked surprised, and a few began to giggle. It took a second before I realized they’d asked if I’d tripped on LSD as part of my research, so I quickly qualified my answer. “I totally Googled LSD!” Actually, my browser history might look pretty odd to anyone who didn’t know I was researching a book about a society paralyzed by the fear of terrorism and an oppressive government. I’ve Googled guns, explosives, detonator cord, terrorist attacks, torture methods, and even a floor plan of the Capitol building. Don’t call the NSA on me, okay?
Q: Did you get your ideas from other series? Is the story going to turn into another love triangle like Team Edward and Team Jacob in the Twilight series?
A: When I was writing Counteract, and then Resist, I made every effort to craft a story that was different from the other popular teen books, like Hunger Games, Divergent, and Twilight. I even avoided reading The Hunger Games until I was finished writing Counteract so I wouldn’t be influenced. Love triangles are great devices in fiction, and Careen, my heroine, does attract the attention of two different guys, but it’s not the main focus of the story, and it does have a twist you won’t find in Twilight. At almost every school visit, someone will ask how I chose the color orange for the CSD antidote in my book. One student noted that CSD is the same color as hallucination-causing drug that was used on Tris in the Divergent series. At first, I’d envisioned the antidote as red, but when I saw the red liquid in the glass vial, I thought, ‘oh, no—everyone will think it’s vampire blood. This isn’t a vampire story.’ What other color could I choose? I eliminated blue, green, and purple, because cool colors are happy colors. I couldn’t use yellow (that’s when I pause until someone in the class starts to laugh) because it looks like pee. So that left orange, and that worked, because orange means caution and danger. I’d bet Veronica Roth arrived at her orange antidote using a similar process of elimination!
Q: In the first chapter, you say something about Tommy beingin an accident. I want to know more. Why didn't you tell about the accident?
A: This has to be one of the most amazing questions I’ve ever had, because it came from a very bright eight-year-old! My books are geared for ages 12 and up, and I don’t usually get questions from elementary-school children, but Bennett, who is the son of longtime friends, had been reading his older brother’s copy of Counteract before school that morning I visited his combined class of fourth through eighth graders. I explained, “Bennett, you and I have known each other your whole life. But if we’d just met, and I said, ‘Hi, I’m Tracy Lawson, and I’ve come to speak to your school today. Back when I was born in Cincinnati in nineteen sixty something…’ you’d get bored and tune me out. I shouldn’t try to tell you my whole life story at once. Same with Tommy. I need you to get interested in him, and his immediate situation, before I tell you his backstory. What chapter are you on right now?” Bennett replied he’d just started Chapter 3. “Okay—you’re just about to learn about the accident that killed his parents and put him in the hospital.”
Counteract and Resist are available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble’s online store in both print and ebook editions.