Dystopian romance? What a great topic to discuss! After the phenomenal success of Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (one of my all-time favorite books), the dystopian theme for young adult fiction spread through the publishing world like wildfire. It makes sense that the subgenre would find its way into romance. World-ending drama combined with romance is a match made in heaven.
I write urban fantasy for Harlequin Luna, and last year I was invited to contribute one of the three dystopian-themed novellas for Luna's 'Til The World Ends anthology that will be released in January 2013. I'd never written dystopian before, but my editor felt my writing style and my voice would be a good fit for the project. Would I take them up on their offer? Hell's yeah!
Coming up with the idea wasn't as easy as I'd thought it would be. There are many ways the world could end, and this story was for Harlequin so it had to have a happy ending. A romance involving worldwide destruction with a happy ending is like an oxymoron. Calling it a challenge is an understatement, but I came up with four ideas and my editor chose the one I titled Sun Storm. Two of the others I still intend to write someday, but I'm going to leave alone the one about floods and sea monsters. That one is a bit of a stretch.
My first attempt at writing the story was a struggle. I write fantasy, and to me, the world-ending force of solar storms begged scientific explanation. By the time I was done, I'd gotten so caught up in plausibility issues that it leaned too far into science fiction and I had to completely rewrite it. So I delved back into my fantasy comfort zone and came at the story from a slightly different perspective.
Here's the blurb for Sun Storm that appears on the 'Til The World Ends anthology book cover:
Sarah Daggot has been chasing storms since she was a child. But after the biggest solar flares in history nearly destroy the planet, she becomes a Kinetic, endowed by her exposure to extreme radiation with the power to sense coming storms--in the cosmos and beyond. And she’s not the only one. Sarah believes the Kinetics are destined to join forces and halt the final onslaught of the sun. She’ll vow to keep trying to convince the one missing link in their chain of defense, the enigmatic Ian Matthews, up until the world ends.
Though I thoroughly enjoyed building the world for my novella, I have to admit it was depressing at first. I had to create an atmosphere that mirrored the results of a cataclysmic event responsible for the deaths of millions, and a setting that crumbled civilization to a mere shadow of itself. That was tough to live with throughout the writing process, both for me and for my characters. But you know what? The story's background gave society a reason to work together to survive. It gave my hero and heroine a powerful conviction to overcome adversity. And it gave me the drive to ensure all went well in the end. Which it did.