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Saturday, October 27, 2012

Karen Duvall-The End of the World: A Good Reason for Romance



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.

18 comments:

Sarah Raplee said...

Thank you for stopping by, Karen. As one of your Beta readers, I LOVED Sun Storm! You did an AWESOME job of world building. Sarah and Ian are two unforgettable characters who earn their Happily Ever After against overwhelming odds.

Rock on!

Paty Jager said...

Hi Karen. This story sounds so daunting. My Pollyanna attitude can't even comprehend something like this could happen and I'm in awe of those who can not only see it but write it with a happy ending. Congratulations!

Karen Duvall said...

Thanks, Sarah and Paty! It was a unique experience writing that story, but I'm very pleased with the result. The anthology includes novellas by best selling authors Julie Kagawa and Ann Aguirre, and it's already available for preorder on Amazon. I'm so excited!

Diana Mcc. said...

I so admire you for finding and creating a Happy Ending in Sun Storm. I think I were writing a similar book, I'd get caught up in the devastation and sadness, and get sucked right down the pessimistic drain. Congrats on your up coming launch date!
Great Post!! Waving from Emerald City, see you soon!!!

Karen Duvall said...

Hey, Diana! Tell everyone i said hi! I sure wish i could be there. Maybe next year. :)

Margaret Tanner said...

Hi Karen,
Great blog. Nice blurb for Sun Storm, sounds like a great read.

Cheers

Margaret

Rashda Khan said...

Wow, your new story sounds AWESOME! Looking forward to the Jan release :)

Karen Duvall said...

Thanks, Margaret and Rashda! :)

Linda Lovely said...

I agree that a dystopian romance makes absolute sense. At the blackest times, humans seek love, solace. It's great that you accepted your editor's challenge. Being pushed into unfamiliar territory often makes us better on familiar ground, too. Great job.

Karen Duvall said...

Thanks so much, Linda! You're so right about how getting pushed can make us better. This story made me grow as a writer. I'm so happy to have had this opportunity. :)

Maggie Jaimeson said...

Your blurb for Sun Storm sounds fantastic. I'll definitely need to go download the anthology. I hear you on getting so depressed while living in a dystopian world. But then making the HEA is a hundred times mroe satisfying.

When I was in college I took a class on ethics from Jesuit priest (it was not a Catholic college, but he was an adjunct instructor). He said something that has stuck with me for nearly 40 years now. In a discussion of the Holocaust, he said that every one of us has both deep darkness and immense light inside. And it is often the small choices we make that push us in one way or the other.

The reason I think romance is so popular and the reason I write HEAs is that I love to read/show all those small choices, daily choices the character makes that in the end add up to the ability to have an HEA. Thanks for talking about your experience with world-building in this dystopian arena.

Karen Duvall said...

Thanks, Maggie! And thank you for sharing that profound observation from the priest. That's so true. And I think it's also the reason we even bother to read novels of any kind. Most stories have a happy, or at least satisfying, conclusion. For a short time we get to share that experience with the characters. It's a healthy entertainment everyone who reads can enjoy.

Sarah Raplee said...

I also love the way Dystopian romance validates true human behavior in response to disasters. So many entertainment venues portray us as rabid narcissists who will turn on one another, but that is not true. I lived in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, during the 2008 Thousand-Year Flood. My city of about 120,000 took in 23,000 displaced by the flood. Only about a thousand people went to shelters; the rest were fed and housed and cared for by their fellow citizens. THe community college cared for 5,000 pets for six weeks. THAT is what happens when we face a disaster-people pull together and help one another. Love triumphs, just as it does in your story!

Karen Duvall said...

Thanks, Sarah! :) Disasters certainly do bring out the best and the worst in people.

Judith Ashley said...

Hi Karen,

Very inspiring post! When we push ourselves into new experiences whole worlds can open to us. So glad you found the writing of Sun Storm to be a valuable, expanding experience for you.

Great comments, also.

Karen Duvall said...

Thanks so much, Judith! :)

Marie Harte said...

I can't wait to read this! So as long as the world doesn't end this year, I'm buying it! haha See you at the book signing...hint hint

Melia Alexander said...

Hi Karen!
Yeah, I'm late to the party. Sorry! This sounds like another fantastic read - and Niece is jonesing for it like you wouldn't believe!

I think adversity of any kind brings out the true nature of the individual. Of course, I also think that a great pair of shoes solves dang near any crisis. :)

Looking forward to the release!

-Melia