Trust me when I say you are going to want to stop what you’re doing and read this interview.
Summer Lane is the author of nearly a dozen novels and novellas, the latest of which–State of Destruction–officially releases today and is the seventh entry in her #1 Bestselling Collapse Series. Lane took time out of her busy schedule to chat with me recently about the Collapse Series, her experiences with indie publishing, and what we can expect from her next.
You’re the author of the bestselling, post-apocalyptic Collapse series. How did you come up with this idea?
I have always been fascinated and intrigued with post-apocalyptic stories. I think I just love the idea of having to survive off the land, and putting characters into situations where they’re almost stripped of their humanity and forced to make tough choices.
I had the original idea for the Collapse Series when I was fresh out of high school, and I ended up writing the first book a couple of years later. I was inspired by a simple headline on a television: “President Declares a State of Emergency.” It made me think: everybody can identify with fear, and the will to survive, so why not write a book about it?
Between all the action scenes, war motifs, and foreign languages alone, I imagine a lot of research has gone into this. What has your process been like in that regard? Does any of this come from your own experiences or knowledge (i.e.–weapons training, surviving in the outdoors)?
I like my books to be well-researched and believable. If my characters do something badass, then you bet it’s going to be a realistic move. I have done tons of military research and reading, and I grew up in a household that was surrounded by military and law enforcement influences. It made a big impact on me, and besides that, I love adventure stories. I love it when people do cool things and kick major butt.
I am very familiar with the area where the books have been set so far – the Sierra Nevada Mountains and California – and I enjoy visiting the range for some simple target practice as much as the next person. I used little tidbits of personal experience to supplement verified and thoroughly researched information that I put into the books.
State of Destruction–the latest entry–and its predecessor, State of Vengeance, are the darkest entries in the series thus far. Has it been difficult writing these narratives where everything seems so completely hopeless especially given the inherently hopeful nature of heroine Cassidy Hart?
Certainly each installment in the series is more challenging than the previous, but I love being challenged, so it works out for me. I actually enjoy writing about dark, gritty situations and subsequently finding the bright spot in the story. I love asking the tough questions of characters, the battle of the inner conscience, the wrestling of morals when civilization has fallen, and the character development when someone is pushed to the brink of destruction.
Writing about stories like this is my way of dealing with a very real, and very scary world that we live in today. My cast of characters has expanded from two to around thirty, which gives me the opportunity to really examine the collapse of modern society through the eyes of so many different people.
The last couple of books have woven the character of Elle, from your Zero Trilogy, into the story line. Was this something you had planned from the start? And her bomb-sniffing dog, Bravo is getting his own book this spring; can you share any details about that?
I brought Elle into State of Alliance because I wanted a girl and a dog to become a part of Cassidy’s team. I loved her so much, I decided to give her a trilogy of her own before she was even introduced into the Collapse Series. I knew where she was from and where she was going.
As for Bravo, he has easily been the most beloved character among readers by a large margin. I’m writing a series of shorter novels about Bravo’s adventures in the military with his handler, Nathan Ingalls, and his survival in the apocalypse. I thought it would be so incredibly fascinating to look at such a bleak situation through the eyes of a fearless German Shepherd. I’m hard at work on the first installment as we speak, and it will probably release late Spring 2016.
Harry Lydell, Veronica Klaus, the entire Omega organization as a whole, are diabolical. An absolutely formidable–and seemingly insurmountable–foe. But even amidst the relentless action and destructive sequences in this new book, you have begun to sprinkle a bit of humanity into Omega. Can you unpack this decision a bit for us?
I have taught a lot of writing classes, and I always tell my students that there are three major types of character conflict: Man versus Man, Man versus Self, and Man versus Unfeeling Force.
In the case of my series, Omega is a hugely terrifying unfeeling force, but I wanted to add some humanity and personality to the enemy by giving our heroes some specific bad guys to spar with, people like Harry Lydell and Veronica Klaus. I feel that, in writing, evil is so much scarier when it is personified in someone you know personally; it makes it scarier, more realistic.
Veronica is a villain I have wanted to bring into my books for a very, very long time, but I had to wait for the right moment to introduce her into the series. As for Harry, who knows what’s next for him? I have spent so much time poring over Harry’s motives and character that I want to make sure his fate, whether good or bad, is suitable for him.
On a less serious note, be honest: Cassidy is possessed by a litter of cats, right? She’s escaped death so many times in this series that I think the cats are getting jealous of how many lives she’s used up.
All good heroes must be good at evading death, otherwise you’ve got a pretty dull story on your hands. Cassidy Hart has escaped death either because she’s got luck on her side or because someone has saved her butt (that someone being Chris Young or her other comrades). I give Cassidy a strong team to protect her, and by giving humanity to some of the villains, she has opportunities to make quick escapes.
Cassidy is like a lot of real-life heroes. She survives despite the odds. I love that about her. She gives me hope.
You’ve mentioned before that this is a New Adult series. What has the response been like? A post-apocalyptic adventure series isn’t something you see a lot of to begin with, let alone in the NA world, so it’s certainly unique. What, if any, challenges has this posed for you?
Yeah, it’s a New Adult/Young Adult crossover. I’ve got readers from 12 years-old to 89. I say New Adult because my characters in Collapse are older – 19-30 years old. Cassidy is the youngest in her early twenties. Chris is older at 29. I wanted older characters because I wanted a mature supporting cast who would help Cassidy grow up quickly and show her the way. I also identify a little more with a Cassidy who is in her twenties, since I am, too.
The response has been enormous. I cannot believe how many people pick up my books on a daily basis. I’m not sure why there aren’t a lot of NA post-apocalyptic stories out there, because I think people really identify with a survival story like that. Everybody can identify with the will to live, and the will to protect the people you love. It’s an examination of society, a war of morals, everything all rolled into one.
If anything, the biggest challenge has been simply keeping up with the demand for getting books published and finished for readers. I write as fast as I can, and get them out there. Readers devour them, and for that I am immeasurably grateful.
You’ve self-published all your books over the past few years. Why self-publishing, and what has the experience been like?
The opportunity presented itself. I came into indie publishing when it was first taking off, and now it’s rolling away like a steam train, picking up momentum. It gave me the chance to put my work out there and see what people thought of it – and guess what? I was lucky enough to score big with a hit series.
I’ve been working in publishing since I was 17, and I’ve seen things fluctuate in the industry incredibly quickly. It’s a tough, tough business. I’ve learned a lot just in the last year – you never stop learning. Indie publishing – in order to make it work – requires total dedication and border-line obsession. * wink * But seriously. It’s a hard job, but I love it, so that makes it all worth it.
This is book seven in the series. How many entries are left?
There will be ten books in the Collapse Series. Collapse chronicles the fall of civilization and the warfare that tears the post-apocalyptic world apart. I will be writing another series following the timeline of Collapse, but with a new storyline. That release has yet to be determined.
To keep up to date on all the happenings with Summer and her work, visit her website.