by Brenda Marie Smith
GENRE: Sci-fi (post-apocalyptic)
A solar electromagnetic pulse fried the U.S. grid fourteen months ago. Everything’s gone: power, cars, running water, communications, all governing control and help—gone. Now northern lights have started in Texas—3,000 miles farther south than where they belong. The universe won’t stop screwing with eighteen-year-old Keno Simms.
All that’s left for Keno, his family and neighbors is farming their Austin subdivision, trying to eke out a living on poor soil in the scorching heat. Keno’s still reeling from the the death of his pregnant sister. His beloved Nana is ill, Grandpa’s always brandishing weapons, and water is far too scarce. Desperate thieves are hemming them in, yet he can’t convince his uncle and other adults to take action against the threat.
Keno’s one solace is his love for Alma, who has her own secret sorrows. When he gets her pregnant, he vows to keep her alive no matter what. Yet armed marauders and nature itself collude against him at every turn, forcing him to make choices that rip at his conscience. If he can’t protect Alma and their unborn child, it will be the end of Keno’s world.
IF THE LIGHT ESCAPES is post-apocalyptic science fiction set in a near-future reality, a coming-of-age story told in the voice of a heroic teen who’s forced into manhood too soon.
Bright green lights stream and pulse across the northern sky all night now, growing from thin and wispy to bold and fat, expanding, contracting, sending out bands of yellow streamers like they’re partying on ecstasy at some cosmic rave. The lights are pretty, and they’re hypnotic, and they creep me out to the core.
Northern lights every night for two solid weeks in Texas. Halfway to the equator from where they belong. They’re supposed to be a phenomenon tied to the magnetic poles—it’s a scientific fact.
Nothing is right about this. The only explanation I can think of is that the north and south poles are shifting. I don’t know what that means for the planet and the future of its creatures. We don’t have TVs or talking-head scientists to tell us...
The universe just won’t stop f**king with us.
Today, I’m hoeing corn in our front yard, sweat stinging my eyes. It’s blistering hot out here—early December in what used to be high-tech Austin, until the … sun zapped us with an electromagnetic pulse and took our power, our cars, the damned running water. It stopped pretty much everything—everything modern, that is.
It’s been fourteen months, and all the front yards in our subdivision are mini-cornfields now. We grow beans and veggies in the backyards. It’s a desperate attempt to keep us alive when our food stockpiles run out. Don’t know if it will work, but I’m doing my damnedest to make sure it does.
A Word From the Author:
What are four things you can’t live without?
First, my family and friends; next, all my medicines and vitamins (which I could literally die without); then, a computer with power and an internet connection in a climate-controlled room with good light; and, last but never least, caffeine.
What is your favorite television show?
The first eight seasons of The Walking Dead. Not that I’m keen on the zombies, but there is such great drama, and the character development is truly first-rate. I didn’t expect to love it so much or even like it, but I was riveted all the way through.
I’m partial to heroes, especially women who overcome adversity and make the world better for others. I could be Lauren Olamina in Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower. She’s awesome, and she saves a piece of humanity in an apocalypse. Then there is Mother Abigail Freemantle in Stephen King’s, The Stand. She's 108, a telepathic dreamer who visits survivors of a plague in dreams and calls them to her to start a community to save humankind. That's my kind of hero.
But honestly, Bea Crenshaw in If Darkness Takes Us, the grandmother in the first book in this series, is a hero I wrote my aspirations into. She doesn’t have special powers, only a grandmother’s fine-tuned intuition. She’s flawed in so many ways. But she is determined to save her grandchildren after a solar pulse destroys modern life, and she faces down her fears to keep those kids alive. I would hate to be in her situation, but I hope I could act as heroically as Bea if I were.
What have you got coming soon for us to look out for?
I have two more books in the works. One is the third in this series. The other is a complete departure to a different type of book: Guru of the Ozarks. Not sure which book I will finish first. I am also set to be on the GSMC Book Review podcast with Sarah Meckler on November 27th (which will stay up in the archives afterwards), and I hope to book many more podcasts soon. I also plan to do a few live YouTube or Facebook events with other authors to talk about our stories. Follow me on Twitter to get the latest information: @bsmithnovelist.
My website has links to other podcasts and readings I have done in the past two years, and I have a YouTube channel, where I will post any links that come up.
What books or authors have most influenced your own writing?
Oh, gosh, there are so many. I aspire to be like Toni Morrison, with her lyrical, rhythmic prose and character depth. And if I could only sketch a character as cleanly and clearly as John LeCarre, I could die a happy writer. He does it so simply, yet so fully and with so much subtlety, it eludes me. I’m also hugely influenced by Anne Tyler, Dean Koontz, Tom Robbins, Joyce Carol Oates, John D. MacDonald, Kurt Vonnegut, and even Charles Dickens. I have read almost every book by each of these authors, and they have had huge impacts on me and my writing style. There’s even a dash of Jack Kerouac somewhere in the mix.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Brenda Marie Smith lived off the grid for many years in a farming collective where her sons were delivered by midwives. She’s been a community activist, managed student housing co-ops, produced concerts to raise money for causes, done massive quantities of bookkeeping, and raised a small herd of teenage boys.
Brenda is attracted to stories where everyday characters transcend their own limitations to find their inner heroism. She and her husband reside in a grid-connected, solar-powered home in South Austin, Texas. They have more grown kids and grandkids than they can count.
Her first novel, Something Radiates, is a paranormal romantic thriller; If Darkness Takes Us and its sequel, If the Light Escapes, are post-apocalyptic science fiction.
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