Scavenger of Souls (Survival Colony 9 #2)
By: Joshua David Bellin
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Publication Date: August 23rd, 2016
Querry and the members of Survival Colony 9 have defeated a whole nest of the creatures called Skaldi, who can impersonate humans even as they destroy them. But now the colony is dangerously low in numbers and supplies. Querry’s mother is in command, and is definitely taking them somewhere—but where? Some secret from her past seems to be driving her relentlessly forward.
When they do finally reach their destination, Querry is amazed to discover a whole compound of humans—organized, with plenty of food and equipment. But the colonists are not welcomed. Everything about them is questioned, especially by Mercy, the granddaughter of the compound’s leader. Mercy is as tough a fighter as Querry has ever seen—and a girl as impetuous as Querry is careful. But the more Querry learns about Mercy and the others, the more he realizes that nothing around him is as it seems. There are gruesome secrets haunting this place and its people. And it’s up to Querry to unearth the past and try to save the future in this gripping conclusion to the Survival Colony novels.
Joshua David Bellin was nice enough to answer a few questions for us about himself and his new book Scavenger of Souls which releases tomorrow!
Don’t forget to drop by next week to read our review of his new book!
If you emptied out your purse, wallet, desk drawer, pockets, backpack, beach bag, saddle bag, or fanny pack, what would we find?
In my wallet, along with the usual stuff (money, library card, pictures of my children), you’d find a tiny slip of paper on which I’ve written three things: my daughter’s cell phone number which I’m always forgetting (and I don’t own a cell phone, so I have to write it down), the key code to my office building which the geniuses in charge are always changing, and the title for a picture book I came up with years ago, when my son was still reading picture books. Maybe one of these days I’ll actually write it (assuming, that is, I don’t get permanently locked out of my office).
What is your writing process? Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Total pantser. I start with a bare-bones idea, sit down, and start writing. Late in the first draft, I’ll draw some rough maps and sketch some quick chapter outlines to make sure everything ties together (but it usually doesn’t, which means I have to revise a lot). I personally feel more creative when I don’t plan ahead; it makes me feel like a reader of my own book, because I’m as excited to find out what happens as anyone!
Describe your book in 5 words or less
Amnesiac narrator fights bodysnatching monsters
What are some fun facts you can share about the characters from your book or the world you created for it that may or may not have made it to the final draft of the book?
Here’s a little known fact: Scavenger of Souls was originally two separate books, but my editor and I agreed that the two should be combined into one. So LOTS of stuff didn’t make it into the final version, including:
an entire city infested with monsters
a child version of my main character
a tunnel that leads to another world
And so on. It was hard to let go of those plot elements while I was revising, but I always find that the stuff I thought the book couldn’t live without starts to seem totally unnecessary after I’ve gained the courage to cut it.
Do you have a special story behind your inspiration for the book?
It sounds really hokey to say this, but the Survival Colony books came from a dream. Usually when I wake up from a dream that seems like a great idea for a book, I realize in two seconds that it’s a horrible idea and makes no sense at all. But this time, I woke from a very vivid dream involving camouflaged people moving across a desert landscape, a teenage boy who’d forgotten his past, and a monstrous threat lurking in the shadows. That became the story of the survival colonies, fifteen-year-old Querry Genn, and the monsters I call the Skaldi.
Who was your favorite character to write and who gave you the most trouble?
I absolutely love the character of Mercy, the teenage girl pictured on the book’s cover. She’s strong, smart, tough, funny—but also sarcastic and, at times, downright mean. She was one of those characters who became so real to me she seemed to be writing her own lines!
On the flip side, I really struggled with a character named Asunder, who’s one of the story’s bad guys. He went through a ton of changes as I wrote: he changed physically, his backstory changed, his relationship to my main character changed. I’m happy with the way he turned out, but he gave me no end of trouble while I was creating him.
If you could ask a character of your choice from SCAVENGER OF SOULS one question what would it be?
There’s a character named Udain who commits a series of really awful acts in the belief that he’s serving the greater good. I don’t want to give the story away by telling you what he does or why, but I wish I could ask him if he regrets what he did. We all make mistakes, as Querry discovers, but I personally believe that what saves my narrator is that he owns his mistakes, accepts responsibility for them, and consequently gains the ability to heal and grow.
What scene from the book are you most proud of (because of how you handled the atmosphere, characters, dialogue, etc)?
I really like quiet scenes, the ones that take place before or after or between the explosive action scenes. I get a chance in those scenes to explore character relationships, to build tension and mystery, and to have some small but very meaningful things happen. So there are two scenes like that in Scavenger of Souls, one right after Mercy and Querry escape from a military compound where they’re being held prisoner, and one just before they find themselves in even worse trouble. I loved those scenes because they seem so simple, but they’re actually places where some of the most powerful changes in the novel are occurring.
Is there a scene that you had difficulty with and just had to “power through” to finish the book?
Honestly, the hardest scenes for me to write are always the beginning and the end. That was especially true in this case because Scavenger of Souls is a sequel. So at the start, I had to decide how to introduce my reader to what had happened in the previous book without dumping a ton of information onto the page. And at the end, I had to wrap everything up in a way that would give the reader a sense that the story was truly complete. I think I spent as much time on those two parts of the book as I did on all the rest!
Writing a sequel and returning to an already created world, what is it like and was it easier or harder to do?
Definitely harder. Leaving aside the question of how much information to provide from the first book, the hardest things were expanding the world I’d already created and making sure everything from the two books was consistent. You’d be amazed how hard it is to get everything right even when you’re the creator of the world! Even little things can trip you up: for example, there’s a gold ring that plays a very important part in the two books, and I had to remember exactly where it was at all times and how it had passed from hand to hand over the course of time. That might seem easy, but at least in my case, it wasn’t!
What is your number one writing tip?
I like to tell aspiring writers to be realistic about the writing process. So many writers set impossible goals for themselves: they’re going to write 5000 words every day or whatever. I work full-time in addition to writing, as do many writers, plus I have a family, and I simply can’t write every day, much less thousands of words every day. So I write what I can when I can, and I try to make it the best I can. That’s all any writer can do. Writing is hard enough without setting the bar unrealistically high, which will only make you feel bad about your writing or yourself.
Joshua David Bellin is the author of Survival Colony 9 and Scavenger of Souls. His next book, Freefall, releases in 2017. He loves monsters. Really scary monsters.
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