Interview with Lisa M. Stasse (The Forsaken)
Please welcome Lisa M. Stasse to the blog! The Forsaken is her debut novel, about a girl who has to fight to survive on an island full of violent teens.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself? Your bio says that you’re a librarian in SoCal. Do you have any other hobbies or interests?
Definitely, although reading is probably at the top of the list. I probably read around 3-5 books each week. It’s great being a librarian at UCLA because I’m surrounded by books all day long at work! In terms of other hobbies, I’m also a photographer, so I’m often out and about in Los Angeles with my camera. And I love music too. I always wished I had musical talent, but sadly, my singing voice scares cats and I never learned to play an instrument (other than a few piano lessons my parents forced on me when I was a kid!) So I’m always listening to music, especially when I write. It’s a mix of stuff, ranging from Cat Power, Feist and Florence + the Machine, to The Dirty Projectors, Prince, and Radiohead. I also love Frank Ocean’s new album “Channel Orange,” which is what I’m listening to right now!
You’ve been dropped on Prison Island Apha (in the blue sector, like Alenna). What’s the first thing you do? Do you think you’d survive?
Good question! I often think about this. I hope I would show some of her perseverance and willingness to face danger. But I’d probably be really bummed out to be on the island in general. Alenna manages to make the best of her harsh situation, but I would miss my friends and family like crazy (and I’d also miss Starbucks and my laptop, if I’m totally honest!) I think the first thing I’d do on the wheel is try to make friends with the normal kids in the village, and avoid getting kidnapped by the government machines (the “feelers”) at all costs! I live in a city now, but I grew up on a farm in upstate New York, so being in the wilderness and living off the land wouldn’t scare me too much. It might even be fun!
THE FORSAKEN is such a high-energy novel. I’ve always wondered whether fast-paced books ever tire out the writer. What was your experience with writing THE FORSAKEN?
For me, I feel like writing high energy/action scenes comes sort of naturally. I think my personality is kind of like Gadya’s in the book (at least according to my friends, who say I am manic and sometimes too outspoken–but maybe it’s just because I am addicted to caffeine, and I’m always drinking too much coffee!) Anyway, THE FORSAKEN sort of felt like it wrote itself at times, because the characters would often make surprising choices and they took on a life of their own. Because of that, the book never really tired me out. I was always curious to see what the characters did next!
The names of the characters in THE FORSAKEN (Alenna, Gadya) are so unique. How did you come up with them?
Alenna’s name was originally Alinna (which was my attempt at a sort of unusual quasi-futuristic version of Alina), but then a friend pointed out that “Alenna” might be a better name, so I went with that one. I do think it’s kind of a cool name. I’ve never met a real life Alenna (yet), but I’m sure there are some out there! As for Gadya, I wanted a name that sounded strong and solid, but wasn’t a conventional name. In the very first draft of THE FORSAKEN her name was actually Katya or something like that, but then it just evolved into Gadya along the way. I guess now that I think of it, both “Katya” and “Alina” sound pretty Russian. I actually lived in Russia for a while in college, so that’s probably where the stuff came from!
What’s one thing readers would be surprised to find out about THE FORSAKEN?
They would probably be surprised to know that there’s a whole section of the book that I cut out as I edited and revised the manuscript. It’s a fifty page chunk about Alenna’s life in The United Northern Alliance (before she fails the personality test that gets her banished to the wheel). There was some cool stuff in there, but it slowed down the narrative way too much so I chopped most of it out. I’ve been thinking about posting it on my website at some point, just for fun!