D.L. Young - The Republic of Texas in a Dystopian World
Award-winning author, D.L. Young, was born and raised in Texas -- which is why it wasn't a weird thing for his imagination to create a sci-fi series set in the dystopian Republic of Texas. With a kick-ass female lead with special abilities, you just can't go wrong and Soledad: Dark Republic Book One has been very well received. Today, Young chats to us about how he is an obsessive planner, why his book contains so many moral dilemmas and why he made Texas an independent nation.
Please give us a short introduction to Soledad: Dark Republic Book One
The story takes place several generations after a failed Texas secession, where the economy and society have totally collapsed into chaos. Regional factions fight over control of territory and resources, and in the midst of all this a young woman with special powers, Soledad Paz, has to make a dangerous journey across the Texas wastelands to find out the truth about her past.
What inspired Soledad Paz's character?
Probably who rather than what. And the who is just about every kick-ass female lead you can name. Ripley from Alien, Furiosa from Mad Max, Lisbeth Salander, Tank Girl, you name it. Soledad has a little bit of DNA from a lot of awesome female protagonists.
Why did you decide to use Texas as the backdrop and make it a republic in your book?
I was born and raised in Texas. For a writer, there's TONS of fodder (both good and bad) for books and stories to be found in my home state. And there's a fringe element in Texas (well, maybe not so fringe) that has always wanted to see Texas as an independent nation. One of the questions my novel asks is: so what if Texas DOES secede and everything goes completely wrong? The story basically takes place in a worst-case scenario of an independent Texas.
What is it about dystopian worlds that fascinates you?
If we're defining "dystopian" in its broad, commercial sense (i.e., everything from Blade Runner to 1984 to Mad Max), for me the appeal is the breakdown of traditional societal structures. How do people adapt to new, often dangerous and anarchic, worlds? Do they maintain their value systems and morality when there are no legal structures to enforce "lawful" behavior or constrain their choices? There's a whole Hobbesian aspect to dystopian fiction that as an author I find interesting to explore.
Your book starts in the middle of the action, several generations after the crisis, without explaining to the reader the "how" and "why" right away. Why did you pick this approach?
Well, hopefully I dropped enough facts early on that the setting isn't a total mystery, but yes, it's not until nearly the halfway point of the book that you get the backstory of why this world is the way it is. As a reader, I like to be dropped into richly detailed worlds and figure things out as I go along. I don't want or need a ton of explanation. Some of my favorite writers do this. Ian McDonald comes to mind. Patrick O'Brian was a master of this kind of thing. I try to emulate this in my own work.
Even though the story is set in a very different world than we are used to, you managed to make it very plausible. How did you pull that off?
I think a big part of plausibility of any future world is understanding how economics drive behavior. When you think about our world today, whether it's the cutthroat economies of failed states in Africa or the (relatively) stable economies of Western Europe and North America, prosperity and scarcity are the catalysts that drive so much of human behavior. In speculative fiction, you have to envision a world where the economy intrinsically "makes sense" to the reader, where the relationship between the haves and have-nots rings true. It doesn't have to be fair necessarily (and usually isn't), it just needs to have some alignment to our own reality. I think this is an aspect of speculative fiction a lot of authors get wrong, and (for me, at least) it's a huge part of making a world plausible or not.
Soledad: Dark Republic contains a lot of twists. Did you plot them all out before you started writing?
Lord, yes. I'm an obsessive planner. We're talking pages and pages of character sketches, back story, outlines, etc. By the time I actually finish the pre-work and sit down to write, I've managed to work out all the plot points and twists and turns. My level of outlining isn't for everyone, but it works for me.
You worked a lot of moral dilemmas into the book. Was that intentional?
Totally. For me, the most interesting characters in books and movies are ones that aren't 100% bad or good, but somewhere in between. I try to make sure all the major characters--even a few of the minor ones--have some moral dilemma they need to confront.
What was the most challenging aspect of writing this book?
Getting up at 5AM Monday through Friday for four months straight. I have a pretty crowded life, and 5AM to 7AM during the week is the only time I can carve out for novel writing.
Soledad seems to have spawned from a short story of yours, The Reader. Are you planning on turning more of your short stories into full-length novels?
I haven't thought about that, but I suppose it's possible. I don't have any plans at the moment, though, other than getting the second Dark Republic book out.
How does Book Two tie in with Dark Republic?
I'm in the throes of writing book two right now (the Dark Republic series will be a trilogy set in the same world), so I don't want to give away too much. I can tell you, though, of all the people who've read Soledad, only a couple have guessed the direction book two is going. Stay tuned!
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
My amazon page is probably the best place to find my work. My website always has updates on my events and activities. I'm also fairly active on social media. You can find me on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram.