Gwen Mansfield - Dystopian Sci-Fi Survival

Gwen Mansfield - Dystopian Sci-Fi Survival

Gwen Mansfield loves words, and the thought of a good story sends ideas capering through her mind until they sift into characters, settings, and plots. Author of the Roll Call Trilogy, the novel Experiment Station Road, the stage play Grace Diner, and the musical Resistance! (based on the book Tales of the Resistance by David and Karen Mains) Gwen Mansfield continues to bring the creation of new worlds to her work.

Gwen is an early recipient of the New Harmony Project, a finalist in Reverie Productions’ Next Generation of Playwriting Contest, and a finalist in the Pacific Northwest Writers Association, Historical Fiction. She holds a BA in Theatre from Seattle Pacific University, an MA in Theatre Production from Central Washington University, and an MFA in Creative Writing, Fiction from the University of New Orleans.

She lives in the forests of Washington with her family.

“Maybe it’s only in my dreams that I’ve descended into post-apocalyptic danger, run from dystopian challengers, chased threatening asteroids, and climbed into a romantic relationship with my soulmate—but for my readers—I launch it on the page!”—Gwen Mansfield

Please give us a short introduction to what Inside The Third is about.

In 2067 the asteroid Jurbay severs the continent, amputating 22 western states, and submerging them into the Pacific Ocean in the course of a day.

In Book #2, Inside The Third the story continues. For five years, Avery DeTornada and The 28 United ran from The Third, strengthening their following of loyal ones. The Third may think they’re still chasing Avery DeTornada and her quirky, powerful crew, but Avery has other plans.

With the help of Degnan (The 28 United’s unholy alliance), Pasha goes rogue. Planting herself inside The Third, she abandons leadership, creating massive cracks in Avery’s strategy. Shaw and McGinty double down on the offensive, building an air fleet of zooms to strike The Third.

With escalating danger between The 28 United’s quest for justice and The Third’s determination to hold governmental control, Avery discovers she is not yet done learning how to make the hard choices of command. The face of the enemy remains complicated as Avey DeTornada must fight on seemingly insurmountable fronts.

What inspired you to write this story? Was there anything in particular that made you want to tackle this?

What is it that calls a writer who just finished writing historical fiction about a quirky kid in the sixties fighting for social justice to write sci-fi? Dystopian literature? Post-Apocalyptic storytelling? I don’t think so. I like to read the genre--not interested in writing it. So why? It’s the haunting.

The idea dropped in my head while driving to school and my teaching job in early February 2013—complete with Avery DeTornada and her identity crisis, leading the way and accompanied by a cast of characters I found both engaging and revolting. Could I really say “forget it”? I did say that, more than once. But I couldn’t turn the ideas off, and everything I was working on that was unrelated to Roll Call just dissolved into the sunset, waiting for another day. Haunting—it’s a good thing."

Tell us more about Avery DeTornada. What makes her so special?

In a world of brain-swappers, GEBs, the 14 Deadlies, and the scary rulership of The Third, twenty-two-year-old Avery DeTornada hesitantly leaps into inherited leadership. It’s impossible to follow the footsteps of a deceased father—the founder who birthed The 28 United or to discover a role model in a mother embedded as a subterranean in the ranks of The Third.

Avery finds leading a fledgling country everything she could imagine and more—a nightmare. On-the-job training proves treacherous and make-it-up-as-you-go tangles alliances, jeopardizes friendships and exposes her poor love choices.

She raises up a rag-tag band of comrades—an army of dump-pickers, library boys, and minstrels to confront The Third and navigate the scars of a postapocalyptic world. Avery DeTornada presents a relatable persona and a realistic view of what we do when faced with choices we don’t’ want to make—but must. Through the trilogy she gains wisdom, but also makes her share of mistakes that often change the course of the challenges she confronts.

Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?

Acting, directing, teaching, spoken word poetry.


Interesting cover, please tell us more about how it came to be.

I’ve had the privilege of working with actors for most of my life. I wanted each of the books in the trilogy to tell a story. I cast and directed the book covers for my capable photographer, Sherri Miller.

Do any of your characters ever take off on their own tangent, refusing to do what you had planned for them?

My mantra for character creation is: Always be willing to follow them down the rabbit hole. I can’t escape the quirky characters who romp through the pages of my stories—I guess ‘cause I’ve had so many of them in my own life. Almost every week I discover someone whose idiosyncrasies are a trigger to a character in a still-to-be-written story. And then, there are those people who wander through my life on a regular basis. Through the eyes of others, they may seem quite ordinary, but the influence they’ve had on my life is extraordinary. They too are the catalysts my books are made of. My kids always say, “If you stick around long enough, you’ll end up as a character in one of my mom’s books.”

What was your greatest challenge when writing this story?

My biggest challenge is always Time. Over the course of the trilogy, COVID slowed my life, followed by the unexpected passing of my husband which turned time into a challenge I was unaccustomed to.

Where do you go for inspiration?

Inspiration follows me around—must be a DNA thing. I never seek inspiration, but I do believe each person is born with gifts. Some of my gifts are focus and observation. Images contribute, sounds as well. I can be in a crowded mall and hear a random piece of conversation from a stranger walking by, and it becomes a catalyst for a character in a book—yet to be written.

This is book 2 in the Roll Call Trilogy. Can it be read as a standalone? How do the other books in the series tie in with this one?

A standalone? Definitely not recommended! This is a trilogy, so all three books are intricately woven together. The reader experiences the creation of an entirely new world in Book #1, Roll Call, and meets Avery DeTornada and her quirky comrades. The antagonist is clearly drawn in the first book, so that the reader follows the continuing action in Book #2, Inside The Third, and experiences the plot twists and suspense of Book #3 Reluctant Warriors. The climax in the third book is dependent on the reader engaging with the characters, setting and action of the first two books.

Do you have any interesting writing habits? What is an average writing day like for you?

I grew up in the theatre—onstage for years and then as a director and teacher. My mind works in terms of beginning and end. Usually, I know specifically when I start a work what the beginning is and how the story ends. It’s the middle that becomes the adventure. My writing habits are: coffee and never waste a moment.

What are you working on right now?

I’m working on the “backstory shorts” for the Roll Call Trilogy. These will be 50 to 70 page works that will take a dive into the backstories of some of the characters from the trilogy. First up—Degnan. I am also working on a three- part spoken word poem that deals with my personal experiences in Ukraine a decade ago juxtaposed with today’s pain and chaos.

Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?  

https://[email protected] 

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