“Inspirations and Influences” is a series of articles in which we invite authors to write guest posts talking about their…well, Inspirations and Influences. The best part about I&I posts? Writers are given free rein so they can go wild and write about anything they want: their new book, series or career as a whole.
Today we are so very excited to have debut author Lenore Appelhans over as our guest. We have been fans of Lenore’s blog for years and have had the pleasure of meeting and hanging out with her in person a few times over the past few years. Naturally, when we learned that Lenore had a dystopian YA novel coming out, we were floored. Today, Lenore joins us to talk inspirations and influences about Level 2.
Give it up for Lenore, everyone!
One of the most fascinating aspects of writing for me is when I’m drafting and a plot point or a line of dialogue takes me by surprise. I’ll think, “Ok, wow – where did THAT come from?” And most of the time, I won’t be able to pinpoint an exact inspiration or influence. There are so many tiny nuggets of information that knock around in our subconscious and then come together at the right moment to form something creative. But that said, there are some works that likely did have an influence on the writing of Level 2.
The 1991 dramedy Defending Your Life starring Albert Brooks and Meryl Streep is one of my all time favorite movies. Albert Brooks’ story (he wrote the screenplay) about a sad sack who dies and then has to defend his pathetic life is hilarious but also all kinds of touching. I love the playful world building of this afterlife way-station, and Meryl Streep is marvelous as the love interest, a slam dunk to move on (she even risks her life to save a pet from a burning building). This is the movie that got me interested in afterlife tales, so thank Albert Brooks for that!
The futuristic vibe of the afterlife world in Level 2 also owes a big debt to The Matrix. Felicia even comments in the book how much her situation is like the movie. The idea that humans are used as batteries to fuel some secret agenda is such a powerful one.
What’s funny is that one of the editors who wanted to acquire Level 2 described it thusly: The Matrix meets Inception meets Lost meets Defending Your Life. So I’d say that’s pretty accurate!
It’s no secret I love dystopian lit, especially that of the high concept YA variety. One of my entry points into LEVEL 2 was the question “What would a dystopian afterlife look like?” – and this was a total breakthrough for my story.
Something else I had floating around in my head – the idea that memories can be addictive – was perhaps planted there by the incredibly inventive novel Confessions of a Memory Eater by Pagan Kennedy. In it, the main character takes a drug called Mem that allows him to relive his memories in stunning detail, and begins to find that his present pales in comparison. Here’s a quote from the novel:
“How can I describe the relief of being freed from the prison of the present moment, that cave where most of us are condemned to spend our lives? My own past had turned into a vast country, and I could go anywhere.” (p 34)
The play Our Town by Thornton Wilder also helped me dig deep into the main themes of Level 2.
I’m one of those people who fixates of the lyrics of the music I’m listening to, and one of the songs I had on repeat while writing Level 2 was “Bloodbuzz Ohio” by The National. It even makes an appearance in one of the Germany flashback scenes as a foreshadowing of Felicia’s exile to her grandmother’s house in Ohio. I also read stuff into lyrics that probably isn’t there, but I love this line in regards to Felicia’s character journey – “I never married but Ohio don’t remember me” – because to me it expresses the sorrow of a life cut short. Felicia died before she had the chance to marry or leave much of a mark at all on Ohio – resulting in it quickly forgetting her.
Another bee-centric song that informed Level 2 was “The Beekeeper” by Tori Amos. It was an interview with Tori that first got me thinking about bees and how they fit into the eternal, and in fact, bees are an important motif in Level 2.
About the Author:
Lenore Appelhans is the debut author of a YA novel LEVEL 2 (due January 15, 2013 from Simon and Schuster BFYR in the US, Usborne in the UK and Allen & Unwin in AUST/NZ) as well as a picture book CHICK-O-SAURUS REX (under the name Lenore Jennewein) with her husband, illustrator Daniel Jennewein (due Summer 2013 from Simon and Schuster BFYR).
About the Book:
Three levels. Two loves. One choice. Debut novelist, Lenore Appelhans has written a thrilling otherworldly young adult novel about a place that exists between our world (Level 1) and what comes after life (Level 2).
‘I pause to look around the hive – all the podlike chambers are lit up as the drones shoot up on memories … I’ve wanted to get out of here before, but now the tight quarters start to choke me. There has to be more to death than this.’
Felicia Ward is dead. Trapped in a stark white afterlife limbo, she spends endless days replaying memories, of her family, friends, boyfriend … and of the guy who broke her heart. The guy who has just broken into Level 2 to find her.
Felicia learns that a rebellion is brewing, and it seems she is the key. Suspended between heaven and earth, she must make a choice. Between two worlds, two lives and two loves.
About the Blog Tour:
We’re happy to be one of many stops on the Level 2 blog tour:
Head over to Dark Readers tomorrow for behind the scenes photos from the LEVEL 2 launch party!
Thank you, Lenore!