Interview with Shaunta Grimes, author of Viral Nation

Publisher: Berkley Trade

Publication Date: July 2, 2013

Order Links:  Amazon / Barnes & Noble

Synopsis: After a virus claimed nearly the entire global population, the world changed. The United States splintered into fifty walled cities where the surviving citizens clustered to start over. The Company, which ended the plague by bringing a life-saving vaccine back from the future, controls everything. They ration the scant food and supplies through a lottery system, mandate daily doses of virus suppressant, and even monitor future timelines to stop crimes before they can be committed.

Brilliant but autistic, sixteen-year-old Clover Donovan has always dreamed of studying at the Waverly-Stead Academy. Her brother and caretaker, West, has done everything in his power to make her dream a reality. But Clover’s refusal to part with her beloved service dog denies her entry into the school. Instead, she is drafted into the Time Mariners, a team of Company operatives who travel through time to gather news about the future.

When one of Clover’s missions reveals that West’s life is in danger, the Donovans are shattered. To change West’s fate, they’ll have to take on the mysterious Company. But as its secrets are revealed, they realize that the Company’s rule may not be as benevolent as it seems. In saving her brother, Clover will face a more powerful force than she ever imagined and will team up with a band of fellow misfits and outsiders to incite a revolution that will change their destinies forever.

Author Bio: Shaunta Grimes has worked as a substitute teacher, a newspaper reporter, a drug court counselor, and a vintage clothing seller. No matter which direction she strays, however, she always comes back to storytelling. She lives in Reno with her family, where she writes, teaches, and perpetually studies at the University of Nevada. ‘Viral Nation’ is her debut traditionally-published novel.

Interview: Q. Please tell us about your current release.

‘Viral Nation’ is a young adult science fiction book about a group of kids who accidentally start a second American Revolution. It centers around Clover Donovan, a 16-year-old girl with autism who has a service bulldog named Mango, and her 19-year-old brother West. It's set in a near-future Reno, Nevada—as well as Lake Tahoe. It has a steam-powered submarine, fortune cookies, time travel, a mad scientist, and the Ponderosa Ranch.

Q. How did writing this book affect you?

Well, it was the book that helped me get an agent, and the first novel I'd written that sold to a major publisher—so really, it affected everything. The prologue started out as a short story that I wrote for my first fiction workshop, ever, when I was at Goddard College. So, while I'd sold two novellas to online publishers before, it was the first work where I was face-to-face with readers. That was surreal. It also made me a better writer.

Q. Can you tell us about the journey that led you to writing?

I think lots of writers start that journey in the same place: at the library. I was the kind of kid who needed a forklift to carry home all her books every week. Also, at used book stores and garage sales where I could sit in front of a box of books and dig for treasure. There was an amazing book store in my hometown (Long Beach, CA) called Acres of Books that was just a couple blocks from my dad's office. When I was small, I'd go to work with him, do his filing, earn a little money and take it to Acres of Books where I'd get lost for the rest of the day. It didn't always, but now it seems inevitable to me that my love for books would lead to me writing them.

Q. What is the hardest part of writing for you?

Getting started. I'm not one of those writers who has tons of ideas floating around, waiting to be plucked out, so when I finish one story, I always have this moment of panic when I think that it's possible I'll never have another good idea again. Ever. And then the idea comes, and I start writing it, and everything's okay again for a while.

Q. Do you have a musical playlist you listen to while writing? If so, what kind of music?

No. I can't listen to music while I write. I do have some songs that remind me of characters or situations in my book that sometimes I'll listen to when I'm not writing, but listening to music while I'm writing is too distracting. I stop to listen.

Q. What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

I sometimes have false starts, and the first third of a book is the hardest for me, but once I get past that point, I write super fast. I have to get it all out and on paper. I love revision—I think that's a quirk, right? I love the feeling of having the whole story down, even if it's not perfect.

Q. Do you plan any subsequent books?

Yes! The sequel to ‘Viral Nation’ is scheduled for release next summer!

Q. Please tell us your latest news (book-related or not!)

I'm headed to Atlanta for the Romance Writer's of America national conference on July 16. I started out writing romance, so even though ‘Viral Nation’ doesn't have a ton of romance, I'm super excited to meet up with my friends who go every year, and to participate in my first literacy signing event. Can't wait! If you're in the Atlanta area, come on by.

Q. Please tell us a fun-fact about yourself!

I have eight brothers and sisters. I was really inspired by them as I was writing ‘Viral Nation’, which ended up being very much about sibling relationships.

Q. Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

I love you. Thank you for helping me make my dream come true.


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