Hello, there. This is M.A.Greene, an writer reaching to be YA fiction author. This is an interview with Megan Tennant, the author of the dystopian novel Aletheia. Readers are engulfed in the world 736, a girl lives in. It’s a post-apocalyptic world where a disease wipes people’s memories and a Prophet holds the cure to preventing further memory loss. That is for a price.
- M.A.Greene: Would you prefer I call you Ms. Tennant or Megan?
Megan Tennant: Megan is perfectly fine, thank you.
- M.A.Greene: Ok Megan. When I saw your book trailer on youtube, I was fascinated by the premise for Aletheia. Can you share how you initially came up with this story?
Megan Tennant: As is the case with many authors, the initial idea for Aletheia came to me in a dream. Granted, there were external influences. I was in college at the time, in the middle of a stressful semester. I was taking a graduate level Neuroscience course, as well as some advanced biology and computer science courses. I was also reading the Maze Runner series and watching the walking dead. This all combined to lead to a marathon dream which involved the initial spread of Lethe, the way the disease worked, and even a degree of science behind it. The characters and full plot didn’t come around until 6 months later when I decided the idea needed to be written.
- M.A.Greene: I’m sure your science background helped with writing Aletheia. Did you do any specific research when you realized your story needed to be written?
Megan Tennant: Oh, I did wayyyyy too much research. I mean, it helped the story, so it’s worth it. But It wasn’t helpful for my grades at the time, with the exception of my neuroscience course. I poured over so many articles and research papers. And some of them were actual research papers, pages and pages of scientific jargon. But I wanted to make sure the disease I was envisioning was possible. My research involved everything from delving deep into interrupted reconsolidation of memories, to feral children raised without social constructs, to the variation between storage and retrieval of different memory types, to taxoplasma gondii.
At some point, there will be a prequel which will be from the Prophet’s POV, and there I will be able to delve deeper into the science behind the disease and how it came to be.
- M.A.Greene: Wow. You really made sure the world you were giving your readers was possible. Can you explain to us what taxoplasma gondii. in a non scientific way lol! In layman’s term.
Megan Tennant: Haha, I’ll give it a try! Taxoplasma gondii is a microscopic parasite (similar to malaria). Lethe is a disease, but it’s actually caused by a micro parasite modeled after Taxoplasma gondii (I’ll abreviate to TG). TG is very commonplace in the world, living out its lifecycle through cats and rats. It’s suspected that at least 1/3 of the world has it. The thing is, there are no noticeable symptoms in humans in most cases, and thus, there’s no reason to treat it and very little reason to research it. What makes TG so interesting is the way it affects the brains of mice. Mice infected with TG do not fear the smell of cat urine (and are sometimes even drawn to it) despite memory, instinct, and years of evolution. TG is able to live within the brain of the mice and affect their behavior in isolated ways. This suggests that a similar microparasite could potentially evolve (or be altered) such that it could interrupt memory formation and processing.
- M.A.Greene: Very interesting. I’m glad we can see learn more about the origins of the disease Lethe, when your prequel comes out. As far as character development for Aletheia, what was included in your creative process? Did you use character profiles? Was 736 apart of the dream that launched story that needs to be put to pen, (or put to computer since we are in the 21st century.) Also before the dream, did you do any creative writing previously? Had you attempted or written any manuscripts (unpublished novels) or short stories? Did you ever know beforehand that you wanted to be an author?
Megan Tennant: My character development started out pretty slopy but became more and more refined. I’ll be making use of character profiles in the future, but when I started it was all in my head and scribbled in notebooks. 736 wasn’t part of the original dream, but came in a soon as I started thinking of plot for the story.
As far as creative writing goes, I always sort of wanted to be an author, but I’d never viewed it as a valid career. That mostly has to do with the fact that my mom wrote a few children’s books and my dad a few scifi novels when I was young, and both received enless rejections because the stories just weren’t what the publishers were looking for. Of course, this was before self-publishing was an option. Before Ingram Spark, and KDP. But before I thought about careers and livelihood, when I was 5-9, I did have a creative writing period. I wrote a few short books that mostly featured cats as the main characters. Then I shifted to daydreaming and reading as a hobby, not taking up writing again until Aletheia.
- M.A.Greene: Everyone has a different process. Having written short books before you were even 10 is an accomplishment in itself. How long did it take you to write the 1st draft of Aletheia? Then how many revisions did you write for it finished and what was your revision process like?
Megan Tennant: The first draft of Aletheia took about a year, although around 4 months of that was completely scrapped since I was a plotter trying to pants my way through the story. I mostly edited as I went, reading a few chapters back before I started writing everytime I sat down at the computer, so my first draft was more rounded than the average first draft. After the first draft my alpha reader (aka Co-founder of Cloud Kitten Publishing) got to read it. It took around 3 months to get through revising after his feedback. From there I started the beta reader process. I did two rounds of betas, each one taking about 2 months. There was some slight overlap between my alpha’s read through, and each beta round, given that Aletheia is a fairly long book, clocking in at around 200k words.
- M.A.Greene: Can you tell us what your publishing journey was like for Aletheia?
Megan Tennant: The publishing journey was by far the most difficult stage. It involved a brain-numbing amount of research from start to finish. The first hurdle was deciding whether to query, self publish, or take an indie publisher route. My partner and I decided that we wanted to help other authors, and so we tool the indie publisher route and created our own LLC which includes Cloud Kitten Publishing. Creating an LLC was a lot of work and is not for the faint of heart. From that point, we commisioned a logo, chose company colors and designs, created webpages, made a social media platform plan, learned the ins-and-outs of Ingram Spark, delved into endless research about the publishing industry from indie to traditional, and a whole other long list of little things that had to be done. When it came to Aletheia specifically, the three largest challenges about the post-beta phase were editing, cover design, and formatting. We also took a swing at paid advertising but quickly found it to be ineffective and extremely costly, so we abandoned that endeavour.
- M.A.Greene: That is a lot of work. I’m sure creating an LLC is something that can put on a resume. The world of Aletheia is different from ours in many ways. This including how many of people and society are more accepting of various gender norms in terms of fluidity and attraction. What made you decide to make this apart of your dystopian novel?
Megan Tennant: Putting aside the fact that I will always write diverse casts, because diversity is the norm, I wanted the world in my dystopian novel to be realistic and uncensored. I set the scene at the start of the disease and let it play out and influence the worldbuilding realistically taking into account the current views of sexuality and gender in the US. The geographic location of all the places we will visit throughout the series is the west coast, which is already full of people who don’t see gender and sexuality as divisions the way some other portions of the US do. Given that the disease almost instantly shut down all international and national air travel to reduce the spread, most of the people caught in the west would have been people who had lived here for a while and thus, grew up more open minded. I also factored in that this happens in the future, and from the onset of the disease we jump another 18 years before the events of Aletheia. This means that the leaders present in Aletheia were growing up on the west coast in a setting that takes place years after our current time. So, the vast majority of the leaders of rebel packs, small pockets of society, and any other group would be people who see the world in an open minded way. Ofcourse, the Prophet and the city of Iris operate differently, and all non-reproductive forms of sex are prohibited. But this stems from the fact that the leader of Iris is focused on restoring the human race, which requires the restoration of population. So this has nothing to do with the Prophet’s opinion in gender norms and is instead a decision he made based on his own logic with the intention of helping the City of Iris reach the population size he envisions. Furthermore we have to consider the way that the apocalypse and complete breakdown of society would alter our perception of norms. When people watch 3/4ths of the population die, lose most of the people close to them, and find themselves in a world full of desperate people, murder, and assault, they tend to view other people differently. At this point, regardless of prior harmful perceptions of norms, the vast majority don’t give a damn if someone is gay, or bisexual, or demi, or trans. What matters is whether the person is trustworthy and good in a world full of so many bad things. Sexuality and gender don’t factor into whether or not someone is a good person, and thus, in the apocalypse, intelligent people don’t care. Although I would like to note that it’s my opinion that current day people shouldn’t care about gender or sexuality either.
- M.A.Greene: You definitely put much thought behind your dystopian world of Aletheia. It’s great to read books that celebrate diversity in various ways. This book does not shy away from dealing with harsh realities. In fact one aspect I was surprised and impressed by was the trigger warning at the beginning of the book. Can you explain to us why you felt the need to do so?
Megan Tennant: I know there are some mixed feelings about trigger warnings, but honestly, I think they’re very important. Not all books need them, but Aletheia’s often brutal realities definitely fall into the category of books that can benefit from them. The reason I chose to include trigger warnings mostly has to do with post traumatic stress disorder. For those suffering from PTSD something as simple as a page of description can trigger flashbacks that can lead to hours, days, or even weeks of negative symptoms such as nightmares, anxiety, depression, panic attacks, and more. Although not all those suffering from PTSD find scenes relating to their trauma triggering, there are some that do and if my trigger warning page can help even one individual, it’s worth it.
- M.A.Greene: How did you come up with 736 being the main character’s name? And why did you decide to have the book in first person POV?
Megan Tennant: That’s actually a little bit of an easter egg. 736 is the area code of the city I grew up in. As for the first person POV, I actually tried writing the book in third person, but it turns out, I’m terrible at writing in third person. I need to see the world through a character’s eyes and that includes the way their personality alters their view of the world. Jumping between different people complicates that. Also, whenever I’m living a story (whether it be mine or another book I’m reading) I’m always in the POV character’s shoes. So it just made sense to write from that same standpoint.
- M.M.A.Greene: What are your favorite and least favorite genres?
Megan Tennant: My favorite genres are anything scifi, post-apocalyptic/apocalyptic, and fantasy. My least favorite genres are pretty much anything else, but especially contemporary. If I’m going to live in a character’s head for a whole book, I want to experience a world I can’t just walk outside to see.
- M.A.Greene: So Megan what are your favorite book and your least favorite book and why?
Megan Tennant: Hmm, my favorite books right now are a pretty solid tie between Our Dark Duet be Victoria Schwab, and The Savior’s Champion by Jenna Moreci (of which I was lucky enough to read an early ARC). As for least favorite, I hate giving books bad reviews and almost never read books I expect to dislike, but I did DNF The Waking Land this year because I was incredibly bored with it and felt there was no consistency or direction to anything.
- M.A.Greene: Even though I haven’t published my YA sci-fi/fantasy novel yet, writing a book changed the way I read fiction. Did you have that same experience of reading more fiction more analytically than beforehand?
Megan Tennant: I definitely feel I read more analytically now and I also notice faults I didn’t before. But the newly revealed faults are also balanced out by a new appreciation for how much work goes into a book.
- M.A.Greene: I feel the same. It’s so much effort for what can be an enjoyable read for the audience. If you could give your past self any advice related to writing what would it be?
Megan Tennant: Plot. Always plot. Outlines are magical maps and without them you’ll get super lost.
- M.A.Greene: Is there anything you would like to share with readers or potential readers of Aletheia?
Megan Tennant: That I hope they enjoy the world of the Seventh River series and I’m always available on Twitter to answer questions.
- M.A.Greene: Thank you Megan for this enriching interview. Speaking of twitter you can follow @Megan_Tennant and watch her youtube videos as well. Also follow me on twitter https://magreene96.wordpress.com/ for updates about my writing journey, updates on book reviews I will be doing and when more interviews will be posted!
Megan Tennant: You’re very welcome. Thank you for interviewing me!
You can purchase Megan Tennant’s Aletheia on amazon. https://www.amazon.com/Aletheia-Seventh-River-Megan-Tennant/dp/1640670009/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1542915537&sr=1-1-fkmr0&keywords=megan+tennant+aletha