Lissa Bryan is the author of the dystopian trilogy The End of All Things.
I get letters from the people in my head. I can say that because I’m a writer … and hopefully not sound too crazy.
A book usually starts for me with a voice in my mind, sometimes a little vague and incorporeal, but sometimes as vividly real as if I was standing in the room with another person, looking them straight in the eye as they said, “Hi, I’m So-and-So, and this is my story.” As a writer, it sometimes feels like I’m simply taking dictation from these people, watching their lives play out in my mind like a movie, scrambling to translate the action into words.
Sometimes, it feels as though I work at a small window in some kind of mental DMV. A character will step forward, clutching a ticket with their number, and start to mumble a bit and I’ll listen, only for them to be shoved out of the way by someone else with a stronger, more impatient voice. Sometimes it’s loud and clamorous in that room. Sometimes, it’s quiet and I have to strain to hear a faint whisper. But I’m never alone in this room in my mind. There’s always someone who wants their story told.
After I’ve finished with a book, the characters fade away into the background as another set come forward, impatient to have their turn. Once in a while, one of those old voices will pop up at a quiet moment during my day, and I’ll see what they’ve been up to since the book ended. (The only exception to this is Seth from Ghostwriter. I never heard from him again after the book ended, and I truly do miss hearing his voice in my mind. It was so melodious and poetic. I never quite managed to capture it in my fumbling words. But, I digress…)
I finished Carly and Justin’s story about a year ago, leaving them in what I thought was a good place, prepared to deal with whatever challenges faced them in the future. I moved on to other things, sporadically working on a historical fiction novel.
And just a month or so ago, then I heard a whisper… Justin’s voice in my mind. He told me he’d encountered a traveler, and I might want to hear her story.
It’s twenty-five years later. Conditions in the Wasteland haven’t improved much. As Justin predicted, it’s become a pseudo-feudalistic society where people congregate in towns for protection.
Under Carly and Justin’s leadership, Colby has thrived. It hasn’t been easy. There have been crop failures and losses, but they’ve managed to survive. And their daughter, Dagny… I can’t wait to write about her, because she’s one of those characters who grows stronger in my mind every day, pushing her way to the forefront of my thoughts and demanding her time on the page. She has Carly’s compassion and strength, combined with Justin’s skills and independence. Dagny’s everything you would imagine Justin and Carly’s daughter to be, and more.
I’m hoping you get to meet her soon, and see what’s become of our little walled town.
Stay tuned for a three part interview with Lissa Bryan this week!