Recently I had the opportunity of asking Lili Wilkinson a few questions in the lead up to her latest release After the Lights Go Out . A big thank you to the Allen & Unwin team for sending me a review copy and you can find a link to my review at the end of the interview.
Where did you find the inspiration for this story?
LW- I read an article online about preppers. I didn’t really know much about them, but this article just drove a hook into my brain and started tugging. It was about extreme preppers, not just people into self-sufficiency. To me, the full-on doomsday preppers seem driven by paranoia, pessimism and a fundamental mistrust of other humans. Your supplies must be kept secret, because if your neighbours knew, they’d kill you as soon as the power went out and take everything. I kept going back to this idea of secrecy – when the long awaited downfall of society finally does happen, and the kids next door are starving to death, are you still okay with keeping your stash a secret? Are you prepared to live with that? At what point does self-sufficiency turn into selfishness? And how do you live with yourself if all the lights come back on again? So I started thinking about this story about a teenager grappling with some of these ideas – the daughter of a prepper during an actual disaster.
Obviously in this book there are a lot of survival techniques and science, how did you go about researching these?
LW- Pinterest! Despite all the paranoia and secrecy, preppers LOVE posting stuff online. There are detailed blogs and ebooks and videos – literally anything you want to know, some thoughtful prepper has put it online. For a while there my Pinterest feed got VERY strange (toddler craft activities, houseplants, SNIPER RIFLES). But the prepping was only one part of the research puzzle. I also had to learn about the electrical grid, electromagnetic pulses, the aurora australis, how to build a radio from stuff lying around the house, the flora and fauna of the Australian outback, zinc mining and lots of other stuff. In addition to that I did a bunch of research and conducted interviews to learn about what it’s like to be a twin, what it’s like to be from a cultural background different to my own, and what it’s like to have a chronic illness. Not all of that research made it into the book, but I’m so glad I did it, as it certainly expanded my own thinking.
How do you think you would fair in the wake of an apocalyptic event?
LW- I reckon I’d do okay at the self-sufficiency stuff. I have a good veggie garden and three chooks at home. I can make bread and do some basic preserving. But if it involved violence or any required feats of physical strength or agility, I’d be totally screwed.
Are you working on anything new at the moment?
LW- A few things! A new picture book, and a middle grade project. But mostly I’m working on something very new and different for me, but something I’ve wanted to write since I was a teenager. I don’t want to say too much in case it all falls in a heap, but it’s about mushrooms, monsters, lost girls and enchanted forests.
Where to buy a copy:
Head over here for my review and as always, happy reading x