Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Author Interview and Giveaway: The Forsaken by Lisa Stasse

Today I have the pleasure of chatting with the author of the newest (and pretty awesome) YA dystopian thriller, Lisa Stasse! You can find my review of her book The Forsaken here. Now, on to the interview, my dear readers!

1) Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I'm a digital librarian at UCLA, and I've always wanted to be a writer ever since I was in high school (if not earlier). I've always loved books. I guess that's why I got into the library field! I'm also a photographer, although that's mostly for fun these days. I am a total arty type, so basically I'm obsessed with books and movies and music, and all that good stuff.

2) Artsy people are awesome! Though I might be bias since I consider myself one… *grin* What or who influences you to write? When did you start writing?

I've always written short stories, but THE FORSAKEN is my first novel. I'm influenced by a ton of various writers. From the obvious ones (like Suzanne Collins and Veronica Roth) to some less obvious ones (Toni Morrison, Hemingway, and JG Ballard). I'm also really influenced by movies and TV shows (I loved the show LOST, and I also love pretty much anything that JJ Abrams and Joss Whedon does). I'm a total geek when it comes to books and pop culture.

3) Suzanne Collins and Veronica Roth are incredible writers, as is Hemingway. I’ve never heard of Toni Morrison or JG Ballard- thanks for mentioning them. I’ll have to check out their work. What’s the hardest thing about writing a dystopian novel?

Trying to do something new, and trying to come up with big plot twists that readers don't see coming! I think I pulled off a pretty big twist in THE FORSAKEN near the end (at least hopefully!) But yeah, it's a pretty crowded market right now for dystopians. I wanted mine to stick out and be more gritty and realistic than some of the others.

THE FORSAKEN takes place only 20-30 years in the future, after a merger of the US, Canada and Mexico (for economic and military reasons). I studied political science in college, and although that kind of merger sounds totally absurd now, it's scarily plausible. Things can change really fast when economies collapse, or wars get started. Europe and Russia are very different now than they were 20 years ago, for example!

Anyway, so I wanted to write something real and raw and heartfelt, but something that would also surprise and entertain readers. I know that some readers are burned out on dystopians right now, but for hardcore fans like myself, there is always room for more. A lot of readers have also been comparing THE FORSAKEN to LOST and THE WIZARD OF OZ and LORD OF THE FLIES as much as THE HUNGER GAMES and DIVERGENT, which I think is great. Bringing diverse influences to the table and splicing them together is a good way to come up with fresh dystopian material. It's like genetic engineering to create a new species!

4) I agree! I see that it would be tough trying to create something new that readers haven’t encountered before. I can definitely see bits and pieces of other dystopians in The Forsaken, but at the same time, it has its own unique flair, and I absolutely love that. Tell us a little about what you researched before writing The Forsaken-what was the most interesting/funny/disturbing thing you came across?

Most of my research centered on prison systems and tropical islands (a lot of THE FORSAKEN takes place on a harsh prison island called The Wheel). So I read about prisons in different countries, and the SuperMax prisons in the US. All of this stuff is pretty terrifying. Prisons are really automated these days, and in lots of them, the inmates never get to interface with other prisoners, or even see sunlight. Unsurprisingly, this makes the prisoners go crazy pretty quickly!

Learning about all this stuff was probably the most disturbing part of the research. But of course in THE FORSAKEN, it's even worse, because even though the prisoners are on a tropical island, it's controlled by brutal government machines and wild tribes of kids. So even surviving there for a few weeks is an accomplishment.

Probably the funniest thing I came across in my research is that private companies now build prisons so that the government can farm out their prisoners to them. But after the economy collapsed in 2008, the private prisons are now just sitting there empty and half-built. So there are like crazy prisons sitting totally empty in the desert in Arizona, waiting for inmates that will probably never arrive. It just sounds so surreal. Someone should go out there with a camera and make a documentary about them.

5) I’d love to watch a documentary like that! Which character was the most difficult to create?

Oh, definitely the Monk. He’s the villain. He rules a large tribe on the island, and he has a very mysterious past (to say the least!). He was also the most fun character to come up with! I wanted to create a unique villain--not just the typical dystopian fascist. I think he's a pretty memorable character.

6) I agree- the Monk is a villain not easily forgotten. What message do you want readers to take away from your book?

The main message is something like, "You're stronger than you think, so don't let other people define your life for you. Stand up for yourself. Find the inner leader inside yourself and give her room to express herself. Nothing in life will get handed to you, so be ready to fight for what you believe in!"

7) Awesome! Taking initiative and chasing things you want is a message all teens need to hear. Can you tell us about any future projects? How many books will be in The Forsaken series?

I conceived of THE FORSAKEN as a trilogy, but there might be a fourth book (a prequel) in the works too. I just finished writing Book 2, THE UPRISING, a few weeks ago, and I'm already writing Book 3. I hate it when trilogies get worse and worse with each book, so I've made a promise to myself to make sure that Books 2 and 3 are just as good, if not better, than Book 1!

8) Oooo, I can’t wait! I’m so excited about Book 2, and I’m even more excited now that I know there will be at least one (if not two) more books to look forward to! What’s the best advice you have for aspiring writers/authors?

Read as many great book as you can (from classics like Jane Austen's novels to contemporary fiction to YA to manga to nonfiction) and write something every single day. It can just be a journal entry or a blog post, but the more you write, the better you will get at it! Also, when the time comes, try to find a great agent. I can't stress this enough. A good agent will also help you edit and prepare your material and make it even stronger, before they submit it to publishers. My agent Mollie Glick at Foundry Literary + Media is amazing and has been so helpful and kind to me throughout this entire process. I couldn't have done it without her. She is everything I hoped for in an agent, and more.

9) Great advice! That’s the same thing I hear from other authors: read as much as you can and write as much as you can. Your biography says that you’re a digital librarian. Tell us a little bit more about what that entails and what you do on a day to day basis.

It's a really fun job. Right now I'm working with UCLA's Special Collections (they handle really rare and unique books) to get old documents digitized and posted online so that everyone can access them. My job involves a fair amount of computer work (programming, website design, etc) as well as dealing with librarians and professors at other universities.

10) That’s so cool! I never knew there was such a job. And just for fun…favorite books or movies? I’ve heard that you’ve travelled a lot. Where’s your favorite destination so far?

I love movies as much as I love books! I think my favorite book is probably Pride and Prejudice, but I also love Lord of the Flies, The Hunger Games, and Beloved.

In terms of movies, my tastes veer towards kind of dark stuff (sci-fi/thrillers) like The Matrix and Dark City. I love all of Stanley Kubrick's movies too (The Shining is awesome!) I loved Blue Valentine and Drive as well (yes, I have a thing for Ryan Gosling, and I'm not ashamed to admit it, haha!)

As for traveling, I think Hawaii is one of my favorite destinations. I also love the Outer Banks in North Carolina, and of course I absolutely love Seville in Spain, where I lived for a while. I wish I could spend most of my life traveling. I think that's my big dream! To be able to travel the world, and write and take photos, and see all kinds of different places. I can't imagine anything more fun or inspiring.

Thanks, Lisa! This was so much fun!

Thank you so much for having me on your blog, Shelby!!!! :)

Find out more about Lisa and The Forsaken:


Official Book Trailer:



Facebook Page:


Give the awesome people at Simon and Schuster a virtual hug, because guess what? They’ve generously set aside not one, but TWO hardback copies of The Forsaken for two oh-so lucky winners! Use the Rafflecopter below to enter the giveaway!

First, some simple rules:

-US residents only.

-The winners will be contacted via email prior to the end of the giveaway.

-Winners must respond within 48 hours with their mailing address which I’ll pass on to Simon and Schuster so they can mail out the books. If I get no response within 48 hours, I’ll choose new winners.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

There you are! Good luck!


  1. Great interview!
    I had no idea there was such thing as a digital librarian. What a cool job to have!
    Thanks for the giveaway!
    I am a new follower of your blog!
    If you could follow me back that would be great!
    Love your blog name! Makes me think of chocolate ^^

  2. This book looks awesome! I've been wanting to read it for a while, but haven't been able to get my hands on it. (or find time in my schedule to read it!) I also have never heard of a digital librarian, though it sounds quite interesting.

    I keep hearing people mention "The Matrix" (including my Dad) but it's rated R "for sic-fi violence and brief language" :( oh well....maybe some day!

  3. Loved this book.
    Lisa you did a great job on doing something new and working in those twists!
    Brandi from Blkosiner’s Book Blog


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