It’s been over a decade since Memory Boy hit the shelves. But in its sequel, The Survivors, only two years have passed since volcanic ash fall forever changed the pampered suburban lives of Miles Newell and his family. After being turned away from their own home by menacing squatters, they seek shelter in a rural cabin with only one shotgun, a friendly goat and Miles’ impeccable memory of survival skills as their arsenal.
Read more about life after the apocalypse.
While Miles quickly adapts to the unrefined lifestyle of a cabin without electricity and running water, his parents and sister, Sarah, are not so eager to abandon familiar luxuries. With winter closing in and the looming threat of townsfolk suspecting the Newells to be illegal “travelers,” they have to make a series of strategic decisions in order to survive.
However, when Miles sustains a head injury, their plans are severely altered, and the spotlight that beforehand rested on Miles now predominantly shines on Sarah. Here Will Weaver discusses creating a sequel, the cruelty of being a writer and just what is the new white meat.
Was writing the sequel something you immediately knew you wanted to do, or did it take a while to realize it was time to revisit the Newells?
Memory Boy ends with uncertainty: Can this suburban family pull together and survive? I knew I needed more resolution, but sequels are tougher to write than they seem. I had a couple of false starts on The Survivors but finally found my groove. I’m a real outdoors guy, and I wanted to share some of that knowledge—and how we all could survive if we had to.
When you started this book, did you know it would primarily be Sarah’s story?
In quality literature, characters grow and change. Survivors is very much focused on Sarah and how she steps up and takes a leadership role in her family. But I honestly didn’t know it would become her story. That’s the fun part about writing!
How devastating was it to take away Miles’ incredible memory due to injury?
A writer’s job is to be very cruel sometimes! Yes, it was hard to take away Miles’ special skill, but it also was the plot item that forced Sarah into the spotlight.
How confident are you that good nature triumphs over the not-so-good in a time of crisis, change and lots of volcanic ash?
Honestly? I’m less confident in real life than in Survivors. Maybe the novel is my way of hoping that the good in people will win in the end.
Have you ever had to pretend to be someone else for self-preservation, as the Newells, especially Sarah, have to?
Nothing so dramatic as what the Newells went through. However, accepting my role as a writer has occasionally been difficult. I grew up on a dairy farm in the Midwest, not in a family of writers, and sometimes I scratch my head at how remarkably my life has unfolded. But I also know that success at writing is, like most things, way more about hard work than being a genius. As I say when I visit schools, “Writing is a process, not a miracle.” I think any of us can become a new and successful person if we work really hard.
Do you think young adults should be expected to dress a deer, or skin a fish, or harvest wild rice, as adeptly as they are able to maneuver social networking?
Not really, but we all should have least some knowledge of the natural world and how it works. Be sure to take a look at Miles’ “Survival Tips” at the end of Survivors.
Pike or venison?
Pike—the new white meat for the entire family!
Gordon West is a writer and illustrator living in Greenpoint Brooklyn, N.Y. When he's not diving headfirst into teen literature, he's writing, drawing (WallaceWest.com), observing (ITakeMyCameraEverywhereIGo.com) or scouring the culinary landscape for gluten-free fare. His beagle mix, Sammy Joe, is supportive of all endeavors.