Chantelle Atkins was born and raised in Dorset, England and still resides there now with her husband, four children and multiple pets. She is addicted to both reading and music, and is on a mission to become as self-sufficient as possible. She writes for both the young adult and adult genres. Her fiction is described as gritty, edgy and compelling. Her debut Young Adult novel The Mess Of Me deals with eating disorders, self-harm, fractured families and first love. Her second novel, The Boy With The Thorn In His Side follows the musical journey of a young boy attempting to escape his brutal home life. She is also the author of This Is Nowhere, This Is The Day and has recently released a collection of short stories related to her novels called Bird People and Other Stories.Her next release will be the YA dystopian adventure The Tree Of Rebels.
From Seeds to Themes; How a Book Evolves By Chantelle Atkins
It’s often easy to recall when and how you got the seed of an idea for a novel. For my new release, The Tree Of Rebels, the memory is very clear. I was scrolling through Facebook and clicked on a link about Monsanto and their controversial bid to patent seeds. I knew nothing about this subject but had been seeing various posts and petitions for some time, so finally clicked on one, read the information and duly signed the petition. I then started thinking about seeds and who should or could own them. How strange it seemed that a company or corporation could own part of nature. I started to imagine a scary dystopian future where nature is owned and held under lock and key, with the obedient people completely alien to it.
The seed of an idea stays with you, but the themes of a book are harder to track. Often, authors do not realise they are building and weaving themes and ideas, until much further into the book. I knew I wanted to write a dystopian book my teenage girls would enjoy, and I knew I wanted to take the seed owning idea and explore it further. But the themes of rebellion and critical thinking emerged organically as the book and the characters progressed.
In order for the main character Lissie to find out the truth, she must assume her community is lying to her. She must try to work out who is lying about what, and why. As the plot developed, I realised Lissie thought differently to her obedient and grateful parents. Their futuristic world is a happy one. People are content. There has not been a war for 70 years since the Endless war almost destroyed the entire human race. The survivors, Lissie’s ancestors, started again. They threw out technology, imagination and critical thinking and went backwards. They went back to a simpler time, where homes were made of mud and straw and children became adults and went to work at age 14. Lissie’s community views itself as perfect. There is no war and no violence and very little crime. Everyone has a home, a job and enough to eat. No questions are asked and no rules are broken.
As I wrote the book, I had to allow Lissie to rebel. I had to consider what rebellion is and I had to think about why rebellion is so incredibly important to society. Teenage rebellion is something parents dread. Their sweet little angel turning into a sulky and questioning adolescent who refuses to do as they are told, and questions the rules they have adhered to through their childhood. But I think rebellion is to be encouraged and celebrated. We should not allow anyone to just accept the status quo, and we should not attempt to placate young people with the response ‘it’s always been this way.’ Young people should be taught to ask why. Why? Why has it always been this way? Who decided this? Why did they decide it? Who does it benefit? Why?
In short, I believe young people should be applauded when they ask questions and refuse to accept what they are told. A questioning mind keeps a society on its toes. This theme of rebellion, of turning her back on her parents, if only momentarily, of seeking truth and answers from people she had been warned of, evolved with the book and excited me. A seed of an idea had blossomed by itself into a recurring theme of rebellion and breaking away from accepted social norms.
This was never the intention when I got the idea for the story, but it is what I ended up with, and as an author, I find that transition from the seed of an idea to an entire world, endlessly fascinating.
‘There will always be those who say no, Lissie. There will always be those who do not believe what they are told. There will always be those who rebel.’
It’s 2145. 13-year-old Lissie Turner lives in the peaceful community of Province 5. Everyone is provided for and everyone is grateful. Everyone obeys the rules.
Lissie has never questioned her society until she falls into a daydream and wanders beyond the fence that keeps them safe. She finds an apple tree which changes her life and threatens to blow her world apart. Growing food has been forbidden since the last war ended 70 years ago. All food is raised under the Domes.
With the discovery of the tree, Lissie finds herself breaking the rules. And if she believes what her dying Great-Grandmother has been trying to tell her, she must question everything she has ever been told. Who really started the Endless War? And it is really over? As she uncovers the shocking truth, Lissie must choose between conformity and rebellion, between living a lie and tearing her peaceful community apart…
A YA dystopian adventure set in a future disconnected from nature
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