One of my favorite genres to read is dystopian fiction. The parallels between whatever I’m reading and the possibilities for my own reality are terrifying, sure, but it’s also incredibly thought-provoking. So when the chance to be a part of Cruel Ink Publishing’s Mad Cruel World anthology came along, I jumped at it! It’s a postapocalyptic, dystopian romance collection… right up my alley.
As a reader, the setting of a good postapocalyptic/dystopian book is almost if not as important as the characters. Think Hunger Games… if the settings in those books had been anything else, it would have change the story, the dynamics of it. It was the differences between the districts, between the districts and the Capital that made the story what it was. Any great dystopian book—1984, The Handmaid’s Tale, Station Eleven, The Maze Runner series, Lord of the Flies, The Stand—has a setting that is just as much a part of the story as are the characters and the action.
Which is why I spent a lot of time thinking about the setting for my novella. I wanted something unexpected, something that didn’t immediately scream “Postapocalypse!” or “Dystopia!” And then I thought of the Sterling Renaissance Festival site. It’s a real place, a couple hours from my hometown in northern New York. It’s only a few miles as the crow flies from Lake Ontario, nestled in a copse of woods surrounded by farmland. It’s an idyllic spot, but, as the former Army soldier I am, I realized it was also logistically perfect for a community trying to rebuild after the world went to hell.
Even aside from all the natural resources around it, the fairgrounds have much to offer a world without electricity. The Royal Marketplace is full of shops for the artisans that come every year, and many of those artisans create their goods in view of visitors. That means that there are forges and anvils for metal workers, furnaces for glass makers, woodworking shops, and so much more. All kinds of things that would give a community an advantage in a new world.
I’ve been to the faire so many times, wandering the shops and watching the shows. Never once did I imagine how those places could be transformed and used in a postapocalyptic world. It was a surreal experience to reimagine a place I know so well in a new way! To imagine the world in desolation and what it would be like to create something new out of the rubble. But that’s what Saving Wyldewood, named after one of the shires of the faire, is about… rebuilding after losing everything.
What happens when the world goes completely dark with no explanation as to why? Find out in March 2021 in Mad Cruel World, a new dystopian romance anthology!