Please welcome our special guest Shaunta Grimes! Shaunta is the author of Viral Nation, a book that I am dying to read because protagonist Clover is autistic and because that super awesome dog on the cover. Please check out what Shaunta has to say about her new book.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.
[Shaunta Grimes] Shaunta Grimes has done a lot of things and been a lot of places, but she always comes back to storytelling.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about Viral Nation?
[Shaunta Grimes] Viral Nation is a YA science fiction story about a group of kids who accidentally start a second American Revolution. It has a time-traveling submarine, the Ponderosa Ranch, Lake Tahoe, and a casino called The Dinosaur.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?
[Shaunta Grimes] When I started writing Viral Nation, the US economy was at its worst point of the current recession, gas prices were soaring over $4 a gallon for the first time, people were losing their houses all over the place. The US was involved in two wars, people were scared about the possibility of the bird flu becoming a serious problem, the weather was doing weird things. I wanted to write a story about a collapsed society from the point of view of the young people who inherit it.
I knew from the beginning that I wanted to write about a really interesting character who happened to have autism, and that I wanted to explore the experience of being the sibling of a person who has autism. I was inspired by the relationship between my two oldest kids when I was writing Clover and West.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three words best describe Clover?
[Shaunta Grimes] brilliant, awkward, freak
[Manga Maniac Cafe] If Clover had a theme song, what would it be?
[Shaunta Grimes] The one song that I listened to over and over again while I was writing Clover’s story was “Raise Your Glass” by Pink. I love how it celebrates being different. But, I think that if Clover had a theme song all her own, it would be “Girl on Fire” by Alicia Keyes.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] Name one thing Clover is never without.
[Shaunta Grimes] I had a hard time choosing between her dog, Mango, and her mother’s old red Chucks. In the end, it’s Mango. He’s an extension of her.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things will you never find in Clover’s pockets?
[Shaunta Grimes] Anything slimy, lipstick, a cell phone.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are your greatest creative influences?
[Shaunta Grimes] Amazing stories. I read a lot. My favorite authors are Octavia Butler, Neil Gaiman, Nancy Farmer, Paolo Bacigalupi . . . I could go on and on. I also go to a lot of movies and I watch television to feed my addiction to stories. I try to read, watch movies, and even watch TV like a writer. I look for what’s working in a show, for instance, that keeps me coming back week after week. If a movie keeps me watching without even noticing that time is passing, I try to figure out what made it special.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things do you need in order to write?
[Shaunta Grimes] A notebook, a good pen, and a computer. I never revise while I’m writing a first draft, but I keep a notebook of notes for later editing.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is the last book that you read that knocked your socks off?
[Shaunta Grimes] Paolo Bacigalupi’s Ship Wreckers. What an amazing story.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you had to pick one book that turned you on to reading, which would it be?
[Shaunta Grimes] When I was in the sixth grade, I took the city bus a few blocks to my local library and checked out Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind. The librarian made me prove I could read it before she let me take it home. It was my first real trip out of the children’s library. I still remember the excitement I felt when I read it. I have always been a reader, so I didn’t really need to be turned on to it. There was something special about Scarlet O’Hara, though.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?
[Shaunta Grimes] I love thrift shopping. I’m slightly addicted to finding vintage stuff.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] How can readers connect with you?
[Shaunta Grimes] They can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. They can also find me at www.shauntagrimes.wordpress.com, on Facebook, or on Twitter.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!
You can order Viral Nation from your favorite bookseller or by clicking the links below
About the book:
After a virus claimed nearly the entire global population, the world changed. The United States splintered into fifty walled cities where the surviving citizens clustered to start over. The Company, which ended the plague by bringing a life-saving vaccine back from the future, controls everything. They ration the scant food and supplies through a lottery system, mandate daily doses of virus suppressant, and even monitor future timelines to stop crimes before they can be committed.
Brilliant but autistic, sixteen-year-old Clover Donovan has always dreamed of studying at the Waverly-Stead Academy. Her brother and caretaker, West, has done everything in his power to make her dream a reality. But Clover’s refusal to part with her beloved service dog denies her entry into the school. Instead, she is drafted into the Time Mariners, a team of Company operatives who travel through time to gather news about the future.
When one of Clover’s missions reveals that West’s life is in danger, the Donovans are shattered. To change West’s fate, they’ll have to take on the mysterious Company. But as its secrets are revealed, they realize that the Company’s rule may not be as benevolent as it seems. In saving her brother, Clover will face a more powerful force than she ever imagined… and will team up with a band of fellow misfits and outsiders to incite a revolution that will change their destinies forever