I trace the trigger housing on my gun and count the remaining clones congregated around the room. We’re grossly outnumbered. And Owen is weaponless. This can’t end well if we don’t comply.
“You have thirty seconds to accept my terms,” Lyong says, a nettled edge to his voice.
I shiver, picturing his one-eyed tic appraising me in a monitor somewhere as he talks, his papery skin rippling with the effort of speech. I can’t see a way out of the situation that gives me any chance of saving Owen, other than to negotiate. Hesitantly, I raise my arms and step forward.
“My brother’s injured,” I yell. “If you give us your word you’ll help him, we’ll turn over our weapons.”
My heart strains in my chest. I’m counting on Mason and Sven to hold their fire. I wait for what seems like forever, steeling myself for Lyong’s response.
The intercom crackles to life, but Lyong’s words are drowned out in a barrage of gunfire. I pitch sideways beneath a conveyer belt and huddle in a ball, shaking. Debris pelts me from every angle; chunks of seat cushions, shredded medical tubing, shards of glass from exploding computer screens. A pungent chemical smell fills the air.
All over the room, disoriented Schutz Clones fly backward. I stare in disbelief as they writhe in death throes, ossifying before my eyes. Mason bolts across the floor and rolls under the belt beside me. His eyes gleam like cat’s eyes in the dim light. “It’s the Council,” he yells, between breaths. “They’ve penetrated the Craniopolis!”
I blink as I digest what he’s saying, my ears roaring.
Mason slams a fresh cartridge into his gun, his knuckles bleeding profusely. “They must have triggered the explosion. They’ve been planning an attack for months.”
My brain slowly wraps itself around the information. There’s still a chance of getting out of here alive. I unload my pack and roll over into sniper position. “Then let’s finish this.” I lock eyes with Mason. “For Owen.”
What is the hardest part about being a writer?
Treating it like a real job where you have to show up at a certain time and put in your hours on a daily basis. It’s all too easy to throw in a load of laundry, start answering emails and jump on Facebook, and before you know it half the morning has been swallowed up with trivial pursuits. Once you commit to the discipline of treating your writing time as sacred, you can make real progress in terms of the quality of your craft, and the quantity of writing you produce.
What inspired you to write this book?
I've always been fascinated by regimes and resistance movements, and the heroes who emerge from atrocities. I grew up reading every concentration camp escape story I could get my hands on. As an author, I find it intriguing to place characters in dystopian, post-apocalyptic or sci-fi settings and watch what unfurls inside them as they go head to head with staggering odds. After spending several summers in Idaho, and learning more about Preppers and survivalists, the idea to plant Derry Connolly in a bunker community of homesteaders and mountain men took seed and The Undergrounders Series was born.
How many hours per day do you spend writing?
I aim for about three hours of writing time, five days a week. I sometimes do some editing later in the day if I have extra time, but with three kids heading in different directions most days, it gets frantic!
Have you always enjoyed writing?
I grew up among rich storytelling traditions in my native Ireland and it was a natural transition for me to try my hand at writing. Irish legends are full of action, adventure, impossible missions, and unlikely heroes, and to this day nothing captivates me more than an epic story. Anything along the lines of The Hunger Games or The Divergent Series is always a must read for me, only because I’m endlessly fascinated by the capacity of heroic individuals to rise above tyranny and change the course of history. As a child, I was always reading or scribbling something, and I have a stack of poems, stories and half-finished projects that document some of the big picture ideas I was wrestling with even back then.
How did you choose the title?
There are three books in the series and the titles track the internal growth of the main protagonist Derry Connolly. Immurement is the state of being entombed or confined in an enclosed space. At the outset of book one Derry is trapped in her own self-doubt and insecurity. The bunker symbolizes the prison she yearns to break out of in order to find her place and calling in a world with no rule book.
Embattlement is the state of being engaged in battle or conflict. As well as describing the obvious physical struggle against the Sweepers, the title symbolizes the “civil war” of sorts that wages inside Derry as she rises up against everything that has held her back.
Judgement is the act of imposing judgement. Derry discovers a lot of harsh truths about leadership during her journey, not the least of which is that every great leader must discern when to seek reconciliation and when to pursue retribution. Internally, Derry must evaluate her own moral imperfections and the darkness lurking in her own heart.
Best piece of advice for writers trying to break in?
If you are certain writing is where your passion and strengths intersect, don’t take your eyes off the goal. Put your shoulder to the wheel and throw your whole heart into mastering the craft, and taking incremental steps toward publication. Dogged persistence will get you there in the end, and the talent you have honed along the way will be your staying power.
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