Genre: Young Adult
The earth has been reduced to a singular continent, governed by extra-terrestrials, collapsed by nuclear weapons residue and wracked with radiation sickness. Only one viable territory remains, and access there is restricted by a mysterious selection process. Everyone hopes to be chosen for transport. Everyone but Cass.
Seventeen year old Cassidy Hartinger has spent the past eleven years living in a government-maintained bunker. She should be thrilled when a handsome transporter arrives to take her to the Reservation. So why does she feel like he's dragging her, kicking and screaming, straight into the anti-paradise?
Faced with gun-wielding survivalists and elemental catastrophes, will Cass make it more than two steps out of the bunker? Will her journey to peace and safety in the Reservation turn out to be the most perilous thing she's encountered so far?
Fast-paced action and a tumultuous teenage romance will keep readers begging for more installments of The Reservation Trilogy!
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? Hobbies, pets, fun facts? Tea or coffee?
First and most importantly, coffee! I do love tea, but I can get through my day without tea. I can’t get through my day without coffee. I will literally go comatose.
I work at a local animal shelter as a veterinary assistant. I’ve got two dogs and a cat, all named after X-Men, and a fourth cuddly creature whom I’ve just celebrated five years of marriage with this month!
I love animals and flowers and sunshine. (And unicorns and glitter.) And sleep.
What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?
I don’t want to give too much away! The action-oriented scenes were definitely the most fun to write. The chase scene in the city, I wrote that one by hand, sitting in my backyard in the rain because I was so amped up, I didn’t want to break my stride long enough to go inside. The kidnapping bit, when Cass wakes up in the caves, that was another fun one. Any time her sass gets the best of her, any time her curiosity or her impulsiveness takes the wheel, that’s when I find myself rooting for her the most. She’s discovering this new sense of identity, and those are the moments when we really get to see her speak up and act out and evolve.
Is anything in your book based on real experiences or all purely imagination?
The cut and dry of it isn’t based on any real life experiences that I’ve had. It took some research and a lot of imagination to get the different bunkers just right, the caves and the desert and the RV – all of that was research and vision boards.
The emotional aspects, though, that’s where I drew on myself a lot. The uncertainty of leaving a familiar place behind, wondering how competently you’ll fare in the eyes of new acquaintances, that’s something that plagued me when I was Cass’s age. And the bond between Adrienne and Cass, that snippet of time, seeing them together, and the way Cass mourns the loss of her, that felt very true to form for me. I have two sisters, and I think, in a world like this one, having them at my side would be my greatest comfort. So that sense of a sisterly bond, of a familial bond, was something I could relate to, and it’s a theme we’ll see repeated in the next two installments. We’ll experience it again in a new way.
What inspired you to write this book?
CARGO was initially a side project. I was working on another manuscript, just ultra-realism, a slow-pace, very head-heavy, and I was in a funk. I jumped into CARGO, with no intentions of completing it, just to rev my engines a bit, and I made choices that juxtaposed everything I was doing in my primary piece, in an oppositional way. Hero became heroine, introspection became action, contemporary became dystopia. About halfway through, I had an idea of the whole trilogy. I was having so much fun plotting it out and drafting it, I just didn’t want to stop!
Is there a particular author or book that influenced you in any way either as a child or an adult?
I read so many genres, and I’ve always been a big reader. I was that kid in elementary school who sat out of recess to read. I used to stay up and write stories by the glow of my nightlight. (Which is probably why I have such horrendous vision today.) So I can’t think of reading a particular author, or a particular story, and saying, “this is it. This is what I want to do. I want to write stories for people.” But I will say that reading across so many genres, trying to mimic one voice or another and always failing, has taught me to embrace my own style.
Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
Be yourself, and write because it’s fun. Don’t worry so much about the protocols of big name publishers, or the norms of a genre. Just have fun. I’ve spent so much time, these past few years, trying to reshape myself to fit the molds made by best-selling authors, when my time would’ve been much better spent embracing the voice that comes naturally to me, and telling the story as I would tell it, instead of telling it the way I think my favorite authors would tell it. Just have fun, and your readers will have fun, too!
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Jen Castleberry is a North Carolina native currently based in Virginia Beach, VA. She is a Communications graduate and proud ECU alum.
When she's not writing, Castleberry works full-time as a Veterinary Assistant at a local animal shelter.
Her affection for all critters, large and small, comes home with her at the end of each day. She frequently lends her house and heart to homeless animals in need of foster.
Her own clan of silly creatures include an Akita, a Basset Hound, a Maine Coon, and of course, her active-duty husband.
At twenty-seven, Castleberry hopes to soon realize a life-long dream of writing professionally.
The first installment of her YA debut series premiered in January of 2016.