See my review here.
Scavenger Girl – Season of Atchem
Stripped of their birthright and shunned by the people of Ashlund, Una and her family are forced to live on the fringe of society as Scavengers. There is no question that her family’s bond is strong, but the law of the Authority is stronger…and soon it will come to collect her. After all, the family is on borrowed time already.
When a night of torment and truth reveals well kept secrets, Una takes new freedoms – free from the Authority, her family, and possibly her fate. Pulled between the life she’s always known and a world where status and rituals are everything, Una struggles to understand a culture that has rejected all she holds dear. As Atchem comes to an end and she learns who she really is, will Una find the courage to do what it takes to ensure her family’s survival, or will she find the faith to follow her heart?
Author, dreamer, and sworn enemy of Caillou
Jennifer Arntson has a long history of crafting tales that people find unbelievable, but often true. As an observer of human and social development through the ages, a curiosity of faith, and dedication to the underprivileged of the developing world, Jennifer finds her creative outlet in stories and fables. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two children, and a mini-farm of otherwise useless animals where the family eagerly caters to their every need.
I read your setting in Scavenger Girl as dystopian, though it doesn’t follow the modern practice of future dystopias. Were you thinking dystopia when you were writing it. What generated the society you created?
I’ve always been drawn to alternative societies, or at least ones that don’t have the benefits of our developments or general advancements. While some people think we behave the way we do because of our collective experience and achievements, I believe our actions are rooted in a more primal-type existence within a given societal structure. I believe that we struggle with the same issues that generations before us wrestled with, and these are the very same themes we will contend with for a millennia. Love, loss, joy, and fear – these basic emotions are timeless and limitless. It doesn’t matter if you have privilege or not. These emotions push us beyond ourselves and either inspire us to be greater than we imagine ourselves to be, or crush us under its unmanageable weight. When writing Scavenger Girl, all I did was change the circumstances. I took away the advantages we have come to know in our own lives, and let the characters survive within a structure of an agrarian, polytheistic theocracy.
The plight of the word ‘dystopian’ is that it paints with a broad brush, but because of our experience with Hollywood’s portrayal, we have been largely led to accept it as a post-apocalyptic or post-nuclear survival story. The definition of dystopian only implies that the world is opposite of perfect, so effectively dystopian means not-perfect. While Scavenger exists within this definition, you won’t find the survivors of war, or the insatiable flesh eating undead. The similarity is that dystopian works create an oppressive framework where characters are unable to pursue their own goals due to the constraints of an all-controlling situation. It could be a government, a superior species, an unnamed enemy, or zombies.
It was my intent to spend a year with a family cut-off from the benefits of living within the accepted social construct of society. Through their eyes, a reader is called to answer pressing questions such as: Is the common life one that should be strived for? What are we sacrificing to fit the status quo, and is it worth it? To explore these questions, the polarity of Scavenger Girl’s world had to be a stark contrast with what we, as the reader, have as an acceptable worldview. That is how Ashlund was formed and Una was born.
This is your first novel you’ve published. How does it feel to see your story in print?
Surreal. It started out as a dream I had one night that I couldn’t shake. To see it transformed into novel is unbelievable! …and it’s kind of awesome to say I did it.
What inspired you to write Scavenger Girl: The Season of Atchem?
This novel would not exist without the combined driving force of my husband and my mom. As I mentioned, it started as a dream and I wrote it down. Soon one page turned into ten, then forty. My mom happened to call and, as usual, she asked what I was doing. I told her and she sounded confused. I offered to send it to her, but not knowing if what I had started was worth finishing, I asked her to tell me if she’d want to read more. Two hours later she called demanding the rest of the story. “I don’t have any more,” I replied. “Then get off the phone and start typing!” Word got to my husband (because honestly, I was a bit embarrassed to tell him I was writing a story that was now over a hundred pages long). He started reading it and encouraged me to finish it. He believed in the work so much that he made sure I had ample writing time, brainstormed ideas, and helped with research when necessary. When people close to us found out what I was doing, they wanted a copy too. Family and friends started discussing it like a ‘real’ book and requests for copies of my work started trickling in. Soon, we had a story that had a life, and following of its own.
What are your favorite kinds of stories to read and write?
I love stories that give a good book-hangover. These are usually books that make me think about the characters long after the last page is read. I don’t really have a particular genre of choice, which is probably why Scavenger Girl doesn’t fit nicely into any one category.
What is your writing space like?
Ha! Any space is a writing space. I’ve written on the floor next to my kids as they took their bath, in my van while my kids were at camp, and at the kitchen table. I’ve worn out computer keyboards at my desk, the kitchen island, and kicked back on the recliner. I’ve written during my lunch hour, commute time, and nights when I should have been sleeping. Every opportunity that provides a flat surface for my laptop has been a writing space.
What projects are you currently working on?
Too many! The remaining four books of the Scavenger Girl Series are complete and are in various stages of editing. I’m finishing up the final edits to book two of the series, Scavenger Girl – Season of Talium, to get ready for its release in early 2018. Because I love to write, there are a few companion works in progress although they are eagerly awaiting my attention.
What question would you ask yourself? Answer that question.
With all the technology and options for entertainment, why write?
There is a diminishing opportunity to be creative. Most of our world is designed for us. Clothing, movies, hobbies, food, and media are given to us as either ‘acceptable’ or ‘unacceptable.’ Books unlock creative energy for both the author and the reader without the watchful eye of the gatekeepers. Readers can see the words of an author within the pages of a book and build worlds that belong uniquely to them. The relationship between the storyteller and observer coexist simultaneously, with limitless imagination, yet it’s impossible for me to control what you see inside the story I’ve provided. No two experiences are identical. Even if you read the same book twice, your experience is different each time. The only place you will find this sort of magic is in a book. Why write? Because, I have to. I’ve learned to love the discovery of my own mind over a glowing screen. (Ok, I write on a computer, but you know what I mean.)
Download excerpts from the book:
Twitter: (author) @JennArntson
(characters) @Una_Ashlund @Cal_of_Ashlund @Mar_of_Ashlund
Scavenger Girl Season of Atchem ISBN 978-0-9994-133-0-2
Amazon purchase link: goo.gl/zK4yWd