On the 23rd of every month leading up to the release of Survival Colony 9 in September, I’ll be posting behind-the-scenes info about the book.
9 on 9: 9 Places
I’m a bit late on this month’s “9 on 9” feature, largely because I just returned from a family vacation in Florida. (Swam with dolphins, fed gators, got sunburned, the whole nine yards.) But it got me thinking about how important place is to Survival Colony 9: the novel’s desert setting was one of the first things that came to me when I was drafting, and the physical world the characters inhabit plays a huge role in the events that unfold.
And so, I thought I’d lead you around 9 of the key places in Survival Colony 9!
- Desert. The world’s a wasteland due to wars and catastrophic climate change. Querry Genn describes the landscape as “a dead reddish-brown, the color of dried blood under fingernails.” Not a place to live, just a place to survive.
- Hollow. A Skaldi attack forces Survival Colony 9 to flee the hollow where they’ve camped and strike out into unknown territory.
- River. The colony’s lifeline, a sluggish brown stream that yields dirty but drinkable water. But they can’t camp right by its shore, because the Skaldi have figured out humans’ need for water and have waylaid colonies there in the past.
- Compound. An abandoned community that Querry’s colony discovers in the desert. A place to rest and recuperate, a place to hide—or, as some members of the colony fear, a perfect place for a Skaldi ambush.
- Pool. Empty of water and half-filled with dust, it’s a spot where Querry and the girl he secretly loves, Korah, have a nighttime talk about the colony’s past and present. It’s also the spot where Korah’s jealous boyfriend catches the two of them.
- Headquarters. The commander of Survival Colony 9, Laman Genn, sets up his headquarters in a bombed-out building more intact than most. It only lacks doors or windows—and its top floor’s been sheared clean off.
- Tree. There aren’t many trees left in this world, but there’s one where the colony, lacking a jail cell, holds an important prisoner—a man some believe is trying to destroy the colony from within.
- Valley. The desert landscape is mostly flat, but Querry discovers a hidden valley where he meets someone he never expected to.
- Shelter. Where Querry and Korah share a secret kiss—and a much darker secret as well.
“9 on 9″ ARCHIVES
For this month’s “9 on 9” feature, I thought I’d dig into my narrator’s backpack and discover what kinds of supplies the members of Survival Colony 9 carry with them. Remember, Querry Genn and his companions live in a world destroyed by war, a world where survival is tenuous and most of the past has been wiped away. What these people hold on to tells us a lot about the world they live in and the kind of people they are.
- Canteen. Absolutely essential in a desert world where the nearest source of water, a polluted river, can’t easily be accessed due to the presence of the monstrous Skaldi.
- Flints. For lighting fires, creating homemade lanterns, and protecting against Skaldi, who are immune to blades and bullets.
- A bedroll. Unless you’re lucky enough to get a berth on one of the colony’s few functioning trucks, there’s no comfortable place to sleep on the sand and stone of the desert. For Querry and the other teens, a scrap of blanket is the best they’ve got.
- Rope. Useful for tying tents, hauling supplies, and—in case of emergency evacuation—binding together the youngest members of the camp so they don’t get lost.
- Bandages. The art of medicine has virtually been lost, but the members of Querry’s camp still carry a few rudimentary medical supplies.
- Weapons. Some camp members own guns, others flamethrowers (though their supply of fuel is running low). Querry has a red-handled pocketknife, the kind with multiple blades, on which someone has engraved a single, mysterious name: “Matay.”
- Books. Or, to be precise, a single book, a badly damaged picture book about a mother and baby rabbit that Querry and Korah, an older girl in camp, sometimes read to the children.
- Collection jars. No one knows how the Skaldi track their prey, but some camp members believe they detect humans by smell. These people routinely trim their hair and fingernails, storing the dead tissue in glass collection jars, to prevent the Skaldi from picking up the scent. But as the camp commander, Laman Genn, reminds Querry, people shed their skin all the time, and nothing can prevent that.
- Photographs. Querry has none of these, but some of the older camp members do. In most cases, they’re not personal photos but scarred, glossy images from magazines—anything to remind people of the world that’s gone.
To get started, I thought I’d introduce some of the characters (9 of them, to be exact) you’ll meet in Survival Colony 9. Let’s start with…
- Querry Genn. The novel’s narrator. Fourteen years old and a member of Survival Colony 9, one of the small groups that formed in the wake of catastrophic wars that turned the planet to a wasteland. Due to an accident six months before the book starts, Querry can’t remember his past, his identity, or his relationships with anyone in the colony. Not even with…
- Laman Genn. The commander of Survival Colony 9. Demanding, authoritarian, and unwilling to accept advice or excuses from anyone in his camp. His famous “focus” speech drives Querry nuts. And there’s no other officer Querry can turn to for support, because Laman’s second-in-command happens to be…
- Aleka. Tall, slim, and severe, she enforces discipline in Laman’s camp. A fierce defender of the colony, she’s also a mystery to Querry—her face is a mask, and there’s no telling what’s going on behind her deep gray eyes. The only thing Querry feels pretty sure of is that she can’t tolerate…
- Yov. One of the other teens in Survival Colony 9, three years older than Querry. The camp clown, with a nasty edge to his wit. He calls Querry “Space Boy,” a snide reference to his memory loss. The only other teen who seems able to stand up to him is…
- Korah. Two years older than Querry and amazingly beautiful, she’s one of Laman Genn’s strongest supporters but also Querry’s only sympathetic ear. One glance from her brilliant blue eyes makes his face flush and his tongue tie. He feels he’d have a chance to get to know her better, if not for…
- Wali. Korah’s boyfriend, who loves to flex his sizable muscles any time Querry looks her way. Nowhere near as infuriating as Yov, he’s still a serious obstacle, and not only because he’s with Korah. It also seems he’s getting sick of Laman and Aleka’s rule and might be cozying up to…
- Araz. Laman’s driver, a burly, taciturn brute who could be recruiting opposition to Laman’s leadership behind the commander’s back. Like so many things that are going on in Survival Colony 9, Querry can’t be sure—his loss of memory makes it incredibly hard for him to sort through the shifting allegiances in camp. He’s not even sure of…
- Petra. The camp’s best scout, stocky and self-confident, so sneaky in the field she’s virtually invisible. Querry thought she was on Laman’s side—but that was before she lost her scouting partner in an ambush and Laman steered the interrogation toward her. Maybe he needed to—maybe Querry’s uncertainty about his fellow colonists doesn’t come solely from his amnesia. It could also be because of…
- The Skaldi. Monsters that appeared on the planet after the wars of destruction, the Skaldi have the ability to take over human bodies, mimic their owners, then shed the corpse like a skin before moving on to the next victim. No one knows where they came from or what they are—no one’s even seen one outside the bodies they steal. All anyone knows is that they’re out there, in the western desert—which is precisely where an attack on Querry’s camp in the novel’s opening chapter forces the colony to flee.