by Bailey Shrewsbury, Ball State University

In the Digital Literature Review class, we have studied many different aspects of post-apocalyptic literature, including the way gender is depicted in post-apocalyptic media. Time and time again, we saw women being forced back into patriarchal roles after catastrophic events, and this idea was seldom challenged on the page by the authors we read. I wanted to shed more light on stories that empowered women and challenged the idea that women are only in stories for reproduction and men’s pleasure by interviewing Kristen Simmons. Kristen is an award winning Young Adult author who lives in Cincinnati, Ohio. Simmons has written 6 books with another coming out this fall. Her book,“The Glass Arrow,” is a story about Aya, a girl on the run from the men who hunt women to sell them at auction. It’s a story of one girl’s courage to stand up for herself and what’s right.

Kristen will be giving a talk and a reading from “The Glass Arrow” on January 24 at 7:30 pm in the Student Center Ballroom. I hope you can join us to participate in this important discussion.

What inspired you to write this book? What sources did you draw inspiration from?

I had many inspirations for this book, including Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, and my own experiences as a woman. Writing has always been a way of processing events in my life, and so the beginnings of Glass Arrow are rooted in my childhood, and my transformation to teenage life, when I quickly realized the beliefs that I could do anything would be stunted by a glass ceiling, and a societal shift of values. Girls are often given the message that worth is defined by physical beauty, and how others perceive them. I wanted to write about that world, and about a girl trying to break out of it.

Why do you think there is trend in our media towards post-apocalyptic/dystopian themes and worlds?

I think there are many writers, like me, who see dystopia as a way of examining current events. I never feel like I’m writing about the future–I feel like I’m writing an altered view of the present. Misogyny is not a concept defined by time; the media is reporting on this kind of oppression every day.

Did Aya (or other characters) ever direct you to a different direction in the story then you had planned?

Oh yes! Without giving away too many spoilers, there was definitely one scene in the book I did not expect at all. I bawled when I wrote it.

Why did you base this story on women and reproductive rights?

Because I believe this is a current issue we’re still facing. If we don’t keep talking about it and challenging the existing constraints of our society, we’re going to find ourselves stuck, or reverting. We all need to make our voices heard. The Glass Arrow is how I’m sharing my story, and my feelings on the issue.

Why did you decide to write in the young adult genre and not something else?

Writing to a young adult audience has never been a deliberate decision of mine. I always write the story in my head, and it often ends up that those characters are in their teen years, a time when people first experience true independence. My stories always seem to gravitate toward characters forced to make decisions they’ve never had to contemplate before–they’re young on the page, but hopefully feel relatable to any age reader.

Why did you pick post-apocalyptic literature as the backdrop for the setting of this novel?

I see a post-apocalyptic setting not as a future possibility, but my own processing of the present. Dystopia is the lens through which I view the world now, as is. We all process experiences in different ways, but when I think of many of the things we are facing today, I see a world in disarray, and fierce, tenacious survivors carving their way through it.

Can you tell us a little bit about your new book?

I’m so thrilled to say that Pacifica, my next book, will be out on March 6th. It’s about a pirate girl, and the son of the president, thrown together to search for their missing friend in a trash-filled world after the last of the polar ice caps have melted. Due to the environmental impact, there is tremendous strain among the people in this story–a dynamic inspired by my grandmother’s stories from her internment in a Japanese internment camp during WWII. Because of that, this book is very personal. I hope people enjoy reading it!