People ask me what genre my new book is, and I tell them it’s dystopian. This often leads to raised eyebrows and the inevitable question--what the heck is dystopian?
I tell them this: Imagine a future setting in which everything is technically perfect, a utopia. Now, imagine that there is, in actual fact at least one, or many flaws in this new imagined future, which have the opposite effect on the reality, creating a dark mirror of a perfect world. This is an inversion of a utopia, a dystopia.
That may not clear the matter up for many people, but it’s the closest I’ve ever come to explaining the idea satisfactorily.
So why write a dystopian? The dystopian genre seems to be really popular at the moment, and there are scores of books coming out left, right and center by some seriously talented authors. I’m sure a lot of writers might take a look at the burgeoning sales figures in the genre and think, ‘People are gonna want to read that. Why not, I’ll give it a crack,’ but that’s not actually how I came to write Raksha.
I’d had an idea.
There was a knife fighting scene in my first book that I absolutely loved writing. Every time I thought about what my next series would be based around, I knew it had to be knife fighting. The story developed of its own accord, and I ended up writing down notes on scraps of paper everywhere I went, and that’s how the world Raksha is based around came into life-- on the backs of receipts and till roll and napkins and business cards. I’d dreamed up this weird future where there were technological advances, but the feel to the book was very much set in the past; a simpler existence in some respects, but definitely more complex and dangerous in others. Gypsies and gladiators, politicians and priestesses.
I’ve been asked to compare Raksha to other dystopian novels, and that’s actually very tough for me to do because I haven’t read that many. My love for the dystopian idea actually came from watching movies. 1984, Death Race 2000 (the original from 1975! Classic!) Soylent Green, Total Recall and Mad Max...all of these films were favourites of mine when I was a kid. I remember watching Logan’s Run when I was tiny and being terrified. I used to dream that I would wake up and there would be a flashing red crystal glowing in my palm, and I would have to escape or be sacrificed. Terrifying stuff to an eight year old.
The dystopian novels I have read, such as Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand, or The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (both amazing books) contain themes which Raksha brushes over, too. In Atlas Shrugged, the greatest minds in America decide to simply not participate in society because of the government’s increasingly oppressive regulations. The Handmaid’s Tale is similar in that the government is an oppressive force again, restricting the lives of fertile women when the post-nuclear world contains very few people who can procreate. It’s the same in the majority of dystopian stories. There will always be an oppressor, and a society or individual who rebels against it. The Hunger Games is, of course, the most common young adult book that people will recognise as dystopian. It most definitely follows this rule. I’m sure I don’t need to give anyone a head’s up on that storyline!
I wanted Raksha to be different than most of the common YA dystopian novels out there and I went about that in a few ways. I wanted there to be a dictatorial government aspect for a part of the book, but then I wanted there to be another kind of oppression. I used the priestesses to accomplish that. There is an element of religious fanaticism that powers various characters in the story, and a very dark hidden side to the supposed holy leaders.
Another dystopian rule that I tried to step away from is the technological aspect of the stories. Typically, because dystopians are set in a future environment, there’s always a lot of technology involved. There are elements of technology in Raksha, i.e. Kit’s holostick, the betting screens etc, but for the majority of the tale I wanted to portray a world that would be more likely if society did collapse. No gadgets, no fancy vehicles or elaborate buildings. Just people surviving.
Of course, Raksha’s a young adult novel, and while I’ve explained some pretty political and religious underlying tones to the book, it’s still the story of a girl finding herself in an unexpected, complicated mess and trying to get out of it, while simultaneously falling in love a boy she really shouldn’t! That’s the backbone of most young adult novels, after all. ;)
I loved writing this book, and I have such epic plans for the sequel, Radicals! I’m hoping to get the next installment out in September, but that depends on the timing of other projects I’m working on, of course. I’m going to be finishing up the third book in the Hope Series this year and also releasing another dystopian novel, Stone, which is stepping well and truly out of the box. I can’t wait to release that one!
Author: Frankie Rose
Genre: YA Dystopian
Release Date: April 30th 2013
She has no name.
She has her knives, her training, and her halo.
The first and second give her the ability to defeat the opponents she is pitted against each month. The third frees her from pain and fear. From any kind of emotion at all. Everything is as it should be. Everything is as it should be, until…
Fear… Pain… Anger… Happiness… Desire… Guilt…
When a newly named Kit escapes the Sanctuary after killing her best friend, the last thing she needs is another knife in her hand. Or Ryka, the damaged, beautiful blond boy, whom she refuses to let save her. The sights and sounds of Freetown are new, yet one thing is familiar: the matches. The only difference? Where the blood in the Sanctuary landed only on the Colosseum floor, Kit will quickly learn that a river of red runs through Freetown’s very streets.
Without her halo, the inhabitants of Kit’s new home consider her saved, but is that really the case? Would she be better off free of the guilt associated with all the blood on her hands, or is the love of one boy worth living through all the pain?
Raksha is the call of the dead. It is the rumbling chant for fresh blood from the other side, the demand for sacrifice. The Colosseum is behind Kit. The fighting pits await.
I mmm doubtfully, scratching Jada behind her ears. She seems to like that. Cai’s face is gone now, although who knows how long the reprieve will be. When I look up, Ryka is watching me pet Jada.
“She likes you,” he says.
“You sound surprised.”
“I’m not. My sister’s a good judge of character. If Liv likes you that pretty much means everyone else will. Including my fickle dog.” He whistles softly and Jada pricks her ears at the sound.
“And you?” I ask.
He smiles. “Seriously?”
I nod, and Ryka’s mouth pulls up to one side in a way that makes my heart race. He looks wicked.
“Well, we’re friends. In that weird way where you’re eternally mad at me, and I’m eternally imagining what you look like naked.”
“What!” I go to slap his arm but he ducks out of reach, grinning. From the way my insides react to his words, it feels like I’ve swallowed something entirely too hot. Is this normal? Is this what liking someone feels like? It’s confusing and frustrating and frankly—okay, I’ll admit it—kind of wonderful. But what the hell am I supposed to do with that? How do I change who I am, sixteen years of fighting, a life of blood? How do I trade in all that confrontation for something a little sweeter? I think it’s probably too late.
“I really didn’t do myself any favours when I met you, did I? You still don’t trust me?” Ryka tips his head forward, smiling ruefully at his feet when I shake my head. “In that case I suppose it’s pointless asking if you’ve fallen in love with me yet?”
The boy is determined to make me die a death this evening. It’s all I can do not to choke as I shake my head. “Sadly, no. I don’t think I want to kill you anymore, though. So there’s that.”
In the moonlight, Ryka’s eyes bow as he smiles broadly. “There is that. We’ll have to see what we can do to change your mind, though. I’ve never been very good at waiting for anything I want.” He shoves me gently with his shoulder and my heart stumbles.
“You want me?”
Ryka’s smile is devastatingly sharp. “You own me, remember. And now, after the other night…well, I guess I kinda own you, too.”
Frankie Rose is a British expat, who is currently enjoying the perks of living in Australia- her awesome husband, sunshine, and vitamin D. She spends her time creating fictional universes in which the guy sometimes gets the girl, the heroes occasionally die, and the endings aren't always happy. But they usually are.
You can find out more about Frankie and her books by checking out all these links: