Saturday, August 13, 2011

OUR FIRST INTERVIEW & FEATURE! The Divas Dish...with Lenore Appelhans of LEVEL TWO

The Divas a new feature on Dystopian Divas, and will someday have a fancy button or banner when Diva Schuyler stops having sobbing, swearing breakdowns every time she tries to create one. In the meantime, enjoy the feature, in which the Divas gossip with interview excellent authors of dystopian reads.

The Divas Dish...with Lenore Appelhans of Level Two!
Before Dystopian Divas, there were Zombie Chickens who rate books and whole months of the year devoted to dystopian reads, like this year's Dystopian August.Who was the evil genius (well, actually, the very nice author and blogger) who masterminded such feats? Lenore Appelhans, who has been blogging since 2008, and who recently received a book deal AND a movie option at the same time--um, yeah, that's kind of a big deal! Lenore has graciously allowed the Divas to dish with her. First, though, we want to show you an excellent resource from Lenore's blog that's happening RIGHT THE HECK NOW! It's Dystopian August on Presenting Lenore. Check out the dys-tastic button: 
Wondering what upcoming dystopian or post-apocalyptic books to save your grimy pennies for? Wonder no more. There's book reviews, interviews, giveaways, other great features...and yes, Zombie Chickens who recommend books.
Now on to the DISHING!
What began your fascination with dystopian literature? What aspect(s) of the genre attract you the most?

I can't really pinpoint a beginning of my fascination.  I enjoyed dystopian lit long before I realized it existed as a category.  But my mini-obsession probably started with Scott Westerfeld's Uglies series which was also the first set of books I formally reviewed on my blog.  Without a doubt, I am most attracted to the "what if" questions posed.  I like to see see authors take an issue or idea and then roll down the slippery slope and imagine the world through that lens.  It's fun but it also makes you think.

Tell the Divas about your upcoming debut, the dystopian novel Level Two. Will the book be a stand alone or a series? 

I am not really allowed to reveal too much.  It's not a traditional dystopia.  It's set in the afterlife and a lot of the plot takes place in the main characters' memories of her life on contemporary Earth. I imagined Level Two as a standalone - so it will stand alone.  But there is also a lot of potential for a series, so I'm exploring a sequel right now.
Level Two has been optioned for a film, which is SO exciting! Can you tell us anything about where you are in this process?

It is exciting - though I've heard that only like 1% of books that are optioned are ever actually made into films.  So it's still a long shot.  All I know right now is that CBS Films is waiting for the final draft of the book.  So we'll see.

You recently received your first check as an author--congratulations! What other jobs have you held in the past? (And, most importantly, did you buy yourself anything fun and
Diva-worthy with the money?)

Thank you! My first job was walking my 5 year old neighbor to the bus stop.  I was 10, but she was still able to knock me down on a regular basis and make me eat grass.  I really had to earn my $5 per week.  In high school, I did some babysitting and tutoring. In college, I worked in catering, concessions, as a teacher's aide, at Subway as a Sandwich Artist, in telephone customer service for an office supply store and as a teacher of English as a foreign language.  Once I moved to Germany, I started working as an advertising copywriter, which I still do on a freelance basis. My diva-worthy purchase was a trip to Argentina in May with my husband.  I love to travel! (Diva Schuyler: Now THAT is a truly Diva-worthy gift to yourself and your family! Especially with the whole childhood trauma of being knocked down by your neighbor. Anyway, two feather boas UP on your choice!)

What food or drink would you miss the most if the government banned it?

Chocolate.  But if you believe the upcoming dystopia All These Things I've Done by Gabrielle Zevin, you know that the black market will find a way to provide banned food and drink! 

Which dystopian (or post-apocalyptic) scenario strikes you as the most realistic? Which one frightens you the most?

Most any scenario that deals with a global pandemic (excepting the zombie virus ones of course). Executive Orders by Tom Clancy is not a dystopia, but there is an outbreak of highly contagious Ebola and that freaks me out so much.

Scary indeed!
Many thanks to Lenore Appelhans for taking part in the Dystopian Divas' first interview, and in our first feature, The Divas Dish...!  Check out all the ways you can Big Brother (or Sister!) Lenore:
Follow Lenore on Twitter: @lenoreva
Brave New Words (a blog of YA sci-fi authors debuting in 2012), to which Lenore contributes: Brave New Words

~Diva Schuyler  
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  1. Fantastic interview! I'm beyond excited for Lenore and cannot wait to hear/read more about the concept behind Level Two because it sounds amazing. Thank you so much for sharing this with everyone!

  2. So glad you enjoyed the review! The Divas share in your excitement to learn more about Level Two. It's fun to talk about it now at the Top Sekrit Level, as if we're under a dystopian regime and this is all in code. Maybe we should get secret decoder rings! Book people need to have Diva fashion, after all! ;D

  3. I found your blog through Lenore Appelhans and I love it. Great to see some serious dystopia love here :)

  4. Thanks, Selina! The Divas are always happy to find other dystopia-minded people. Let us know if there are any books or authors you'd like to see on the site!

  5. This was a great interview to read, and I enjoyed Lenore's comments. It is a slippery slope to consider. I wrote my own book about what seems like a perfect educational system that eliminates our current troubles, including bullying, violence, sexual media messages, and under-educated students. But it backfires. Even in trying to create solutions we can inadvertently create dramatic problems for our society. The resulting situation seems utopian, but under the facade it is certainly not.

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  8. Dear Diva Schuyler:

    Will you please consider reviewing my new novel DON’T FORGET ME, BRO (Stephen F. Austin State University Press and Texas Book Consortium, Dec. 2014-Jan.2015).

    My novel tackles themes of childhood abuse, mental illness, and alienated families--and leaves the reader uplifted!

    Kirkus Reviews says: "Read this book for the vivid imagery and sharp dialogue. Read it for the spot-on characterizations..."

    The subject matter is never treated frivolously or over-handled in details. The writing is taut and compelling throughout. The pace leans forward tirelessly.

    Those accomplishments alone took years.

    In all, five of my thirty years of writing were dedicated to this novel. I like to joke: I had to pull my soul sideways through a keyhole for those five years to get the right words down.

    My debut novel, THE NIGHT I FREED JOHN BROWN (Penguin Group, 2008), won The Paterson Prize for Books for Young Readers (Grades 7-12) and was one of ten books recommended by USA TODAY for Black History Month. For more info:

    My 2011 short story collection, UGLY TO START WITH (West Virginia
    University Press), was hailed by The Philadelphia Inquirer as a work of “sharp observation and surpassing grace.” Here’s a link to some information about my collection:

    My short stories have appeared in more than seventy-five literary
    journals, including The Iowa Review, North American Review, The Kenyon Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, and The Chattahoochee Review. Twice I have been nominated for The Pushcart Prize. My short story "The Scratchboard Project" received an honorable mention in The Best American Short Stories 2007.

    But DON'T FORGET ME, BRO is my best!

    The novel is a fictionalized story of my brother. Joe died at 47 of system-wide neglect and indifference for the so-called mentally ill in my, until recently, extremely backward home state of West Virginia.

    I know thousands of lives are lost every day around the world. True, Joe was just one. But in this novel, you will see him live and die not once, but a thousand times in the minutes of his life.

    If you email me at, I'll send you the cover graphic for my novel. Then, please take a look at the image. You will see in Joe's innocent, dead-on eyes at 19.

    I'll also email you a new digital .pdf of my novel from the publisher. It's a clear, bold text.

    I promise you that DON'T FORGET ME, BRO is not too grim. I am
    sensitive to the reader's well-being and tolerance.

    Cleanly written and briskly plotted, DON'T FORGET ME, BRO is a quick, fabulous read, a literary page-turner. Never before in my career could I say this about my work. So I say so now with a truth I can all but guarantee.

    I hope I don't sound arrogant. I am just very happy and confident.

    To give you a bigger picture of my novel, I'll even email you a full advance review by Pauline Finch of, along with a list of authors who've blurbed my novel so far and what they have said.

    I would very grateful and honored if you were to review my new novel.

    Again, my email is

    My phone number is (304) 620-8747.

    In respect and gratitude for your work,

    and warmly,

    John Michael Cummings

    -- end --