by Justin Joschko
Release Date: May 8, 2018
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Selena Flood is a fighter of preternatural talent. But not even her quick fists and nimble feet could save her parents from the forces of New Canaan, the most ruthless and powerful of the despotic kingdoms populating America-that-was.
Forced to flee the tyrannical state with her younger brother Simon in tow, Selena is now the last chance for peace in a continent on the verge of complete destruction.
In her pocket is a data stick, the contents of which cost her parents their lives. Selena must now ensure it reaches the Republic of California—a lone beacon of liberty shining across a vast and barren wasteland—before it’s too late.
Between New Canaan and California stretch the Middle Wastes: thousands of desolate miles home to murderers, thieves, and a virulent strain of grass called yellow locust that has made growing food all but impossible. So when Selena and Simon stagger into Fallowfield, an oasis of prosperity amidst the poisoned plains, everything seems too good to be true—including the warm welcome they receive from the town’s leader, a peculiar man known only as The Mayor.
As Selena delves deeper into the sinister secrets of this seemingly harmless refuge, she soon learns there is a much darker side to Fallowfield and the man who runs it. Before long, she must call upon the skills she honed in the fighting pits of New Canaan to ensure not only her own survival, but that of her brother, in whom the Mayor has taken far too keen an interest.
And she’d better act fast, for an all-out war inches ever closer, and New Canaan is never as far away as it seems.
If I Knew Then What I Know Now About Writing
Guest Post by Author Justin Joschko
I wrote my first novel at 18. It was called Leo’s Trip North and told the story of a boy who wakes up one day to find everyone in his city has vanished. He makes his way through a strangely altered landscape filled with bizarre creatures on his quest to the nearest big city, Toronto, where he hopes to encounter someone who, like him, remains unchanged.
I wrote the book in about three months, read it over once, and sent it out to agents. After a couple of rejections I decided it wasn’t so great, put it aside, and forgot about it. Twelve years later, my debut novel, Yellow Locust, has hit the shelves. It’s the first novel I’ve published, but clearly not the first I’ve written (it’s actually the third; my master’s thesis, "Gorilla Girl," was second).
You might assume that Yellow Locust got a better reception than Leo’s Trip North did, and that’s why it succeeded where my first book failed. But the truth isn’t so tidy. Yellow Locust took several rewrites and dozens of queries before it landed me an agent, and another year of querying from him until it found a publisher. I’d always heard publishing was a slow and painful process, but I don’t think I appreciated the extent of it until I actually went through it.
I’m happy with Yellow Locust as a debut. I’ve definitely grown better as a writer over the years, and the work I’m showing the world is from a practiced artist (albeit one who’s still learning) rather than a total neophyte. But I sometimes wonder if I should have tried harder with Leo’s Trip North. Yellow Locust taught me that a story can still be worth telling if the book it’s trapped in is deeply flawed, and that revision and reworking aren’t sins.
Looking back on it now, I see parts of Leo that don’t work, concepts that are unclear, characters whose motivations seem skewed. But there’s a kernel of a story in there that I still like in it, about a boy who loses one home and ventures out to find another. Maybe I’ll go back to it someday, but it seems too far in the past at this point. I’m not the person I was when I wrote it, and I think that particularly story was best told by a young man leaving home for the first time, heading off to university (in Toronto, no less, the destination of the book’s protagonist). I think the time to revise was then, not now.
At the time, a novel seemed to me like a sacred, crystalline thing. Mess with its edges and you might shatter it into a million hopeless fragments. If I’d known how much tinkering it would take to get the first novel I published on the shelves so many years later, I might not have been so afraid to rework the first one I wrote.
Justin Joschko is an author from Niagara Falls, Ontario. His writing has appeared in newspapers and literary journals across Canada. Yellow Locust is his first novel. He currently lives in Ottawa with his wife and two children.
One (1) winner will receive a digital copy of Yellow Locust by Justin Joschko
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