If The Light Escapes
by Brenda Marie Smith
GENRE: Sci-fi (post-apocalyptic)
A solar electromagnetic pulse fried the U.S. grid fourteen months ago. Everything’s gone: power, cars, running water, communications, all governing control and help—gone. Now northern lights have started in Texas—3,000 miles farther south than where they belong. The universe won’t stop screwing with eighteen-year-old Keno Simms.
All that’s left for Keno, his family and neighbors is farming their Austin subdivision, trying to eke out a living on poor soil in the scorching heat. Keno’s still reeling from the the death of his pregnant sister. His beloved Nana is ill, Grandpa’s always brandishing weapons, and water is far too scarce. Desperate thieves are hemming them in, yet he can’t convince his uncle and other adults to take action against the threat.
Keno’s one solace is his love for Alma, who has her own secret sorrows. When he gets her pregnant, he vows to keep her alive no matter what. Yet armed marauders and nature itself collude against him at every turn, forcing him to make choices that rip at his conscience. If he can’t protect Alma and their unborn child, it will be the end of Keno’s world.
IF THE LIGHT ESCAPES is post-apocalyptic science fiction set in a near-future reality, a coming-of-age story told in the voice of a heroic teen who’s forced into manhood too soon.
FROM CHAPTER 3:
A huge sliver of moon rises to the east, lighting up the park and Alma’s face with an orange-yellow glow. We pull ourselves up and sit wrapped together on top of the monkey bars like we rule the planet, gazing into our dark subdivision, on the southern edge of our emptied-out city, in the middle of the scary*** world.
“Keno? Alma?” Bobby Carlisle calls from the street… “Y’all come home. Now! …
The crickets and tree frogs have gone silent. I hear Bobby cock his rifle thirty yards away. …Alma and I gape at each other, and then we run.
When we reach Bobby in the street… I scan the trees behind the swings and monkey bars, half a football field away.
Before the sun zapped us, those trees would’ve seemed pretty. Tonight, they’re creepy. I’ve been too worked up about Tasha and Mom to even think about watching the tree line. As bad as things sometimes get around here, I’m still not totally used to life post-apocalypse and the never-ending vigilance.
“I don’t see—”
“Shh!” Bobby aims his rifle…
I shudder and run my eyes back and forth among the trees. With all the different-sized trunks in the deep shadows, people could be hiding in there and blending in.
“There!” Bobby hisses, pointing to the north edge of the trees. And I see—what?… Two pairs of feet… Then …metal flashes in the moonlight. Behind me, Alma gasps. I pull my Glock, flick off the safety, and aim.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Brenda Marie Smith lived off the grid for many years in a farming collective where her sons were delivered by midwives. She’s been a community activist, managed student housing co-ops, produced concerts to raise money for causes, done massive quantities of bookkeeping, and raised a small herd of teenage boys.
Brenda is attracted to stories where everyday characters transcend their own limitations to find their inner heroism. She and her husband reside in a grid-connected, solar-powered home in South Austin, Texas. They have more grown kids and grandkids than they can count.
Her first novel, Something Radiates, is a paranormal romantic thriller; If Darkness Takes Us and its sequel, If the Light Escapes, are post-apocalyptic science fiction.
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Exclusive Author Interview!!!
What are your favorite TV shows?
The Walking Dead (I know, zombies, ick. But the drama and character development are first-rate, especially in the first six to eight seasons.)
The Handmaid’s Tale—So good and so prescient of Margaret Atwood
MI-5—No one does spies better than the British. I’m a sucker for most British dramas.
The West Wing
Upright—a sleeper gem of a show out of Australia
What is your favorite meal?
Do I have to pick only one? So hard to decide. Almost anything served with real mashed potatoes and a green veggie? Baked chicken thighs, grilled catfish, steak, barbecued pork ribs, a vegan entrée, anything.
If you were to write a series of novels, what would it be about?
Well, I actually wrote one—The Braving the Light series of standalone novels: If Darkness Takes Us and If the Light Escapes, and I’m working on the third book now, as yet untitled. It’s a nationwide apocalypse, but it focuses on one family and one neighborhood in Austin, Texas.
A solar electromagnetic pulse fries the U.S. grid, also taking out the cars, phones, internet, and running water. Grandmother Bea Crenshaw, who narrates the first book, has been secretly preparing for disaster for years. When she’s left alone with four grandkids whose parents don’t return home, she has to teach the kids to survive by farming their urban subdivision before her heart and her hope give out.
In the second book, Bea’s eighteen-year-old grandson Keno Simms is the narrator. Grandma’s stockpiles of food are running out, Keno’s married, despite his tender age, and his wife Alma is pregnant, the crops are giving him trouble, and armed marauders pose an escalating threat. On top of all that, northern lights appear regularly in the Texas sky, three-thousand miles further south than where they belong, which can only mean that something is going wrong with the sun or the earth’s magnetic poles.
I have no plans at this time to write any other series.
Is there a writer you idolize? If so, who?
I adore Toni Morrison, I’m always impressed by John LeCarre, and Margaret Atwood continues to bowl me over on a regular basis.
But I also idolize Mae Clair, who may be lesser known, but she’s a successful writer of a great number of books who is exceptionally kind, encouraging, and helpful to other writers. She gave me a cover quote for If the Light Escapes, and I nearly swooned.
How did you come up with the title of this book?
I brainstormed a long list of potential titles, culled them down to about ten options, then discussed them with my critique partners, my family, and my friends. I picked one that I liked best and that other folks generally agreed on, then the publisher tweaked it slightly to come up with If the Light Escapes.