Lenore Appelhans, who runs Presenting Lenore, is the debut author of Level 2, a futuristic novel set in the blinding white afterlife. Felicia Ward is suspended forever in Level 2, an intangible space and a type of purgatory, constantly replaying memories from when she was eighteen-years-old and alive in Level 1 – Earth. She has replayed one memory over 10,000 times, of Neil, a boy she desperately wishes to see again. When something terrible happens to one of her fellow ‘drones’ Felicia must decide whether to stay plugged into her cathartic memories forever or to fight, escape, and join the rebels.
I’ve been following Presenting Lenore for nearly 2 years now. I first came across it during Dystopian February 2011, an event started by Lenore which celebrates YA dystopia and post-apocalyptic fiction. I took part in Dystopian August that same year. No one was surprised when Lenore announced that she was writing a young adult novel, but everyone was incredibly excited. I’ve already read Level 2 and I am pleased to say that I thought it was a compelling, stand-out novel within its genre – the full review can be read here. Pretty Books is lucky to be taking part in the Level 2 blog tour. Check out my interview with Lenore below.
S. Hello Lenore! It’s fantastic to be finally getting the chance have a chat with you, since I’ve technically ‘known’ you for so long!
L. Absolutely! We’ve bonded over our mutual love for dystopian fiction haven’t we?
Q. You’re probably one of the most well-read people when it comes to dystopian fiction. I’ve been a fan of the genre since reading The Hunger Games in late 2010. I’ve since realised that books considered to be ‘dystopian’ or ‘post-apocalyptic, particular within YA, have such a large variety of storylines, from people living under domes to control of sexuality, stealing organs to crossing desolate wastelands to save kidnapped siblings. How do you personally define ‘dystopian’?
A. My definition is actually much looser than most people’s I think. While I mainly stick to futuristic visions of really messed-up societies (including post-apocalyptic works), I think you could make an argument for something like Cat Winters upcoming début In the Shadow of Blackbirds – about California in 1918 on the cusp of world war – because that certainly felt apocalyptic to those living through it.
Q. Would you say that Level 2 fits into the dystopian genre? If so, how?
A. The genre mainly served as my entry point to the story, because I asked myself the question “What would a dystopian afterlife look like?” It’s definitely not a dystopian under the strict definition, but it does have some dystopian elements – such as the fact that the original purpose of Level 2 was perverted by the people charged as its guardians.
Q. Because you’ve read and reviewed many young adult novels, particular in the science fiction genre, I imagine it was sometimes a concern that you may accidentally incorporate something into your book that you’ve read before, or unintentionally be influenced by another book – or maybe not! What was the experience of writing Level 2 like, having read so many books of a similar genre?
A. I think it’s impossible not to be influenced by books we read, movies we see, conversations we overhear, experiences we have, etc. In fact, that was one of the original themes of Level 2 – the fact that creativity arises from a stream of millions of tiny nuggets of input that come together in your imagination to form something entirely new. So are there elements in Level 2 that you’ve seen before? Sure – but I think having this background of reading so much helped me to move past some obvious genre clichés and work harder to create something fresh.
Q. The drones in Level 2 died at a young age and now spend the rest of eternity in pods, accessing memories from when they were alive on Earth. They can share them, tag them, rate them, rent them. What memory of your own would you give five 5 stars to? What would you tag it with?
A. One of the ideas I wanted to explore in Level 2 was the notion of the value of memories. Can we put a price on them? Can we really say which ones should be more highly rated than others? I love that in Our Town by Thornton Wilder, the dead townspeople advise Emily that even her most non-descript memory is going to be bittersweet. That you can never have those moments again makes them automatically precious. I would love to relive a memory when my mother and grandmother were still alive – those would be five star memories to me, even if they wouldn’t necessarily seem that exciting to anyone else.
Q. I was delighted that you came up with the idea that people can access ‘memory editions’ of books. It’s the idea that someone, in their past life, read a novel so thoroughly and analysed it so closely, that now other drones want use up credits to rent this memory. What book would people rent from your memory?
A. Ooh good question! Probably something I read in college like Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. It’s one of my favorite books and I analysed the heck out of it.
Q. You also read outside of the young adult dystopia genre. What are five books that your readers may be surprised that you enjoyed?
A. I’m a pretty eclectic reader and before I started blogging, I used to be more experimental. I’d go to the library and pick up books randomly. I found some of my very favorite books that way, such as the noir thriller Trap for Cinderella by Sebastien Japrisot (I love all of his books) and the head-trip Bad Monkeys by Matt Ruff. But maybe those two picks aren’t that surprising since they deal with the question of identity and both go dark places. How about the fact that I used to devour Harlequin historical romances? Or that I love to read classics when I can take time out from the bustle of reviewing? Some of my favorites are Middlemarch by George Eliot, The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene and The Awakening by Kate Chopin.
S. Thank you for answering these questions, Lenore – I can’t wait for everyone to read Level 2!
L. Thank you so much for your awesome questions!
Level 2 is published on 15th January and is available to pre-order now. You can read an extract from the book here and read my review here. Head over to The Book Smugglers tomorrow for the next post on the blog tour where Lenore will be talking about her Inspirations and Influences.
Other stops on the Level 2 blog tour:
7th – Serendipity Reviews
8th – Overflowing Library
10th – The Book Smugglers
11th – Dark Readers
14th – YA Highway
15th – Mundie Moms and Level 2 is published!
16th – Forever Young Adult
17th – Sophistikatied Reviews
18th – Novel Novice
Follow Lenore – presentinglenore.blogspot.com / @presentinglenore