Interview: Yvonne Ventresca, Author of PANDEMIC

I’ve got Yvonne Ventresca back on the blog today for an interview about her YA debut, PANDEMIC. The book releases May 6th (next Tuesday!) with Sky Pony Press and is a survival story set during a deadly outbreak, where a sixteen-year-old girl struggles against the disease and her own personal troubles. I just got my copy in the mail and I can’t wait to get started!

KO: Hi Yvonne! Lovely to have you here. First can you tell us a little about PANDEMIC?
YV: Pandemic is my debut novel, just published by Sky Pony Press this month. It’s a contemporary, realistic young adult story about an emotionally traumatized teenager struggling to survive a deadly flu pandemic.

Here’s a brief blurb: Only a few people know what caused Lilianna Snyder’s sudden change from a model student to a withdrawn pessimist who worries about all kinds of disasters. After her parents are called away on business, Lil’s town is hit by what soon becomes a widespread fatal illness. With her worst fears realized, Lil must find a way to survive not only the outbreak and its real-life consequences, but also her own personal demons.

KO: Your cover is so striking and I can’t wait to have the book on my shelves! You’ve mentioned before the colour blue being particularly important to the novel – can you share why the image and the colours used relate so well to your story?
YV: Thank you! Brian Peterson at Sky Pony Press did an amazing job designing the cover. The main concept is the disease that strikes, which is nicknamed the Blue Flu by the press. But the shade of blue – the teal colour – is actually a nod to a US organization, the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (www.nsvrc.org), which uses a teal ribbon to represent sexual violence awareness and prevention. This relates to a trauma which occurred in Lil’s recent past that she is still trying to recover from. Since the blue-shaded cover creates an almost-serene mood, the large, disjointed title was used to produce an unsettled feeling which mirrors the suspense of the story.

KO: Can you share the opening lines of PANDEMIC?
YV: Of course!

I stood on the smoking corner behind school reveling in my aloneness. Not many smokers had the same schedule, which made the corner the perfect place for solitude. We always stayed a foot off the high school property, near the big oak tree, and since we were allowed to leave during last period study hall, we weren’t technically breaking any rules.
As if rules mattered.

KO: And why is this perfect for your book?
YV: I hope the opening does a good job introducing the reader to Lilianna (she’s in high school, she avoids people, she smokes) and also creates some interest: why don’t the rules matter to her?

KO: What inspired you to write Lilianna’s story?
YV: I’ve always been fascinated with disaster and survival stories. For example, I loved Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer. I wanted to create a story where the main character is in a difficult place at the onset, even before the disease strikes, so that she must find a way to heal and become stronger during the crisis.

KO: What was your favourite thing about writing PANDEMIC? And what was most difficult when writing?
YV: I hate to admit that I enjoyed thinking about all of the logistical things that could go wrong during a major contagious outbreak and how they would make Lil’s life difficult (like a disruption in the food supply). I brainstormed a long list of complications, then chose the most credible and interesting ones.
On the other hand, it would be unrealistic to have a pandemic story and not have anyone important die. Writing the death and grief scenes was emotionally draining. They were by far the hardest to write.

KO: It’s almost time for your book to be released into the world! What are you most looking forward to?
YV: Good question! One of my favorite days was when the physical books were delivered to my house. Seeing the hardcover book that the Word file had been transformed into was amazing. Now, I’m most looking forward to sharing the story with future readers.

book tower

KO: And to wrap up, can we end with a quote from PANDEMIC?
YV: Friendship plays an important role in the story, so I’ll share a brief excerpt about one of the subplots:

I gathered my books and left. Two blocks from Megs’s house, a girl with long black hair crossed the street in front of me. My stomach lurched. It was Kayla. Before turning the corner, she glanced over and registered my presence. Then she looked away, as if I were a stranger. She and Megs were the trusted allies who knew what happened in the fall, the two friends I had painfully confided in.
Only Megs had believed me.

Thank you for the interview, Kate!
Thank you for sharing more about PANDEMIC with us, Yvonne!