Interview With Lili Wilkinson
Our very own Inky Judge Fred nutted out five tough questions for Gold Inky Shortlist author Lili Wilkinson about her novel After the Lights Go Out. She was gracious enough to respond with these five delightful answers.
After The Lights Go Out is the gripping story of a family of doomsday preppers caught up in catastrophe that tests their love, sacrifice and survival. The Inky Judges all found the book to be an accomplished, thrilling and thought provoking read.
- Why did you choose an EMP? Did you explore other doomsday scenarios first?
I knew I didn’t want the problem to be a military one, because it would add a whole layer of complication/conflict that I didn’t want. At first I tried to find something that would be triggered by climate change, but there wasn’t anything sudden enough (although now I’ve read Neal Shusterman’s DRY, which did that very effectively). An EMP was the only thing that achieved everything I needed from a storytelling point of view.
- Have you ever had any personal experience with doomsday preppers? Did that give you the idea for the story or did something else give you the idea to feature doomsday preppers?
I have an uncle who hoarded for Y2K, and my parents are very into sustainability (beekeeping, growing food, off-grid power etc), but nothing that comes close to real preppers. The idea for the story came from an article I read about the prepping phenomenon. I was really fascinated by the morality of preppers – the paranoia, the secrecy. I wanted to really dig into that, and ask a lot of moral questions that don’t have simple black or white answers.
- Did you always know that this book was going to have a fair bit of tragedy in it?
Oh yes. You can’t write a book with a doomsday-level disaster and not have some collateral damage. And to be honest I quite like killing characters. I love writing big, dramatic death scenes.
- How did you come up with the names? Whenever I try to write I can’t come up with names, so I just go with the basic ones like James and Tracy, yours were quite special.
It depends on the character. Pru was a name I’ve wanted to use for ages – Dear Prudence is one of my favourite songs. I also have always wanted to use Blythe, and when I realised they were both virtue names, I chose Grace to make them a threesome. I try to make the names appropriate to the ages of the characters – there’s nothing that annoys me more than reading a book set 2019, with teenagers all called Jennifer/Nicole/Michelle, instead of Madison/Hannah/Olivia. And then some names – like Rick or Keller – just come from a gut instinct. I use a lot of baby name websites, and keep lists of names I like.
- What would you do in Prue’s predicament? Would you have shared the supplies?
I hope I would – but I don’t think you can predict how you’ll react in that kind of situation. Would I be willing to put my family at risk for the greater good? Impossible to say. Hopefully I’ll never find out!