Self-published Saturday is my attempt to help Self-Published/Indie authors. These authors have to do it all, from cover design to editing to marketing and more. Saturdays are reserved for giving them a little bit of help with the marketing side. This week’s first offering is the third book in Adria Carmichael’s Juche series, The Storm of Storms. This is the story of a young girl and her family who are imprisoned in a concentration camp in the country of Choson, which most will recognize as North Korea. See my review and an insightful Q&A with the author, Adria Carmichael.
After learning Nari’s shocking secret, Areum’s plans change drastically. Her new plan is riskier and more dangerous than ever, but first they must survive a devastating storm that almost eliminates the food supply. Areum struggles to learn who she can trust as she tries to keep herself and Nari alive. Along the way, she begins to learn some things about herself and her family.
This third installment of the Juche series is packed with action, intrigue, and deception. Areum’s growth continues as she very slowly begins to see the truth, guided by Nari. Nari, though she is physically weaker than Areum, can be wiser and more perceptive, and each twin uses their own particular strengths to keep them both alive.
In this heartbreaking but compelling series, we watch the depths of evil to which mankind can sink. At the same time, we see the strength of those who continue to fight against great odds. The characters are well written, and the intrigue between the prisoners and guards is interesting to watch. The devastating storm and its aftereffects are powerfully portrayed. As this heartrending journey continues, you won’t want to miss a moment.
Cover grade is a new feature from me. As part of stressing how important the cover is to getting your book noticed on Amazon, I am putting my opinion of the cover in the form of 1 to 5 stars. This is meant as helpful and not critical. It does not reflect on the overall book review. With the millions of choices readers have while scrolling through books online, your cover needs to stand out.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Adria Carmichael is a writer of dystopian fiction with a twist. When she is not devouring dystopian and post-apocalyptic content in any format – books, movies, TV-series and PlayStation games – she is crafting the epic and highly-addictive Juche saga, her 2020 debut novel series that takes place in the brutal, totalitarian nation of Choson. When the limit of doom and gloom is reached, a 10K run on a sunny day or binging a silly sitcom on a rainy day is her go-to way to unwind.
Q&A INTERVIEW WITH ADRIA CARMICHAEL
Tell us a little more about yourself. Where are you from and where do you live now? What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Well, I’m a project manager by day and a writer by night, and in between I have a family with two wonderful children. I also indulge in my passion for long-distance running as often as I can. I live in Europe, but I can’t be more specific than that due to the sensitive topic I’m writing on (North Korea has people who harass those who depict their country in a bad way). I am a summer person and spend most of the summer vacation in the garden or on day trips. Winter I would prefer to just hibernate through (with a short break for Christmas and New Year). But at least I can get a lot of writing done during those long, dark winter months.
I also write what I love, so I consume anything dystopian or post-apocalyptic, whether it is books, movies, TV series, or Playstation games. My favorite in that genre is the TV show “Jericho” because it lets you follow the disintegration of society day by day and not only shows it long after it has happened. I’m thinking of writing something along those lines after Juche.
What inspired you to write the Juche series?
It was about ten years ago now I think. Time flies. I had just read both the Hunger Games trilogy and Escape from Camp 14, which is about the only known person who has escaped that North Korean prison camp. While reading, I noticed there were quite a few similarities, such as one capital where people live in luxury and the rest of the country only works to maintain the capital’s wealth and power. The people there are used as slave labor. The camps/districts are surrounded by high-voltage fences and people are abused by vicious guards. District 12 is mainly used to extract coal, so is camp 14 etc.
So, I came to the conclusion that North Korea is a lot like Panem, if you take away all the sci-fi stuff, and would be a great setting for a story. I could only find one fictional novel that used this concept before me (the Orphan Master’s Son). That was the moment of inception. Then, a few years later, while I was researching, I watched a documentary which included two sisters from North Korea. The older sister had fled and was living a free life in China, but the other one was left in North Korea. With the support of the film crew, they managed to smuggle the younger sister across the border and set up a heartfelt reunion in her apartment in China. However, to my surprise, it didn’t work out like that. The younger sister was still completely indoctrinated and didn’t believe any of the bad things her older sister told her about their country and leaders. In the end, she just hopped on a bus and went back to the border. That encounter really fascinated me, and right then and there I decided I wanted to make the protagonist just as indoctrinated as that girl, and the story would be seen through her eyes as her beliefs are increasingly challenged by the reality around her.
How many books are planned for the series? That is a good question. The thing is that I didn’t write Juche as a series. My original idea was that the story would fit in one novel. When it grew out of that, I thought – trilogy. Then five books. Now, my best guess would be 9-10 books in total, and I split them up where it fits the story and so as not to make them too long. There are however some divisions to be made, so if you think in terms of a TV series, book 1-4 would be the first season.
Areum appears selfish and angry much of the time through the first three books, and her growth seems slow. Her treatment of her parents is horrible. Can you explain Areum’s bad attitude to us and is there any hope for growth?
As I mentioned in the second question, my aim was to create a protagonist who is a victim of indoctrination and to see the world as the story develops through her indoctrinated eyes. She is herself not aware that she’s indoctrinated and thinks it’s the others who “don’t get it”. On top of that, she is a strong-minded fourteen-year-old girl with family issues and everything else that comes with that. So, yes, her behavior in the beginning of the story is appalling, which at first makes the reader dislike her, but as the story progresses, it becomes increasingly clear that she is the greatest victim – the totalitarian regime didn’t only take her freedom, they took her mind as well. In essence, what I try to explore in Juche is how much reality her indoctrination can withstand before breaking… if it breaks at all. You will have to read the books to find out if her mind will be freed or not, but as to the question “is there any hope for growth”, the answer is definitely yes 🙂
Obviously the subject matter of your series is very heavy. How do you provide a glimmer of lightness or hope now and then?
I would say that since Areum starts out hating her family (parents and twin sister) more than anything, the lightness and hope comes from the changes in those relationships over time, even if the situation they’re in becomes increasingly impossible. Also, Areum is an extremely strong character that refuses to give up. She doesn’t take anything lying down, but fights and wins more often than not, and I hope the reader is along for the ride and roots for her. Also, if you have a morbid sense humor like me, there are a few treats here and there as well.
Do you have plans for writing any other series?I have several ideas (one of which I mentioned before), and considering the writing style I have developed, all of them are likely to become series. But I’m not sure if I will start sketching on any of them before I have finished Juche. I’ll see how I feel after the fourth book.
What does your writing day look like?
I really wish I had writing days, but in reality, I have a 9-5 job and a full time family, so I write nights and weekends whenever I have some time and energy to spare. I do like writing, however, so it would be nice to be able to do it full time some day.
What self-publishing lessons or tips have you learned thus far that you can share with new writers?
I have learned a lot these past 2-3 years, but I’m sure I have only started to scratch the surface. One thing I would advise, though, is to focus on the story. Your writing will develop over time, but the story needs to be compelling from the start. The book that helped me understand this was “Story Genius” by Lisa Cron, so would highly recommend that one to start with. Secondly, the end product is not only the text you produce. It’s also the editing and the cover design. It’s important to get those right, and that’s easier with direct communication, so I would recommend using freelancers. If you go with a larger service provider, all communication will go via a coordinator, and then you can’t shoot off random questions, the lead time is longer, and the number of misunderstandings grows ex
Adria, thank you so much for answering my questions and providing us even more insight into your characters, your writing, and this series.
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