1. Where did you come up with the titles?
The titles of all three novels come from The Lord of the Rings, which is the last movie my heroine, Carly, watches with her father before he dies of the pandemic virus sweeping around the world. In Tolkien’s saga, his characters are going on a long journey with a heavy burden —so are mine. In both stories, the characters are irrevocably changed by their experiences.
The title of the first novel, and of the series itself, comes from a line that Frodo says to Sam: "I'm glad you could be here with me, Sam. Here, at the end of all things." The second one comes from a line in The Fellowship of the Ring, about Sam and Frodo crossing the border into Mordor, into "the land of the Shadow," and the final title comes from something Sam says to Frodo in the Two Towers (in this case, the movie, but not the book). Sam says that sometimes you don’t want to know what happens to characters after the end of the story— how could everything turn out well, after they had endured so much? But Sam has faith the sun will be brighter in the end, after the shadows have gone.
2. Who designed the covers?
My publisher has the authors collaborate with artists to design their own covers, which is awesome, a freedom and control many publishers don’t offer. After I finished the editing process for The End of All Things, I was assigned an artist, but I still didn’t have a clue what I wanted. It was a difficult process for me because I’m more attuned to words than I am to images, and so trying to pick one that encapsulated the story was very difficult. I tried searching stock photo sites for post-apocalyptic images, and came away very discouraged. (Apparently, in a post-apocalyptic world, gun-toting girls will wear gasmasks with bikinis and miniskirts.) I couldn’t find anything I liked, but my publisher’s emails were getting more insistent on the subject. My book needed a cover before it could be finalized for production.
One evening, I was browsing through a friend’s vacation photos when I found it, the exact image I wanted for my cover, what I had been looking for all along, but had been unable to visually articulate. It was a picture her daughter had snapped while they were driving through a long tunnel. As soon as I saw it, I got excited. My artist, Jada D’Lee (who has gone on to design quite a few awesome covers for other authors) was able to take the photo and re-work it into a gritty piece of modern art that perfectly conceptualized the mood I was going for. That’s why I decided to use it as the cover for the whole series in the compendium edition.
Jada also did the cover for the second volume, Land of the Shadow. What I liked about this was that the image shows the growth Carly has experienced so far. In the image, she’s taking the lead. The third cover was done by Jennifer McGuire, and shows Carly and Justin as partners, headed toward that sunlit place where the shadows have melted away.
3. Did you travel much for research?
I did do some traveling for these books, but mostly so I could explore abandoned locations to see how places would look after just a few years of neglect. I was surprised at how quickly things fell apart without regular maintenance and nature took over. I traveled to small, dying ghost towns, and then to Detroit so I could see how quickly boarded up and abandoned properties decay.
The locations I didn’t physically travel to, I scouted with Google Street View. I “walked” every step of Carly and Justin’s journey with them because I wanted to describe their surroundings accurately. I’m sort of pedantic that way— I want to know if my characters would really be walking uphill or downhill in a certain spot. Some locations I fictionalized, but in others, I’d actually search for vacation photos online so I could describe the color of the carpet in a location correctly.