Guys, I’m so excited that you finally get to get your very own copy of Fight for Liberty, the last book in the Chasing Liberty trilogy by Theresa Linden, one of my favorite new authors. “New” as in new to me in the past year; she has a number of books out already, and I’m not even halfway through her backlist yet. I hope you enjoy the following interview with her as much as I enjoyed asking her!
What’s Fight for Liberty, this last installment, about?
Liberty has gained a deeper understanding of true freedom, but having it for herself is not enough. Prompted by the inner voice that has guided her for years, Liberty is compelled to bring the freedom she possesses to others in Aldonia. While unsure of how to carry out this mission, she is willing to risk all to accomplish it. Threats from outside the Boundary Fence and threats closer to home cause chaos and confusion that have everyone unsure of what direction to take. Troubled by Liberty’s risky choices, Dedrick wishes he could convince her to leave for the colonies. But Liberty has chosen Aldonia over him. When faith, family, and freedom have been squashed, what can one person or even a group do to reclaim the culture?
And now, without further fuss or muss, here’s my interview with the mind behind Liberty, Theresa Linden!
EMC: Where did the idea for the Liberty series originate? How hard was it to keep going through an entire trilogy? Did you ever get blocked? What helped you power through to the end?
TL: The ideas for this trilogy came from the news, from reports about scientists experimenting on human embryos, special interest groups insisting that tiny fish are more important than farming families, the government tracking us with our phones, and the moral decline our culture is experiencing. I love our country and don’t want to see her fall. It frustrated me to think so few saw what was happening or thought that it mattered. Do we realize what we have and what we stand to lose?
I started researching into special interest groups that are influential in our country and the world, and I discovered the warped ideologies that are in my story. The more I learned, the more I realized I needed to write this dystopian story about a possible future for America. I only meant to write one book and get back to my other stories. I wanted to end Chasing Liberty showing a seed of change being planted. But I couldn’t stop thinking about it. What exactly is this freedom we should be fighting for? And how can one person make a difference? The other two stories came to life very quickly and I had a few hurdles, but I never struggled with writers block on this trilogy.
EMC: I want to hear about how you wrote your fight scenes. They’re crisp and well-detailed without ever being gory or gratuitous. How easy or difficult were those scenes to write? What advice do you have for writers who balk at describing violence?
TL: Thank you! I love reading a good fight scene so I really work to make mine strong. Once I’ve decided the story needs a fight scene, I keep in mind the trigger, whether it’s emotional or physical, and how I want the fight to end. Then I do everything from watching wrestling on Youtube and my own boys goofing off in the backyard to acting out a scene myself. (Please don’t try to picture that). Then I try to consider the blow-by-blow actions but, more importantly, what thoughts would be going through the point of view character’s mind. I also try to make sure that the fight scenes are relevant, that they change the direction of the story, reveal something about the characters to the readers, or bring some new insight to characters. And if weapons are involved, whether it’s the Pennsylvania Rifle Liberty struggled to use in the 3D game in Testing Liberty or the Mossberg tactical shotgun Silver had in Fight for Liberty, I do my research so I can make it real.
I don’t believe in glamorizing violence, and I don’t believe it’s necessary to be gory or gratuitous, but some level of violence was needed to tell this story. I think it’s important for a writer who is telling a story of good versus evil to use their skills to allow the reader to feel the effects of this battle. Glossing over the violence would have dimmed the effect I hope to achieve in telling this story. I hope with my trilogy to compel the reader to fight for faith, family and freedom for themselves and for their neighbor. While the fight doesn’t need to be physical, it does need to be.
EMC: Ah, Dr. Supero, the villain we love to hate to love! I was so moved by his character arc through the series. Talk to us about what is was like to write a character who simultaneously skeeves us out and breaks our hearts.
TL: Yes, Dr. Supero… I loved and hated him all through writing the trilogy! Slipping into his mind to write his point of view was not a pleasant experience, although sometimes he had me laughing my head off. But this character was necessary to the story because he represents the type of person a hedonistic society would create. He’s selfish, twisted, and arrogant. He thinks anyone who disagrees with him needs to change. Even when personally faced with the devastating consequences of an all-controlling government, he clings to the poisonous ideologies that had been fed to him since his youth. On the one hand you want to say, “Ha! You got what you deserved!” but on the other hand, you feel sorry for him. He was raised in a godless society without the faith that can sustain a person in tough times, without a family that gives you a feeling of belonging and teaches you true love, and without the freedom to really consider truth.
EMC: This was a delightfully complex plot! What’s your method for keeping all those strings together?
TL: While most of my actual writing is done on a laptop, I need something concrete when I plan a story. So I use index cards that I can move around and continuous form paper (the kind used in old dot-matrix printers) for making a timeline. Then, when there is so much going on in the story and I need to make sure I don’t mix things up, I use game pieces from Sorry and Parcheesi and place them all around the table! With this trilogy, as I was thinking each thread through, one thread would interfere with others, so I had to keep adjusting them. I have to say, a few characters really took over and changed the direction of things several times.
EMC: Dedrick, Finley, Camilla, Rayna… Tell us how you found the names for some of your characters and what they signify.
TL: I find all the names doing online searches. I gave the colonists versions of Christian saint names and I gave the Aldonians gender neutral names. Each baby in the government-run cities receives a computer generated name. Gender is not emphasized in this future, so the names are meant to reflect that.
The Mosheh, who rescue people from the Egypt of the day, is named after Moses. The city and community names also have meaning. The deep ecology movement (the one that believes humans are a plague on the earth) is largely responsible for bringing about the world government, drastically reducing population numbers, and setting up the fenced-in cities, so I named Aldonia and Jensenville after key figures in the deep green movement.
EMC: Who are some authors whose works you think may have influenced the way you told Liberty’s story? Why does their work speak to you as a writer, do you think?
TL: While I hadn’t read many dystopian stories before writing Chasing Liberty, I’ve always liked reading books that make me think. I had to read George Orwell’s 1984 when I was in high school. I later read Logan’s Run by William Nolan and watched the movie Soilent Green. Every one of these dystopian stories made me consider what I had, what we as Americans have, and what we stand to lose. I wanted to tell a story that makes readers think, a story that jumps into a possible future for us if we don’t take a stand for the things that matter.
EMC: I keep thinking of Liberty as half “our” Hunger Games, half “our” Handmaid’s Tale. How accurate do you think that is?
TL: I’ve been told that before!
Chasing Liberty and The Hunger Games: You have the strong female lead, growing relationships between characters, and tons of action. In The Hunger Games the Capitol uses televised reality games to serve as a reminder of their power and to keep the people entertained and distracted from a harsh reality. In the Liberty Trilogy, the government uses 3D games for similar reasons: reinforcing their ideologies and keeping people pacified so they don’t strive for more.
Chasing Liberty and The Handmaid’s Tale: You have a strong totalitarian government that uses a form of religion to control the people, sterility issues, and a main character who is supposed to help maintain population growth, though they would never get to raise their own child.
All three stories concern societies with controlling governments that have squashed individual rights. The government in the Liberty Trilogy more closely resembles the totalitarian government in The Handmaid’s Tale. Atwood believed that in order for the United States to succumb to a dictatorship, the government would need to stand on some form of religion. The government in Handmaid uses bad interpretations of the Old and New Testament to justify reducing women to a lesser class and punishing rebellious behavior. The religion the government uses in Chasing Liberty is an earth-centered one. They justify an all-controlling government and population control because of their belief that humans, when left to themselves and without tight government control, will destroy nature and each other.
EMC: If someone from a more, ahem, “Regimen”-minded worldview were to read the Liberty series, how do you think the books would make him/her think and feel? What do you hope this type of reader would take away from the series?
TL: I would hope that anyone of any frame of mind would enjoy them, but some will probably wonder where I got the strange pro-earth, anti-human ideologies. They couldn’t possibly be real. They are real. I hope that anyone troubled by what they read, will do their own research.
I believe most people with strong political beliefs are sincere. They want to be responsible for themselves and others. They want the government to be responsible. Some want the government to step in and “do all things for all people” and for the earth. I want to inspire my reader to trust the individual’s willingness and ability to care for the things that matter most, and to see that a strong society is not brought about by a big government but by strong families. Faith, family, and freedom are the cornerstones of a strong society, the cornerstones of the United States of America.
EMC: Is this really the end of the series? Will Shaneka ever pop back up and do something about that mark on Dedrick’s arm?!
TL: I believe this is the end of the series, but these characters are still with me so I can’t say for sure. I will most likely write a few short stories as companions to the trilogy. I have one in mind about the family who owned the bunker mentioned in Chasing Liberty. I also have two completed short stories that sprung from the Liberty Trilogy. One takes place before the trilogy begins, and is free to all newsletter subscribers, the other picks up where the trilogy leaves off. This story will be part of an anthology called Image and Likeness: Literary Reflections on the Theology of the Body from Full Quiver Publishing. Look for the anthology to come out this October. And somewhere in the back of my mind there are the Sons of Liberty…
Thanks, Erin, for the great questions! I am so happy you liked my trilogy!
Thank YOU, Theresa, for the great interview!
Raised in a military family, Theresa Linden developed a strong patriotism and a sense of adventure. She began writing in grade school and her passion for writing has never waned. Love for faith, family, and freedom inspired her to write the Chasing Liberty trilogy, a dystopian story about a future she hopes never becomes a reality. She is also the author of award-winning Roland West, Loner, first in a series of Catholic teen fiction. A member of the Catholic Writers Guild and the International Writers Association, she balances her time between family, homeschooling, and writing. She lives in northeast Ohio with her husband, their three adopted boys, and a sweet old dog named Rudy.