Author Interview and Giveaway: Ilsa J. Bick Author of Ashes

Hi everyone, I'm very excited to bring you this interview from Author Ilsa J. Bick. Ilsa is the Author of Ashes, a post-apocalyptic YA novel. Ashes is the 1st book in the Ashes Trilogy. The Ashes Trilogy will consist of Ashes, Shadows and Monsters. Ilsa has also written other novels, novella and short stories. I'm currently reading Ashes right now and I can describe this book in one word already- Epic. So help me welcome Ilsa to the blog today as she took some time and answered some of my questions. 

Ilsa J. Bick Links: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Goodreads

OUaT: Hi Ilsa, Thank you for taking the time out of your scheduled to answer these questions today. The first question has to be Why Dystopian? Is it because of your history with the military?

Right backatcha, Yara—and thank you for asking me in for a visit!

Actually, Ashes isn’t a dystopian, not really. It’s more of an apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic novel: what happens when and after the world comes to an end. Now, what follows doesn’t have to be a dystopia, although the reality is that, in an emergency, people are paranoid, under tremendous stress, anxious and much more rigid. That this might translate into a dystopia, then, isn’t a surprise.

So why blow up the world? Well, why not? Anyway, everyone loves a good disaster. We take a certain comfort in closing the book, turning off the TV, walking out of that movie. We’re relieved it’s all make-believe.

Also, I grew up on science fiction. The end of the world happened all the time. A classic, one that still makes me cry, is Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End. Read that carefully, and you discover that fantasies of mankind’s end—all that Revelations stuff—has its origin in humanity’s infancy.

The thing I felt, though, after reading a couple YA dystopians—all very good, mind you—was that people were still just a little too well-behaved. And, honestly, I wanted to blow up the world in a way that I thought was just a little different—scarily possible.

As for the military having a hand in that? No, not really. The military isn’t exotic to me. It informs who I am, though. My dad was in the Air Force; I eventually served at the same base he did; I was in the Air Force during Desert Shield and Desert Storm; I’ve treated soldiers and been around military folks in some capacity all my life. I am proud of that service, and I have nothing but admiration and a tremendous amount of respect and compassion for soldiers and their sacrifice.

OUaT: Sometimes when I watch films and read books that deal with an apocalyptic matter, I always wonder if this scenario could be come true or does the government already know something we don't know. What's your opinion?

Oh, boy. Well, you know what they say: the truth is out there.

Seriously? I think there are things we don’t know as well as scenarios that come true. My dad used to work at Fort Detrick, home to the Army Medical Research and Materiel Command. What did he say he did there? Cancer research. What goes on at Fort Detrick? Really? Well, read your history, and you’ll find that Detrick was the hub for U.S. bio weapons research. So, was my dad involved with that? He says not. Do a Google search, though, and his name pops up on conspiracy websites, which is faintly hysterical.

The thing is . . . most of those sites are run by, well, unreliable types, know what I’m saying? Do I still think there’s a nugget of truth?

Beats me. But, sure, I think there’s more.

I’m not so sure you really want to know, though.

OUaT: How long did it take you from start to end to complete Ashes? Did you change any parts or add any parts after the 1st draft was written?

Oh, good question. The first time I wrote this book, under a different title, it took me about three months after I was done with the outline. I shopped it around, got no nibbles, put it away for another day and moved on.

The second time I pulled this baby out was, maybe, three, four months later. I’d written another book in the interim, and when I gave this earlier draft a fresh look, I saw, immediately, what was wrong. So I just chucked it. Threw out the whole book, except for two points: the wave of EMPs and the woods. The rest, I wrote new from scratch, and that took about two, two and a half months.

As for changes after it sold . . . sure, everything changes somewhat, but not substantially. One scene, I ratcheted up until it really crackled. The rest, though, is pretty much what was there when it went out.

OUaT: Which characters in Ashes did you write easily and which became a nightmare to write?

They were all hard because they’re all so complex. I think the one I agonized over most, though, was Ellie because she is young. I used to study and write about film in another life, and I really wanted to avoid the stereotype of the feisty-yet-adorable-little-kid. Being a child psychiatrist, I’ve seen many children Ellie’s age, and I really had to work to capture just how difficult—yet ultimately sympathetic—a terrified eight-year-old can be. Of course, much of what they do is me-me-me; that’s all they know; and losing a parent is a catastrophe, it really is. People misinterpret young kids all the time, too. For example, when they get truculent and difficult and worried about, say, when you’re going to feed them . . . what they’re really saying is do you care about me enough not to let me die?

OUaT: When you chose the title for Ashes, what meaning or message does the title have for the book or the readers?

As many messages as you want to find, I think. Of course, the title refers to what Alex carries with her—the ashes of her parents and her past—as much as it references what’s left when the world goes boom, what rises from the rubble, and for what, if anything, one must repent. That line from Sandburg is spot-on, too, though, and if you read the rest of the line, the poems about survival and living in the here and now. I’d say that Alex’s journey is about as immediate and present as you can get.

OUaT: Time for some fun questions. I met you briefly at BEA this year. What was your best experience at BEA?

Meeting people like you. I’m serious, girl. You know, writers spend most of their time, alone, sweating over a hot keyboard. Writers never really know if their work has any impact—so imagine what it was like to walk into that signing room and see this HUMONGOUS line of people all excited about MY book! Knock me over with a feather, swear to God.

OUaT: When you’re not writing, what do you like to do for fun?

When I’m not writing? When is that, exactly? And me, have fun?

Well, honestly, I lead such a boring existence: no wild parties; no hunky guys; no glitz or glam. Remember, I live in this little Wisconsin town out in the country.

But that is also my choice, and I love it out here. So when I shut down that computer, I like to hike, garden, bike, exercise, walk, swim, get out in the sun, walk along the lake shore and scuff sand . . . you know, I need to move. I’ve been known to hug a cat, or two, though not at the same time. Reading is as much a part of my life as writing, and many times I allow myself to enjoy it, too. Museums—I love art and learning new things. I’m one of those people who read every word of every display.

Oh, and cooking. I LOVE to cook. When I set out to make dinner, that’s my wind-down time right there. Now, it’s also true that I listen to audio books at the same time, but I love when people tell me a good story.

Chocolate. Does chocolate count as fun? Tell me that it does.

And a martini: Belvedere, straight up, very dry, three olives. But only on Fridays.

OUaT: Do you have a play list for Ashes?

Nope. I work in total, complete silence. Well, except for the occasional meow from a cat. Music demands your attention—well, it demands mine. Too distracting.

Having said that, though, there is this wonderful Leonard Cohen song that, for me, perfectly sums up Ashes. Go give “Everybody Knows” a listen and then try and tell me that’s not a shiver running up your spine.

OUaT: What can we expect in the future books in the series?

That things will get much, much worse.

OUaT: Tell my readers why they should go out today and pick up a copy of Ashes?

Because it’s a good story? Because it could come true? Because the science and medicine are all real and, in a disaster, people can be counted on to behave very, very badly? Just watch the evening news if you don’t believe me. You think Fukushima was bad? Hah. Imagine that happening all over the world—and there’s not a damn thing you can do about it because there’s no power, no communications, no food distribution, no water because there are no pumps or delivery systems, no nothing. Tell me the world wouldn’t go from bad to worse, and in a hurry. Go on, I dare ya.

In an emergency, people rarely do what they think they always would. What they’re willing to do to stay alive—the compromises they make and the rules they’ll break . . . everything that happens in Ashes has happened before. We just call it ancient history. But people are brutal and the threats are real. When the world ends, altruism and compassion will be in short supply. Trust me on this.

Now, go. Read. Now.

Ashes Trilogy #1
Author: Ilsa J. Bick
Pages: 480 Hardcover
Published: September 6th 2011
Publisher: EgmontUSA
Reading Level: YA
Available: Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Borders
Summary: (from goodreads) It could happen tomorrow...

A cataclysmic event. An army of "The Changed."
Can one teen really survive on her own?

An electromagnetic pulse sweeps through the sky, destroying every electronic device and killing billions. For those spared, it's a question of who can be trusted and who is no longer human...

Desperate to find out what happened and to avoid the Changed, Alex meets up with Tom---a young army veteran---and Ellie, a young girl whose grandfather was killed by the electromagnetic pulse.

This improvised family will have to use every ounce of courage they have just to survive.

So there you have it folks, how great was that interview. A big thank you to Ilsa for taking time out to do the interview. Now the fun part is that I have a copy of Ashes to giveaway one lucky reader. Ashes is so great though that you might not want to wait for this giveaway and just go out and buy it now.

To Enter: 
  • Fill out the FORM
  • Giveaway ends September 18th at midnight
  • For US residents only
  • No Po Boxes


  1. Great interview. I just read this book and loved it and am happy to know more about it. Thanks!

  2. It's a great interview :) I've been seeing this book around on many blogs and am really excited for it :) Too bad all the giveaways are US only! ;)


  3. Awesome!! I can't wait to read this one!

  4. Eeek! Wanted to review this one for my own blog, thank you very much for the chance!

  5. Great interview! I read this book (I got a copy from Netgalley) and I LOVED it!! Good luck to everybody trying to win a copy - it is definitely a good one:D

  6. Now this is a book right to my tastes. Goodluck everyone and to me as well. Thanks for the interview and I will believe the other commenters when they say they loved it.

  7. Wonderful interview. I have been hearing good things about Ashes and would love to read it. Thank you for sharing and for the awesome giveaway opportunity.

  8. Chocolate definitely counts as fun! In fact, I think I will have a little bit of fun right now :D

  9. Wow, what a great interview. Ilsa J Bick will be in town next week and I am so excited to meet her. Not just because I get my book signed but because of who she is and what she does. I love visiting with people who make a difference in the world and actually have opinions on important things.

    Yes, the most haunting thing about ASHES is that it. all. could. happen. (insert twilight theme like scary music here LOL)

    Have a great weekend.
    kjovus at gmail dot com


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