Author Melissa Riddell Turner
First, I want to thank Melissa for doing this online interview, I appreciate her being a part of this community, this growing community of authors, artists and creative individuals all here for science fiction and fantasy. Her new book, The Descendant: Book one of the Baltin Trilogy.
Feel free to share a little about yourself in your own words.
I’m from a small town in West Texas and am currently working on a Bachelor of Science degree. When I have spare time, I like to play on the Xbox, paint landscapes or random scenes, and camp in Texas State Parks. When I say camp, I really mean “glamp” with a long travel trailer which I haul myself because my husband’s driving is dreadful and shocking. Let me tell you about the time he nearly ran over the basket man or when he almost hit a light pole. These were all while driving 5 mph in a parking lot.
How did you get into writing?
I started writing when I was around fourteen years old. I’ve always written poetry and lyrics throughout the years, but only recently went back to stories. Instead of writing short fiction, though, I found I have more words inside than when I was younger. My short stories became novels.
What can you tell us about your daily routines that help you focus and your creative habits? So, for example how do you come up with some of your ideas and inspiration for your book?
My real job is working for the military in a supporting role. Sometimes, during a project, I listen to rock or metal music. The songs typically inspire an idea, or a scene, at least. With The Descendant, I’d written a short story about an alien on an Air Force base who’d gotten loose from the medical group. Kodiak, Tilly’s dog in the book, was inspired by playing Fallout 4, where the player meets Dogmeat at the gas station.
Is this book very personal for you? If so, how?
There are some very personal scenes in this book. One of the trials Tilly overcomes, which happens in Abilene, TX, is loosely based on my own experience. Also, the mental turmoil Jareth shares with Tilly, when they get to know one another, is based on personal experience with other family members’ mental health struggles. Without giving too much away, I wanted to let the reader know these issues are real, and at some point in time, nearly everyone faces them through their own personal demons, or through a friend or family member.
How did you come up with the book title?
I came up with the book title based on the aliens’ descent to Earth. Plus, it takes on more meaning once the book is read.
Plot and Synopsis
Can you describe what the book plot and give a detailed synopsis of the book, of course without any spoilers.
Two years prior, an EMP was released and wiped out the world’s technology, leaving mankind without any kind of working electrical grid or electronics. About a year afterward, black spheres began descending from the skies and released a virus which wiped out most of humanity (though no one knows the exact count because there’s hardly anyone left alive and no technology to communicate with one another).
Afterward Tilly Morgan, a twenty-year-old spitfire, watched her parents and entire town succumb to the virus. Now alone, she begins walking to find her older sister who lives in Florida hoping she survived, too. Along the way, she adopts a half-German Shepherd, half-Siberian Husky dog named Kodiak, and they become best friends.
Eventually, an alien tracks her down and attacks, but she awakes to find herself now safe by a man named Jareth. He talks his way into letting himself—and the damaged alien—into the group and they continue Tilly’s journey to Florida. She’s reluctant to trust Jareth due to past experiences with other shady survivors, but she’s also lonely and desperate for human contact. While they make their way through the world, they dodge alien pods, human thugs, and their own growing attraction to one another. But is everything really as it seems?
Is there any movie, book, or television series that you can somewhat liken your story to? So for example, some books you can say are like Game of Thrones or Star Wars, what mainstream and popular movie do you think your book somewhat “feels” like? Did you want this to be the case?
Hmm, I can’t think of a single movie or book that’s close to what I’ve written, but that could be because I haven’t seen or read it yet. There are probably a lot of elements liberated from the many books I’ve read over the years, though. After all, writers really never invent anything new under the sun; we just try to tell the story in a new way, with a fresh voice.
Themes and Messages
What themes and deeper meanings or messages can we expect to find in this book if any? Is there any deep meanings or philosophical questions being explored in the book?
This book covers several themes. It mainly touches on trust, truth, and forgiveness, though. Tilly struggles with both trust and forgiveness, while Jareth flirts with truth.
Off the wall question, but would some of the issues being explored in the book relate to us here in the real world?
Definitely. The issues I spoke about earlier, such as mental health and sexual assault, are struggles that many people in the real world face every day.
What can you tell us about the setting that we will be seeing in this book?
The setting is in Texas, in a post-apocalyptic world.
What cultures or societies can we expect to see and can you tell us about how you came up with creating these societies? Was it difficult to get deep into how the societies function?
Toward the last third of the book or so, the reader will see a society which thinks highly of itself and sees its race as Gods because of the technological achievements. It wasn’t very difficult for me to get into how the society functions because I grew up watching Star Trek: TNG, Stargate, and Star Wars.
Tell us about the history of the land or world or worlds that we will be exploring through out the book?
It’s basically modern-day Earth, just without any fancy gadgets or electricity.
What can you tell us about some of the main characters and villains in this book?
Tilly Morgan is the book’s protagonist. She’s smart and scrappy, full of colorful language and a heart too big for her chest (but she’d never admit this to anyone). She’s unable to stave off the attraction to Jareth, but she’s also annoyed by his conceited and moody attitude.
Jareth is intelligent and resourceful. He loves to tease and embarrass Tilly and takes every opportunity to make it known he finds her attractive. He’ll do just about whatever he can to make her see him as a love interest.
Kodiak is a lovable dog who enjoys playing and being goofy, but he’ll bite someone’s leg off if they mess with Tilly. He’s striking with mismatched blue and brown eyes.
Sparky is the alien antagonist who’s become damaged due to Jareth’s quick thinking. At first, he’s annoying and dangerous, but as he learns human behaviors, he begins to act in unexpected ways.