On Thursday evening, join Main Street Books in welcoming Brock Adams to a reading and signing of his new book, Ember. Snacks will be provided be Carrburritos.
When Ember begins, the sun has nearly reached the end of its lifespan. In a desperate attempt to reignite the failing star, the United States had joined the rest of the planet in unloading its nuclear arsenal at the flickering ember. The missiles burst from silos in Wyoming and Bangladesh, cocooning the earth in tendrils of smoke as they began their two-and-a-half year journey into space. When they finally reach their target, it’s thirty degrees in July and getting colder. Lisa and her husband, Guy, sit shivering on a Southern hilltop, watching as humanity’s last hope at survival shimmers faintly...and then disappears below the horizon.
A group of militant rebels called the Minutemen take advantage of the ensuing chaos to knock out power grids, cloaking the freezing earth in near darkness and seizing control. To escape this ruthless new world order, Lisa and Guy join a reluctant band of refugees crossing the snow-covered South in search of shelter and answers. From an icy parking lot in Atlanta to the Minutemen’s makeshift headquarters at Asheville’s Biltmore Estate, only one thing is certain: in a world with little light, nothing is guaranteed―least of all survival.
In addition to winning the 2016 South Carolina First Novel Prize, Adams has published stories in Sewanee Review, Best American Mystery Stories, Barrelhouse, and in a collection entitled Gulf. He has an MFA in creative writing from the University of Central Florida and teaches English and creative writing at the University of South Carolina Upstate.
"This terrifying spin on the possibilities of extreme rhetoric will chill readers with its bleak image of the failure of humanity and the futility of fighting massive climate change."
-- Publisher's Weekly
"Against a haunting, apocalyptic Southern landscape, and with a panoply of rich characterizations, this beautiful novel is a cautionary tale about the power-hungry who rise from the ashes of a lost and dying world . . . Ember begins with a small, glowing flame of intrigue and originality, then grows into a fireball of dazzling plot and prose, bursting into a literary tour de force.”
-- SC First Novel Prize Judge Bridgett M. Davis
Between the Lines: An Interview with Brock Adams
MAIN STREET BOOKS: Ember is the first novel you published. Is it also the first novel you wrote?
BROCK ADAMS: It’s actually my second novel. I wrote my first novel (the first draft of it, anyway) about eight years ago. Called Rot, it was a story about a man who dies but remains stuck inside his body, a sort of zombie with a brain. I liked it quite a lot, but my agent and I were never able to find a publisher for it. I’ve still got it in the drawer, though, so a revised version could still someday see the light of day.
MAIN STREET BOOKS: Before Ember, you published a collection of short stories entitled Gulf. How did penning a novel differ from drafting a short story collection?
BROCK ADAMS: Gulf seemed like a lot less work because it was composed of stories that I’d written over the course of graduate school - a time when I was expected to do very little other than write. The collection was my master’s thesis, so only a few minor tweaks were required to make it into a publishable book. Those tweaks occurred at the story level, meaning that I was revising at most fifteen pages or so at a time, which is very manageable.
A novel, on the other hand, has to be viewed as a whole, so a small change on page one could result in innumerable changes over the next three hundred pages. The entire work constantly evolves, so it takes many more revisions over a much longer period of time to get it into a final form. It’s also a daunting investment; while a short story can be drafted in an afternoon, once you begin a novel, you know you’re going to be with it for months or even years. That’s especially difficult for anyone who isn’t a full-time writer. When you add in work, childcare, chores, and all the other day-to-day responsibilities, it’s tough to find the hours to write and revise an entire novel.
MAIN STREET BOOKS: Tell us about submitting Ember to the South Carolina First Novel Prize Competition. How much time passed between submitting your manuscript and learning of the judge’s decision?
BROCK ADAMS: I had submitted Ember to Hub City Press as a general submission in 2015, and though they weren’t quite ready to buy it, they suggested I submit to the contest. I’d say at least six months went by after I entered before I was notified that I was a finalist for the prize. During that time, Ember was rejected by quite a few other publishers, and I was beginning to worry that it would never get published. I was excited about being a finalist, but I was realistic; the other four finalists are all great writers with excellent novels. I only had to wait in suspense for a couple of days, though, before I received word that I’d won. That was a moment of great happiness and relief: Ember had finally found a home.
MAIN STREET BOOKS: Many reviewers have compared Ember to Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven. Although they are both gripping, post-apocalyptic works, Station Eleven offers an optimistic exploration of why people fight to survive, whereas Ember adopts a darker inquiry into how people survive. What about this perspective piqued your interest?
BROCK ADAMS: Most of us are lucky enough to go through life without facing the kinds of life-or-death situations that the characters of Ember face again and again. Because of that, we can only speculate what we would do if we were faced with a challenge that seems insurmountable or a choice that seems impossible. Would I kill people to save myself? Would I abandon everything I own if it improved my odds of survival? I don’t know, and hopefully, I’ll never have to find out.
The characters in Ember are put to tests that really show what they’re made of. It brings out the best in some of them, and in others, it brings out the worst. There is a lot of optimism in Ember, but it remains a dark story because when life is on the line, even the best of us may be forced to do horrible things.
MAIN STREET BOOKS: Who would you, Brock Adams, be if the sun set and the Minutemen rose? How do you think you’d change?
BROCK ADAMS: I like to think that I’d be like Lisa. I find it more natural to lead than to follow, and I handle myself fairly well in stressful situations. I also hope that I have the moral compass to remain true to myself and those I care about even in the most dire of situations.
Realistically, though, I may be more like Guy: way too optimistic, WAY too confident.
MAIN STREET BOOKS: How do you fill your free time?
BROCK ADAMS: I like working out - both running and lifting weights at the gym. This is a time that I don’t have to worry about chores, or work, or taking care of my daughter. It’s time that’s just for me. With running in particular, I can really let my mind wander.
MAIN STREET BOOKS: Please outline your zombie apocalypse plan.
BROCK ADAMS: Fight my way to a large sailboat and follow the Gulf Stream up to Iceland. I’m hoping that since they’re an island, they’ll be able to stay zombie-free; besides, it’s my favorite country among those I’ve visited. If I get up there and it’s full of White Walkers, I guess it’s a sailor’s life for me. My wife’s going to hate it.