Gregg Rosenblum is the debut author of Revolution 19, the first book in a trilogy that follows the story of Kevin, Nick, and Cass. The three teens are on a harrowing adventure to save their parents—and destroy the powerful robots that control all of humanity.
Gregg has been nice enough to stop by Figment and chat with us about his new novel, the books, movies, and TV shows that influenced Revolution 19, and the long shadow cast by George Orwell. Check out our Q & A below!
Revolution 19 takes place in a world in which robots have overthrown humans. Were there any books or movies that influence your writing?
Absolutely. Many. Here’s a bunch, purposely jumbled up to try to hide the embarrassing ones among the cool ones: The Terminator; Blade Runner; Snow Crash; I, Robot; Knight Rider; A Scanner Darkly; The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch; 2001: A Space Odyssey; A Clockwork Orange; Battlestar Galactica (the original cheesy series, not the good newer one); Star Trek . . . I could go on and on. Yes, that’s right, I did include Knight Rider.
What kind of books did you read when you were a teenager?
I read the classic “canonical” great writers, and I’m grateful for that . . . but the stuff I really DEVOURED were fantasy and sci-fi books. I couldn’t get enough. In my later teen years, the author who bridged the gap for me between genre fiction and literary fiction was Kurt Vonnegut. He’s still one of my favorite authors to this day.
Revolution 19 is your first published book. What was the biggest challenge you faced while writing?
Finding enough time and energy to write! Nine to five every weekday was unavailable, so it was lots of nights and weekends. I had to learn to be efficient with my time—if I had two hours I could grab for writing, I needed to try and get into the zone quickly. That still doesn’t come easily to me. It seems as if every hour of good writing requires three hours of doodling and daydreaming and staring at empty pages.
Revolution 19 is the first book in a trilogy. You mentioned on Twitter that you recently finished your first draft of the second book. What’s different with a second book in a series?
I think of Book Two of a trilogy as similar to act two of a classic screenwriting three-act arc. Book One set the stage, introduced us to the characters, established the primary conflicts, and then Book Two has to expand on everything, letting the characters and the conflicts play themselves out and develop. In some ways it’s a bit easier—I know the three main characters much better than I did when starting Book One—but it’s also a different type of challenge. The seeds that were planted in Book One have to grow in meaningful, fun, exciting ways—it’s time to start delivering on promises.
Revolution 19 was originally titled 2084. What goes into a decision to change a title?
It’s a meeting of the minds with everyone involved in the project. We nixed 2084 for a few reasons. First, there were already a few things out there titled 2084, including a small indie film, and we didn’t want any confusion. Also, the original draw of 2084—that it had echoes of 1984, became more of a hindrance than a help for me. George Orwell was casting too big a shadow, and I wanted to be free of the association.
Your novel’s protagonists are all teenagers. Why do teens make such great heroes?
To oversimplify it: Adults are static, teens are dynamic. Teens are actively engaged in the process of inventing themselves, figuring out who they are and how they fit in the world and how they can adjust the world to make it fit them. Teens still believe they can make a difference, be important, do something amazing and epic—and because of that belief, sometimes they can.
What are subtle changes you have to make when you set a story in the not-so-distant future? How do you work in familiar technology, like cell phones or the Internet?
The tech has to be different enough to be fun and exciting to read about, but still be plausible extrapolations of today’s technology. Revolution 19 was a bit tricky, because it takes place 60 years in the future, but 14 years after the robots took over, destroying much of civilization in the process, halting mankind’s technological progress and in some ways setting us way back. So that’s why the book has a funky mix of high- and low-tech—3D comms and implanted tracking chips and portable solar grids, along with carrier pigeons.