When Withered + Sere came out, I was blown away by TJ Klune’s foray into the world of gritty post-apocalyptic sci-fi. Now the sequel, Crisped + Sere, is about to be released, and I have TJ and author Blake Dorner on the blog today to talk about how working on this book differed from W+S, what kind of apocalyptic fiction they love, and what’s next for Cavalo and Lucas!
I’m also thrilled to be debuting one of Blake’s gorgeous illustrations from the novel (my personal favorite!), so you definitely want to check that out.
Hi Tj and Blake! Thank you so much for agreeing to another interview, this time for Crisped + Sere!
There are so many themes in this book… friendship and family and love and hope, but also good vs evil, and more. Tj, from a writer’s perspective did you have one theme that stood out to you as the most important when you were working on this novel?
Tj: I think it can be said that most of my books are heavy on the theme of making a family out of people that aren’t necessarily related by blood. It’s what I’ve had to do in my life, and I find comfort in the thought.
That being said, for me, Crisped + Sere is about hope in the darkness, and redemption. Cavalo has a lot to forgive himself for, but I think that SIRS, Bad Dog, and Lucas all play a role in bringing him out of his self-imposed exile.
Okay, now a lighter question (sorry!)… what’s your favorite dystopian book or movie and why?
Tj: The Road by Cormac McCarthy is hands down the best post-apocalyptic book I have ever read. It is terribly bleak, but the prose is beyond anything else out there. The film adaptation also hits the right notes. In addition, for pure popcorn entertainment, The Stand by Stephen King.
Blake: Crisped + Sere is by far my favorite. There’s something incredible about being able to illustrate a book and living for so many hours in just a couple moments. As far as movies I gotta say Elysium.
Tj, can you talk at all about the significance of using Edgar Allen Poe’s “Ulalume” as the inspiration for the titles, and any parallels between the poem and the books?
I’m not going to lie: I have a literary boner for Edgar Allen Poe. A lot of people think he’s overrated, but ever since I read The Tell-Tale Heart when I was twelve years old, I have always found his voice extraordinarily unique and darkly beautiful. To me, Ulalume, (which is where the phrases Withered + Sere and Crisped + Sere come from), is one of his greatest works. It aches in its loneliness about a man who doesn’t realize it’s already October, or where he’s lead himself while lost when conversing with his own soul. Cavalo is based upon this man, and SIRS and Bad Dog represent portions of his soul. The poem ends with him having unconsciously walked to the grave of his lady love on the anniversary of the night he’d buried her the year before. This is Cavalo and the tree he finds in the forest that he thinks looks like his deceased wife dancing.
How did the discussion go when choosing images to represent? I’m especially curious about how Lucas’ tattoo was described and how Blake translated that to art.
TJ: I let Blake have at it. He read the book, and then picked scenes that spoke to him. After he sent me a list, I went through and picked which ones I thought would best represent the book.
With regards to the tattoo, Blake knew what it would eventually turn out to be, so we worked together to get an accurate representation of what’s tattooed on Lucas’s skin, without getting TOO specific, as they would have taken far, far longer.
Blake: While reading the book I had a cold sweat at the idea of drawing those tattoos but it was pretty fun to draw. Illustrating these books has been amazing. TJ gave me a lot of freedom to do what I wanted and still get everything he wanted from the images. The whole process was very easy going.
Blake, this book is a lot darker and more violent than Withered + Sere, but your artwork (at least for the first few pieces) doesn’t reflect that. Was that purposeful?
Blake: When I was going through the book the violence was what I initially focused on. But I had my best friend tell me that I should try to draw something a little happier, break up the sadness a bit, and in the end it worked out for the best. This book has a lot of blood in it, but when it came down to it the moments between the violence, even during in some cases, where Cavalo had a glimmer of hope for something better were some of the most beautiful parts of this book. And I’m glad those parts made it into the final six illustrations. If I had my way the whole book would be illustrated, every moment, but in the end I think I drew the scenes that mattered most to Cavalo.
From the ‘Afterword’, it looks like we’re now only halfway through Lucas and Cavalo’s journey. Can you both talk about any plans for the next two books, and if you’ve discussed any of the art and scenes with each other?
Tj: Withered + Sere and Crisped + Sere are divided into Autumn and Winter. There is still Spring and Summer to write, and although Crisped + Sere is the definitive ending to this arc, with most questions answered, there are still some plot threads dangling that I want to eventually write, which will be evident by the end of the book. I haven’t yet discussed anything with Blake, but I already have a specific scene mapped out in my had that I am going to insist be illustrated involving Lucas and Cavalo.
Blake: I’m glad Cavalo and Lucas story isn’t over with yet. Getting to illustrate them and work with TJ again is an awesome thing to look forward too. And now I’m very curious as to what scene Tjs talking about. I can’t wait to find out what happens to everyone in the coming books, all I can say is my body is ready and I’m already stockpiling the tissues.
And last but not least, what are you really excited about right now? A book you’ve read, a show you’ve watched, something you’re working on… what are you geeking out about these days?
Tj: I’m excited about the Walking Dead coming back in October, so I can finally find out who the #$%& Negan killed and then bitch about it because it didn’t measure up to my expectations. Also, I’m thrilled to FINALLY be working on the last Bear, Otter and the Kid book. It’s been a long time in coming, and at this point, I think I am half way done. Today, I wrote a particularly angsty scene that had Bear going to…you know what? I’ll keep that to myself for right now. =D
Blake: My best friend and I have been working on a comic book for the last year or so and I’m hoping to get it out into the scary void that is the Internet as soon as possible. It’s going to be the most beautiful thing ever conceived ever. At least to me 🙂 and I’m just making my way through all of Netflix and everything is blurring together. I’m pretty sure Ross and Rachel just got out of a prison or something with zombies. The Walking Friends I think it’s called.
Thank you both so much for taking the time to answer my questions!
Crisped + Sere is out with DSP
Publications on August 23.
Crisped + Sere, by Tj Klune
Art by Blake Dorner
Series: Immemorial Year, Book 2
In a world ravaged by fire and descending into madness, Cavalo has been given an ultimatum by the dark man known as Patrick: return Lucas to him and the cannibalistic Dead Rabbits, or the town of Cottonwood and its inhabitants will be destroyed.
But Lucas has a secret embedded into his skin that promises to forever alter the shape of things to come—a secret that Cavalo must decide if it’s worth dying over, even as he wrestles with his own growing attraction to the muted psychopath.
Cavalo has twenty-one days to prepare for war. Twenty-one days to hold what is left of his shredded sanity together. Twenty-one days to convince the people of Cottonwood to rise up and fight back. Twenty-one days to unravel the meaning behind the marks that cover Lucas.
A meaning that leads to a single word and a place of unimaginable power: Dworshak.