Even in the darkest of times, hope wins.
Bree Bridges, half of writing duo Kit Rocha (of Deal with the Devil and The Devil You Know fame!) knows what it’s like to write books that are almost alarmingly relevant to our social and political climate. Check out her essay below on writing in times of turmoil, keeping hope alive, and more.
This article was originally published on 4/22/20.
By Bree Bridges
These two tweets from a more innocent time, sent in a moment of pure joy, marked a huge milestone in my life. In November of 2016, after years of hard work, my co-writer and I had just written the final hopeful happily ever after on the ninth book in our post-apocalyptic dystopian romance series.
Nine books. Almost one million words. We’d taken our futuristic world from the darkest depths of an authoritarian theocracy to the giddy triumph of successful rebellion–a rebellion built on hope, compassion, loyalty and love.
We were flying high when Donna closed our word document and left to cast her vote in the 2016 election. (I’d already cast mine several weeks ago by absentee ballot.) We’d accomplished something massive, unspooling a rebellion plot arc and a slow dismantling of the patriarchy around and through nine separate romance arcs, bringing it all together in a culminating moment that might as well have been our manifesto:
We woke up the next morning facing down a Trump presidency, and the prospect of trying to go out and sell our one million words of dystopian fiction to an audience reeling in the face of what, to many of them, felt like an increasingly dystopian future.
For the last four years, I’ve heard one thing over and over again: this must be such a great time to market your books! They’re so relevant!
Yes, I suppose books about resisting in the face of escalating bigotry and increasingly eroding social norms might seem relevant to the time in which we find ourselves. But I don’t want them to be. I don’t want to trade on the very real fear and harm being done to the most vulnerable among us. I don’t want to use a moment of cultural pain as a marketing hook.
I want to be the hope my books represent, not the opportunistic greed they fight.
And yet, here I am. Again.
My upcoming book is awkwardly relevant.
Deal With the Devil is about a trio of women with genetically enhanced abilities who use their unique skill set to collect and distribute media and other resources in a post-apocalyptic Atlanta. They’re the ones who find you the lost manual on how to repair that buggy air-conditioner, or get you a source for seeds you can grow on your porch. They get you movies to entertain your children and books to heal your soul. They organize potlucks and freeze-drying parties, let you rent out tools to fix your house and lend you books that teach you about home repair.
They’re the heart of their community. They are hope. And they’re what I see right now every day when I log into twitter.
When I see scientists offering to Skype children who are stuck at home.
When I see musicians livestreaming free concerts.
When I see librarians scrambling to expand their digital libraries so people stuck at home can still borrow books.
When I see young adult authors offering to talk to kids who want to be writers.
When I see people offering to send groceries. Supplies. Money.
When I see livestream knitting tutorials, and cooking lessons, and book club, and hair-cutting advice, and everything, everything, everything we could possibly want to learn or do or experience.
They’re what I see in us, the best of us, reaching out in the darkest moment of a generation, every offer screaming, you will not have to do this alone.
I see greatness in the book community, in all of our communities, and that is why I refuse to feel awkward this time. Because I didn’t plan to write a book that is relevant to this staggering moment in history, but I did.
It’s not relevant because it’s dystopian. Or because it’s about the end of the world.
It’s relevant because it’s a radical manifesto on how good we can be in a crisis, and every time I open social media, I see the proof of how right we were scrolling past me in real time. For every asshole who hordes hand sanitizer, a hundred of you are out there making a list of your vulnerable neighbors and arranging check-ins to make sure your community has what it needs.
You make the hope in my books relevant.
The day after the election in 2016, I drew in a shaky breath that I never quite let out. The accomplishment of finishing a million word series was inexorably tangled with the hopeless pain of the following months, of editing through a fog and releasing a book into a world that made our bright optimism feel reckless.
Today, I’m letting that breath out. I don’t know what will happen over the next few weeks as we rally our resources to face down this pandemic, but I know that my faith has been renewed.
We’ll make it win. Together.
Pre-order The Devil You Know Here: