If Darkness Takes Us
If Darkness Takes Us
by Brenda Marie Smith
In suburban Austin, Texas, Bea Crenshaw secretly prepares for apocalypse, but when a solar pulse destroys modern life, she’s left alone with four grandkids whose parents don’t return home. She must teach these kids to survive without power, cars, phones, running water, or doctors in a world fraught with increasing danger. And deciding whether or not to share food with her starving neighbors puts her morality to the test.
If Darkness Takes Us is realistic post-apocalyptic science-fiction that focuses on a family in peril, led by a no-nonsense grandmother who is at once funny, controlling, and heroic in her struggle to hold her family together with civility and heart.
The book is available now. It’s sequel, If the Light Escapes, is told in the voice of Bea’s eighteen-year-old grandson, Keno Simms, and will be released by SFK Press on August 24, 2021.
“Bea Crenshaw is one of the most unique characters in modern literature—a kick-ass Grandma who is at once tough and vulnerable, and well-prepared to shepherd her extended family through an EMP disaster, or so she thinks."
—Laura Creedle, Award-winning Author of The Love Letters of Abelard and Lily
"There is real, identifiable humanity, subtle and sweet and sad, and events utterly shattering in their intensity."
—Pinckney Benedict, Author of Dogs of God, Miracle Boy, and more
No matter how desperately a mother loves you, she can only put up with so much. And so, the day came when Mother Nature lashed out against us.
I understood where Nature was coming from. My family never listened to me either, which is why I didn’t tell them about the guns I’d bought.
The whole thing started with the train wreck.
On a Friday in early October, the young adults in my family went to the Oklahoma-Texas game up in Dallas—a big football rivalry around here. They dragged my husband, Hank the Crank, along with them, leaving me in South Austin with my grandchildren.
At the time, I was glad to see Hank go. He’d been making me crazy since he retired: hovering like a gnat; micromanaging my coffee-making; griping at me for reading instead of waiting attentively for him to spout something terse. Lord, I needed a break from that man. The three-day trip to Dallas seemed perfect.
I wasn’t a built-in-babysitter type of grandma, and I only saw my four grandkids together as a group on birthdays and holidays. For weeks I’d been excited about spending a long weekend alone with them.
A cruel trick sometimes, getting what you ask for.
About the Author
Brenda Marie Smith lived off the grid for many years in a farming collective where her sons were delivered by midwives. She’s been a community activist, managed student housing co-ops, produced concerts to raise money for causes, done massive quantities of bookkeeping, and raised a small herd of teenage boys.
Brenda is attracted to stories where everyday characters transcend their own limitations to find their inner heroism. She and her husband reside in a grid-connected, solar-powered home in South Austin, Texas. They have more grown kids and grandkids than they can count.
Her first novel, Something Radiates, is a paranormal romantic thriller; If Darkness Takes Us and its sequel, If the Light Escapes, are post-apocalyptic science fiction.
Q&A with the Author:
Are you a Plotter (one who plans or plots out every detail of the writing process) or Pantser (one who writes by the seat of his/her pants)?
I’ve always been a Pantser up until now. I like to feel my way into a story, see how the characters develop, and let them take over, although I do have an end point in mind as well as a few events that should happen along the way. However, I want to try plotting out my next novel in advance to see if it will save me time and energy on revisions and prevent me from taking wrong turns. Still, I love just diving in to a story, so I might become a little of each—a Plantser, I’ve heard it called.
What advice do you have for a new writer?
Don’t quit your day job just because you have half a novel written and feel sure it’s going to sell immediately. (Yes, I did that. Big mistake, lol.)
Think of writing as a craft that you must practice for years to master, if you ever do. You need to be in it for the long haul. And it’s not fancy word play that will sell your novels, but a clearly told story. It’s all about the story, which means well-developed characters with well-defined stakes. Study character development and the way that plot and characters interact. Read books about the craft, do the exercises, take classes, get feedback from trusted writers and really listen to it. And then revise, revise, and keep revising until you don’t trip on a single word in your book.
Study great books to see how the stories are put together. Read them more than once. Read a wide array of genres to broaden your skills and horizons. Learn your markets, but, ultimately, you must write what inspires you. It’s the best way to keep up your motivation throughout the long process of producing a good book.
What is the easiest part of the writing process for you?
I love starting a new book and the possibilities it presents, so I’m pretty good at that. I also love ending them, and feel that I do a decent job. But it’s action scenes that I usually have the easiest time with, I don’t know why. What comes hardest are the subtleties of emotional expression. Dialogue is also one of my strong suits.
What is your favorite part of this story?
I like the way the story starts with the train wreck that spews poison into the air so that there is action right off the bat as the family has to escape the area. I like the way the story builds from there to set up the situation and the characters and to lead up to the solar electromagnetic pulse. When the electric power and the automobiles all stop dead in the same instant, I find it chilling. And Grandma Bea is suddenly taking care of her grandchildren in a highly altered world. She has to be delicate in the way she explains it to the kids, and she has a lot of tact, even though inside she is freaking out. I love that. There are other scenes and chapters that I also love, but it would be a spoiler to tell you about them. Sorry. Suffice it to say that I actually love tragic scenes as well, because they move me. If a sad scene makes me cry every one of the hundred or more times I read it, I feel like I’ve done a good job.
Which Character was the most fun to write about? Why?
The teen villain, Chas Matheson, was pretty fun because he’s complicated and full of himself. He starts out as a pest, but becomes more of a troublemaker as time goes on until he’s ultimately about as bad as it gets. But there is also something sad about Chas.
Which Character was the hardest to write about? Why?
Grandma Bea has four grandkids, and they are all important characters: Keno, 17; Tasha, 15; Milo, 12; and Mazie, 6. I’ve raised five sons, so the two boys came to me easily, and I have a granddaughter who was near Mazie’s age at the time, so I felt like I understood her. But I have no experience with teenage girls, except that I was one fifty years ago—long enough to strain my memory about what it was like, and also in a different era. Tasha was the character I found hardest to make real and give the proper emotional depth to, but she’s critical to the story, so I had to get her right. Luckily, one of my critique partners had a teenage daughter and wouldn’t let me get away with shortchanging Tasha. I am so grateful for the help.
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