Post-Brexit Dystopia

“Hey, Toph!”

A woman with short pink hair opens the kitchen door, noise spilling through from the room across the hall.

“Hey, Trish.” I give her a smile.

She walks into the kitchen and pours herself a glass of water, leaning against the work surface to drink it.

“Hard at work?”

I shrug. “Exams.” Trish rolls her eyes.

“I wish they’d leave you alone. Let you get on with learning instead of this constant testing.” I can’t help smiling. I’ve never found a subject that Trish couldn’t turn into an argument.

“What’s today’s torture?”

“History.”

She shakes her head. “Don’t get me started, Toph. It’s all lies – don’t forget that!” She puts the empty glass down, her black sleeve riding up to show the tattoo on her wrist – twelve stars in a neat circle, with a broken heart in the centre.

(Making Trouble: freebook.tallerbooks.com)

Dystopia, Step by Step

Rachel is taking over the blog today, to talk about the politics behind the Battle Ground series. Click through to the comments and let us know what you think!

Step by Step

Anyone who follows me here or on social media will be aware that I have spent the last two years writing novels. Don’t worry – this isn’t advertorial. There are links to the Battle Ground series at the end if you’re interested, but this isn’t about selling books.

This is about a story that I hoped would become a self-avoiding prophecy. A five-book adventure that I hoped would be irrelevant long before today.

A story that feels more real, and more possible, with every news story and Twitter rant and argument round the dinner table.

So what’s the point of this blog post?

I want to explain what the books are really about. Not the blurb on the back. Not the Action and Adventure that Amazon is promoting. Not even the teenage characters who have become my ambassadors to other people’s book shelves.

I want to write about the political landscape in my near-future, UK-based story, and I want to sound an alarm.

A Post-Brexit Dystopia

Brexit is the excuse for what happens in the books. I tell you that up front, on the cover. The Battle Ground series is set in a dystopian near-future UK, after Brexit and Scottish independence.

But Brexit is not the point. It’s not the end of the story – it happens years before the start of Book One. The point is what happens next, and what happened earlier to lay the foundations for my dystopia.

And it is a dystopia. My near-future UK is under Martial Law. The army is in charge. Racism is normal. Islamophobia is normal. Parliament has been suspended.

Sound familiar?

Lies and Cheats

When I started writing in November 2017, I was inspired by the Brexit Referendum. Campaigns on both sides dominated by lies, guesswork, illegal spending, and a lazy assumption that it was all a game. That there was no way the Leave Campaign would win. I could see the divisions in the country, and the sudden permission to make racist statements without apology or consequence. I could see the complexity of the process ahead of us – campaigning to remain, or untangling ourselves from the EU. I could see the gaping hole where calm, measured policies should be, on issues as diverse as the Irish border, visa-free travel, and the rights of EU citizens in the UK – and UK citizens in the EU.

I could see us lining up to throw years of peace, co-operation, and friendship onto a bonfire of empty promises: sovereignty, independence, blue passports. Control of our own borders.

I could hear the dog-whistle call to anyone who felt pushed out or inconvenienced by immigration. To anyone who needed a scapegoat for the lack of jobs, or perceived red tape, or the decline of the high street. Who believed the promise of more money for the NHS.

And it frightened me.

I saw the papers, tribal as always in the UK, digging in and promoting one side of the debate. Of course leaving the EU would be good for us. Who wants to be associated with those unelected bureaucrats and their rules about bendy bananas?

No mention of the MEPs we elect. No assessment of the longest period of peace between EU members for more than a millennium. No debunking of the bendy banana myth, or the lie on the side of the bus.

Rights and Freedoms

And then I thought about the Patriot Act in the USA. Legislation brought in after the 9/11 attacks to make it easier for the government to intercept and prevent terrorist activity.

Legislation that traded long-held freedoms for a promise of safety. That enabled the government to more easily monitor the phones and emails of private citizens. That allowed the indefinite detention of immigrants. That handed power to unaccountable government agencies.

How easy would it be to slide into totalitarianism, step by tiny step?

Slow Progress

That’s the backdrop. That’s the theme and the message of the Battle Ground series.

Step by step, without noticing, how easy would it be to walk into dystopia with the best of intentions?

And to underline this theme, there’s the parallel journey of my protagonist and antagonist. Two strong young women, navigating a world without mobile phones or civilian internet. A world where news is controlled by the military government, and terrorists are executed live on TV. A world where civil unrest and terrorism pushes the army to conscript sixteen-year-olds to patrol the streets, to make people feel safe again. A world where racist attacks force British citizens to leave, and seek asylum elsewhere.

For both characters, their stories develop step by step – one acting for the government, and one supporting the resistance. In the later books, they find themselves committing acts they would never have considered at the start of the series. They both develop their bravery and strength, step by tiny step. And they both lose themselves, step by tiny step.

Loss

They lose their identities – to conscription, to rebellion, to abuse and to corruption. They lose friends and classmates to the quiet war between the government and the people fighting back. They lose control over their lives and their decisions. By the end of the series, they’ve both done things they can’t justify in the name of the causes they’ve been fighting for.

They don’t transform all at once in some blinding moment of revelation. They get there step by tiny step, one action at a time. One goal at a time. One choice at a time.

It’s easy to walk off a cliff if you get used to heading in that direction. If every step you take can be justified and supported. One step, then the next – and before long you’re falling.

Warning

It will be easy to walk into dystopia. Ask any EU citizen living in the UK, and you’ll find that we’re half way there already. We’ve rejected our close relationship with our national neighbours, because we think it will make us stronger. We’re rejecting our neighbours – the people who keep our NHS and social care services running – because we don’t like to be reminded that we’re not the imperial power we used to be. We don’t like to hear other languages spoken on our streets. We don’t like Germany telling us what to do.

(Is that right? Is that what we’re leaving for? Argue with me. Tell me it’s not like this.)

So, step by tiny step, we’re walking towards irrelevance. We’re walking towards a health service run for the profit of American insurance companies. We’re walking towards increased immigration from around the world, and the extreme racism that will provoke. Towards a shrinking economy. Towards having to meet EU standards for exported goods without having a place at the table to influence how those standards are agreed.

Towards isolation.

Resist

So that’s what my books are about. Blindly walking away from peace, security, and established trade partnerships towards – what? I hope we’re not heading for the world of the Battle Ground series. I hope we’re not heading for totalitarianism and isolationism and acceptable racism and civil war.

But step by step, that’s where we could end up.

I want my books to be a self-avoiding prophecy. I want my readers to see what I’m pointing out, and help to change the direction we’re walking in.

Since I finished writing the series, France has announced the reinstatement of National Service for teenagers. Sudan cut off internet and mobile phone access for civilians, to control anti-government protestors. Iran and Saudi Arabia already stage public executions. Nothing in the books feels far-fetched any more.

This is what I’m asking my readers to resist. Electing a pro-Brexit Conservative government with a landslide majority might be a single step in the process. Leaving the EU might be the next. Small steps, but every one takes us closer to isolation. To selling off our NHS. To the break-up of the United Kingdom. To economic hardship. To an end to the peace and prosperity of the European Project.

We can turn back from the cliff at any time. It gets harder and harder as we approach the edge, but we can change where we’re heading.

It’s up to us, and our votes and decisions.

Step by tiny step.

The Battle Ground Series

Books One to Four of the Battle Ground series are available from Amazon. You’ll find them on my Amazon Author Page. The final book in the series will be published on January 9th, and there’s a free prequel novella at freebook.tallerbooks.com.

Please consider the Battle Ground series as gifts for readers aged 13-103, or for discussion at your Book Club. Contact admin@tallerbooks.com for more information, or to arrange an author visit for your Book Club or school.

These are the steps I’m taking. What about you?

Reviews Roundup

The reviews for the Battle Ground series so far have been amazing! Thank you to all the bloggers and readers who took part in the Blog Tours, or left reviews on Amazon or GoodReads. Indie Authors need reviews – your comments and ratings make a huge difference, and help our books to find their audience.

If you’ve read Battle Ground, False Flag, or Making Trouble, why not leave a review on your favourite review site? Drop us a link in the comments, and we promise we’ll visit the site and take a look!

You’ll find Battle Ground and False Flag on Amazon, and all three books on GoodReads and Library Thing. Thank you in advance for your support!

Adventures in Publishing

The publication date for Battle Ground (Battle Ground #1) is fast approaching, and we’re hard at work, making sure everything is ready for our readers!

Proof copies

I am so excited to finally have a proof copy of the paperback edition in my hands! There’s nothing like seeing the manuscript you’ve been perfecting on a screen for eighteen months converted into a gorgeous physical book. I keep picking it up and turning the pages, just to check it’s real!

Sadly it is only a proof copy, so you’ll have to imagine it without the grey stripe. Not long now until we have copies of the real thing!


YALC

Taller Books will be at the Young Adult Literary Convention in July, launching Battle Ground on publication day. We’re already busy designing flyers and staff badges and the backdrop for our stand. If you’re coming to YALC, make sure you say hello!


The Battle Ground series book covers

Battle Ground series

Rachel has been working hard on the rest of the series, making sure the books are edited and proofread in time to publish them later in the year.

Publication dates for the Battle Ground books are:

Battle Ground (Battle Ground #1) – 25th July 2019
False Flag (Battle Ground #2) – 5th September 2019
Darkest Hour (Battle Ground #3) – 17th October 2019
Fighting Back (Battle Ground #4) – 28th November 2019
Victory Day (Battle Ground #5) – 3rd January 2020

And don’t forget our FREE novella, Making Trouble, available now.


Getting there …

We’ve got a lot more work to do before we launch Battle Ground, but we’re looking forward to making all the books in the series available to our readers. Keep an eye out here for announcements, or join our mailing list to stay up to date.

Click through to the full blog to say hello in the comments section! We’d love to hear from you.


Click through to the full blog to access the comments section. Please keep your comments YA appropriate. Be patient! We want to hear from you, but comments are moderated, and may take some time to appear.

Read a lot and write a lot: the role of reviews

If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.

Stephen King, On Writing

What makes a good writer?

That’s a big question. Is it a talent you’re born with, or a skill you can learn? Is it your ideas, or your storytelling – or your characters?

I think it is all these things. I think it is talent and hard work. I think it is learning how to frame your ideas, how to build your stories, and how to connect with your characters.

And how do you learn these things? You write. You write again. And you write some more.

But you know what else you need to do?

Read. A lot.

Reading

This is my recent reading pile. These are books that have gripped and inspired me. Books that have crept into my mind, pulled up a chair, and refused to leave.

I’ve thought about them. I’ve analysed them. I’ve turned back through the pages, looking for the source of the magic.

And I’ve written reviews.

Writing

Reviews are partly for the audience. They are partly to show other readers what I enjoyed about the books, and what I loved about them. To inspire other people to read and enjoy them.

And they are partly for me.

They give me a reason and an opportunity to think about ideas, story, and character. They push me to figure out how other writers communicate their stories, and their ideas. They force me to put my feelings about a book into words, and to understand where the magic comes from.

They help me to improve my ideas, my storytelling, and my characters.

GoodReads

You’ll find my YA reviews on GoodReads. I read as much as I can, and I review what I read. It helps other authors – I’m promoting their books, after all – but it also helps readers to find me. If you like reading what I like reading, you’ll probably enjoy the books I write!

In writing reviews of my books, readers can help expose them to a wider audience.

We’re all helping each other. The books I read and the reviews I write help me to be a better writer. The reviews I write help readers to find new authors and new books to add to their reading piles. And the reviews you write take my books – and all the books you write about – to new readers.

Over to you

If you’ve read Making Trouble, my FREE novella, I hope you enjoyed it. I hope it crept into your mind and pulled up a chair, and I hope you found yourself caring about Toph and Nasrin and Alec and Charlie and Rob.

If you did, I’d like to ask a favour.

Write me a review. It doesn’t have to be long, and it doesn’t have to be detailed. Tell other readers what you liked about the book – or what you didn’t like! Don’t spoil the story or give away the plot, but let other readers know what to expect. Add your voice to the reviews on GoodReads or LibraryThing, or your favourite review site, and use the comments section below to tell us about it.

You’ll be sending me feedback, which is always helpful. You’ll be holding a book you’ve enjoyed out to other readers, and influencing what they choose to read next. And you’ll be figuring out for yourself what I did with my ideas, my story, and my characters.

Whether you’re a reader or a writer, that can only be a good thing.


Click through to the full blog to access the comments section. Please keep your comments YA appropriate. Be patient! We want to hear from you, but comments are moderated, and may take some time to appear.

Disaster and Recovery

It’s been an interesting evening at Taller Books. We’ve had so much interest in downloading our FREE BOOK, our website couldn’t handle it! We lost the entire site, and we’ve had to reinstall from a backup. We’ve even lost the blog post from Monday, officially launching the site and the book.

The good news is that we’re back! And we’re so sorry for letting you down. If you’ve tried to download Making Trouble today, the good news is that the link works now.

So – once again, we are very excited to announce the publication of Making Trouble, a Novella in the Battle Ground series.

Novella front cover

Download your FREE copy of Making Trouble – and when you’ve read it, drop by and tell us what you think!

Comments are moderated, so please be patient. We’ll approve comments as quickly as we can. We’re looking forward to hearing from you!