Behind the Scenes of Pandemic
Guest Post by Yvonne Ventresca
I love learning behind-the-scenes information about books. As the author of Pandemic, I thought I would share some insider anecdotes about the characters, the cover, and the setting.
1. One of my favorite minor characters in the story is Cam, the little girl that Lil (the main character) babysits in an early chapter. I had fun creating the photos on her fridge, her love of dance reality shows, and her voice in general. Her stuffed animal, Milkshake, was inspired by my own daughter’s favorite cow when she was in elementary school.
2. People often ask if my characters are based on real people. Reggie, Lil’s neighbor and a ShopWell employee, was inspired by a real cashier at my local supermarket. His cheerful demeanor made an impression on me, and it became the basis of his character in Pandemic. I meant to eventually change the name, but forgot. Luckily, the real Reggie didn’t mind.
3. The setting for the story is a made-up town called Portico. I chose the name Portico because it means doorway, and Lil’s town essentially becomes a doorway to the disease. Portico is based off of my own hometown, but it felt like bad karma to use the real location and unleash deadly bird flu on my neighbors. I did use the actual names of most of the other surrounding places in New Jersey, which readers who are familiar with the area enjoy.
4. The “tree-cave” in Pandemic is modeled after a Japanese split-leaf maple in my town. A lovely neighbor owns the house and property, and we often visited her when my kids were young. They would run around her yard and under the tree. In Pandemic, it wasn’t hard to imagine this particular maple as an amazing hiding spot during a frightening moment.
5. Coming up with character names is hard! And coming up with character names for people that die in a deadly outbreak is even harder! I had to be careful not to name friends, relatives, in-laws, etc. for fear of “killing off” someone and offending them. Another naming problem occurred with the antagonist, “Mr. B.” He was originally named Mr. D, but during Pandemic’s final edits, my son started attending a school with a principal named Dr. D. Since the character is an evil man, I thought it would be wise to change the name. My editor sympathized and we searched and replaced.
6. Pandemic is about a sexual assault victim struggling to trust others in order to survive a deadly flu outbreak. The blue cover of the book is a reference to the fictional disease called the Blue Flu. But the teal shade of blue was chosen specifically as a nod to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. They use teal ribbons as a symbol of sexual violence prevention and it is the official color of Sexual Assault Awareness Month in April. This reference is not mentioned anywhere in the book, but I like knowing that the details of the cover have intentional meaning.
More about Pandemic: Only a few people know what caused Lilianna Snyder’s sudden change from a model student to a withdrawn pessimist who worries about all kinds of disasters. After her parents are called away on business, Lil’s town is hit by what soon becomes a widespread fatal illness. With her worst fears realized, Lil must find a way to survive not only the outbreak and its real-life consequences, but also her own personal demons.
More about the author: Yvonne Ventresca’s latest young adult novel, BLACK FLOWERS, WHITE LIES will be published by Sky Pony Press in October 2016. Her debut YA novel, PANDEMIC, won a 2015 Crystal Kite Award from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. School Library Journal called PANDEMIC “an engrossing apocalyptic story.” Yvonne’s other works include the short story “Escape to Orange Blossom,” which was selected for the dystopian anthology PREP FOR DOOM, along with two nonfiction books, PUBLISHING (Careers for the 21st Century) and AVRIL LAVIGNE (People in the News).
You can learn more about Yvonne and her books at YvonneVentresca.com, or connect with her on social media: