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Future Shelves with Joshua David Bellin!

Posted on August 23, 2013

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Welcome to FUTURE SHELVES, a feature on unpublished writers whose books will one day grace the shelves of many a bookshop, and hopefully your bookshelf at home! Once a week, I am going to shine a spotlight on one writer who will speak about what they are working on. This is your chance to get on to the ground floor and discover some emerging talent. You can say you knew them before they made it! To see more from this series, click here.

This week it’s all about Joshua David Bellin, the YA Guy! I’m really excited to finally have him on Future Shelves, as since I first heard about SURVIVAL COLONY NINE, I got the feels that go like ajakslfdjsagjkldfs!!!! It sounds incredible. I can’t wait to get my hands on it next year! I’ll let Josh take over and tell you all about it, and I’m sure your feels will be ajfkdlajgjklfdsjkl, too.

Let’s get the tricky question out of the way first: what is your story about? Here’s the kicker – you only have 60 words to describe it with! GO!


The world has lost its memory–and so has fourteen-year-old Querry Genn.

In Survival Colony Nine, the survivors of the wars that nearly destroyed humanity roam a desert landscape haunted by the Skaldi, monsters that infect and mimic human hosts.  If Querry can recover his past, he might be able to defeat them.

If he can’t, he’s their next victim.


Where did you get the idea for this story?


It started with two images that entered my mind at the same time: a future world of dust and ruin, and a teenage boy whose past has been wiped clean.  I started playing with those twin images and trying to figure out how it had happened that the world, and the narrator, had lost so much of themselves, and the story unfolded from there.


What is your favourite thing about this story?


Where should I begin?  I love the idea of a world without memory and a narrator who suffers from the same loss of his personal past.  I love the prickly relationship between Querry and his father, Laman Genn, the leader of Survival Colony Nine.  I love the strong female characters, including Laman’s second-in-command, Aleka; the older teen, Korah, who Querry has a crush on; and the scout, Petra, who has a sixth sense for when the Skaldi are near.  I loved fleshing out the physical world, mapping its terrain, determining how people could live under such brutal physical conditions and with so much history and knowledge and technology gone.  And I love the monsters.  I’m really into monsters, and I expect that if a story is going to include them, they’d better scare the living daylights out of you.  I think the Skaldi do just that!


What is your story’s X meets Y?


It’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers meets The Road.


You’re stuck in a lift with only one of your characters. Who do you pick and why?


I pick Yov, the seventeen-year-old member of Survival Colony Nine who torments Querry on a daily basis.  He’s a total jerk, but he’s also really funny in a sarcastic, total-jerk kind of way.  I’d probably get sick of him if we didn’t start moving after a couple hours, but while I was there, I’d enjoy hearing his twisted view of life.  And I’d want to ask him why he can’t cut Querry a break every once in a while!


Imagine your book is being made into a film. Who is in your dreamcast?


Querry Genn: Dakota Goyo

Laman Genn: Gary Oldman

Aleka: Famke Janssen

Korah: Emma Watson

Yov: Devon Bostick

Petra: Nia Long

The Skaldi: Andy Serkis (plus tons of CG effects!)

What is your story’s theme song?


“Beds are Burning” by Midnight Oil



What is your writing method? Do you plan it out or just write?


One of the things I love most about writing is discovering what I’m trying to say in the act of trying to say it.  So my planning is minimal: I jot down a list of character names and relationships, draw little maps to get the physical locations where the story takes place clear in my mind, and (usually when I’m about two-thirds done with the manuscript) write single-sentence summaries of the unwritten chapters to make sure everything is wrapping up dramatically and coherently.  In the case of Survival Colony Nine, I also drew a picture of the Skaldi for reference.  But even these plans change as I write; for example, in Survival Colony Nine, the relationships between Querry and several of the other central characters shifted significantly over the course of the drafting.  This means I have to go back and revise when I’m done to make sure everything is consistent, but I’d rather do that than start out with a plan I felt compelled to follow, only to feel like a failure when I didn’t follow it!


Do you have another story in the works?


Absolutely—I never stop!  When my agent was shopping around Survival Colony Nine, I wrote another futuristic YA, this one with a female narrator, so I’d have another project ready in case the first one didn’t sell.  But now that Survival Colony Nine has been accepted for publication, I’ve devoted myself to completing the sequel (working title: Scavenger of Souls) and will soon start on the final book in the trilogy (working title: I have no idea).


What have you learned about yourself and about writing while working on this story?


I’ve learned how much the writer needs to care about the characters, even the villains.  That doesn’t mean you have to like all your characters, but you have to understand them, and you can’t understand someone if you don’t care enough about them to try to figure out what makes them tick.


I’ve also learned what a truly collaborative process writing a novel is.  Survival Colony Nine has gone through six complete revisions based on the input of various readers, including my daughter, my friends, several literary agents, and my editor, and I can’t tell you how much better it is as a result.

JOSHUA DAVID BELLIN has been writing novels since the age of eight (though his first few were admittedly very, very short).  Since then, he’s taught college English, written three academic books (one about monsters!), and been active in the environmental movement.  His debut YA novel, Survival Colony Nine, will be published by Margaret K. McElderry Books in 2014.  You can find him online at  He blogs at and, hangs out on Facebook at, and tweets @TheYAGuy.
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If you would like to be a featured writer on this blog, email me at solawlessbooks(@)
♥ Serena