With the YA dystopian market so crowded, it can be difficult to find authors whose voice is truly their own. Everybody wants to be the next Hunger Games or Divergent that they fail to give readers anything new. Nede Rising, a new duology from Jess Corban, takes readers into a post-apocalyptic dystopia that’s different from anything you’ve ever seen. After reading book one back in January, I knew I had to talk to Jess about the novel and now that A Gentle Tyranny has released, I can share the conversation with you. Book two, A Brutal Justice, launches in August.
The Conversation | Jess Corban
Josh Olds: Let’s start with this. Can you can you give me and the listeners your elevator pitch for this book?
Jess Corban: I’d be happy to. Alright, well. About 40-50 years in the future, crimes against women get so bad that, for their own safety, women decide they have to do something. So they create a vaccine that inoculates baby boys against testosterone and create a society where women are safe and men are gentled to serve the good of Nede—the matriarchy that they create.
The story follows a 17-year-old girl, Raina Pierce, who is selected to compete for a chance to become the next matriarch. But as she gets closer to the heart of Nede, she discovers that their utopia isn’t all that she thought it was and has to decide whether her own safety and the safety of women is most important or whether to let men be men.
Josh Olds: YA dystopian fiction is a very crowded genre and your book does use a lot of common elements. Were you ever worried that your book would have trouble standing out amid all the other fiction that’s thrown out there?
Jess Corban: It’s a great question. And honestly, honestly, my greater fear was whether I could do the story justice, because I felt that concept—when I would share the concept with friends or family or industry professionals, they loved the concept of it, they felt it was very different. But being a first-time novelist, I wanted to know whether I could do it justice, whether I could write this story to a caliber and a level where I could bring it to life in the right way.
Having worked in nonfiction up to this point, I knew enough to know it was a big shift. And I needed to be able to do it. And in the in the time since writing or beginning this series, there have been obviously a lot more YA books that have come out. So maybe now I should worry about that question.
And I remember just asking the question, “What if we could do something about it? What would that look like?”
Josh Olds: Well, I don’t think you have anything to worry about because it really is that thematic element that made this book stand out…The hook is that in Nede—it’s a female-dominated culture. Where did this story come from? Like, what were your influences? For me, there were these hints of H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine.
Jess Corban: Oh, if I can be totally honest, and people might decide they don’t want to read the book when they hear this, but I had not read a lot of fiction before I started writing it…I wouldn’t read anything in the genre of which I was writing so as not to absorb it. And so it’s funny that people notice some similarities with The Hunger Games and Divergent, but I didn’t read those until my plot was pretty much set. So I think maybe there just is some cultural themes that are just in our minds already that kind of come out as we’re telling stories.
But the main influence on the story was honestly just a question. And I’ve heard that that’s where a lot of great stories begin is just with the asking a question. And I remember exactly where I was when I asked the question. And it was in the middle of a bunch of just a slew of news stories on human trafficking and crimes against women and the MeToo movement. And I remember just asking the question, “What if we could do something about it? What would that look like?” And I was in the shower, it’s were all great ideas come nice, long, hot shower. By the time I finished the shower, I had the idea for the for the story, but it took a year for me to have the courage to really take a step forward and start writing it. And then things just kind of flowed naturally out of that.
The Book | A Gentle Tyranny
What if women unraveled the evils of patriarchy?
With men safely “gentled” in a worldwide Liberation, the matriarchy of Nedé has risen from the ashes. Seventeen-year-old Reina Pierce has never given a thought to the Brutes of old. Itching to escape her mother’s finca–and desperate to keep her training and forbidden friendship a secret–her greatest worry is which Destiny she’ll choose on her next birthday. But when she’s selected as a candidate for the Succession instead, competing to become Nedé’s ninth Matriarch, she discovers their Eden has come at a cost she’s not sure she’s willing to pay.
Jess Corban’s debut novel presents a new twist to the dystopian genre, delivering heart-pounding action, thought-provoking revelations, and a setting as lush as the jungles of Central America.
The Author | Jess Corban
Jess Corban graduated college with a degree in Communications and, perhaps more instructive, thirteen stamps in her passport. After college, a chance interview at a small publisher for an even smaller position sparked a love for writing that turned into twelve nonfiction books (under various pseudonyms). Now Jess lives with her husband and two daughters in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California, where she finds inspiration in a sky full of stars and hiking the Canyon of the Kings. A Gentle Tyranny is her debut novel. Connect with Jess at www.JessCorban.com.