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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
read an excerpt...
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 Brenda Marie Smith...
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.
BookPeople Austin: https://www.bookpeople.com/book/9781970137835
more personal "stuff" about Brenda Marie Smith...
Does this book have a special meaning to you? i.e. where you found the idea, its symbolism, its meaning, who you dedicated it to, what made you want to write it?
If Darkness Takes Us is very close to my heart. Even though it’s fictional, I was able to use so many facets of my life in the story: my time spent living off the grid in the 1970s; my experience with love and divorce and raising five sons in a big blended family; the way that being a grandmother gives so much meaning to my life.
I’ve been worried about environmental and societal collapse since I was a teen, and I’ve always wondered if I should be stockpiling food and seeds and survival gear to protect my family in the event of such a disaster. So, I invented a character who inherited two million dollars, kept it a secret from her cranky husband, and did just that. Bea Crenshaw. Then I envisioned what it would really be like for a grandmother to be keeping her grandkids when a world-changing disaster occurred and if her grown children—the parents of her grandkids—didn’t return home.
Early in the book, a solar electromagnetic pulse fries the U.S. grid, also taking out cars, phones, running water, and so much more. Because I had lived that way for years, I knew what the characters would have to do to survive and was able to make the details authentic. My hope is that the heroism shown by the characters, who had to face down their fears to carry on living, will inspire people, and that the situation they are living through might serve as a wake-up call to all of us to start living more sustainably now.
Where do you get your storylines from?
I don’t honestly know. The ether? I think Stephen King once said that no writer knows where their story ideas come from. For me, it’s probably an amalgamation of events from my life, people I’ve known, stories I’ve seen, read, or heard, news and social media I’m bombarded with, all spiced up with my imagination. I go out of my way to write unique stories that I’ve never heard of or seen before. Hence, I have an apocalypse featuring a grandmother whose heart may be failing but is also loaded with love.
Was this book easier or more difficult to write than others? Why?
It’s hard to say since I’ve only written three novels. The first took me more than a decade because I had to learn how to write novels in the process, but I had a clear idea of the story I wanted to tell. For If Darkness I had a lot of trial and error when it came to the story’s direction, and I was still learning about keeping the stakes high and the craft of building drama. For the standalone sequel, If the Light Escapes, which is told from the point of view of Bea’s 18-year-old grandson Keno (and comes out this August 24th), I wrote the first draft in 27 days. That young man had so much to say, lol. But I took a wrong turn about halfway through the story, and I had to spend more than a year re-imagining the story and rewriting much of it.
Do you only write one genre?
No. My first novel, Something Radiates, is a paranormal romantic thriller. If Darkness Takes Us and If the Light Escapes are apocalyptic science-fiction. You could also call them thrillers, though I think the second book fits that category better than the first. I’m developing a third book in the series. But I’m also developing a novel that will be a complete departure, Guru of the Ozarks.
Give us a picture of where you write, where you compose these words…is it Starbucks, a den, a garden…we want to know your inner sanctum?
I wrote the first few drafts of If Darkness at my kitchen table where I could look out my bay windows at the lawn and the trees. It was in the middle of a horrible drought and every living thing was thirsty. Plus, there were huge wildfires all around the outskirts of Austin, Texas, fueling my passion for the story.
For subsequent drafts and the sequel, I write in a garage that has been converted to my office. We added lots of power plugs and lighting, bright pretty paint, epoxied floor, eclectic décor, air conditioning, comfy furniture, a big TV on the wall, and a fancy garage door with two rows of windows so that I can see treetops from my desk. I’m partly disabled and am mostly homebound, so I don’t go elsewhere to write, but that’s okay. I have everything I need and want here, plus an excellent hubby and a big loving family to keep me company.
And finally, of course…was there any specific event or circumstance that made you want to be a writer?
I wrote my first story when I was six years old, standing on the crossbar of my A-frame metal swing set, and letting the Oklahoma wind buffet me around. It was a story about a girl named Windy who could fly on the wind. I’ve wanted to be a writer ever since.
Thank you so much for hosting me on your blog! It’s much appreciated.
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