This month I had the pleasure of interviewing Bryan Prosek, author of A Measure of Serenity. Read on for more insider info on the main character, Serenity, and how Prosek gets into her mind to make her a compelling and complex character.
- What was your inspiration for this novel?
I have two parts to this answer. First, I’ve always been fascinated by parallel dimension and time travel stories, whether it’s in a book, a movie, or even a television show, so I wanted to write about one of those story lines. Time travel has been written about far more often than parallel universes, so I chose the latter. I also wanted to keep the setting on Earth rather than another planet, galaxy, or fantasy dimension. I wanted it to be more dystopian than hard core science fiction. The second part of my inspiration was that I wanted a female protagonist. I had not written a story or book with a female lead, and having a teenage daughter and coaching a teenage girls soccer team, I had a lot of young adult teenage girl experiences to draw from. So those two things combined to inspire me to put a teenage girl in a parallel universe in A Measure of Serenity.
- Measure of Serenity is written in first person, what were some important considerations when getting into the mind of Serenity?
I wanted Serenity to have a special or unique ability but I didn’t want her to have a superpower. I wanted her to be more realistic, even if her mental abilities are exaggerated from what I person might possess in real life. So I decided on extraordinary intelligence. That’s where I had to really work to get into her mind since I’m lacking in that area. LOL! Finally, I wanted young adults to be able to relate to her, so I made her unique gift (her mind) also a burden for her, something that she constantly struggles with and which causes her to question her actions or inactions. The incessant counting and calculating puts a constant strain on her. And her mental genius makes her socially awkward, which is another personal flaw that she struggles with. Having said all of that, I chose to write the book in the first person so that I could really feel what Serenity might be feeling, and be better able to express those feelings in my writing. In other words, first person made it easier and more relatable in expressing what was going through Serenity’s mind.
- What was most challenging about writing from Serenity’s point of view?
The most challenging part was probably writing from the viewpoint of a teenage girl when I am a middle aged man. I had to think how a teenage girl would react and adapt to the situations that Serenity finds herself in, not how I would react. However, as I mentioned, I had a lot of experience to draw from working with and talking to teenage girls, but it still took a few rewrites of a couple chapters in order to get it right.
- What qualities do you think you share with Serenity? In what areas do you think you are most different?
First the similar qualities. While I didn’t really go there is the book, I believe Serenity is a bit OCD. A person with her mind set almost has to be, since she compartmentalizes every thought. While I don’t have Serenity’s intellect, I am somewhat OCD. I think that helped in writing her character, as I understood that part of her thinking. As for the differences, besides the obvious age and gender differences that I discussed above, the biggest difference would be her ability to retain everything she sees and hears. I am pretty good at remembering faces, but if you introduce me to someone, thirty seconds later I have to ask you again what his or her name is. LOL
- Serenity has an incredible memory and calculates everything she sees. In the novel we see her wrestle with these skills. Would you consider it a blessing or a curse to have Serenity’s memory and calculating mind?
This was one of my favorite parts in writing this book, Serenity’s struggles with something that others might long to possess. It’s kind of like the job interview question, “What is your greatest strength and what is your greatest weakness?” In most cases, the answer should be the same. To answer your question, for me, on the outside looking in at Serenity, I would call it a blessing. I would love to hear, see, and remember things like she does. However, from Serenity’s viewpoint, having this ability, I can see how it can be a curse. Constantly knowing what’s going to happen, your mind never resting, always calculating, and always feeling like things are your fault because you knew what would happen and were unable to stop it if it was something bad. This is somewhat similar to OCD. Always feeling like things are out of place. Always needing to fix or correct things.
- How often did you need to research quantities of e.g., feathers, leaves, streetlamps down the average street?
Great question! The answer is all the time! Every time that I needed Serenity to count or calculate something, I first had to come up with what it was I wanted her to count or calculate. That depended on the difficulty of the situation that Serenity was in. After that, I had to research what the answer was for what she was counting or calculating. For example, I had no idea how many feathers a bird has or how many leaves are on a typical tree. I assumed no reader would know the answers to these either, but I wanted to be accurate in case a reader researched it. So I researched and had to come up with an average number in most cases. I also had to do a lot of mathematical research to come up with difficult formulas or calculations that most readers wouldn’t know. I wanted it to be shocking to the typical reader, that Serenity would know this off the top of her head, but I also wanted it to be accurate.
- Identity is an important theme in A Measure of Serenity and Serenity’s identify is molded by those around her when she falls into her parallel life. To what extent would you say identity can be shaped by the people around us (as opposed to it being a constant internal concept)?
I have always felt that identity is shaped by the people around us. People that surround themselves with bad people, generally end up in trouble. On the contrary, people that hang out with generally good people, usually end up contributing more to society. There are exceptions, I know, but in general, I feel this is the case. This shows in A Measure of Serenity. As we have discussed, Serenity really struggles with her blessing/curse and her social awkwardness in her universe. However, the longer she is in the parallel universe, and surrounded by her Resistance friends and supporters, the less she finds herself randomly counting and calculating and questioning her actions. While the risks and stress of Serenity’s life multiplied tenfold when she passes through the sphere, she eventually becomes more relaxed and comfortable, mainly due to the people she had around her.
A Measure of Serenity
A million thoughts, but only one right thing to do.
Eighteen-year-old Serenity Ashdown has a brilliant mind: she counts, calculates, and analyzes everything, all the time. Awkward. When her father suddenly disappears, Serenity follows his trail to a parallel dimension. The feds on the other side claim to want to help her go home, if she helps them reconstruct the right codes for the portal between worlds. But it’s soon clear they want something more: a gateway for invasion, because this version of Earth is dying.
When Serenity learns that her alter-ego was killed in battle, she assumes “the other Serenity’s” identity and uses her unique abilities to lead the resistance in a mortal fight against the tyrannical super-government that is poised to invade her universe. Serenity has no idea how to be someone she’s not, but she has to try—or she may not have a home to return to.
Contest of Queens Countdown
Only one month left until my debut novel is released! I still can’t believe it, and I’m so so excited to finally have people reading it!
Make sure to request this beauty at your local bookstore so they can order it in for you! And if you don’t want to put on pants to leave the house, let your fingers do the walking and follow the link below to preorder here:
Lovely interview questions. I always enjoy reading about other writers, so this post was a treat. And all the best with Contest of Queens! Am excited for you 🙂
Oh thank you so much! I’m glad you enjoyed them ☺️