It’s definitely summer now!
How you doing? Got a good book to read under the shade of a nice tree, sipping on iced tea?
Well, why not?
Oh, you’re looking for something good to read, eh? Then I think I have the solution!
Let’s meet Lauren Rigby, author of The Sanctuary, New Haven, and Finding Caleb, the first three books in the exciting New Beginnings series.
Start that tea brewing and dive on in! Stay tuned at the end for a sample from Book 1!
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve always loved to read. My mum told me that when I was two, I was sat reading Beatrix Potter. She was flabbergasted thinking I was some kind of genius kid, when in fact, she had read it to me so many times that I had it memorized. I didn’t start writing until I had my first child. I just couldn’t get the story for my first book, The Sanctuary, out of my head. It took a month, every night, but I just poured it onto the page. My first, very, very rough novel was born.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I don’t know if it’s a quirk but I like to write with noise. Maybe it’s from having a busy family life, but I always get more done when it’s super noisy around me. I’m quick too, once I have the idea and the flow, I get the words out, otherwise it drives me crazy!
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I’m a mum of three and I love to cook and bake. I find it soothing after a long day to just make a meal from scratch with some trashy TV or crime documentary on in the background. I think most writers love to read, and I’m no different. I read around three books a week and just love getting lost for a little while.
How many books have you written? Which is your favourite? Do you have a favourite character?
I’ve written three books so far. Which is my favourite? That’s like asking me to pick my favourite child. I couldn’t choose. Book one is dramatic and gritty. Book two is hopeful and enduring, and the third one is a whole other ball game, Drama, romance, trauma…it’s got it all! My absolute favourite character I’ve written is Caleb. I’ve watched him grow from a boy to a man across my series and I just think he was awesome as a child, and now he is amazing as an adult.
Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
I do occasionally. I have my author page where some choose to reach out and have a chat. I also have my blog where they can contact me. I welcome any reader who wants to discuss the books.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
When I’m in the grip of a story or a scene, I’m totally energized and can’t stop. Once it’s done, I do have to have like a rest day before I start editing. It’s both I would say.
Procrastination! I’m a nightmare for getting distracted with the lure of Netflix!
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
I try to be me. I try to write my story and yes, with it being the dystopian genre, a lot of the familiar tropes are there. However, my voice it totally different than that of other authors in this genre, so I try to just write a story I’m proud of and hopefully people like it too.
What does literary success look like to you?
People taking something from my story and saying, “Wow. I was hooked. I was crying, I was rooting for them every step of the way.” If people say that, then I’m happy!
What do you owe the real people upon whom you base your characters?
My adult characters do not resemble anyone in my life. I don’t have a solid idea of the physicality of a character when I start so I just go in with an open mind and see what feels right. Once I have a character’s general appearance in mind, I then go and search for an image to work from for my own descriptive purposes. My children in the book are a bit of a mash up of the children in my life almost. I draw on my own kids for things like mannerisms and funny comments – they are little comedy geniuses sometimes.
How can your fans connect with you?
I can be found on Facebook, Instagram, or my website, and I’d love to hear from as many as want to reach out!
And now for a little bit of a treat – CHAPTER ONE from THE SANCTUARY!
CHAPTER 1 – THE SANCTUARY
I grunted under the weight of the giant bags of laundry that I lugged through the crowded path. My fingers burned as the linen handles cut into them. My hands had long been calloused and tough, but it still ached. Sweat beaded on my brow, and I could feel the strands of hair that had broken free from my bun clinging to my face. “FRESH BREAD!” the baker bellowed.
I stopped and shuffled myself to the side of the path, dropping my load, so that Mr. Brennan could get past with his bread cart. My mouth watered at the smell of the fresh buns. I gazed longingly as he hollered his prices, trying to catch a bite. I rubbed my hands together, eyeing the groves that stood out pale against my mucky hands. It was noisy here. The heat was stifling.
Our encampment had been built inside the mountain. It was promoted as a safe place to come during the Final War, a sanctuary. I don’t know why the war started for sure; I imagine it was for the same reasons that most fights start, money, religion, power, greed, take your pick. It didn’t matter now.
The Sanctuary had been born, and the people flocked to it in droves, trying to escape the terrors going on outside. My grandparents had been among the refugees. Over forty years ago, they had fled here when my grandmother was pregnant with my father. My grandfather was an engineer. He was useful here and was one of the men and women that had built this place.
It had been split into two very distinct sections: the Highs and the Slums. You can guess which one I was part of. The High was for the affluent, the Slums were for the rest. I squinted and could see the trail up the mountain where the dirt gave way to stone. I could see the spiral of balconies and houses that littered the mountainside.
Jerome Evans was the founder of the Sanctuary. He had power and influence; he was revered as some kind of saviour. Someone like me would never be in his presence, but my grandfather had been. He had said that the Highs were beautiful, prestigious, but restricted. Only the ‘pure’ would be allowed the luxury that they provided. Jerome was particular about who was given the honour. I had heard stories like everyone else. I held the same fear as everyone else.
Jerome had instructed that once every five years, there would be a ‘gathering.’ It was just a word to try and make it sound better than what it was…it was murder. Those too sick to contribute to society were collected from their homes and culled. Maybe he thought it would make us all work that much harder to avoid being on his cull list.
The main stipulation about the Gathering was that no one up High was considered. They had immunity, bestowed by Jerome as his gift to them. Originally it was an option to work your way up. If you were committed to the Sanctuary and worked hard enough down here, you would be accepted up High to live in abundance. That didn’t happen anymore.
After the first Gathering, people became fearful of Jerome; many attempted to leave with his blessing. Still, they were found in the forest days later in pieces. Jerome told us that they were taken by the forest; a bear or mountain lion was usually named as the culprit. I had my doubts. I knew that the High couldn’t survive without us, the workers. I had been born here, this was the only life I, and many like me, knew.
As I looked around at the decrepit shacks and the overcrowded dirt pathways that always held a smell of urine, I wondered if my grandfather would be proud of his achievement here. I pulled up my apron and wiped my face. I needed to move. This laundry wouldn’t do itself, and I didn’t need Mrs. Hardman on my back today. I hauled up my load and continued to trudge through the throng of people on my way to the ‘Oven.’ I didn’t mind working the laundry job. It was a steady job and one of the safer ones.
I remembered my sweet mother and smiled. Even though life here was tough, she was always smiling. Her honey hair was long and wavy, perfectly contrasting with her jade green eyes. She was voluptuous and beautiful. She always smelled of lavender. She and my father had met when she was just fifteen. He was seventeen. They really were polar opposites. My mother was funny and happy. My father was controlled and quiet. He was a handsome man, with dark hair and even darker eyes. He wasn’t short of female attention, but my mother held his heart. They married as soon as she was sixteen, I was born shortly after. Neither of them could fathom my red hair and blue eyes, but none the less we were happy. My father worked hard as an engineer, just like his father. My mother was a baker and would always return home with fresh buns or sweet treats. I would beg for a taste before dinner, and she would give me that little musical laugh before allowing me one bite.
She would whisper, “Don’t tell your father,” and I would cover my mouth and chew as quickly as I could before he could see.
I turned the corner and saw the bakery. It always made my stomach turn even after all these years. I rushed past as quickly as possible, focusing on my path in front rather than the memories. I couldn’t stop them; they flooded me as poignant and crushing as ever.
The fire had caught quickly. Fifteen people had died that day. I didn’t realise as I ran home, excited to see what treat she had for me. I didn’t realise as I stepped through the door, kicking off my shoes and chattering away about my day. My mother was in the same place that I had often seen her, lay on the lumpy sofa, her arm splayed over her eyes. I glanced at my father to see the sparkle gone from his eyes. He sat at the table, staring. There was no cheeky laughter, and cooking smells wafting from the small kitchenette.
I sat in front of my mother. There was no glow to her smile, only a sagging open mouth. Her beautiful honey hair was now stained with soot and tangled with debris. Her jade eyes once so filled with love lay half-mast and lifeless. I remember falling to my knees and grasping her hand softly. I knew before my father had to say, “She’s gone.”
I felt the chill creep inside and wrap around my heart. I didn’t listen when Mr. Thomson, the doctor, told me what had happened in the shop. I vaguely remember him offering condolences and the wobble of emotion in his voice at the loss of my mother.
My father was never the same after her death. He passed when I was eleven. He just didn’t wake up. He just couldn’t take it anymore, couldn’t live without her, and I remembered wondering if he had brought his death along sooner. I didn’t feel angry that he had left me alone, as I probably should have. As much as I missed him, I remembered feeling relief.
He was free.
Lost in my thoughts, I rounded the final corner on the way to the Oven. My arms burned, and my back ached, but I was almost there. I was distracted as an argument broke out between two vendors, yelling about the grain price. Before I knew it, I slammed into someone and lost my balance, the weight of the bags dragged me to the floor, and I yelped as I fell.
My arm grazed the side of one of the shacks, catching a nail that was protruding from the wood. I hissed as it scraped along my skin. I grabbed hold of my arm, noticing as the blood pooled to the surface and then trickled down. Anger swelled, and I cried out in pain.
“Why can’t you bleedin watch where you are going!” The fire of my words died on my tongue, though, as I looked up and saw him looking down at me.