No, she’s not from the eponymous television show. THIS Simpson is the author of the the dark fantasy – some call it dreadpunk – series The Londo Chronicles. Let’s meet her!
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
When I was in elementary school. I remember my second-grade teacher asking me to write a story for her to read. I forget what I wrote for her, but I do still have a later work, The Day He Opened the Coffin.
What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
I write for three hours in the morning, edit in the afternoon. I do social media when I find the time.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I’m partial to a big-hearted Scottish hero.
What does your family think of your writing?
They are proud to introduce me as a writer.
Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
People often say they can see a movie in their heads when they read my books, and why aren’t my novels turned into movies?
As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
I wanted to be a writer or a vet.
What is the first book that made you cry?
King of the Wind. That was a long time ago…
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
I only write what I am driven to write. I’ve never followed market trends. I hope to be a trendsetter!
What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
I’ve had many author friends over the years who have been in my critique groups and writer associations, but recently I have moved around so much that I am afraid I’ve lost track of many of them. Now that I have retired from my demanding day job, I look forward to reconnecting with my colleagues.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Get a mentor. Writing friends are friends for life.
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
I bought one of the first Apple laptops. It was dark gray, very heavy and cost close to $4000! I loved that baby.
What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?
My most recent book, PHOENIX, is just sitting there like a poor little orphan. And I adore the story, setting and the character arcs. I hope people will give it a chance and read it.
What are you working on now?
A screenplay. Something much more light-hearted than the dystopian series I’ve been working on for so long. (The Londo Chronicles.)
What do you have coming soon?
I’m producing a short film that I hope to unleash on the world in the very near future. Then it’s back to work on a screenplay about a woman who played dead for various reasons but now wants to come back to her family.
Thank you! Now, how can your fans connect with you?
Well, you’re the tech guy; can you put up links to my social media and my website?
How can people buy your books?
How about more buttons?
I understand you’re still not done with surprises!
Nope! Here’s a little video for your readers to enjoy!
You’ve really knocked it out of the park!
But wait, there’s more! I’ve got a little sample of APOTHECARY for them!
Londo City, The Anglo Territories, December 2506
Just five more days.
Twenty-eight-year-old Joanna Wilder stepped off the train and into the swirling fog, lighter of heart than she had been for years. In just five more days, she would slough off the role of guardian to her wayward sister and become her own person at last. In five short days, she would start living her own life. There would be no more trouble or surprises.
Joanna smiled and pulled her shawl around her shoulders. A clock had begun to tick inside her today, and each tick of the second hand sent anticipation surging through her chest.
All she had to do was keep her sister Eva out of trouble until she entered the Marriage Machine with her government-selected husband. The task sounded simple enough, and for most people it was. But with Eva, nothing was simple. Eva’s reckless spirit, so ill-suited to the dark times they lived in, was a continual challenge for Joanna to manage. But soon Eva would be wed, and her capricious nature would become the responsibility of her new husband.
Then and only then would Joanna live her own life.
Joanna slipped through the crowd at the platform. All she could see were blurred shapes of her fellow workers as they jostled through the thick fog, eager to get home. She hurried forward, anxious to meet her sister and get home as well. Walking the streets of Londo City in the dusk of December was dangerous. Everyone knew it. Fear hung in the mist like a fetid perfume.
But Joanna would not let fear cling to her. Tonight, she would indulge. She would trust that life would get better. She would allow herself to be hopeful. Just this once.
Joanna scampered toward Platform 5. The warm mist fogged up her spectacles, but she ignored it and pressed on. This was the favorite part of her day: meeting her sister’s train after work, walking home for a simple dinner, and then going up to the secret rooftop garden where her real work began.
Joanna had met her sister Eva at the Number 5 platform every day for the past seven years, six days a week and every week except the fortnight they got off for C-Day. She had been both father and mother to Eva for even longer.
Just as Joanna gained the top of the stairs above the Number 5 platform, the fog rolled away, revealing the tracks below. Joanna stared, shocked by the view. Her light heart plummeted. For the first time in seven years, the Number 5 bay stood empty. Only a handful of people waited on the platform, gazing down the tracks as if to conjure the missing train from thin air. Eva was not among those waiting.
Joanna clattered down the metal stairs to the platform, careful not to catch her skirt on the ornate ironwork. It would be easy to trip in the fading light of the December afternoon. The last thing she needed was to injure herself and bring down more misfortune on her family.
“Excuse me.” Joanna touched the elbow of a middle-aged woman with a prominent gap between her front teeth. “Citizen Waldron?” The woman waited for her husband every night, just as Joanna waited for Eva. “Has the Number 5 come and gone already?”
“I couldn’t say,” Citizen Waldron replied, puffing on her cold hands to warm them. “Just got here myself.”
“It’s usually here by now,” a man in a cap remarked, glancing past the platform and into the gloom that swallowed the tracks. Impatient, he slapped his cap against the side of his knee. “And I don’t like waiting here in the dark, I can tell you. We’ll soon be out past the curfew.”
The man was right. It took at least twenty minutes to walk from the station to the outskirts of the government-approved townhouses, and twenty-five to Joanna and Eva’s flat. If the authorities caught two young ladies walking the streets after dark, they could be fined—or worse, sent to the Norsea work camps and never heard from again. It was always a challenge to get home before dark, especially in winter.
Joanna’s worry ratcheted up a notch as the gears of the steam clock high above her head clicked into position. The clock whirred and whizzed and then tooted the hour. Five o’clock. The Number 5 train was now twenty minutes late.
For most people, a late train was a simple inconvenience. For Joanna, a late train meant much more. She turned her thoughts away from the past and refused to acknowledge memories that roared up behind her when she was weak or worried like this.
Citizen Waldron sidled close. “Joanna, do you have some of that licorice root I could buy? My boy is sick with croup. It’s the only thing that seems to help.”
“I do. I could bring some to the next distribution.”
“Any sooner? He’s awful sick. We’re both up all night with his coughing. Sometimes I think he’ll stop breathing. I’m so worried for him.”
“I can see what I can do. I could bring some by your place, tonight, I suppose.”
“You are an angel. I saved my ration of cheese. I’ll give it to you if you come by. I wouldn’t ask you to put yourself in danger, but I’m desperate.”
“Don’t worry. You can count on me.” Joanna squeezed Citizen Waldron’s forearm to reassure her, just as the man with the cap strode up.
“Where in the name of Wanda is that train?” The man plopped his cap onto his balding head and gave it a swift pat. “My wife will have my hide if I’m late.”
Unease spiraled inside Joanna as a train arrived at Platform 2 and spilled out a load of weary workers. Joanna scanned the crowd pouring over the platform and up the ancient stairs, hoping against hope that Eva’s train had been switched to arrive on an alternate track. Perhaps a bridge had collapsed, or a stretch of track had come loose. The old rail system was beleaguered by such problems.
But none of the disembarking riders was Eva.
Joanna’s worry surged to fear. “Thomas!” Joanna waved at Thomas Thorn, a young man who would have noticed Eva if he had seen her. He flirted shamelessly with Eva on every distribution day.
Thomas paused to glance at Joanna as his fellow passengers jostled for a place on the stairs.
“Yes?” His gaze darted down her figure and back up, without a flicker of interest.
“Thomas, did you see the Number 5 train on the way into town?”
“That’s right.” The impatient man in the cap shouldered his way up to Joanna. “Did you see the Number 5?”
“I heard something about it,” Thomas replied. “Something happened. No one knows what yet.”
“What do you mean?” Joanna grabbed his arm, and he pulled back, shocked that a woman would touch him so freely.
“It went off the tracks. That’s all I know.”
“The Number 5?” Joanna gasped. “Are you sure?”
He nodded. “On that curve by the river.”
“What about the passengers?” Joanna clutched his arm again. “Are they all right?”
“I can’t say, Joanna.” Anxious to be on his way, the young man tried to yank out of her grip, but she held on, determined to get more facts.
“What did you see? Please, tell me!”
“I couldn’t see much in the fog. Sorry, that’s all I know. And I have to be going.” He glared at her until she released him.
Joanna watched him trot up the stairs as the full impact of what he’d just said hit her like a blow to the stomach.
“I guess I’ll have to walk home,” the man with the cap grumbled behind her. “Of all the luck.”
She barely heard him. “My sister is on that train,” Joanna murmured. Her mouth went dry. She glanced down the empty tracks. The trail into darkness looked more ominous than ever. Her little sister—the only family she had left and one of the few people in the world that she truly cared about—was on that train.
Without a second thought, Joanna brushed her skirt to the side and dashed toward the edge of the platform.
“Joanna!” Citizen Waldron shrieked.
Joanna ignored her. No one was allowed on the tracks. She could be fined. Disobeying the law could ruin her reputation for life. Even worse, it was almost dark. No sane person stayed out after dark. People died in the dark in Londo City.
But there was no time to consider her social standing or her personal safety. Eva could be hurt. Eva could be out there injured and suffering, just like—
Joanna shut off her imagination before it overwhelmed her. She had to get to Eva, no matter what. She jumped off the platform, landed with a thud in the gravel at the side of the tracks and set off running.