Author Joyce Hertzoff writes mystery and speculative fiction for middle grade, young adult, and adult audiences. She has written three fantasy series (completed or in the works)—the Crystal Odyssey set of four novels, the ongoing Portal Adventures, and the new More Than Just Survival books. Her newest release is Train to Nowhere Somewhere: Book 1 of the More Than Just Survival Series (July 2023). You’ll find Joyce on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, as well as on her blog HertzoffJo.blogspot.com and website at FantasyByJoyceHertzoff.com. For more about Joyce and her writing, visit her SWW author page and follow the links to previous interviews. Visit Amazon for all of her books.
Train to Nowhere Somewhere follows a group of passengers stranded in rural Missouri after their train derails. At its heart, what is the book about?
This is a book about survival, about taking what we know and recreating a new modern world after disaster, to rebuild with the hopes of an improved life. It is also about found families, the strangers we come to embrace because of shared experiences. Third, it’s about small-town life in farm country.
You had some trouble winnowing down your POV characters to a manageable number. What was that process like and who did you keep to tell the story?
Early critiquers found twelve POV characters a bit too much, even though each had something to contribute, a viewpoint that was unique and an interesting history. Spoiler alert: after the first novel, I envisioned the second would involve two groups splintered off to find answers while the main group continues to build a new community. Each group needed at least two people to tell what happened to them. Because of this, I needed to establish the goals and viewpoints of seven of the forty people stranded in book one. Those seven included one couple, two people who’d been at odds even before the story started, and a retired doctor, a lawyer turned cook, and one of the train attendants.
Tell us about the journey from inspiration to completed book for this first in a new series.
This book, like a few other stories I’ve written, began in a class I took as part of an online MFA program. The class was called Maps, and we were to take our characters on a journey, both physical and metaphorical. My characters’ journey hit a snag due to the collapse of a railroad trestle. From there, my imagination took off, as it often does, in the form of a more widespread disaster.
How did you go about choosing the title and subtitle?
The title for this one refers to their train journey which ended in a kind of nowhere, but also to the fact that they turned it into a somewhere. The subtitle refers to the entire series, which is all about survival and how that can take unexpected turns.
What makes Train to Nowhere Somewhere unique in the dystopian market?
Is it dystopian? Maybe. I think of it as near future. When I describe it to people, often they say, “That could happen.” I hope not. We’re too dependent now on being able to communicate with people far away and to have reliable electricity in our homes. In this book, I never say what caused the disaster, although there is speculation.
What was your favorite part of putting this project together?
Doing research on wind generators and other aspects of the story. It was fun to learn new facts and find a way to incorporate them into the story. Also developing the characters was fun, the threads about knitting as a useful skill, working out some logistics.
Any new writing projects in the works?
As always, I have several. Besides the second and third books of the More Than Just Survival series, I’m working on: book three in my Portal Adventures series; a series of stories about a girl who’s exiled from her domed town; a murder mystery that takes place in 19th century England; a group of stories about a family that acts as couriers between planets of a system settled by people from Earth; two or three murder mysteries; the story I just workshopped about a boy who wants to work on a time travel machine while his parents want him to help at their dig in the desert near an extinct volcano; and my favorite, a story about two girls from Tucson who manage to time travel to 1873 Arizona and are accused of murdering a merchant. There are probably more projects but these are ones I’m actively working on.
Is there anything else you’d like readers to know?
I’ll be selling my books at assorted venues throughout the fall. Watch for announcements of when those will take place.
KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. Kat has a speculative fiction blog at klwagoner.com and writes about memoir at ThisNewMountain.com.