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Even After The End Of The World

Cheryl Peña Author Interview

Descent of the Vile follows a photographer and mysterious woman who barely escape death and must figure out a way to survive together and save humanity. What was the inspiration for the setup of your story?

This was the first time I used a dream to create a novel.  I’d watched all three films in the Three-Flavours Cornetto Trilogy consecutively, and although the films have comedic elements, I had a nightmare that night that became the opening sequence to Descent of the Vile.  When I woke, I had the feeling that an epic journey would come of it, and I wanted to write it down.  Originally, I wrote it as a novella, but I had to cut too much out to keep it at the shorter length.  So, I revised it to add the missing part of the story, and it became this short novel.  I liked the idea of an antagonist that changes throughout the story and a hero who is flawed, but learns from his past mistakes.  I also wanted to have Jackson’s perspective, even if a flawed one, the only perspective we see throughout the story, watching the events unfold through his eyes.  His journey isn’t only the one he takes with Nadine, but a journey of discovery as he learns that life still holds possibilities for him, even after the end of the world.

What was the inspiration for the relationship that developed between the characters?

Originally, I thought I didn’t want to have it be a romance at all.  And I think there is a romance that isn’t quite a romance between them.  They bond with each other beyond any level of attraction.  I also didn’t dwell on it, but there is an age difference between them, so I did consider that they might separate at the end, but the further I got into writing it, that seemed unlikely due to the personalities of the characters of Jackson and Nadine both.  Although they might not have met if not for the apocalypse that occurs, I thought they would at least find comfort in not being alone through the traumatic experiences that they endure.  It was important to me that Nadine save Jackson’s life, in more ways than one, and that Jackson opens up to her, learning that together they are stronger than they are apart.  But I didn’t want her to remain as someone Jackson has to protect, that they evolve to working more as a team.  It was also difficult to write from a male perspective, while creating a character who might be at once hurt but not broken.  He is healed by Nadine’s presence and discovers that he can evolve as a person, too.

What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?

I definitely wanted to write a story about an older protagonist.  Jackson is in his forties at the point of this novel, although it isn’t mentioned.  He has an established career.  Nadine was a student who dropped out of college, so she is younger, but she’d been in a stable relationship before she meets Jackson.  It was important that they both learn to accept each other for who they are and to grow as individuals.  But the main thing is that there is never a point of no return, when someone can’t make a new start.  I feel like there are few older protagonists in genre fiction especially, and older people still have valid contributions to make.  Also, making the point that being established doesn’t mean that a person can’t make a change and start over was important to me.  It’s never too late to learn a new skill or to make a career change or to move across the country to your dream house. Life isn’t static ever, and finding your own peace is something you have to work at, but you’ll never know what you’re capable of if you never attempt anything new.

Will there be a follow-up novel to this story? If so, what aspects of the story will the next book cover?

The sequel was signed by my publisher last summer, so it should come out this year.  It’s titled The Blood Hotel, and it takes place five years after the events in Descent of the Vile. Jackson and Nadine have settled into a comfortable routine when the return of a familiar foe uproots them and sends them fleeing once again. This time, the enemy has changed tactics, and they wonder what they can do to end the threat forever. There will be some themes that do come up again, like the fear of change, but it’s a new story with a different setting, so hopefully readers of Descent of the Vile will enjoy it. I think it’s a bit darker in tone with historical correlations, but you can simply read it as an action adventure if you prefer. I want it to be an enjoyable read, but there’s something more if you look for it.

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Photographer Jackson Riley is annoyed. He gets called to an unusual job where he’s given few details, and the client doesn’t seem to understand the time involved in taking large format photographs, which they specifically requested. Even worse, he almost misses the shuttle bus taking him back to his vehicle. But that’s when his entire life changes.
He barely escapes horrifying peril on the shuttle and races away in his car, only to rescue an enigmatic woman named Nadine who barely speaks to him. In doing so, he wonders what strange new terrors he’s discovered. Seeking to uncover the answer to the mystery, he drives away from the city and hopes to outrun any danger while also keeping his new companion safe. Eventually, however, he is no longer sure that running for the rest of his life is enough. To end the threat, he thinks he may have to return to the starting point but wonders if Nadine is too traumatized to face it again. Facing the choice of what to do with the mysterious woman he supposedly rescued, he must decide if he will protect her at all costs or if he will put her at risk to save the last of humanity.

Descent of the Vile

Descent of the Vile is a dystopian thriller following the choices of our protagonist Jackson Riley, a photographer who is asked to take photos of peculiar items in a research lab. Following this photo session, Jackson goes to leave the facility when he first comes across what he calls the “strangers” these are beings that look like people but can instantly be recognized because they lack emotion or any kind of feeling. They try to chase, attack, and kill. Jackson is in a race against time to get to safety when he comes across a young woman on the highway trying to get away from these bizarre “strangers.” Jackson kicks into hero mode and saves her, and the story follows them together as they try to piece together what is going on while also trying to determine if they can trust each other.

Author Cheryl Pena has written an enthralling thriller that I found to be intriguing and kept me turning the pages. I had a little trouble trying to figure out what sort of person Nadine was, but so did the protagonist Jackson, so perhaps she was trying to make readers see her through his eyes.

The suspense that is woven into the story is exhilarating with each chapter ending in a “cliffhanger,” leaving the reader unable to put the book down for even a moment. Another thing I thought was noteworthy was the relationship between Jackson and Nadine. Instead of being fantastical, Pena wrote a relationship between two strangers that could be attracted to each other in other circumstances but really couldn’t focus on their intimacy because of the degree of trauma and heartbreak they had experienced. As a result, their relationship is a slow burn with both having to earn the other’s trust.

Descent of the Vile is a gripping dystopian science fiction novel with fast moving action. This short read is perfect for the reader that wants a story they can finish in an afternoon and be on the edge of their seat the entire time.

Pages: 163 | ASIN : B0BNVX6YVH

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