I started writing stories when I was very young. My grandmother would write them out for me because I did not know my letters yet. I would add in illustrations later. It has always been a part of my life and I’m so grateful that I can finally share my work with the world.
The idea for my new book came when I was watching an emergency drill at work and I started to wonder what it would be like to grow up in a community where preparedness was emphasized as a rule. Doomsday prepping seemed like a natural fit.
In choosing the main character, I developed the ideas for Becca, for my main character, and her prepper-approved boyfriend, Roy, at the same time. I intended for them to have opposing personalities so that their core traits would be in sharp contrast whenever they were together. Instead of having them meet and fall in love, I also wanted to explore an older relationship that exists before the opening events of the novel.
I chose Ohio for the setting of the book because that was where I was living at the time. I knew I needed a setting with seasons and enough nature nearby that it would make sense for doomsday preppers to want to set up there. As far as the plot, I don’t outline when I write, so I spent quite a bit of time thinking on my feet to see where the story would go next.
The relationships in PREPPED are particularly important to the way the reader experiences the novel. I knew there were certain nuances I needed to emphasize, but it was a challenge to balance so many character arcs and personalities. I felt like narrating from Becca’s point of view was easy because I can see a lot of myself in her and I didn’t have to work too hard to understand what she would be feeling when confronted with a certain situation.
I created a mantra for my main character. . . Always be ready for the worst day of your life: This is the mantra that Becca Aldaine has grown up with. Her family is part of a community of doomsday preppers, a neighborhood that prioritizes survivalist training over class trips or senior prom. They are even arranging Becca’s marriage with Roy Kang, the only eligible boy in their community. Roy is a nice guy, but he’s so enthusiastic about prepping that Becca doesn’t have the heart to tell him she’s planning to leave as soon as she can earn a full ride to a college far, far away.
Trying to get published was such an emotional experience for me because I felt so invested in my work. It is not uncommon to get dozens and dozens of rejections, especially when you are searching for a literary agent. There were many times that I got discouraged and did not think I would ever be able to break into writing as a career. On the flip side, because of those hurdles, the good moments are so incredible. It is the feeling of a dream coming true, as cliché as that might sound.
I wrote in a few different genres before I settled on young adult contemporary as the best fit for my voice and my storytelling. I signed with my literary agent, Jennifer Wills, in early 2017. Jennifer is truly the best champion I could ever have hoped for. She found an amazing home for PREPPED and now we’re looking forward to some new projects as well
Bethany Mangle is a young adult contemporary author. Her debut novel, PREPPED, will be released on February 23, 2021 by Simon & Schuster/McElderry Books. She currently lives and writes in Mississippi with her husband and their spoiled rotten dog. For more information visit Bethany at https://www.bethanymangle.com/.