Dashe Roberts has spent most of her life living on either coast of the US. After several years working in the New York theatre scene, she moved back home to California and began writing her first book, Sticky Pines: The Bigwoof Conspiracy. Dashe has since moved to London, where she lives with her husband, her young son and her dog, Monkey.
Sticky Pines: The Wrath of the Blob (Future Human)
In Sticky Pines: The Wrath of the Blob, the stakes are high and the future of the human race itself is under threat....! A fabulous science fiction read, the Sticky Pines series follows the lives of the residents of Sticky Pines, where odd lights, strange creatures and the mystery of the sticky pines themselves drive the investigations of local resident, Lucy, and her friend Milo. Lucy is convinced that aliens are real....
Author Dashe Roberts introduces the Sticky Pines series and her latest book, The Wrath of the Blob!
Q&A with Dashe Roberts
1. Hello Dashe, please can you introduce yourself and tell us about the kinds of books you enjoy writing.
My name is Dashe Roberts, and I'm the author of the Sticky Pines series, a four-book epic sci-fi mystery saga exploring the nature of truth in a post-truth world, as well as friendship, empathy and lots and lots of monstery goo.
I'm an American, originally from California, and I've been living in the UK for the last seven years. I'm a lifelong fan of science fiction, adventure, horror, and mystery stories, and a lot of my fiction writing tends to roam across those genres. I find that creating a mystery novel is a lot like crafting a game or a puzzle, which is a process I really enjoy.
2. What brought you into writing sci-fi - who were your influences?
I've always been drawn to science fiction because it's a genre in which you can explore life's biggest questions. Sci-fi takes a real-world scenario and asks, "What if…?" As a kid, I was a huge fan of the sweeping, epic stories by Madeleine L'Engle, like A Wrinkle in Time and A Wind in the Door, which take the protagonist Meg Murry across outer space and into the equally expansive microscopic world in order to save her family.
I also loved reading speculative fiction books like The Giver by Lois Lowry, The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood and 1984 by George Orwell, all very different in tone, audience and execution, yet which each explore the use of technology to exert control over a populace.
I also love the work of Kurt Vonnegut, who blends elements of comedy and farce into his inventive literary science fiction: The Sirens of Titan, for example, is a darkly humorous, time-and-space-spanning exploration of the meaning of life itself.
Lastly, television shows like Star Trek: The Next Generation and The X-Files were huge favourites of mine. These tightly constructed dramas investigate the nature of Truth and humanity's place in the universe in wildly different, yet equally compelling ways. I've probably watched every episode of these series a dozen times each.
3. What is science-ficition, and why do your Sticky Pines books fit into this genre?
Science fiction delves into events that aren't currently possible in the real world, but could be possible given the right circumstances. For example, the development of new technologies, the passage of time, the new discovery of natural phenomena, or the possibility of a disruptive person or faction seizing power.
Great science fiction stories usually ask big questions about what is real, what is true, and what it means to be human. My Sticky Pines books ask, "What would you do if you discovered something monstrously frightening happening in your town, and powerful adults were actively working against you in your quest to reveal this danger to the wider world?"
4. So what happens across the Sticky Pines series and in the latest and final book in the series, The Wrath of the Blob? Did you always have this destination in mind when you started writing the first book?
The series begins with The Bigwoof Conspiracy, when Lucy Sladan leaves her house in search of proof of UFOs, and finds something far stranger instead: a huge, hairy monster, strange lights in the sky, and a new kid named Milo Fisher with a powerful, secretive family. As the series continues, Lucy and Milo make some astounding discoveries about the town of Sticky Pines and the people who live there. Their friendship is tested in many ways, and nothing is ever as simple as it seems. In the fourth and final book, The Wrath of the Blob, Lucy is in a desperate race against the clock to save Milo, expose the Truth once and for all, and find a way to save the world.
When I started writing the first Sticky Pines book, I always knew the answers to the mysteries of the town, and I had a clear picture of exactly how the story would begin and end. The journey to get from start to finish, which was always led by my characters, took me in some interesting directions though, and this process of discovery was very fun to write. To give just one example, Thingus, who first appears in the second book, didn't exist in my original plan for the series but I created him when my publisher asked me to expand the story. But now I couldn't imagine what the books would be like without him!
5. How are science-fiction books relevant to the kinds of issues we experience in today's world? And how do you keep your Sticky Pines books and themes rooted in the 'real' world?
Science fiction can use supernatural and hypothetical scenarios to explore events and concepts we experience in today's world. In Sticky Pines, Lucy sometimes has a difficult time knowing what is true and what is false about the things she discovers, as well as who has good or bad intentions.
In our world, with the advent of the Internet and Social Media in particular, we have all these tools to verify information instantly, and yet we navigate environments where anyone can make claims about the truth and pictures and videos can be edited to reflect falsehoods. Even with all this technology it can be very difficult to know what's true. How can we know who to trust? Can we even trust ourselves?
Lucy struggles with these same questions, and I feel (or hope!) this helps keep the story rooted in "reality", even when things get a bit crazy and, frequently, slimy.
6. How do you play with science-fiction tropes in your Sticky Pines series?
I enjoy taking tropes we're familiar with and then turning them on their heads. Without giving away major spoilers, one way I wanted to play with sci fi and mystery tropes was to explore what happens in the lead-up, but also in the aftermath, of a huge, world-altering discovery. What do you do with the Big Answers once you find them? I also like to play with readers' expectations of who or what is good, evil, and everything in between. As David Lynch presents in Twin Peaks, often, the owls are not what they seem.
7. These books are great Halloween reads, too. How do you bring an edge to these books - without the gore?
Sometimes the scariest stories aren't very gory at all. The fear we experience comes from the tension of not knowing what is going to happen, and letting our imaginations fill in all the worst possibilities. Fear can arise from your favourite character's lives being in peril, but also from the very act of them exploring strange or unknown, mysterious circumstances.
Human beings have an innate sense of revulsion towards certain things: darkness, confined underground tunnels, icky substances, ugly creatures with claws and big teeth unlike anything we've ever seen… And of course, sometimes other people and the things they are capable of can be the scariest things of all.
8. How do you suggest children experiment with writing science-fiction? What is a good place to start?
A good place to start writing science-fiction is to think about your own world and your own life and ask yourself, "what if…?" For example, "what if my computer could talk to me?", "what if I woke up one day and the moon was gone?", "what if my class travelled to outer space?", or "what if dolphins secretly ruled the world?". The sky is the limit.
9. Are there other science-fiction writers you'd recommend for our readers - and will you be writing more?
There are loads of great science fiction books out there for all ages, and I certainly plan to explore other elements of this genre in future. Some of my favourite Middle Grade titles include:
• The Giver by Lois Lowry is a novel set in a futuristic city where life is engineered to enable the populace to live without pain and suffering, at the expense of their emotional depth and individuality. One child inherits the role of "Giver", which enables him to discover the truth of what has been lost.
• Bite Risk by SJ Wills takes place in an isolated town where, when they reach a certain age, all the adults turn into werewolves. A group of teens are determined to unearth the reason why, and they discover some hair-raising secrets in the process…
• Orion Lost by Alastair Chisholm is about a group of children who awake to find they're the only passengers to come out of stasis on a massive ship bound for a new world. But they learn they're being followed, and something isn't right with the AI assistant on board…
• A Wind in the Door by Madeleine L'Engle follows Meg Murry's cosmic journey into the microscopic world as she tries to find a cure for her brother Charles Wallace's mysterious illness.
• Where the World Turns Wild by Nicola Penfold is a thrilling eco adventure that follows Juniper and Bear as they escape their high-walled techno-city and journey through a plague-ridden wilderness in search of their mother.
• Crater Lake by Jennifer Killick is a fun, funny and heart-pounding thriller set in the great outdoors, featuring body snatching creatures that infiltrate your mind if you dare fall asleep. Perfect reading for the spooky season!
• When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead is the story of an ordinary sixth-grade girl whose life is thrown askew when she begins receiving messages from a mysterious stranger who seems to know everything about her. The messages lead her to believe that only she can prevent a tragic death from occurring in the future.
10. And finally... Halloween is around the corner - do you enjoy this time of year? What would a favourite American Halloween include for you?
Halloween is my absolute favourite time of year (which is why I'm so thrilled my books suit the spooky season!). I love it when the leaves start to turn and the air turns crisp and cool. I love planning Halloween costumes and parties. Now that I have a young son I'm very excited at the prospect of going Trick-Or-Treating again.
The best American-style Halloweens comprise a month's worth of watching scary and spooky movies, going to a pumpkin patch with a creepy corn maze, carving Jack-OLanterns and toasting the pumpkin seeds, drinking lots of hot cider, and attending at least one smashing Halloween party where everyone is dressed up in outlandish costumes. A full moon on the night would be hard to beat as well!