A dream of a tsunami sweeping across the plains of Nebraska helped form the plot of Kassandra Montag’s After the Flood, her novel about a time in the future when rising waters engulf the earth, leaving only small chunks of land suitable for living.
Montag, who is from Nebraska, had just moved back from Amsterdam when she had not only a dream as well as a vision.
“I was pregnant with my first child and I saw the image of a mother with her daughter sailing on a boat in a future flooded world but separated from her other daughter,” she says. “Then I re-discovered a line from a journal I had kept— ‘a group of people huddle around a campfire, struggling to survive and looking for a safe haven.’ Group dynamics has always been an interest of mine and these story lines—a mother separated from her daughter and people trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic world all came together and were part of the inspiration for writing the book.”
After the Flood tells the story of Myra and her seven-year-old daughter Pearl who live on their small fishing boat and visit what’s left of dry land to trade for goods and gather information. When Myra learns her long missing daughter, Row, who was kidnapped by her father, has been seen near the Arctic Circle, she and Pearl make their way through the north treacherous and frozen waters. Their hope is that Row will still be there when they arrive. During their voyage the two join up with others who are also struggling to survive.
To create this alternate universe, Montag studied a variety of subjects including stories of the Bajau, a group of nomads in Southeast Asia who are sea dwellers, so used to spending time in the water they can hold their breath for up to 13 minutes.
“I also researched ancient seafarers like the Vikings, read guidebooks on how to build fires, fish and other survival skills,” says Montag. “And I watched sailing videos while eating my lunch.”
Montag, who is a published poet, says that she was surprised at the reaction to her book, which is scheduled to become a television series.
“As a poet, you don’t get this type of interest,” she says.
Ultimately, she says, the book is about what parts selfishness and selflessness play in the fight for survival.
“It interested me how the survival instinct can be inherently selfish in a dangerous world without enough resources and others transcended those feelings,” she says. “I was also interested in the way that survival can be seen as selfless as well, as an act of love carrying on.”
What: Reading and Q & A with Kassandra Montag
When: Thursday, October 17 at 7 p.m.
Where: Anderson’s Bookshop La Grange, 26 S La Grange Rd, La Grange, IL
FYI: (630) 355-2665; andersonsbookshop.com