The Uprising Series tells the story of three freedom fighters and their friends in high — and low — places that come together to overthrow a vainglorious Emperor and his militaristic Cabal to restore the city, and the way of life, they once knew and loved. In Book One, called The Gathering, Jamie Ryan has defected from the Cabal and has joined his former brothers-in-arms — Basile Perrinault and Kanoa Shinomura — to form a collective known as The Uprising. When an explosion leads to him crossing paths with Evanora Cunningham — a product of Jamie’s past — he discovers that The Uprising is bigger, and more important, than he thought. YEM spoke with author Bernadette Giacomazzo about the new book and what’s to come in the book series.
Young Entertainment Mag: How did you first get into writing? Do you have any writing influences?
Bernadette Giacomazzo: I first got into writing more than 20 years ago. I’ve always wanted to be a writer from when I was a child, but my parents — especially my mother — thought that it wasn’t a viable career option. (You have to remember that I grew up in a time before the Internet, where being a writer meant something very different than it does today.) I first started writing, “professionally” (though unpaid) at 17 for my college’s newspaper, The Duquesne Duke, and for online websites like In Music We Trust and autoREVERSE. To give you an idea of how different times were, back then: I applied for an internship at The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and when I showed them my clips from In Music We Trust, I was told that those weren’t “real” clips, that I would “never” make it as a journalist if I only wrote for online publications, and that the Internet was “just a phase” that would soon fizzle out and never be taken seriously by “real” journalists, harrumph!
When I turned 21, and graduated Duquesne University with two bachelor’s degrees, I decided to light back to my home in New York to actively pursue my writing dream while going to grad school (eventually earning my PhD), and it was here that I got my first professional gig with The Island Ear, a local-but-legendary music ‘zine, where I got the opportunity to review live shows and albums, and interview some very high-level rock stars. It was there that I realized I’d found my calling, and I’ve been writing — and editing — professionally ever since, with professional photography and other entertainment industry opportunities to supplement it all. And I did it for both print and online publications, in case that former editor of the Post-Gazette is reading this.
YEM: Where do you get your ideas for stories? Do they just come to you?
Bernadette: Well, I’m more known for my entertainment journalism than I am for my fiction writing — though I’m starting to get recognition for both, now — so my ideas for stories mostly come from the news of the day.
Insofar as The Uprising series, in particular — my inspiration is multi-fold.
Jamie Ryan/Ivan Sapphire is a composite character, designed from many lead singers that I’ve known over the years, but most especially lead singers from bands from the NYC and Long Island rock scenes of the late 1990s/early aughts. As I mention in the acknowledgments, these bands made up the soundtrack of my life, and they were part and parcel of some of the best times of my life.
Basile Perrinault is based, personality-wise, on my friend Damon Abramson.
Emperor is a tricky one — some may think he’s soley based on Donald Trump, but he’s also a composite character based on a number of dictators, poor leaders, and cult-of-personality types that we’ve seen throughout history. I deliberately made him chameleon-like so the reader could project their own definition of a terrible leader onto him.
New York City, as it’s seen in The Uprising series, is based on a variety of things within New York City, as we know it today: little-known New York City history, the city’s frame of mind after 9/11, the Bowery “scene” in the late 1970s and early 1980s. To be frank, it’s also an indictment of the over-gentrification of the city, and of Brooklyn and Queens in particular.
Those are just the most obvious inspirations. But other characters, events, and settings are inspired by true events and real people, with names and identifying details changed to protect the innocent…and the guilty. 🙂
YEM: This is book one in “The Uprising Series.” What is the process like writing an introduction to a book series?
Bernadette: For me, the first book in the series is always the most difficult one. You have to build the world, make people care about your characters and your story, and actually make the story make sense. Because I’m not a fiction writer by trade, I had to write out the entire story in outline form, from beginning to end, before writing out the first book — I didn’t want to overwhelm the reader, but I didn’t want to make it too vague, either.
Above all else, it’s important to note that the actual process of writing a book — any book, let alone the first book in a multi-part fiction series — is one that requires several drafts. In the first draft of the book, I wrote it in the third-person, omniscient narrator voice, and it simply didn’t work — it came off too “hard” and sterile, and read like an instruction manual rather than a fiction novel. Also, in the first draft of the book — spoiler alert, but not really! — Kanoa, not Mathieu Sherman, killed Angelique, Kanoa and Jamie were bitter enemies and not best friends, and Tommy didn’t even exist.
So, for those of you that are currently writing a novel and getting frustrated because you have to do another draft: don’t get discouraged, because it’s part of the process, and it’s in fact necessary to put out the best version of your story that you possibly can. 🙂
YEM: “The Gathering” is set in New York City, and you dedicated the book to “The Old New York City”. What about New York made the setting so perfect for this story?
Bernadette: Well, I’m a native New Yorker, and I love my city, because it’s the greatest city in the world. 😉
Insofar as why New York was the perfect setting: no two “New York stories” are the same. People experience New York in many different ways, and that’s of course based on a number of factors (are you a native or a transplant? what era did you grow up in? did you grow up in Manhattan proper or one of the boros? if you grew up in Manhattan proper, which neighborhood did you grow up in?). That means that there’s SO many different stories to tell that you can’t help but be inspired by it, whether for good or for bad.
YEM: Each chapter alternates between voices. Are any of these voices inspired by you or others that you know?
Bernadette: Jamie, obviously, is the composite voice of the lead singers I’ve known.
Evanora was actually the most difficult “voice” to adopt, because she’s the youngest, and I had to put myself in the mind frame of the “me” of 20 years ago to write in her voice. If I didn’t, I risked her coming off as too mature for her age, and thus not a realistic character or, God forbid, a Mary Sue.
Speaking of Mary Sue: for the record, there is no character insert for me in this series. I’m still the journalist/editor/writer at heart, and because of that, it’s my job to — for lack of a better way of putting it — be the conduit for these characters to tell their story, rather than be in the story itself. That’s actually the first thing you learn in journalism: TELL the story, don’t BE the story.
YEM: The cover of “The Gathering” was done by The cover was done by Jessica Benoist-Young, sister of “Supergirl” star Melissa Benoist! What was it like to work with her?
Bernadette: Originally, I was going to work with someone else. Then, I just Googled “dystopian book covers” and got a whole BOATLOAD of artists and their sample wares. So, my concerns about finding a decent artist were completely unfounded, to say the least.
As good as so many of these covers were, nothing — and I mean NOTHING — stood out to me until I got to a green cover with a beautiful woman who looked EXACTLY like Evanora! I was like, WHAT? This artist is ALL the way in my head! I MUST HAVE THIS COVER! I had no idea who the artist was or anything of the sort, because it was on a website that just had a series of samples for proffer without any identifying details — you would only get the contact information of the artist AFTER you made a purchase for the rights to the cover.
So, I did just that, and “the artist” and I began communicating. It was then that she wrote back — and I saw her name was “Jessica Benoist-Young.” My first thought was, “COOL! I’m working with a woman!” In this era — and especially remembering what it was like BEFORE women started reclaiming their time and their spaces — that, more than anything, was important to me.
When I started promoting the book — giving credit, of course, to Jessica for the cover — someone hit me via email and said, “girl, do you have ANY IDEA who that is?” I’m like, “yeah — that’s Jessica Benoist-Young, greatest artist ever, and I’m lucky enough to get to work with her.” She was like, “NOOOOOO! That’s Melissa Benoist’s sister!” I’m like, “really? That’s cool.” It was only then that I found out that, thanks to her sister, she had a huge following of her own thanks to super-loyal Supergirl fans. (Wassup, y’all.) I’d have worked with her regardless of who her sister was — I’ve been around celebrities for my entire adult life, so it doesn’t faze me either way — because Jessica REALLY IS that awesome, and deserves a world of success for her work.
And yes, she’s going to work on ALL the covers for The Uprising series. And if I have my way, I’ll have EVERY single writer that ever existed looking to her for their work. I want Jessica to win Oscars, Grammys, Golden Globes, and even a Tony award, if they’ll make one for her. I absolutely adore her. Jessica Benoist-Young for President, y’all.
YEM: Have you already started work on the next installment of “The Uprising Series.” Any hints you can give for what’s ahead?
Bernadette: I have written the outline of the entire series. 🙂 But I’m going to begin working on the second installment sometime in September.
In the next books, you’ll be hearing from other characters. I don’t want to give too much away, but in Kings and Queens — the second book in the series — you’ll be hearing from Basile and Tommy, and in the third book (which is called The Bayou Visitor), you’ll be hearing from a character that you never, in a million years, thought you’d be hearing from if you just based your supposition on the first book. And insofar as the ending of the book…let’s just say it’s necessary to do right by the story.
YEM: What makes writing for young adults so unique?
Bernadette: Good question. There’s a number of things, really — it doesn’t feel like that long ago that I was a young adult, myself, but it’s only when I realize what the term “young adult” means that I realize I’m a member of the “old guard,” and as such, it’s become my duty to teach the young’uns the best way I know how. I don’t ever want to come off like an old fuddy-duddy, but I’d like to think that people of all ages can enjoy this book series, not just young adults.
If I were to narrow it down to one thing, though, that makes the young adult audience so unique, it would be this: they’re so fully of hope, and they fully believe that they can change the world. And, as recent events have proven, they can…and they will. I want to speak to that — I don’t feel like I’m doing them any favors by writing an unrealistic bodice-ripper, or by pontificating from a place of moral superiority, because neither of these things have any appeal to me, and neither of these things should appeal to any young adult with a sense of fire, passion, and purpose about themselves.
Rather, I want them to know that I’m not perfect — that I more than made my fair share of mistakes, that I MORE than paid heavy prices for those mistakes, but most of all, that I learned and grew from those mistakes. I don’t ever want any of these young adults to think they’re worthless BECAUSE they made a mistake, or compare themselves to others who pose as these perfect little princesses (because 99.99 times out of 100, the “perfect little princesses” are FAR from perfect, and the .01 times that the little princess THINKS she’s perfect, she has delusions of grandeur).
I want them to know, rather, that making mistakes — and learning and growing from them — is an essential part of being a whole, wonderful human being.
That’s why my characters aren’t perfect — they’re deeply flawed, they paid heavy prices for some of their choices, and they even are dealing with unresolved issues from events they had no control over and/or had no way of changing the outcome of — but they still, somehow, manage to find one another, appreciate one another, love one another, and, best of all, make the world even just a little bit better thanks to their willingness to respect and appreciate each other’s differences.
That’s how I am, in my real life — what makes my real life so amazing is that I befriend people who are, and remain, REAL, no matter how flawed or “anti-Hollywood” they seem to others. I don’t befriend people because of what they can do for my career, or because of who they know “in the business” or “on the scene.”
And it’s New York that taught me all that — true New Yorkers, as a whole, are not impressed by money or fame or celebrity status. They’re impressed by what you’ve done to make the world a better place, how well you treat others (especially those who can’t “do anything” for you), and how hard you hustle to make your dreams come true. In a very real way, the “good vs. evil” of The Uprising series is diversity, inclusion, and acceptance (good) versus conformity, blind obedience, and violence against the defenseless (evil).
If I can reach even ONE young adult like me, and make her feel even SLIGHTLY better for being in this world, and help her go on to make a difference in the world around her, I’ll feel blessed beyond measure. And if I reach more than one — tens, hundreds, thousands — then I’ll feel blessed AND humbled beyond measure. To even have ONE outlet — like yours — show an interest in what I have to say is awe-inspiring, and I’m forever grateful for even the chance, let alone the platform. 🙂
“The Gathering: Book One of The Uprising Series” is available now!