Goodreads, JD Cunegan
Published: June 2nd, 2015
As humanity lives out the remainder of its existence at the top of an isolated apartment tower, young Jackie dares to question Tower Authority and their ban on traveling into the tower's depths. Intelligent and unyielding, Jackie ventures into the shadows of the floors below. But will her strong will and refusal to be quiet—in a society whose greatest pride is hiding the past—bring understanding of how humanity became trapped in the tower she has always called home, or will it simply be her undoing?
FLOOR 21 happened by accident. I had previously written two books, neither of them great. I had an agent in L.A. who told me I was great at building worlds but my characters didn’t pop or stand out. So, November 2014, it’s NaNoWriMo, I’m watching Walking Dead, and this interesting moment happens. There’s this young teen girl trying to escape a hospital by lowering herself down an elevator shaft. I’m watching this, then I have an idea:
What if the horror was on ground level, but nobody had been back to the ground in centuries?
That’s what inspired the book. I opened up a Word document, started typing in a first person narrative from the perspective of a teenage girl, and put out about five pages of it to a writing group. Response? People go nuts about it. So I think with it. I think after years of writing, feedback from my agent, and just tons of practice, I finally nailed the balance between world building and character.
The book itself follows a headstrong girl named Jackie, whose life is lead from a position of privilege inside of an isolated apartment tower. The occupants live on the top 21 levels, and going any lower is forbidden. Nobody has seen ground, or knows why they got trapped up here, but they know there’s a living sickness known as the Creep that reacts to negative human emotions and will attack or kill people further down the tower. Teams, known as Scavengers, are sent out every three months to scavenge the lower floors for food. Not all of them make it back.
Jackie has two questions: Who is running things from the top floor (where nobody is allowed to go), and what’s beneath the 21st floor? The book tries to combine a kind of slice-of-life story that portrays Jackie as a pretty imperfectly perfect teenager who has trouble relating to people, bouts of mild anxiety and depression, but also this bravery to explore where nobody else will.
The greatest response I’ve had to the book has been how much people like Jackie and the characters. That would never have happened a few years ago, when I was still struggling to portray these people as interesting, engaging individuals. So, I’m glad that people are not only fascinated by the world of the tower, but also by Jackie.
About the author:
His inspirations include some of the obvious; The Lord of the Rings and Chronciles of Narnia are some of the most cited fantasy series in history. However, his favorite reads include the Earthsea Cycle, the Chronicles of Prydain, as well as science fiction hits such as Starship Troopers and Do Androids dream of Electric Sheep?