1. Could you give a brief summary about The Downfall?
The world is falling apart. The end is nigh. The Downfall is coming... but not if Scarlett Steele can help it.
A sixth form student in a North London college, Scarlett’s days are filled with school, homework, and writing her blog – ‘Truth Not Terror’ – in which she reports on the world’s atrocities and tries to spread the message that ‘peace will prevail’. She’s a believer that somehow, somewhere, among all the shootings, the stabbings, and the bombings, there is still some humanity left in mankind. Still some hope.
But what if she’s wrong?
On the day of The Broadcast, everything changes, and when Scarlett and her friend Seth meet the mysterious Adriana, it’s only a matter of time before their world is turned completely upside down. And that’s just the start.
Will Scarlett and her friends discover the truth? Will they choose to stand up and fight before it’s too late? And more importantly, will they be able to stop The Downfall?
“When I look back, that day began so normally, so typically, so ordinarily…
But that was the start of everything, at least for me.
That was the day of The Broadcast.
That’s what they called it, both in London and all over the UK – The Broadcast. Sounds harmless enough, doesn’t it? At the time, that’s what I thought too.
Now I know different.
That was the day Adriana took over the airwaves.
That was the day she made me sit up and take notice.
That was the day everything changed.”
2. If you could compare the Downfall Trilogy to another series/trilogy out there, which one would it be?
Although the settings are – on the surface – very different, I’d liken The Downfall Trilogy to The Hunger Games and the Divergent series. They all explore similar themes – humanity, survival, inequality/equality, control, identity, power – and that lingering dystopian feel is definitely there throughout. The main difference is that The Downfall is set in modern day London, though that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the London we all know and love. The book is definitely aimed at people who love novels like The Hunger Games and Divergent (as well as other young adult books), but the themes and issues it explores are relevant to people of all ages and nationalities – now more than ever.
3. Could you give a brief description of your favorite scene in the first book? (make it as spoiler-free as possible)
I think one of my favourite scenes is the first one I wrote, which happens pretty early on in the book. Scarlett and the rest of her school are having an assembly when they are interrupted by a mysterious video message – something that gains so much notoriety in the UK that it becomes known as ‘The Broadcast’, and which is the catalyst for everything else that happens in the book. I had a large, cinematic scene in mind when I started writing it, and hopefully I did my imagination justice! The scene starts when an image of a young woman appears on the large projector screen at the front of the school hall, her first words being: “Citizens of the UK, I need your help.” Not only is her broadcast coming from the screen, however, but from all the phones, tablets, and monitors in the room – she’s taken over everything. And it’s not just in the school hall either. As Scarlett and her friend Seth leave to investigate, they see the image of the woman on every TV screen, computer monitor, and handheld device in every classroom they pass. Heading out of school, they soon realise this is much bigger than they first thought, with every house, office, and other workplace in London – and beyond – experiencing the same sinister Broadcast. The message is cryptic to say the least, but Scarlett thinks she might know what it means, and that’s where the story really starts.
I really enjoyed writing this scene, and I tried to approach it like a scene in a film – hopefully this comes across in the book!
4. Could you tell me a little bit about your lead character?
The main character in The Downfall is Scarlett Steele, an eighteen-year-old sixth form student living in London. She’s in her last year of high school, and along with her classmates, she’s having to think about her future and what she’s going to do – which isn’t necessarily what others want (or expect) her to do. She runs a blog entitled ‘Truth Not Terror’ in which she investigates and writes about all the bad things happening into the world, and she sells Truth Not Terror/Peace Will Prevail wristbands to raise money for charities (something I do in real life). Her best friend is her next-door neighbour Seth – who she’s pretty much been brought up with – but apart from that, she’s a bit of a loner. Then, one day at school, The Broadcast happens and Scarlett’s world crashes down around her. Can she take the passion she puts into her blog and apply it to the dangerous situation she now finds herself in? Can she stand up against evil? Can she change the fate of the world? Watch this space…
5. Could you also tell me about the villain in your story?
A mysterious figure whose real identity is unknown, the ‘villain’ of The Downfall refers to himself as “the Teacher”, and in his mind, he believes he is giving mankind a lesson. He’s essentially a cult leader, planting seeds in the minds of his followers and forcing them to bloom in the most hideous ways. His ability to get under people’s skin and change their way of thinking is something that echoes the skills of many powerful people in today’s world, the effects of their actions being just as dangerous as the Teacher’s. It’s all about power and control, and how it is often the people with the worst intentions who exert the most power, and control the most people.
6. If “The Downfall” ever gets optioned, who would you like to play your characters?
This is really hard, as I try not to picture my characters as actual actors or actresses so I don’t get side-tracked when writing, but at the same time, it is a really fun and useful activity to do. In terms of the main character, Scarlett, I can see someone like Lily Collins playing her. Physically, she matches, but I also think she has a quality about her that would be perfect for Scarlett. Adriana is a little more difficult, as she’s meant to have an ethereal, otherworldly quality to her – an actress who immediately springs to mind is Nicola Peltz. Scarlett’s best friend, Seth, I can see being played by Logan Lerman, whereas I can see Tyler Posey playing Adriana’s brother, Blake. I think they’d make a pretty good ensemble cast!
7. Which fictional character (besides yours, of course) would you like to sit down and chat with?
This is a great question! I’ve always loved books, TV shows, films, and comics that feature females kicking ass (physically or not), and as I grew up watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I’d have to go with Buffy Summers. I’d ask her to show me some fighting moves, but mostly I think I’d just like to have a few drinks with her! Scarlett Steele in The Downfall (and Beth Powers in my other series, the Little Forest books) probably wouldn’t have been thought into existence at all if it weren’t for all those years I spent watching Buffy. These young, female characters all have to deal with the weight of the world on their shoulders, and their stories are all about how they deal with that pressure, and how they get to the point where they stand and fight – not because they have to or because it’s their ‘job’, but because they want to help, they want to defeat the evil in the world. I think Buffy’s one of the greatest teen models out there, and this kind of character fits perfectly into Young Adult books.
8. Which author would you love to invite over and chat with? And why?
Even though it’s such an obvious answer, for me it would have to be Stephen King. Even though I’m not necessarily writing in the same genre as most of his books, he has influenced me so much, and he’s pretty much invaded popular culture to the point where people who haven’t even read his books or seen the film/TV adaptations can tell you things about his stories. The Shining, The Green Mile, The Dark Tower series, Christine, Misery, Cujo, It, not to mention his books on writing… the man is a legend, and so prolific. I’d invite him for a chat about writing as I think I could definitely learn a lot from him, but also it would just be so amazing to sit down and have a cup of tea (or maybe something a bit stronger) with the master of horror himself.
9. Where could those interested in reading The Downfall (or any other book of yours) get them at?
The Downfall is available from Amazon in both paperback format and for the kindle, and you can also get it from Barnes & Noble, iTunes, the Kobo store and Smashwords. All of these links can be found on my site, www.jessicagracecoleman.com, and my other books are listed on there as well.
10. Last question, if all books in the world were gone forever yet you have the ability to save one book. Which book would you save?
This is incredibly tough, as I can never pick one ‘favourite’ book, but I think that the one I’ve read the most – and one that I could quite happily read over and over again – is The Solitaire Mystery by Jostein Gaarder. I first read it in primary school and have read that same copy many times over the years. It just seems magical to me, and I never get bored of the story. It always makes me view things from another perspective, and even just the act of picking up that book and opening its cover takes me right back to my childhood. Even if you’re not into philosophy or fantasy, I’d definitely recommend it to people of any age!