Crowd for author Kristen Simmons at Carmichael’s Bookstore in Louisville, KY
Louisville’s favorite local bookstore Carmichael’s was downright stuffy tonight, packed as it was with women and men of all ages.
They gathered for a Q&A and reading by former Louisvillian and current Floridian novelist Kristen Simmons.
Simmons’ debut novel, “Article 5,” is, according to Carmichael’s,
a dystopian teen thriller. Set in a future America where the Bill of Rights has been revoked and replaced with the Moral Statutes, it is the story of 17-year-old Ember Miller and her free-spirit mother. When her mother is arrested for being morally suspect, Ember is sent to a repressive reform school. What follows is a tale about standing up for what you believe in and for what’s right — even if there are horrific consequences. Fans of The Hunger Games will love this exciting new novel, the first in a planned trilogy.
Ember and her mother live in Louisville but are torn from their home in Chapter 1. Simmons said that she and her husband used to live very close to Carmichael’s (on Frankfort Avenue), and that, like the main characters in “Article 5,” she thinks often of the place she once called home.
“Even though we’ve moved out of this place, we think about it a lot, and we reference it all the time,” Simmons said of her and her husband Jason.
After a Q&A with the audience, Simmons read the arrest scene from Chapter 1, in which Ember’s mother is arrested for retroactively violating Article 5 of the Moral Statutes, which states that “Children are considered valid citizens only when conceived by a married man and wife.”
A few of the other Articles include, “Article 1 — The United States embraces the Church of America as her official religion. Article 2 — Literature and other media considered immoral are hereby banned and shall not be owned, bought, sold, or traded in any capacity,” and, my personal favorite, “Article 4 – Traditional male and female roles shall be observed.”
You see where Simmons is going with this. It is the Romney, Gingrich, Santorum vision of American. It’s the American forewarned in “The Handmaid’s Tale,” in “The Hunger Games,” and by today’s online feminist community. But our brave, rebellious heroine Ember isn’t going down without a fight.
Kristen Simmons signing her debut novel “Article 5″ at Carmichael’s in Louisville, KY.
Simmons spoke openly about how hard she herself had to fight to get published. She wrote for seven years before catching a break, and in that time accrued over 200 rejection letters. Simmons views this period as preparation for the time in which the “stars aligned” for her.
Simmons said, “It was the right time. It was the right manuscript,” referring to “Article 5.”
What did Simmons do to support herself during these seven years of writing and rejection? She worked as a mental health therapist (a few of her former co-workers were in the audience tonight). Mental health issues are explored in “Article 5,” as the main characters attempt to deal with the various crises they must face.
The second installment in the trilogy is set to come out next January, and the third and final installment the January after that. Buy “Article 5” at your local bookstore or online.
Don’t go looking for it at Carmichael’s tonight, though. They’re happily sold out.