Story Behind the Story

If you’ve already read the story behind Divided We Fall then you know about how I came up with Burning Nation and The Last Full Measure.  Feel free to check that out on in the Divided We Fall section.  The goal with The Last Full Measure was to follow Danny Wright and his friends through the nightmare landscape that I believe would follow not just the end of our legal and law enforcement systems, but the end of our food distribution, electric, and transportation systems.  In Burning Nation Mr. Shiratori warns Wright and his friends that revolutions often take wrong turns, resulting in situations far worse than the one that had given birth to the rebellion in the first place.  In The Last Full Measure people struggle through the terrible situation Shiratori mentions.

The other issue in The Last Full Measure is the idea of civilization and of law and order.  Right now, most Americans enjoy a reasonable expectation of safety and security.  That is, our laws produce a threat of arrest and incarceration for theft, assault, murder, and other crimes.  The overwhelming majority of Americans choose to obey the laws rather than endure the punishment that might result from violating the laws.  But without these laws in place, without the threat of punishment compelling most people to live in peace with their neighbors, what would happen to our society?  Would people soon resort to theft and fighting to get what they want, or is there an underlying sense of decency that prevents people from resorting to these methods?  If violence and anarchy flooded the void left by the collapse of the systems of our society, must the strongest, fiercest, most well armed person or groups always win, or can kindness and decency prevail?

I also wanted The Last Full Measure to continue to explore the idea of loyalty.  Whereas in the first two books in the trilogy Daniel Wright struggled with whether his loyalty should go to his state, his country, or his family and friends, The Last Full Measure forces him to think about his loyalty to his community and the loyalty of other members of the community to the whole.  Is each member of a community responsible only for himself and his family, or does he have an obligation for the protection and welfare of others?  If people do have an obligation to the community, how much should they give?

I enjoy dystopian books in general and young adult dystopian books in particular.  I’ve loved reading The Hunger Games and the Divergent trilogies, as well as many other YA books about nightmare future societies.  But when I read these stories, I often wonder what happened to lead to such a terrible future?  What happened to America?  Where did we go wrong?  How did America end?  There were some of the questions I set out to answer with the Divided We Fall trilogy.  While the trilogy could be a suitable prequel to several different dystopian books, I focused particularly on The Hunger Games, working on The Last Full Measure to set up a North America where someday a system of thirteen districts and controlling Capitol might be possible.  It’s subtle, but I think I’ve dropped useful clues for fans of The Hunger Games.

In the book Wright and some others establish a safe place at the Alice Marshall School deep in the Idaho wilderness.  This fictional school first appeared in Erin Saldin’s fantastic young adult novel The Girls of No Return.  It seemed like such an intriguing place in Saldin’s novel that I contacted the author to ask her if I could use the place for The Last Full Measure.  She not only granted permission, but also approved of the school campus maps I made based on her descriptions, which I then used to write The Last Full Measure scenes at the Alice Marshall School.

The title The Last Full Measure, of course comes from President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, in which Lincoln talks about the last full measure of devotion, or soldier’s giving their very lives in devotion to a cause.  In the third book of the Divided We Fall trilogy, many characters give their lives in devotion to many different causes.  I thought The Last Full Measure would be a good title as well, since it is the last book of the trilogy, and since the story is about the last days of the United States of America.

The Last Full Measure brings to a close the Divided We Fall trilogy.  It was a fantastic experience working on this story, and I hope readers will continue to enjoy it.