Since age ten, sixteen year-old Mia has rebelled against the iron fist of a fundamentalist preacher who lured her mother away to join a fanatical family of followers. At “Edenton,” portrayed to be a Garden of Eden deep in a South American jungle, everyone follows the deranged reverend’s strict and arbitrary rules. Mia dreams of slipping away from the armed guards who keep followers in and the curious out. When rebellious newbie, Gabriel, arrives, Mia sees her chance to escape and to free her family. But scandalous secrets the two discover beyond the compound’s façade are more shocking than anything they imagined. While Gabriel has his own terrible secrets, he and Mia bond, more than friend and freedom fighters. But there’s no time to think about love as they race against time to stop the preacher’s paranoid plan to free his flock—but not himself—from this corrupt world. Can two teens crush a diabolical mastermind? And who will die in the fight to save the ones they love from a madman whose only concern is his own agenda?
Debut novelist Elisa Nader added, “ESCAPE FROM EDEN is about a teenager coming into her own, and questioning what she’s been told. She finds courage she didn’t know she had, escapes a cult—and discovers horrific secrets along the way.”
Booklist said, “Nader handles pacing with finesse. The story builds dramatic tension very effectively as the stakes are raised with new revelations, violent confrontations, and tough choices… Many readers will find Mia’s first-person narrative a riveting read.”
From a Kirkus Starred Review, we learn that “The chemistry between Mia and Gabriel is palpable in their teasing dialogue and sizzling moments of physical connection. Its rewards…are many: fast-moving action, a capable heroine and a resolution that leaves plenty of room for a sequel.”
And NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author of the Gone series, Michael Grant, says, “Nader has done something amazing: written a really original novel, one full of characters you’ll care about; smart, witty dialogue; and plenty of shocks and thrills. A wonderful balance of light and dark.”
Nader said the most compelling parts are the Bright Night scenes, “where members of the cult are woken up in the dead of night, brought to the main pavilion in the compound, and are taught lessons on morality with cruelty and violence. They’re crazy, twisted scenes that have received a lot of attention and comments from readers. And they were a hell of a lot of fun to write.”
Not surprisingly, the Jonestown, Guyana cult (where nine-hundred people died in 1978 from “drinking the Kool-Aid” laced with cyanide) spurred the idea. Nader said, “I recall watching a documentary on Jonestown when I was younger and it made an impression. I wondered about the commune teens and if they thought about the outside world, or wanted a ‘normal’ life.”
Nader wasn’t a reader—horrors!—as a teen. She said, “I didn’t discover my love of reading until college, and that was a lot of biographies. As an art history major, I thought fiction wasn’t worth my time. Idiotic, I know. A friend told me about Stephen King’s THE STAND, and that started me on reading fiction. Now I read everything—but especially thrillers, mysteries, and romance.”
“When I read King’s ON WRITING, I knew his attitude and approach to writing was for me. Before reading that book, my prose was as purple as a day-old bruise because I felt I had to make up for the fact that I wasn’t an English major.”
Concerning the mechanics of writing, Nader said she doesn’t outline. “The story didn’t change much. But that’s not to say I didn’t surprise myself along the way. Some of the story was completely unexpected, which is what I love about just pants-ing it. I write a draft straight through, while taking notes on changes along the way, then go back and rewrite. I do a lot of that but love it. There’s nothing scarier than a blank page.”
A fast learner, Nader offers sage advice. “Best thing I ever did for my career was take writing classes. After years of not writing since college, I took an online class via Mediabistro. It really helped me not only with my writing but understanding the publishing process and market, and I made some great connections. Through those classes I met my crit partner, and was fortunate to have one of the instructors send my manuscript to an agent. I signed with that agency soon after the class ended. And there’s a single word of advice about writing: Write! Stop talking about writing, and write, write, write. Find a trusty crit partner who won’t bullshit you into thinking everything you write is ‘super-awesome!’”
Comments from readers are always appreciated. For Nader, it was “not so much a comment but a graphic. All I wanted from Goodreads was an animated gif embedded in a review. And finally I got one!”
ESCAPE FROM EDEN came out as hardcover and eBook, but Nader said, “I prefer eBooks because I detest clutter. I still have nightmares of moving all my art history books from apartment to apartment in college. And traditional publishing takes forever. As a User Experience designer, I’m accustomed to designing something in the morning and launching it that afternoon. But I do love the weight of a beautiful hardcover in my hands.”
While Nader acknowledges her website bio reads “like a slightly incoherent personal ad,” she is also an “A-OK lady.” To learn more, visit Elisa’s website or follow her Tweets @elisanader.
To learn more about Elisa, please visit her website.