Five years ago, this book would have seemed too far-fetched to believe.
But these days, it almost feels a little too close for comfort.
The Divided Nation, the first book in a new series from Angela R. Watts, is set in the not-to-distant future sometime after the 2024 election. America as we know it is no more. Instead, the United States are anything but, and citizens are at war with each other as the country slowly burns to the ground.
The story itself follows young West Johnston, the heir to the most powerful ganglord in the country, who refuses to carry on the family busies. Instead, he’s broke off on his own and teamed up with other likeminded people. But that’s just the beginning, and with cold weather fast approaching, a storm is brewing unline anything West—or anyone, for that matter—has ever seen . . .
Watts, a super talented new writer whose promising series is one to keep an eye on, was kind enough to go on the record for our Five Questions segment, and I asked her about everything from how she came up with the story idea for this book to what happens next. See the full Q&A below, then grab your copy of The Divided Nation, now available in hardcover, ebook, and paperback.
TRBS: First and foremost, I was really impressed with your new thriller. How did you come up with the story for this book?
Watts: I have always enjoyed intense, action-packed stories and end-of-the-world scenarios. When God started helping me piece together the complex world of The Infidel Books, I kept thinking of a world where the government had full control, where gangsters and soldiers were forced to work side-by-side, and a world where hope was smothered. Last year, I finally gave in and wrote The Divided Nation in less than two months. Only a few years ago, I never imagined the world to be how it is now. Looking back, it has been slightly unnerving how much from the novel has shown more probable than I ever thought.
TRBS: What sort of research did you have to do before actually sitting down to write the book?
Watts: I’ve kept up with politics since I was a preteen, and had recently finished a college-level government class prior to writing The Divided Nation, so writing about a second civil war came naturally. As a southerner, researching more about guns was a joy. A lot of research on medical questions came up since there is a lot of intense action in The Divided Nation, but since the series is slightly futuristic, I was able to find current day products not yet available to the public to help build the story world. I also created some new gadgets because every author can admit that’s quite irresistible. I enjoyed the research all around, even when it came to researching politics.
TRBS: When did you know you wanted to be a writer, and what made you finally take that jump to pen your first manuscript?
Watts: At about five-years-old, I illustrated and narrated my first book (a sibling wrote it down since I couldn’t spell). Even though I was a little kid, that book had a climax, which I will forever laugh over. Since then, it was always my goal to be a published author and I never looked back. My first novella was completed at the age of twelve. I published my debut novel at the age of sixteen, however, and this was the time I realized I truly wanted to be an author. That novel, Seek (Whispers of Heaven #1), helped me heal from years of abuse from my sister. I wanted that novel to help people, so when readers later told me how much it had helped them, I’m grateful I took that plunge into the publishing world then!
TRBS: Who are some of your favorite authors, and what’s the last really great book that you read?
Watts: A few of my top favorite authors would be Ted Dekker, Frank Peretti, Vince Flynn, Francine Rivers, and Brian McBride. The last really great novel I’ve read was Lethal Agent by Kyle Mills (also a favorite author). If you couldn’t tell, give me an author who tackles tough topics with a lot of heart, and I’m sold!
TRBS: Lastly, what’s next for you after this book?
Watts: The Grim Alliance, The Infidel Books #2 releases July 24th, 2020. I can honestly say I am immensely proud of the second installment, as it truly dives into the political intrigue and the state of the nation that is so intricate to the series. While writing a dystopian thriller series can be difficult, it has been the most fun series I’ve ever worked on.
I also have a fantasy novel getting some bites from publishers. In the distant future, I intend to release Covenant (Whispers of Heaven #2) and I’ve already started writing The Infidel Books #3. I hope you guys stick around for the ride!
Praised as “One of the hardest working, most thoughtful, and fairest reviewers out there” by #1 New York Times bestselling author Lisa Scottoline, Ryan Steck has “quickly established himself as the authority on mysteries and thrillers” (Author A.J. Tata). Steck also works full-time as a freelance editor and pens a monthly thriller column for CrimeReads. For more information, be sure to follow him on Twitter and Facebook. He currently lives in Southwest Michigan with his wife and their six children.