This writer was fortunate enough to have been granted an exclusive interview with Julie L. Casey, author of the novel How I Became a Teenage Survivalist. Julie's interest in the topic of survivalism dates back to her childhood: "Even as a child, my games were always about living as they did in olden times, either as a pioneer or a Native American. As an adult, I've often daydreamed about how we would live if life was less modern, but I never thought of it in terms of a post-apocalyptic, survivalist situation until I wrote How I Became a Teenage Survivalist"(Casey). She likewise believes that children would benefit from legitimate survivalist knowledge beyond mere games:
I believe all children would benefit from knowing several of those skills, and homeschooling is a great environment to learn them. However, at my husband's small school (he's a public school science teacher), the 8th grade English class read HIBATS the last week of school, and then went on a 24-hour survivalist campout where they learned many survival skills, like making a rocket stove, foraging for a wild salad, and fishing for their supper. My husband, our homeschooled sons, and I got to go along and share our knowledge with them. It was an awesome experience. I am now working on a curriculum to go along with the book that would allow teachers, parents, librarians, book clubs, and anyone else who is interested to try some survival skills at a level that is appropriate for their situations(Casey).
Indeed, she is convinced that the time may come in our own lifetimes during which such survivalist knowledge will be of great importance to us:
There's no doubt that at sometime during our lives, we will most likely all be faced with some kind of situation where survival skills will be a boon, if not a necessity. Natural disasters, war, economic collapse, or even cyber attacks can all cause massive power grid failures. For us, one such disaster was the 1997 Midwest Ice Storm, which left us and most of the region without power for seven days. It was a rude awakening to how much we depend on electricity to survive. We were lucky that we could still drive to an area with power, but it made me start thinking about a situation in which there would be nowhere to go for help. After reading about the Carrington Event of 1859...I knew that a CME (coronal mass ejection) from a solar superstorm could pose this kind of global threat(Casey)
While it was not originally her intention, per se, to become a spokeswoman for the importance of survivalism, she quickly realized that the importance of having such knowledge would constitute a central element of the narrative: :I didn't start out writing the story with the intent to proselytize about the importance of survival skills, but I soon realized that would be one of the main foci of the story. Another is the importance of pulling together as families and neighbors to find solutions to the problems of survival(Casey)
Apart from an interest in the utility of survivalism, Casey also notes that her interest in the subject stems naturally from her independent personality: "I have found that life goes much smoother when you don't have to depend on someone/something else to do for you. Personal responsibility and independence is something I preach strongly to my sons"(Casey)
She notes that the most important elements of survivalism consist of "the knowledge to be able to find and sanitize water, find and grow food, heat your home, and treat diseases and injuries"(Casey). She elaborates:
Therefore, knowledge is the key to survival. The most important skills: finding adequate shelter (if staying in your home, this includes a safe way to heat it in cold temperatures), finding and purifying water, then foraging for and growing food, in that order. In an extreme survival situation, one should follow the rule of threes: you can survive only three hours in extreme conditions without adequate shelter, three days without water, and three weeks without food(Casey).
For fans of her work, she has already finished the first draft of her sequel to the novel. It will be published by Pants on Fire Press sometime 2014:
Instead of being a continuation of the story in HIBATS, it is a parallel story, the story of Ben, a kid who appears about halfway through HIBATS. Ben survives the first year and a half after Power Failure Day in Kansas City and barely manages to stay alive long enough to make it out of the city. He faces unimaginable loss, devastating thirst and hunger, and many terrifying situations. As any survivalist will tell you, being in a big city is the worst place to be in this kind of situation. While HIBATS I shows the best case scenario of survival, HIBATS II shows the worst(Casey)
(J. Casey, personal communication, January 17, 2014).