Manon Steffan Ros on The Blue Book of Nebo and dystopian books for teens

The Blue Book of Nebo by Manon Steffan Ros. Book cover and author photo.


This month our Macaw subscribers are heading into a dystopian world that is both unsettling and fascinating. The Blue Book of Nebo is set in Wales in the aftermath of The End - there is no electricity, virtually no people and everything we consider normal in the 21st Century world has all but disappeared. The book tells the story of Dylan and his mum, who demonstrate incredible strength and a determination to survive - but their story also raises some important questions about what we consider normal, and necessary, in the contemporary world. Here author Manon Steffan Ros tells us more about what inspired the book and which dystopian reads she recommends you turn to next.

What inspired you to write Blue Book of Nebo?

I’ve always wanted to write a story about what would happen if the world suddenly changed completely. I am a bit of a worrier and have worried a lot about environmental or nuclear disasters, and I find that the best way to deal with fear is to write about it. 

What research did you do while you were writing the book and did you discover anything that surprised you?

To be honest, I’m not that great at research (don’t tell anyone!) One thing I did look into was the effects of nuclear radiation, and that was pretty horrific. There are a lot of references to books, too, and so I went back and revisited some of my favourites before naming them in the novel.

You talk about the importance of preserving the Welsh language in the book (which is translated from Welsh) – what do you hope readers will understand from this?

I am very, very privileged to have been raised through the medium of Welsh- I spoke Welsh at home with my parents and siblings, and I speak Welsh with my children now. Welsh children pick up English too, because it’s all around us, so I’ve been lucky enough to have always had two languages, both of which I really love very much. There’s a whole different Welsh language culture that I don’t think people from outside Wales are aware of- books and music and art and poetry, all happening naturally in Welsh. It’s a wonderful, precious and powerful thing.

We were struck by the role of books and storytelling in the book. Why do you think they are so important?

Dylan and Rowenna, the main characters, are, as far as they know, the only people left in the world after a nuclear disaster- but I gave them books, because books are very good company. They show you different world and alternative ways of thinking, and you can learn basically anything through reading stories. I think that their story would have been very different were it not for the books.

If you were in Dylan and Rowenna’s position, what would you miss most about life before the End?

Ha! Great question! Well, I share Rowenna’s love for Bounty chocolate bars, so they would definitely be on the list. I quite like my own company, but I do think I’d miss big tribal events, like the feeling you’re getting if you’re in a crowd in a huge concert or watching Liverpool from the Kop in Anfield!

Why did you choose to write books for this age group?

Most of the books I read are YA books (although I will be 40 next year!) I suppose I still feel about fifteen in my mind, and when I write, I always want to amuse and entertain myself as well as the reader. For me, young adults books tend to be more ground-breaking and bold.

Do you have a favourite place to write?

I shouldn’t admit this, but most of my writing is done in my bed! I am inherently quite lazy and could spend all day in bed! I do have a study too, and the window looks out onto the busy street below- I love looking out there and getting distracted. 

What other books with dystopian themes would you recommend our subscribers read next?

I absolutely love anything by John Wyndham, who is a sci fi author that writes fantastical but realistic novels. My favourite is called The Kraken Wakes, but if you haven’t read any of his books before, I’d start with The Day of the Triffids. It’s ridiculously good!  

Grab your copy of The Blue Book of Nebo here.

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