Interview, Cody T Luff, author of Ration

Posted On 24 October 2019

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RationToday I’m really pleased to be posting an interview with Cody T Luff whose book Ration I read a few weeks ago and has stayed with me ever since.  Definitely a thought provoking book and one that doesn’t pull any punches but absolutely compelling – it drove me to read into the early hours of the morning.  My review is here and if you like dark dystopian stories that make are absolutely gripping then you really should give this book a try.  Seriously.

Hi Cody, thanks so much for agreeing to an interview.  Firstly, I’d like to welcome you to my blog and secondly apologise for the lateness in posting this interview.  (People did I mention all my latest calamities?  Yes?? Okay, so I’ll move on then…)

For the readers out there how would you describe Ration in one or two quick sentences?

Ration is a story about deprivation, it’s a story about survival and how we make desperate and difficult choices at the edge of our mortality. Ration is also about love, a kind of love that grows in dark circumstance.

This is a very dark world where the veneer of civility has worn thin. What was your inspiration for this world?

Ration’s world is inspired by our own change in the social landscape in the last few years. I am a community college instructor and my classes are always populated by amazing students, and yet every day my students are faced with such things as food insecurity, destructive challenges to their identities, and the need to make impossible choices for their families and for themselves. Ration may be set in a dystopian world, but its roots are firmly lodged in reality.

You’ve eliminated men from your novel. Would you say this simplified things or gave you problems?  

This is a great question. In many ways, it simplified Ration, but in just as many, it complicated how the world was constructed. The choice to eliminate men from the world was an early one. I wanted a chance for my characters to have specific and individual voices, while touching on the horrors that women face all over the globe. Horror has a strong precedent for powerful female characters. I wanted very much for Ration to push that precedent even further.

I love your style of writing, it almost belies the horror contained within. How long have you been writing for and what has that journey been like for you?  Has your style changed noticeably, do you still love your earlier work? 

I’ve been telling stories for the majority of my life. Sometimes I’ve told those stories in front of a camera or on the stage of a theater. I started writing as a boy, but did not find my voice as a writer until my early twenties. It is a strange thing to examine one’s own style, especially asking really tough questions such as how does that style influence the story, and for the most part I don’t have an answer, at least not yet. My earlier writing was far more internal, the characters struggling with their own inner demons. As my writing has changed, I have tried to find a balance between what is inside and outside of the character. I think this is because as I mature as a writer and as a gray-bearded human, I’ve discovered that often what is felt inside changes the perspective of what is outside.  I still like my earlier work, but it does feel like it was written by another person, and I hope that I have enough time to see all the people that I can be on the page over the years.

The characters are so well written and jump off the page straight into the mind’s eye. Do you have a favourite character from the central four??

While I don’t have a favorite character, I’ve done my best to match the girls and their desires with the Women in the book. Each character has a psychological counterpoint in another character, and each character is reflected in the actions of another character. I wanted these people to be human, truly human, so even the barbarous Ms. Glennoc has something inside her that maybe all of us can recognize in ourselves.

Is this a world that you would consider returning to, even if not to this particular time and place? 

Yes, this is a world that continues to haunt me, and I have found that even as I am working on newer projects, the world of Ration has drawn me back in. Writing these characters was fascinating simply because they would not do what I asked them to do. They demanded I tell their stories in a very specific way, and by the time I had finished, the characters seemed to have more to say.

Finally, could you fill in the gap ‘if you love  ‘x”  you’ll love Ration’. I know authors steer clear of comparisons for good reason but I feel it’s a good way of recommending the book to others. Feel free to ignore this question though if it makes you feel uncomfortable :D.

If you love Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, you’ll love Ration. Although, several readers have pointed out to me a few disturbing comparisons to Annie, which makes for a fun comp, but does give me the willies.

Thanks again Cody 😀

I love Cody’s answers and can’t wait to see what he comes up with next, I’m certainly excited to learn from the above that the possibility of a return to this world may be on the cards.  I’ll now have to stalk his social media places to see what he’s writing next because if Ration is any indication it’s going to be something I desperately want/need to read.

And… a bit more information about Cody:

Twitter : codytluff
Cody’s stories have appeared in Pilgrimage, Cirque, KYSO Flash, Menda City Review, Swamp Biscuits & Tea, and others. He is fiction winner of the 2016 Montana Book Festival Regional Emerging Writers Contest.

Cody teaches at Portland Community College and works as a story editor. He completed an intensive MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College. Cody grew up listening to stories in his grandfather’s barber shop as he shined shoes, stories told to him at bedsides and on front porches, deep in his father’s favorite woods, and in the cabs of pickup trucks on lonely dirt roads. Cody’s work explores those things both small and wondrous that move the soul, whether they be deeply real or strikingly surreal.

 

Ration by Cody T. Luff, Apex Publications, #backcatalogblogtour

Apex Promo_03_600x400.jpgRation is a book that I requested as part of the Apex Back Catalog Blog Tour.  I am so happy to be taking part in this tour to bring focus to some of their back catalogue and would just mention that Apex are currently running a promotion the details of which are below.

RationThis book took me by surprise I have to admit.  I’ve become a little bit of a softie in recent times and don’t really have the stomach for anything too dark and so whilst I liked the sound of Ration with it’s far future setting and dystopian feel the hard hitting nature of the story made me feel a little bit daunted.

So.  Okay, I’m not gonna lie, this book doesn’t pull any punches but it’s positively addictive.  I couldn’t stop reading and even though there are a few scenes that are a little bit stomach churning – that’s probably too strong a phrase really, lets say instead uncomfortable – I couldn’t tear myself away from this book.  I was thinking about it when I wasn’t reading it and when I put it down I wanted to pick it back up as soon as possible, in fact I went to bed one evening and tossed and turned so much that I simply decided to get up and read to the end.  Yes, that compelling.

Ration is set in the future – something very bad has gone amiss.  An event known as the ‘clearing’ has eliminated all the men and some sort of apocalypse has scorched the earth and darkened the sky.  Plants no longer grow, animals have long since died or been eaten and the survivors are slowly starving to death (for the most part).  The whys and wherefores are not discussed but to be honest there’s no reason why they should be, particularly as we start the story in the Apartments where a number of girls live, surviving on rations that are strictly monitored and the penalties for eating more are severe.  Of course there’s no talk of ‘what came before’. This is a bunch of girls being kept in impossible conditions, brutalised – by each other on occasion – and so hungry that they can hardly function, they’re barely educated and there lives are dull and full of fear.  Now, let me just point out – and this is something that won’t become apparent until later in the story – but at the moment, these girls are living the easy life comparatively speaking.  That’s all I’ll say on that score

In the Apartments there is a person in control, Miss Tuttle in this particular situation, and also a supervisor of sorts, Ms Glennoc.  The girls are allotted daily duties and during the course of the week may request food rations from A to C.  The difference between the rations is that C is the lowest calorific value and therefore the least satisfying and A is the most nutritional and dare I say tasty.  Unfortunately, requesting an A ration comes with severe penalties that involve a randomly chosen girl being taken to the dreaded ‘Wet Room’.   There is so much that I can’t talk about here without giving away massive spoilers.  The girls themselves, as mentioned above, are sometimes responsible for a strict policing system of their own if they discover who requested an A Ration and their punishments are severe and horrific.

In terms of characters.  Two of the girls in the Apartment have developed a strong bond, Cynthia and Imeld and this friendship serves as the catalyst and driver for a good deal of the story.  We don’t get to read too much of Imeld but Cynthia is a very good character to read, not afraid to stand up for herself when push comes to shove and very determined.  Ms Tuttle is not the nicest people in many respects but is also a product of her own upbringing and a great example of somebody declining into addiction and madness.  Glennoc is an out and out bully, a former member of a different ‘Apartment’ herself, she’s learnt the hard way how to stand up for herself and has no qualms about doling out punishments and causing fear.

I can’t really tell you too much more.  This is a story about survival and the lengths that people will go to when push comes to shove.  An absolutely brutal world of dog eat dog where politics play a surprising part and the gap between the haves and have nots has burgeoned to ridiculous new heights.  Everything is for sale in this world and the measure of a girl or woman’s worth is little more than her calorific value.

This probably sounds incredibly bleak and to an extent it is.  Think The Road, think Max Max, add in a dash of the Unwinding but then come to the realisation that as bleak as this is, as base as these women have become, there is still a small thread of hope in this story.  You have to dig around for it but it’s there like a tiny ray trying to break through the clouds, a seedling pushing up through all the despair and that’s what lifts this book slightly.  The will to survive and the tiny glimmer of hope, be it ever so humble, that tries to shine a light in all the dark.  

I have to say this is an impressive debut.  The writing is just excellent and the author absolutely succeeds in creating a tense and powerful story and in holding you captive until he’s finished telling his tale.

I have no criticisms as such.  This is a dark story but it’s also totally absorbing.

I would rate this between a 4. and 4.5 out of 5 star read.  But, to be absolutely clear, this is not a light or airy read.  There is some dark material going on right here – totally absorbing though.

I received a copy courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.

The above is my own opinion.

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As mentioned above Apex Publications are offering a 25% discount for the month of September so there’s still time to grab yourself some goodies using the code SEPTEMBER and just because I’m nice here’s the link to the store.  Happy shopping.