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March 24, 2014

Desert Novel Takes on Teen Tech-Addiction

Written by  Maddy Lederman
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Cover of "Edna in the Desert" Cover of "Edna in the Desert" Photo courtesy of Maddy Lederman

Maddy Lederman's debut novel, EDNA IN THE DESERT, chronicles a tech-addicted, Los Angeles teen stranded at her grandparents' remote cabin without cell phone service, Internet or television. The tale takes place in sections of the Mojave Desert in San Bernardino County. 

"I started writing this story after I did an interview with a couple in Wonder Valley, about thirty miles from Joshua Tree, CA," Lederman says. "They live with no cell phone service or computers. I kept leaving messages on their answering machine and waiting days for a response. I wondered how a modern kid might function this way because all my friends’ kids are permanently attached to their phones. The result is a story that's like Real Housewives of Beverly Hills meets Little House on The Prairie.”

Lederman's character, Edna, is in trouble at her private school. Ineffective therapy leads her parents to come up with an alternative cure: Edna will spend the summer with her grandparents.

“Naturally she’s not going to take it, so she runs away. Anyone who spends time in the desert knows this is very dangerous. She's terrified, and completely unconnected for the first time in her life. Later she tries to get to know a boy without the help of messaging or social media. It seems impossible.”

Lederman's work in film and TV is what first brought her to the Mojave Desert and, writing for The Sun Runner magazine, she got to know the region. "There are a lot of survivalists in the desert who want nothing to do with the outside world. They don't know what Facebook or Twitter is. On the other end of the spectrum, some city kids are so sophisticated, every moment of their life is documented, tracked and planned. It's an interesting clash in the same society. I know teachers who say their students don't think they have to learn anything anymore because they can look everything up on their phones. I wanted to take a kid like that and see how she fares without technology, and then combine it with the calming effect of the Mojave's mysterious landscape."

EDNA IN THE DESERT debuted as a short story in Desert Stories, an annual spoken word event at The Hi-Desert Playhouse in Joshua Tree in 2009.

“Everyone wanted to know what was going to happen to Edna and so did I, so I decided to write the book. It’s about the widening gap between generations and how technology is changing our culture. There's a lot of books about technology in the near future and I'm a dystopia fan, but in many ways this contemporary, realistic story is more eerie than a fantasy.”

EDNA IN THE DESERT was released in Sept. 2013 by Electio Publishing.



Surviving tech-free: EDNA IN THE DESERT 

Edna is a precocious trouble-maker wreaking havoc at her Beverly Hills school. Her therapist advocates medication, but her parents come up with an alternative cure: Edna will spend the summer in the desert with her grandparents. Their remote cabin is cut off from cell phone service, Internet and television. Edna’s determined to rebel until she meets an older local boy and falls in love for the first time. How can she get to know him from the edge of nowhere?

Maddy Lederman works in the art department for films and TV shows, recently on Darren Aronofsky's Noah and The Amazing Spiderman 2. Her writing has appeared in The Huffington Post and The Los Angeles Times and The Sun Runner, a magazine about California deserts. She lives in Brooklyn, NY. EDNA IN THE DESERT was released Sept. 2013 by Electio Publishing, Little Elm Texas.

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