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Exclusive Interview with Tommy Bailey (from COUNTERACT, RESIST, and IGNITE)

 

Ignite 004In 2034, Americans live in constant fear of the threat of terrorism, and the Office of Civilian Safety and Defense has guarded the public with an ever-expanding list of Civilian Restrictions designed to increase security. There’s no social media. No one is allowed to gather in public places or attend concerts or sporting events. Only a small, select group of adults have driving privileges. It’s a small price to pay for safety.
Despite all that, eighteen-year-old Tommy Bailey had a pretty good life, up until the summer he graduated from high school. Since then, things have been rough: he’s alone and struggling to recover from a serious injury sustained in the auto accident that killed his parents. While his friends prepare to head off to university, he’s learning to walk again.
Just when Tommy feels as though he’s regained some control over his shattered life, he wakes to the wail of a disaster siren. A chemical weapons attack is imminent, but the OCSD is ready with an antidote to the poison, which they’re providing free of charge. Three drops a day is all it takes. But is the antidote designed to protect—or is it part of the problem?

Tommy  Bailey  has  anchored  the  cast  in  Counteract,  Resist,  and  now  Ignite,  the  first   three  books  in  the  Resistance  Series.  Recently,  I  got  the  chance  to  ask  him  some   questions  about  how  he  went  from  law-­‐abiding  citizen  to  freedom  fighter:

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1)  What  was  it  like,  growing  up  under  the  strict  control  of  the  Office  of  Civilian   Safety  and  Defense?  It’s  funny  you  ask  what  it  was  like  to  grow  up  under  the   thumb  of  the  Office  of  Civilian  Safety  and  Defense.  The  OCSD  really  took  hold  in   2019,  when  I  was  only  three  years  old,  so  I’ve  never  known  what  it  was  like  to  live   without  the  Restrictions-­‐-­‐until  now.  I  guess  my  life  was  pretty  close  to  what  you’d   think  of  as  normal.  I  see  now  just  how  hard  my  mom  tried  to  shelter  me  from  what   was  really  going  on.  My  dad  was  an  attorney  and  activist  who  opposed  the  creation   of  the  OCSD  and  spoke  out  against  their  policies,  but  my  parents  didn’t  talk  about  it   at  home-­‐-­‐at  least  in  front  of  me.  I  grew  up  going  to  school  and  playing  sports.  We   lived  in  an  area  that  still  had  a  few  restaurants  and  shops,  and  now  I  understand   that  it  wasn’t  like  that  for  everyone.  I  guess  our  quadrant  had  a  lot  of  people  who   were  rich.  Our  community’s  social  status-­‐-­‐and  our  compliance  with  the  Restrictions-­‐ -­‐were  what  allowed  us  to  have  those  kinds  of  luxuries.

2)  What  games  did  you  like  to  play  as  a  child?  I  wasn’t  big  on  computer  games  or   anything.  Once  they  shut  down  access  to  the  internet,  nobody  spent  much  time  on   computers.  Football  was  always  the  thing  for  me.  When  the  OCSD  announced  they   were  phasing  out  school  sports  and  banning  spectators  in  college  and  pro  games,  my   dad  was  really  upset.  At  the  time  I  thought  it  was  because  Dad  was  hoping  I’d  play   pro  someday,  but  I  found  out  later  that  the  Restriction  wasn’t  about  keeping  people   safe  from  terrorist  attacks.  It  sounds  crazy,  but  you  gotta  understand  we  were  told   that  gathering  at  stadiums,  movie  theaters,  and  malls  made  us  potential  targets,  and   we  were  safer  viewing  and  shopping  from  our  homes.  Anyway,  Lowell  Stratford,  who  was  the  OCSD  director  at  the  time,  was  trying  to  get  my  dad  to  back  off  and  quit   speaking  out  against  the  OCSD.  Stratford  said  publicly  people  should  ‘blame  Tom   Bailey’  for  all  the  attacks  and  attention  we  were  getting  from  terrorists.  Stratford   knew  associating  my  father’s  name  with  the  taking  away  of  access  to  the   entertainment  and  sports  people  loved  would  hurt  his  cause,  and  make  him  a  less   powerful  opponent.     Luckily,  my  high  school  took  their  time  about  phasing  out  sports,  and  I  got  to  play   my  senior  year.  I  wasn’t  super-­‐motivated  to  play  college  ball,  though.  Now  I  regret  my  lack  of  motivation.  I  like  to  think  I  could’ve  contributed  to  a  team  at  that  level,   but  I  was  just  coasting  through  those  last  months  of  high  school,  ignoring  my   parents’  prodding.  Then,  that  summer  after  graduation,  everything  changed.  My   family  was  in  an  auto  accident,  and  I  lost  both  my  parents.  My  right  leg  was   mangled-­‐-­‐it  took  four  surgeries,  and  still  the  doctors  weren’t  sure  if  I’d  ever  walk   normally,  let  alone  run,  again.  Eventually  I  stopped  feeling  sorry  for  myself  and  got   into  the  physical  therapy,  and  I  was  getting  better.  I  was  on  the  verge  of  feeling  like   myself  again-­‐-­‐not  exactly  like  I  was  before,  but  you  know,  like  I  could  feel  whole   again  someday.  Then  the  chemical  weapons  threat  came  up,  and  bam.  Taking  the   antidote  killed  my  motivation.  I  quit  working  on  my  recovery.

3)  What  does  the  antidote  CSD taste  like?  The  antidote  is  bitter.  It  tastes  like   something  you  wouldn’t  take  if  you  didn’t  have  to.  Did  they  do  that  on  purpose?  To   make  us  think  it  was  like  some  kind  of  medicine,  something  we  really  needed  to  stay   safe?  If  they’d  made  it  taste  like  candy,  maybe  we  wouldn’t  have  taken  it  seriously.

4)  What  did  it  feel  like  when  you  took  the  first  dose?  When  I  took  my  first  dose,  I   was  also  on  some  heavy  pain  meds,  and  the  whole  experience  was  pretty  trippy.  I   thought  I  was  out  on  the  lake,  in  a  boat,  where  we  used  to  go  on  holiday  when  I  was   a  kid.  Other  times,  it  rained  inside  the  house.  Grass  grew  out  of  the  TV.  But  none  of   that  seemed  strange.  On  the  antidote,  you  just  kind  of  roll  with  whatever  happens  to   you.  Well,  on  Phase  One,  that  is.  Phase  Two  was  different.  Stronger.  I  don’t   remember  much  about  what  happened  when  they  upped  our  doses.  Careen  told  me   some  things  that  make  me  glad  I  was  totally  checked  out.

5)  What  is  it  like,  being  part  of  the  Resistance?  Life  in  the  Resistance?  Let’s  just   say  I  had  no  idea  what  I  was  getting  into.  I  can’t  believe  I  was  that  oblivious  to  what   was  going  on  in  the  world  around  me,  but  like  I  told  you  before,  I  never  considered   blowing  off  the  Restrictions  and  refusing  to  do  what  the  OCSD  told  us  to  do.  They   said  it  was  the  only  way  to  survive  the  chemical  weapons  attack.  The  day  Careen   and  I  ran  out  of  the  antidote  was  kind  of  the  point  of  no  return  for  both  of  us.  We   realized  we  weren’t  going  to  die;  then  we  started  to  wonder  if  we  were  the  only   ones  who’d  stopped  taking  the  antidote.  It  became  obvious  that  something  was   really  wrong  when  we  saw  what  the  antidote  was  doing  to  other  people.  Then  we   made  contact  with  the  Resistance  and  before  I  had  time  to  think,  we  were  going   along  on  a  mission  to  rescue  some  people  who’d  been  detained  for  opposing  the   OCSD’s  policies.  Things  got  a  little  messy  while  we  were  at  their  headquarters  in  the  capital.  Now,  we’re  fugitives.  We  can’t  go  back  to  being  anonymous,  even  if  we   wanted  to.

6)  What  do  you  miss  about  your  old  life?  My  old  life  seems  like  a  dream.  I  miss   playing  football  and  knowing  it’s  all  just  a  game,  not  a  matter  of  life  and  death.  I  miss   sleeping  in  and  being  lazy.  I  miss  not  worrying.  Now  I’m  watching  my  back  all  the   time,  ’cause  I’ve  realized  you  can’t  trust  anyone-­‐-­‐and  that  includes  other  members  of   the  Resistance.  I  feel  responsible  for  Careen  and  some  of  the  others.  But  I  can  handle   it.  Physically,  I’m  strong  again.  My  skills  are  needed.

 

047)  Do  you  have  any  long-­‐term  plans  with  Careen?  Careen  showed  up  on  my  front   porch  one  morning.  I’d  seen  her  around,  I  think,  and  she’d  been  in  a  couple  of  my   dreams.  She  seemed  to  have  some  connection  to  me,  too,  but  later  we  realized  she   was  being  manipulated  by  a  member  of  the  quadrant  marshals,  who  was  using  her   to  find  out  if  I  was  carrying  on  my  father’s  work  against  the  OCSD-­‐-­‐which  I  wasn’t!  The  day  we  met  was  also  the  day  we  ran  out  of  antidote.  I  remember  sitting  there   with  her,  believing  we  were  going  to  die  from  the  poison,  and  wishing  more  than   anything  that  it  was  an  ordinary  day  when  I  could  meet  a  girl  and  not  have  to  think   about  dying.  Careen’s  smart  and  brave,  and  she’s  been  through  some  rough  times;   it’s  not  easy  for  her  to  trust  anyone.  Even  though  we  stuck  together  while  we   detoxed  and  tried  to  figure  out  what  was  going  on,  she  kept  me  at  arm’s  length.  That   was  okay;  I  was  willing  to  be  patient  until  she  was  ready  to  trust  me.  Things  got  more  dangerous,  and  before  long  we  realized  there  was  no  escape  for  us.   The  Quadrant  Marshals  were  looking  for  Careen,  and  it  was  only  a  matter  of  time   before  we’d  be  arrested  and  forced  into  the  OCSD’s  civilian  army.    There  was  no   reason  not  to…um,  you  know…and  we  did.  Maybe  things  between  us  moved  too  fast,   but  that  connection  between  us  is  real.  I  think  I  love  her.  I  know  I  want  her.  We’re   still  getting  to  know  each  other;  we  don’t  always  agree,  and  yeah,  we  fight   sometimes,  and  it  ticks  me  off  that  one  of  the  other  guys  in  the  Resistance  is  trying   to  put  the  moves  on  her  when  he  knows  she’s  my  girl.  Oh-­‐-­‐but  long-­‐term?  Sure.  It’s   just  not  practical  to  plan  too  far  into  the  future.

 

8)  What’s  happening  in  Ignite?  Man,  it’s  hard  to  do  this  without  spoilers!  Right   now,  umm,  Careen  and  I  aren’t  together,  and  by  that  I  mean  we’re  not  in  the  same   location.  But  I’m  gonna  fix  that.  My  feelings  for  her  haven’t  changed.    I’m  more  determined  than  ever  to  stick  with  the  Resistance  and  overthrow  the   OCSD,  even  if  I  don’t  always  agree  with  how  other  members  of  the  Resistance   choose  to  advance  their  goals.  At  the  moment,  Jaycee,  who’s  the  daughter  of  one  of   the  Resistance  leaders,  has  stepped  up  to  fill  the  void  left  by  some  of  the  people   we’ve  lost.  She’s  awfully  young,  but  she’s  been  waiting  for  the  revolution  all  her  life.   We’re  going  to  need  everyone  in  the  Resistance  to  work  together  if  we’re  going  to  sabotage the OCSD’s latest plan to control the people.


Wonder which Resistance series character YOU are? Take this fun quiz!

 

EXCLUSIVE interview with Carol Cassella (Gemini)

 

I had the pleasure of interviewing author Carol Cassella after I read her bestseller GEMINI, and it was a wonderful experience. Here is our Q&A session:

GTB: Which character did you have the easiest time writing? Who was the hardest?

CC:  Although she might seem to be quite different than myself, Raney was the easiest character to visualize and write. I distinctly heard her voice with a rural accent, akin to the Texas drawl I grew up with. No, Raney has certainly never been to Texas, (and I hope I successfully turned her voice into a rural Pacific Northwest accent), but I spent a lot of time riding horses as a young girl and that meant I spent a lot of time outside the city with kids who’d grown up in smaller towns. And, in ways, Raney reminds me of many of my patients: people who live in much more strained circumstances than my own peer group. One of the greatest privileges of being a doctor is that you get the chance to witness, sometimes intimately, the daily hurdles that millions of Americans who live below the poverty line have to overcome. I’ve taken care of a lot of people whose talents and intelligence might have generated good incomes and stable homes if they had had better examples and opportunities growing up. But I so love Raney’s spunk and independence, and her artistic view of the natural world. We enjoyed being together on the page during the long days of writing the book.

David was probably the most difficult character to bring fully to life. He was the most “evil” of GEMINI’s players, a borderline personality disorder type who could lie not only to others but also to himself; a man with a very poorly developed moral conscience. On the other hand, who among us is purely good or evil? No one, in my experience of the world. We are all born with certain traits and inclinations, but are then much shaped and influenced by the kindnesses and cruelties we experience growing up. I had to make David callous enough to abandon Raney on the highway, but big-hearted enough that she could be willing to marry him, even if it was in many ways a marriage of necessity. I intentionally kept his role in Raney’s accident uncertain; because the police were not able to confirm enough evidence to get a search warrant or prosecute him, I wanted readers to walk that line as well—to suspect David but be unsure how far he would go in a fit of anger. Writing such an ambiguous character is challenging, but also more fascinating than creating someone who could be described as one dimensional.

 

GTB:  Do you do an outline of the story, or do you just write for hours and let the plot unfold as it will? Do you let the characters create their own voice as you go?

CC:  I have approached each of my three novels differently so far and discovered that outlines do not work for me. I wrote the first draft of HEALER after creating an extensive outline, and ended up with a book that felt forced, the characters driven into actions to match the plot outline rather than motivated by their own personalities as they developed through the writing process. I took another year dismantling and rewriting HEALER so that it worked as a whole. Maybe this is what we are really describing when we talk about “character driven” stories—stories where the plot builds as a consequence of each character’s choices. As I draft scenes I fill in details about each character that often seem to appear out of nowhere—small background conflicts or hobbies or pet peeves that spring onto the page from my imagination and, over time, create a unique individual who might or might not want to follow the plot line I’ve planned. That is when writing gets fun—when you see the characters developing in such a rich and complicated way they begin to dictate their own choices. At that point they do start to speak to me in their own voice, but I have to invest many hours filling blank pages, often discarded, before that spark of life catches fire.

Certainly, though, plot outlines work very well for many writers, and I have friends who depend on them. I think any tool can be used if the writer understands how their own mind approaches story. I begin each novel with a general idea of major plot elements. The central conflict and topic are chosen because I find them interesting questions to research and ponder for the two or three years I’ll spend writing. Then I spend each writing session by starting with a scene I think I’ll need—two characters in a conversation, or some pivotal event that will turn the action. The scenes might be completely unrelated in the novel’s arc, and many of them will end up thrown away, but after a few months I can begin to see what matters—which scenes will form the core of both the plot and the characters’ motivations. I always start the novel thinking I know how it will end, but I am always surprised that things turn out differently than I’d predicted.

 

GTB:  Is there a possibility in the future to see another book with any of the characters from Oxygen or Gemini? I’d love to see Jake’s story unfold.

CC:  I, too, would love to see Jake’s story unfold. And Marie’s and Joe’s (if he’s alive!). So far, though, I don’t have any plans for a sequel to any of my books. I’m well into the fourth novel now, and don’t yet have a clue about what will follow that. I find that when I’m deeply engaged in writing one novel and one set of characters, I am almost incapable of imagining any other project to follow.

 

GTB:  Charlotte (and subsequently, the reader) viewed the ethics board and the CPG as “the enemy”. This also served to create tension and make the reader aware of time running out for Raney. What are your thoughts, as a medical professional, on those who decide the fate of comatose patients and deal with ethics, rather than medicine?

CC:  If I have one goal for readers of GEMINI, it is to spark discussions about their own beliefs and personal hopes for the end of life. We are not very good about talking about that tangled, uncertain but inevitable future, either as doctors or as patients. For millennia no one had to ponder such questions except in the most theoretical sense: what an ideal death might look like—quickly felled by infection, or being eaten by a tiger? But in the past few decades, thanks to remarkable advances in medical care, most of us will be offered choices as we grow old and ill. Pacemakers, bypass surgery, dialysis, insulin, stroke prevention, antibiotics, cancer treatment—all of these and hundreds more are giving us many more productive and hopefully happy years before age or disease finally outruns the options available. But the quality of those final months or, sometimes, years, can be very poor. Should more time always be our number one goal? What makes your life worth living?

Given that we must all eventually die, shouldn’t physicians also be helping us approach that end nobly and in keeping with our personal values? Interestingly, hospice care has been proven to extend both the quality and quantity of life in terminally ill patients, and yet access to hospice care is usually offered far too late and too infrequently. I don’t try to give readers answers to any of these questions—they are too personal for any outsider to dictate—but we should all be considering them and discussing our wishes and beliefs with our family members and close friends, who might have to make these difficult decisions for us in our last days. You are quite right, though; I used the ethics board and CPG to impart a sense of urgency and loss of individual (Raney’s in this case) control at the end. While the situation of being an unidentified Jane Doe is unlikely, many, many of us end life without having made it clear what our final wishes are to those who will be caring for us.

 

GTB: Who do you think had the happier, most satisfying life, Charlotte or Raney?

CC:  Raney had such a free spirit and innate joy for living, a capacity to be happy in the present, I think she had the most important traits for a satisfying life. But economics and the randomness of fate delivered her into a broken family living in hard circumstances. Thank heavens for Grandpa, who gave her love and stability and backbone despite his gruff demeanor. Sadly, in the end, I think poverty and lack of opportunity and education derailed Raney’s chances for a life as happy and fulfilled as Charlotte’s.

Currently half of all school aged children in the U.S. are poor enough to qualify for subsidized lunches. One quarter of our children don’t have enough food to eat. Raney may seem like an outlier, but her life represents a very large number of people who are our neighbors, just a few doors or miles down the road.

 

Carol Cassella is a practicing physician, speaker, and the national bestselling author of three novels, Gemini (2014), Healer (2010), Oxygen (2008), each published by Simon & Schuster and translated into multiple foreign languages. All three novels were Indie Next Picks.

Carol majored in English Literature at Duke University and attended Baylor College of Medicine. She is board certified in both internal medicine and anesthesiology, and practiced primary care with a focus on cross cultural and underserved populations before becoming an anesthesiologist. Prior to writing fiction Carol wrote for the Global Health division of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, covering their grant projects throughout the developing world. She has been a contributor to the Wall Street Journal as an Expert Panelist in Healthcare, and edits a literary section in Anesthesiology, the journal of the American Society of Anesthesiology. She is a founding member of Seattle7Writers, a non-profit supporting literacy and reading in the Pacific Northwest, and also serves on medical organizations working in Nicaragua and Bhutan. Carol lives on Bainbridge Island, Washington with her husband and two sets of twins. She is currently working on her fourth novel.

 

Calves in the Mud Room by Jerome O. Brown (plus INTERVIEW and GIVEAWAY!)

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Many thanks to author Jerry Brown for gifting me these copies in exchange for this honest review.

Calves in the Mud Room is a study in contrasts; hard working teens and irresponsible adults, the haves and the have-nots, dreams and responsibility. Cows become angels, a boy becomes a man, and all the while, the winter wind howls and snow falls relentlessly.

Wade Summers is trying to borrow his mom’s car and finish his chores so he can get cleaned up for a date with Glory Schoonover. He’s done nothing but dream about her, and when she asks him to the Valentine’s Day dance at their high school, he can’t believe his good fortune. This may be the only chance he gets with Glory, she of the  “juicy fruit lips, dark chocolate eyes, honey streaked corn silk hair with the chamomile-lavender scent“.

As Wade is finishing up the evening feeding he sees a heifer off by herself, not interested in food, restless. His joyous anticpation of the evening quickly turns to despair when he discovers his stepfather’s cows are calving early, in the middle of a ferocious blizzard:

Not tonight, no, not tonight, please.

He finishes feeding and swings the truck back around. The snow etches an opaque curtain and he loses the isolated heifer. 

A black cow pie in the headlights sprouts a pair of legs and tries to rise. Wade hits the brake hard. The engine croaks. 

Snowflakes eat at the newborn. There’s no story of birth in the snow. No fluids, no hoof prints, no imprint. The mother could be twenty feet away but all he sees are shreds of snow. 

 

Wade’s stepfather is mean and useless, Glory’s moneyed family is condescending, and  Wade is a teenager with raging hormones. Nothing but adversity surrounds him, and Brown’s lyrical, flowing prose shows Midwestern hardscrabble life in a terribly beautiful way. Almost every page illustrates the despair of farm life lived just on the brink of bankruptcy, made tolerable by alcohol and dreams of a way out. Brown creates unsympathetic characters with ease, giving the reader authentic dialogue and spot on introspection.  Don’t let the simple plot (boy wants girl, simple things conspire against him) fool you—it’s told in a new light. The undercurrents of the subplots are telling and poignant also, and there are some unforgettable characters I’d like to know more about.

Is Wade forced to do the right thing because of the specter of his grandfather and the desire to rise above the bleakness? Or is Wade a good person deep down, regardless of his environment and dead end life? His character is revealed slowly, carefully, with information right in front of you, and plenty to see in between the lines.

What makes this book sing is the rolling, lyrical prose. Simple things like cows in a field, or detritus in a pickup truck take on a new light as Brown paints a picture on every page. Calves in the Mud Room must be read at least twice; once to see how things happen, and the second time to savor the words slowly, like a gourmet dish with its flavors perfectly blended.

This novella is truly a hidden gem that is a quick and lovely read. I loved it.

The author has generously donated a softcover copy of his book for a giveaway! He also agreed to be interviewed by us. Click here to read the interview. Use the box below to enter the giveaway!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Don’t want to wait for the contest to be over? You can get your own copy [easyazon_link asin=”0615967507″ locale=”US” new_window=”default” nofollow=”default” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″ add_to_cart=”yes” cloaking=”default” localization=”yes” popups=”yes”]here.[/easyazon_link]

 

 

 

Interview with Ellie DeFarr (author of the Hera Hunter mystery series)

 

 

Ellie DeFarr is the author of two books in the Hera Hunter Mystery series:  [easyazon_link asin=”1491009195″ locale=”US” new_window=”default” nofollow=”default” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″ add_to_cart=”yes” cloaking=”default” localization=”yes” popups=”yes”]Haunting Memories from a Troubled Past[/easyazon_link] and [easyazon_link asin=”1500835463″ locale=”US” new_window=”default” nofollow=”default” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″ add_to_cart=”yes” cloaking=”default” localization=”yes” popups=”yes”]Melancholy Manor[/easyazon_link], which was just released September 6th. She is currently at work on her third novel, which you can read more about in this exclusive interview. Please visit her website at elliedefarr.com.

 

Your author bio states you have a Master’s in a scientific field. Tell me more about how you started writing.

From the time I learned to read, there has always been a book waiting for me on the bedside table. Like so many avid readers, I dreamed of writing a book that would bring enjoyment to others, as so many books have done for me. That dream began to unfold with the embrace of the internet.

Instead of calling long-distance friends, I emailed them. Soon, I started each letter with a short story, usually an anecdote about some wild animal that had crossed my path. Eventually a good friend encouraged me to write a book, repeatedly. I tended to ignore his advice. Occasionally I sat down to write an outline of a tale that piqued my imagination, but I soon bored with the outline and abandoned it.

Still, the encouragement continued. Then one day I began typing on my computer without any previous thought for the story that was instantly unfolding. I realized then that this unfettered approach was more natural and rewarding for me. From that moment on I never stopped writing. And I never wrote another outline.

 

Describe your writing routine. What is a typical day in your life?

I write in the afternoon, when most of the day’s demands are met and my home and neighborhood are at their quietest. I am content when I write. But putting together a story does not come easy for me. I have to work at it. I turn on soothing music, so low that it cannot be heard outside the room. And I like a cup of coffee, sometimes a glass of wine, at my fingertips. I suppose these familiar comforts calm me and ready my mind to enter the story.

I write six days a week, allowing a day off for my mind to rest and engender new story ideas. Each day I write a scene, which will end up as six to eight single-spaced pages in the final book. Once the scene is written, I start at the beginning and carefully edit it. Each sentence must consist of the fewest words necessary to express its idea. And all words must be the most commonly used. I check for sufficient detail throughout the scene to plant pictures in the mind of the reader. I’m not talking here about page after page of description, but a couple sentences or a short paragraph to make the reader see what my character is seeing, and in that way make the reader feel they’re in the midst of the action.

I am finished for the day when the scene is clear, fast paced, and moves forward smoothly, while adding to the story. If there’s still time left in the afternoon, I grab a good book and let someone else entertain me, even if it’s for just fifteen minutes.

 

Did you intend the Hera Hunter character to be a continuing story, like the Nancy Drew mysteries you used to read as a child?

I love a good whodunit. I grew up reading them. And a mystery series featuring the same interesting characters is even better. Also, book series seem to be popular with readers. So yes, from the very start I wanted to write a continuing story.

However, I intend that each book can be read as a standalone story. The murder mystery is unique in each book. But each book will also continue one or two subplots that were seeded in the previous book. I think that the experience will be richer if the series is read in proper sequence, since it will provide a fuller background for each story. But reading the books in order isn’t necessary.

 

The inclusion of Lucky is so unusual. Not many authors give a dog a supporting role in a novel. Is there a real dog that you draw inspiration from? How did you choose his character?

I can’t imagine life without a dog. They need attention and affection, so I’ve always spent considerable time with my pets. It seemed only natural that my leading character, Hera Hunter, should have a pet and pamper it, too. I’ve witnessed with my own dogs most of the situations that involve Lucky. So, I’m drawing inspiration from all of my past and present pets. Also, dogs are so entertaining that they’re a useful means for adding humor to a tale.

My characters tend to come from the fringes of society. They are flawed. Lucky should be, too. He has to be small, so as not to be physically cumbersome to Hera, since he’s always with her. She can’t carry an eighty-pound dog while she climbs to a second-story balcony. And since he prefers to hide when danger is at hand, there must be plenty of places in his surroundings for him to squeeze into, not so easy for a larger dog.

But although he is timid, he is not a coward. In the first book, Hera is strangled from behind by a hired assassin who’s dragging her backward, denying her any purchase to fight back. Lucky attacks the man’s ankles, distracting him and giving Hera just enough opening to change the outcome of the assault.

This little dog will always come through for Hera whenever she needs him to.

 

What is next for Hera & Co? I can’t wait to read the next installment!

The third book of the series should be available around August of next year. In it a young runaway named Paperback Rose falls to her death. The police deem it a suicide.  But Calamity Jane, another street child, claims she saw someone with Rose when she fell.  Hera isn’t sure she should believe Jane, since Jane’s a known thief, pickpocket, liar, and peeping Tom. But when Rose’s mother hires Hera to find out what happened to her daughter, it falls to Hera to discover what evil is brewing in her town that would give reason for throwing a child off the top of a three-story building.

Interview with Tara Ellis–author of Bloodline and Heritage

Tara Ellis is the author of the Forgotten Origins trilogy, consisting of [easyazon_link asin=”1492169676″ locale=”US” new_window=”default” nofollow=”default” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″ add_to_cart=”default” cloaking=”default” localization=”yes” popups=”yes”]Bloodline[/easyazon_link], [easyazon_link asin=”1494390701″ locale=”US” new_window=”default” nofollow=”default” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″ add_to_cart=”default” cloaking=”default” localization=”yes” popups=”yes”]Heritage[/easyazon_link], and [easyazon_link asin=”1502757214″ locale=”US” new_window=”default” nofollow=”default” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″ add_to_cart=”default” cloaking=”default” localization=”yes” popups=”yes”]Descent[/easyazon_link]. Books 1 and 2 are out already; #3, Descent, will be published September 30th. You can follow her on Twitter @taraellisblood.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Ms Ellis the other day;  she was kind enough to take time from her busy day to answer a few of my questions. Enjoy!

 

Where did you get the idea for your trilogy?

You know, I’ve been asked this question several times now after someone finishes the story, and I still haven’t come up with a good way to answer it. I think that it’s been brewing and tumbling around in my head for a very long time.

When I finally had the time to commit to writing a full-length novel, I had recently finished the Hunger Games. Until then, I really hadn’t given much thought to writing in the first-person POV, but I was intrigued by it. So that was the first step.

I’ve always been a huge Sci-fi/invasion/plague fan, so that was a natural plot concept. My daughter was fourteen when I started so it was important for me to produce something that she and her friends could read which is why it’s such a clean read. That’s hard to find any more in the YA genre.

I LOVE a good conspiracy theory, and I even wrote ATS (Above Top Secret), a real conspiracy message board website, into the book. I used them as a resource for some of my research…and there was a lot of research. I spent hours upon hours looking things up and trying to come up with ways to tie them all together. It becomes more apparent in the second and third book, but I weave quite a large web of plot lines and it took a whole lot of planning.

The story itself…it just happened, as I tied all of my plot ideas together and then imagined my character, Alex, and how she would handle it. I daydreamed, dreamed, outlined, and thought about it for a couple of months. It evolved and grew as I wrote it and at one point, it seemed to take over and I was just along for the ride.

 

There is a theme of faith, Christian faith, throughout the books. Tell me about it.

Yes. I took a chance with this. It’s always risky to introduce any sort of religious undertone, because some readers can be put off by it.

One of my major goals with Bloodline was to make believable, relatable characters. While Chris is deeply involved in his local church, preparing for a mission trip, Alex is alienated from it. She questions faith and God. I think that a lot of us, especially teens, are in that boat.

Without giving too much away, it was necessary to introduce some scripture from the Bible, because it is a key element in explaining whom they are dealing with later on. BUT…I wasn’t exclusive to the Christian faith. I also used Sumerian script, ancient Egyptian culture, and Native American legends to tie it all together.

Bloodline, Heritage and certainly not Descent are preachy in any way. Although I believe in God, I don’t believe in trying to force one’s faith on anyone. I think it’s more important to realize that we’re all connected…perhaps more than we realize which is where I went.

I find it fascinating, that you can look through various ancient text taken from different locales and eras, and find certain similarities. THIS is what I focused on in The Forgotten Origins Trilogy. EVERY ancient story, scripture, and legend that I present in my trilogy is real. How I connected them though, was purely my imagination at work.

Later in the trilogy, while Alex continues to struggle with what it is she believes about God or a creator, it is a mild theme, but I think a believable one. Other characters also have their beliefs tested and my hope is that the reader can relate to their confusion and internal debate and come to their own conclusions.

 

The Egyptian heritage of Alex is not your average background for a YA heroine; was that just to make it easier to move the plot forward?

No. I didn’t actually figure out how that all tied into things, until later in my story development. My first goal when outlining Bloodline was to make it unique.

I have some pet peeves. Being a science fiction fan, it is extremely important to me, that a story NOT be predictable or generic. I wanted Alex to be a character that the reader would remember after they put the book down. Yes, she’s relatable, but I think that as a writer, to achieve that connection with the reader, she has to be different.

So while her heritage becomes a major factor in the plot, my desire originally was to have something fresh and not done before. This was my motivation.  Egyptian culture, at least to me, is still something I’m not familiar with. Because of the pyramids and all of the mystery and legend and history surrounding them, it was a natural choice for me as a writer, to be pulled in that direction.

SO…I made Alex half Egyptian and gave her the dark, mysterious features to go along with it. THEN, I started the long journey of using that as my starting point for her story.

 

Describe your typical writing routine; how does your day go? How long did it take for you to write each book?

I found that I write best in the morning hours. In the summer, I would settle down to write before everyone was up, and during the school year, after the kids left for school.

I normally turn on some quiet, relaxation music (without words) and light a nice smelling candle. I have to write EVERY day, or else I lose my momentum. I also have very poor short-term memory, so I’ll actually forget what I wrote and have to go back and read it, if I don’t write consistently.

Bloodline took the shortest amount of time. The outline took around two months and I wrote the book itself in just under one month. The edit process was a bit scattered though and I didn’t

complete the final edit until after it had already been published, because as a new writer…I had a lot to learn!

Heritage took another two months on the outline and closer to two months to write. It is 20,000 words longer than Bloodline and much more intricate. I learned a lot about character building, and I feel like I grew as a writer.

Descent, (release date September 30th) was a huge undertaking. I still had SO much story to tell, and it was really important to me to do it right. I’ve come to love these characters and their story.

My other pet peeve is believability. You know when you’re reading a story or watching a movie and you go…”Oh come one! They would never do that!” Yeah. I can’t stand that. If anyone has a moment like that with any of my books…please tell me!

With Descent being the last book, it was critical that I tie everything in together in a believable way and do the story justice. So I took a lot of time. At least three, maybe four months on the outline. When I say outline, I mean over fifty pages of it.

I would have done it all faster, but I was in a car accident on the freeway. I was hit from behind and got pretty severe whiplash, so I wasn’t able to sit up at my computer long enough to write. But you know what? This forced me to take even more time on the outline, which resulted in a better story. I honestly believe that.

Writing it took about three months. It’s 95,000 words and I poured myself into every one of them. I hope that you like Descent as much as I do.

 

What is next on your agenda? Are you working on anything right now?

I literally JUST completed the final edit on Descent…but yes, I already have another project underway!

I’ve decided to narrate and produce my own audiobooks. I’m starting with my MG story: The Mystery of Hollow Inn. This is another love of mine. I have a whole series planned out, much like the Nancy Drew Mystery Series or the Boxcar Children.

It’s a small story, so won’t take me long to record. I figure I’ll learn the ropes and work out any bugs in the production end of it, so I’ll be ready to go for the Forgotten Origins Trilogy.

I am actually very excited about it. I have been involved in drama for most of my life, but still, I was going to have someone else narrate it until I was encouraged by a couple of people that I sound just as good as the professional narrators. To be honest with you, I think there is a lot of truth in the belief that no one can tell the story better than the writer can, when it comes to how you portray the characters.

So be on the lookout for the audio versions. It shouldn’t take me long to produce them. And then who knows? I might not be able to stay away from the world I created in Forgotten Origins for too long.

 

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