Welcome to my first ever author interview! I’m hoping over time I can bring more to you, so I hope you like my first attempt. Hopefully I didn’t embarrass myself too much!
Q1: I read both After the Green Withered and Burden of Truth within like a week (I really should have been studying but let’s gloss over that detail!), how long was Enora’s story in your head until you started writing it?
Studying be damned! Just kidding. Honestly, I’m incredibly happy to hear the story hooked you! There is no greater compliment for an author.
The journey of my first novel, from inception to publishing, was a long one. I actually began to craft the framework for the story when I was working on another project in 2011. I didn’t actually begin the writing process until a year later.
While I dabbled in the actual writing for many years, I became really serious about finishing the book in 2017. Yep. You read that right. Five years later. You see, I’m a procrastinator and, as such, I tend to let things sit for longer than I should. Plus, I do have a full-time career and am raising three sons.
The final catalyst for completion of the first book came in late 2017 when a read an article about the water crisis in Cape Town. At the time the piece was written, it was predicted that Cape Town’s water supply would run out in April of 2018. Not some far off, let’s not worry about it future, but 2018. I needed to tell my story because it is relevant. So, I buckled down, let the laundry sit and the housework pile up, and finished the book.
Q2: Wow, I remember reading about that crisis, it made me wonder if that would ever happen to my home city since our main dam never sits about like 4% full. What is your favorite part of Enora’s story?
The path set before Enora is not an easy one. She is confronted with realities about her world, things that had been kept hidden from her when she lived in her insulated town. Therefore, my favorite part of her story is the ending in the sequel, Burden of Truth. It is at this point that everything she has seen and been a part of comes together and, because she has such strength, she accepts a truth she could never have anticipated.
Q3: I remember reading that scene and sitting in disbelief for a few minutes. I kept thinking there had to be more to it than it seemed.Burden of Truth was published within 6 months of After the Green Withered, will there be a 3rd book coming out soon?
This is a great question! To be honest, I hadn’t anticipated writing the story in two books, to begin with, but as I crafted the first novel it became apparent that I couldn’t tell the story in one book. When I wrote the sequel, I actually started with writing the last scene of the book. The entire sequel is crafted around this scene, a place I knew I was going when the idea took root all those years ago.
As for a third book, a few readers have asked me if I was going to continue Enora’s story and I have told them that her story has reached a conclusion with Burden of Truth. However, I have toyed with the idea of writing another book in the same world. This work would be Ander’s story and would include some appearances from characters in the original storyline.
Q4: Well I guess I’ll just have to wait for Ander’s books and hope it gives me some answers I want! Tell me a bit about your writing process, do you map out the relationships and the skeleton of the story and then flesh it out? Or do you dive right in and write it as it is in your head and edit later?
I’m a total panster. In fact, I can’t help making a face at the thought of creating an outline with Roman numerals and bullet points. I feel stifled by too much planning. I prefer to start with an overarching idea and let the story and characters take me where they will. I have a definite ending in mind and I know how various relationships will work along the way to that culmination, but my characters often take little side trips I never anticipated. As for editing, I tackle that along the way, infusing new ideas and fleshing out scenes. Truthfully, the editing is never done. Typos and dirty laundry are the banes of my existence!
Q5: I feel you there with the editing! Between my work (I design training courses, at the moment it’s purely online courses) and this blog the editing never ends. I feel like I was too blinded by the amazing writing to notice, but were you always working towards Enora and Springer being a couple?
Aw, thank you! In short, yes. I began the book knowing the outcome of their partnership. However, I wanted Enora and Springer’s relationship to grow slowly and naturally. They both come from backgrounds rife with hardship and are rather guarded people as a result. I also didn’t want romance to detract from the heart of the story I am telling. In this way, their growing affection for each other came about through shared experiences, when their internal walls finally came down.
Q6: I think that’s great. It does feel like some writers push the romance like it’s a box to tick, and it felt right that this wasn’t like that. I loved how unique the first book was, what would you say to people who suggest your series has similarities to other series like Hunger Games or Divergent?
While I wanted to create a unique vision of a devastated world and craft a story within it, there will inevitably be comparisons to other dystopian works. I really enjoyed both The Hunger Games and Divergent and feel both series have strong messages for readers to reflect on and consider. This is my goal as well. I welcome fans of The Hunger Games and Divergent to check out my novels and enter a terrifying world of man’s making.
Q7: Before I can ask my next question, I need to know, I saw you wrote a graduate course in environmental education; can you explain what this is coz I have no idea? And this played such a huge part in your version of dystopian Earth.
Back in 2011, I was contracted to write a graduate course for a university that offers a master’s degree in environmental education. This is a growing field for educators who want to infuse traditional science curriculum with environmental science. As we see various shifts in the sciences, STEM and environmental studies are becoming more popular as there is a global need for people with these skills.
My course included concepts regarding earth’s history and, within this, I learned a great deal about the impact humans have had on the planet. As I studied and composed the content for the course, an idea began to germinate.
What if there was a global drought due to the impact humans have had on the planet? What is water became the global currency?
Q8: That is a scary truth I feel like most Aussie farmers are facing when the government sells rights to the water from the river in their property to some cashed up international company that dams it and stops any of the farmers downstream from getting access to water. How much of these books were based in scientific research? I imagine understanding the food processing plants and the genetic stuff you’d have to either know or have done quite a bit of research?
A great deal of both books resulted from the research I completed before and during the writing process. This truly began with the course I wrote as I was immersed in environmental topics. As a precursor to writing the novel, I created a list of ideas I wanted to research and include either in the prologue or within the story itself. My goal was to create a world that doesn’t feel that far removed from where we are today. In order to really understand Enora’s perspective and appreciate her growth over both books, you need to be grounded in the science of how her world evolved. This makes the prologue of the first book essential.
In addition to the environmental impact research I conducted, I also did a great deal of prep to write different parts of both books. For the genetic portions of the story, I researched things ranging from genetic mutation to attributes of animals living in desert ecosystems to food cultivation practices. Realism is an important idea in the books because it relates directly to the message of the story.
Q9: I could see this pay off throughout both stories and it really did add that realism that makes it believable. If a drought to that level occurs, do you think humanity would go the way of this series? Including creating beings like Anders?
I believe we are in a precarious time in earth’s history. We are currently in the sixth mass extinction period, but the unusual element of this is that it’s the result of a species rather than a natural event. The earth is also warming on an unprecedented scale as a result of our actions, and our inaction to curb it. With this in mind, is it too farfetched to think the earth could experience a massive drought?
If that were to happen, I believe much of what is in my prologue would come to fruition. There will always be someone who profits in some way, just as there will be those people who see the signs and can predict the necessary steps to mitigate something catastrophic. As for the genetic concepts in the books, these are not terribly far-fetched. There is a great deal of research being done in gene editing and splicing. For example, Crispr/Cas9 is the foundation for genome editing that can result in desired characters at a genetic level. The goal of this being that the progeny of these genetically mutated beings will also carry the mutation. So, the sciences behind the ideas in the book are already being investigated on a foundational level today.
Q10: The genetic stuff truly terrifies me. Partly because I can easily imagine some people using this to create “designer babies” while other would use it to create weapons. You’re currently writing YA; do you have any aspirations to try any other genres?
I have numerous story ideas floating around in the miasma of my brain, some of which are adult fiction. However, my current work in progress is in the YA genre. It is a scifi-fantasy crossover with an environmental theme titled, Rise of Gaia.
Q11: Oooo…. you didn’t feel like sharing more about that one just yet? How close are you to your editor/publisher? Do you get to celebrate with them when each book is released or when you reach milestones?
I would love to pop over to editor’s house for a cup of tea, but unfortunately, David Taylor, of thEditors.com, lives across the pond, in the UK. We do communicate frequently and I love his humor and enthusiasm. When I informed him of my winning status in the Best Indie Book Awards, he celebrated with me virtually and shared the news on social media.
Q12: I find it’s important to celebrate wins like that with those involved, even if it was virtually. Tell me about your biggest challenge and your greatest moment as a writer.
The biggest challenge I face as a writer revolves around time. Working full-time and raising three sons has an enormous impact on the hours available for writing stints. Now that I really think about it, how is it that the workday can crawl by like molasses, but writing time goes by in a blink? I usually end up snatching small chunks of time in the evenings and on the weekends. This is assuming that the laundry pile isn’t glaring menacingly at me, and that my three sons are occupied. Oh, and the dogs aren’t repeatedly dropping large bones with a loud thunk at my feet in an effort to entice me into a game of fetch.
As for greatest moments, pressing the submit button on Amazon was an incredible moment. Prior to that, I had talked about writing and publishing a book for years. To actually take that step and put it into the hands of readers was momentous and I did a little happy dance when it officially went live.
Another big moment for me was winning the 2018 Best Indie Book Award in the young adult category took me by complete surprise. While I had entered the competition with the hope of winning, I didn’t honestly consider my debut novel as a true contender. Receiving the congratulatory email from Best Indie Book Award was a defining moment. I felt that recognition validated, not only my story concept, but also my writing craft.
But the experiences that surpass both of these big achievements, are the reviews readers compose that reflect the connection they have to the characters and story. It is the words they write which are truly profound. As an author, my ultimate goal is to write someone’s favorite book.
Well, being someone who’s turned away from YA books in the last few years, the fact that yours held my attention even while I had other things I needed to do just says it all for the calibre of writing you’ve displayed with these books.
When it comes to time, I know what you mean! I swear as soon as I get home and have done some exercise there’s no time to work on one of my assignments let alone a book review! So congrats to you for finding time to write two whole books, that’s an amazing effort!
Thank you for your time, and I hope you enjoy seeing all the reviews across this tour 🙂