Another Writer Q&A

This one comes from Tumblr, where I was tagged for it. It had a lot of interesting questions, so I figured it should get posted here as well!

As for tagging anyone else, if you want to, go for it. I’m not naming names today.

What is your new book about?
What We Need to Decide is another romance, the continuation of Paul and Nina’s story begun in What We Need to Survive, so it’s about love. But deeper than that, it’s about learning self-acceptance, learning what lines shouldn’t be crossed, and how far a person will go to preserve the things meaningful to them.

It’s also about the future, children, and sometimes, dogs, too. That last part surprised me.

What or who inspired it?
The What We Need series comes from a single this-almost-could-have-been-a-love-story moment in the Telltale video game The Walking Dead (season 1, if you played you know exactly what I mean.) It made me realize that in basically all the post-apocalypse media I’ve ever seen, romance is rushed, trivialized, or neglected–it’s much more common that sexual relationships spring up from fear or need or loneliness, and that’s reasonable. But I wanted to see if a real romance had a shot, too.

Apparently it did, because I’ve still got two books’ worth of story to tell.

What was the biggest challenge, writing it?
In a romance, it’s easy to come up with internal emotional struggles, roadblocks to intimacy and happiness. In a post-apocalyptic setting, it’s easy to come up with external challenges to life and limb. What’s been hardest for me is to meld the two disparate genres, making my internal and external conflicts echo each other enough to fit in the same story.

What do you want to achieve with this book?
I always want to grow as a writer, putting out a better book than the one before it. (I only have one book to my name so far, so this will get harder in time.)

What do you hope for your book?
That people will read it, enjoy it, be inspired by it. Romance as a genre often gets dismissed as fluffy, but mine’s pretty damn serious, and I hope readers can look at my work and see that romance doesn’t automatically equal an easy summer beach read.

Are there any parts of it that have special personal significance to you?
Writers draw on themselves for details all the time, and little things about me have snuck into both books. Paul ended up with some of my strengths, Nina a few of my flaws, and the whole thing is informed by my deep and abiding love of music. (There’s a few song titles hidden in the narration, because I’m a nerd like that.)

Do you have a favorite character or one you really enjoyed writing?
I don’t know if I can chose a favorite between my main two squeezes, because they’re both a joy to write, and I’ve put a lot of effort into making sure they play well off each other. But Nina’s the serious one, so whenever I get the chance to write her with her guard down, and she busts out her snarky sense of humor–that’s a blast.

What do you see as the major themes in your book?
Love, survival, personal growth, and hope for the future.

What made you set it in__________?
Post-apocalypse Midwestern USA? I’ve lived all over the Midwest, and I’m familiar with a lot of the places I’m writing about, how the people sound, the countryside, what the weather’s like. Research fills in the gaps (bless you, Google Street View,) but I wasn’t about to set this story somewhere I’d never been.

Did the title come instantly, or did you labour over it?
What We Need to Survive went through five titles before I settled on that one, though I knew the very first was only a placeholder while I typed up the initial scene I had tormenting my brain. Once I’d settled on that, and the name of the series (What We Need) the other two book titles came easily–What We Need to Decide (#2) and What We Need to Rebuild (#3.)

To whom have you dedicated the book and why?
WWNTS is dedicated to my husband, because I’ve been writing for fun my whole life, but he was really the first to help me see I could do more than that, and he’s been supportive throughout the entire process. I could not have done this without him.

WWNTD doesn’t have a dedication yet, I’m still pondering.

Who do you think will enjoy your book?
I’ve gotten positive feedback from romance fans, from PA fans who don’t usually read romance, and from a small handful of people who don’t usually read either genre, but read it because they know me. I won’t say there’s been no criticism, because there has been, but what I’ve heard so far makes me think the only people who won’t enjoy it, for sure, are people completely uninterested in love stories of any genre. (Which is totally fine, I’ll evangelize for romance acceptance, but I’m not here to shove my book down anyone’s throat.)

Do you have a special spot for writing at home?
Nothing special, just a desk with my computer, a Groot bobblehead, and space for a candle or two if I’m feeling fancy.

Do you like silence or music playing while you’re writing?
Rain sounds! They help me shut out distractions, while not actively distracting me like music can, especially if it has lyrics. I will occasionally indulge in classical or other instrumental music if the rain’s getting stale.

When did you start writing?
I literally cannot remember a time I did not write. My first “published” book was a second grade class project, where everyone had to write and illustrate a story on pieces of construction paper that got bound with the school’s shiny-new spiral binding machine. I wrote a story about different snack foods coming to life in my kitchen and becoming friends before they got eaten. And I know I was writing before that, making up things in my diary where I inserted myself into my favorite books and TV shows.

Did you always want to become an author?
Somewhere in the back of my mind, yes. I just never thought I would, because I was only ever encouraged to be creative as a hobby–arts and crafts were wonderful things to do, but you can’t make a living from them. Music is great, yes, learn to sing! But don’t think you’ll ever make any money from it. Creative writing? Fantastic! But do you know how hard it is to actually get published?

So I didn’t try, even if I had never actually stopped writing. Then I buckled down and tried, and I did it.

Tell us a bit about your childhood?
Elena the storyteller began life as a compulsive liar, an unreliable narrator of remarkable daring. I wanted to be the center of attention, the best at everything, so I made up stories where I was, and I told my friends, thinking they understood I was only telling stories.

They didn’t. They told their parents, and their parents told mine, and I got lectured about how wrong it was to tell Stacey I was a professional ballerina dancing in Swan Lake at age 5.

I stopped telling the stories, and started writing them down instead, because then people would understand they weren’t real, and that made them okay.

If you’ve had other jobs outside of writing, what were they?
Libraries, greenhouses, tutoring, and a whole slew of service-industry jobs, which have taught me two very important lessons: 1) The customer is not always right, and 2) You’re getting paid to smile at them anyway, so smile.

If that sounds cynical, well, it is–you’d be amazed at the number of people who think service = servant, or worse, idiot. I’m still a person deserving of basic respect, thank you.

Describe yourself in three words.
Determined, caring, and imaginative.

What Sign are you and are you typical of it?
I am a Gemini, and while I don’t put any stock in astrological symbolism, what little I do know seems to fit me–Geminis are often sharp of wit and mercurial, apparently.

What three things do you dislike?
Excessive humidity, cantaloupes, and hypocrisy.

What three things do you like?
Cool breezes, watermelon, and good listeners.


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