Take it away, E.R....
Maria, thanks for having me on your blog! My novel, Sovereign, is available now on ebook and is coming soon to paperback. Sovereign is a YA dystopia set in post-apocalyptic America.
Chemical warfare has obliterated most of the world, including America, and the survivors have turned into feral beasts, save one colony, Antius, the last remnant of civilization. Seventeen-year-old Cori (aka Citizen 1206) only longs for wide open spaces and freedom. But Antius has no use for such things, just mindless drones to serve in a place with walls, fences, and laws. A lot of laws, which Cori constantly breaks. So she’s spent years plotting her escape, which is the only thing that will save her from the colony’s deranged leader, Nathan. She isn’t looking to be a hero, and she certainly isn’t looking to fall in love, but she just might do both.
What inspired you to write your first book?
Basically I was reading tons of post-apocalypse and dystopian YA, which I stumbled across because of the previews for The Hunger Games movie. I kind of had a mini-vision play out in my head and I wrote the scene as a short story, and you (Maria) informed me that I should expand it into a novel. So I did.
How did you come up with the title?
I wish I could remember, lol.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Yeah, if there’s a message here, it’s one of hope. I feel that the thing the main character, Cori, believes in is that humanity and hope are synonymous. You can’t have one without the other. I want my readers to feel that there’s always hope, no matter how bad things get around them.
How much of the book is realistic?
A good deal of it is pretty realistic. The science is pretty conceivable, but the important part is the world Cori lives in. In the timeline of the book, the world would have stopped advancing in the next few years (from now) when the apocalypse would’ve happened, then the story is set twenty years after that. So the world is supposed to look a lot like it does now, just a run down, beat-up version.
Is any part of the book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Some of Cori’s traits are based on my own personal quirks, but the events of the book are completely imagined.
What was the hardest part of writing your book?
The hardest part was not writing it, it was rewriting it. And editing it. A LOT of editing. I guess it was kind of tough to make the book unique, considering I’d read a lot of dystopia, it was important to me that not too much of what I’d read (and loved) leaked into it.
Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
It’s not something I can put my finger on and say, “That, that’s what I learned.” But the difference between writing my first book and writing my second, I feel a lot more confident, and I’ve shared some samples with a few people and they can tell a clear improvement. I can’t wait to write my third and fourth and so on and continue to see my own growth.
As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
I wanted to be a lawyer because I thought that was the only way to make a lot of money. A lawyer talked me out of it. Said every attorney he knew was miserable. I’m not good at arguing anyway! I am stubborn though.
When and why did you begin writing?
I’m not sure why or when exactly, I just remember it started with poetry. I threw a few lines together once and forced my older brother to listen to it. He said it was dark, and he kind of laughed because I was pretty young for the maturity of that poem. That’s the first thing I actually recall writing. Maybe age ten?
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I first thought I might “have something” when my eighth grade English teacher praised my poetry. I ended up sharing my poetry with two of my classmates who also wrote poetry and songs, and they liked my work, too. I think that was the year I realized I had a way with words. I wrote a lot of poetry that year. I was affirmed by several teachers as well as my college composition professor. Affirmation is so important to me.
When did you write your first book and how old were you?
I was 27, (I’m still 27). I’ve been writing screenplays for years, but this was my first novel. I have greatly enjoyed the transition into prose!
How long does it take you to write a book?
Not long! I usually write the first chapter to get a feel for things, then I create a very detailed outline before I continue. Because I know where it’s going, I write it quickly. It’s all the rewriting and editing that takes time. First draft I’d say maybe two months.
Where do you get your inspiration or ideas for your books?
For me the stories always start with characters. Every now and then a premise will jump at me. Like my imagination might just wander for a while until something plays out that I think would make a great story. But I often start with a conversation or a relationship dynamic, then I build the characters around it, then come up with a story that feels right for those characters.
What do you like to do when you're not writing?
Read books. Watch movies. A lot of movies. And I like to play music (acoustic guitar, singing, songwriting).
Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
The feedback I enjoy most is when people love my characters, especially secondary ones. I’ve had a lot of readers tell me they love Titus, which is hilarious to me because I hadn’t planned for him to even exist. He just kind of showed up one day and turned into an awesome part of the story. Loving my characters is a huge compliment, and I feel like I’ve done my job if my readers connect with them. Especially if I can make readers cry. Sadistic, right?
Do you like to create books for adults?
I have not yet written an adult book, but I would like to someday. Right now, I’m wrapped up in YA. I like to read YA so it makes sense I would write to that demographic. I appreciate the passion of young people, so I connect with those kinds of stories.
What do you think makes a good story?
As a reader, I enjoy books that draw me in, hold my attention, make me feel something, and give me a satisfying ending.
What book are you reading now?
I am reading Our Town by Thornton Wilder. I’ve read it before, but I’m reading it again as research for a book that’s going to reference the play.
I’m also halfway through Summer Sunsets by Maria Rachel Hooley.
Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
I’m very horrible at choosing a favorite anything… but I kind of adore Tahereh Mafi, author of the Shatter Me series. Her writing is so visceral and unique. It’s the kind of writing that demands to read quickly, in a “can’t put down” kind of way. Plus, she’s hilarious and quirky on Twitter.
Do you see writing as a career?
I definitely think it could be, but I view it as something that’s always going to be a huge part of my life regardless of how much it does or does not pay.
Can you share a little of your current work with us?
I’m writing a book for NaNoWriMo called A Girl Named Jude. It’s about a girl with a boy’s name, living in a man’s world, and trying desperately to escape her grief over the death of her big brother. After this book, I’ll be writing the sequel to Sovereign.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Yes. My advice is to use a detailed outlining system. Know your plot points, know your characters. I use a combination of the Snowflake Method and the plot point method.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Thank you for reading! And if you glean anything from Cori, let it be hope.