The Serious Interview Questions
What made you want to become an author?
About 5 years ago, I had a bunch of ideas rattling around in my brain that wouldn’t leave me alone, so I decided to write them down. I found it was very cathartic and fun, so I continued, organizing the thoughts into something that could be read and understood by others. It resulted in my first book, Stop Beating the Dead Horse. After that, I was hooked.
Tell us about your current work in progress.
I’m working on Ice Queen, he third book in the Teenage Survivalist series. This series tells about a single catastrophic event—a massive coronal mass ejection striking the earth and causing total power grid failure for five months—and how it affects people in various survival situations. The first book, How I Became a Teenage Survivalist, shows the “best case scenario” for survival: living on a farm in a rural area. Even though it takes hard work to survive, all the necessities are there to survive. The second book in the series, Time Lost: Teenage Survivalist II, shows the “worst case scenario”: living in an apartment in a major city. This book is very sad and was hard for me to write, as many people and animals die from starvation, dehydration, disease, riots and gangs, and disasters such as out-of-control fires. The third book shows an entirely different sort of survival. While the first two books had male main characters, this one is a girl and she is very different from the boys in many ways. Taylor has been surviving all her life trying to take care of herself and stay under the radar of her drug and alcohol addicted parents and to be prepared for the sporadic but inevitable visits from law enforcement and family services. When the power grid goes down, they move to her great uncle’s hog farm where food is plentiful, but life becomes more complicated as the mental illnesses that her parents had been self-treating with their drugs and alcohol, which of course is now all gone, emerge in terrifying ways. Unlike happy-go-lucky Bracken of Book I or brooding avoider Ben of Book II, Taylor examines everything with candor and quirky insights, finding that treasures can be found in the most mundane places.
What do you do to cure writer’s block?
I use the same method that I employ with my sometimes-reluctant sons while homeschooling: a snack, a nap, or a shower. One of those usually works.
Are you a plotter or a pantster?
It depends on the kind of book I’m writing. For the non-fiction book Stop Beating the Dead Horse, I necessarily had to plot in order to organize everything in a coherent way. My second book, In Daddy’s Hands, is based on an actual event in my family so I had to make sure it followed the chronologic order of the event. With my YA fiction novels, however, I let them develop organically. It’s so much fun to let the story and characters lead me in directions I never consciously thought of. For instance, in one scene in the first Teenage Survivalist book, Bracken’s family catches a marauder trying to steal their grain from a silo. I fully intended that the marauder would be an adult so that Bracken’s family would have to figure out what to do with him since there are no police to call. But as I was writing about them dragging him into the glow of candlelight in the house, my fingers typed, almost of their own accord, that the marauder was a teenage boy. It was such a surprise to me and completely changed not only the first book but the second as well, because this boy became the main character in the second book. It makes writing exciting when you let your imagination run like that.
Do you have any writing rituals?
The only ritual I do is reading what I have written so far each time before I start to write. This way I can keep the flow and consistency going, especially since I don’t get to write every day.
What is your favorite book? What about favorite book to movie adaptation?
Boy, that is a hard question! I have so many favorite books and several movies that are decent adaptations, although not always from my favorite books: Life of Pi, Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Hunger Games, To Kill a Mockingbird…
How did you get into reenacting? What time periods do you enact, and why do you like it?
My husband and daughter answered an ad for tryouts to be in a documentary about how the Civil War affected our city, St. Joseph, Missouri. They were cast, and the shooting was done at an old western town near us. Our three younger boys and I went with them to watch the filming as part of our homeschool that day (I believe the best way to learn history is to experience it in some way), and we had so much fun, when the director asked if we’d like to be extras, we jumped at the chance. From then on, we were hooked. We’ve been extras in two documentaries and even co-starred in a short western film. We usually reenact the 1800s but are not adverse to any time period. We are also docents at the Pony Express National Museum in St. Joseph and usually dress in period clothing for that.
What is the best piece of writing advice you NEVER followed?
Probably that would be to always know where your story is going. If I had followed that advice, my Teenage Survivalist books would not be as spontaneous and I would not have had a main character for Book II.
Animal rehabilitation sounds really awesome! What does that involve? What types of animals have you helped?
We rehabilitate a lot of reptiles like turtles and snakes, but we have also done some mammals, including raccoons, rabbits, and even a bat. It’s very rewarding to nurse an animal back to health and then release it back to its wild habitat.
Tell us about your current book!
I have a book that will be published soon by Amazing Things Press called Guardians of Holt. I actually wrote it before the Teenage Survivalist books and it is about how the events that happen in the Teenage Survivalist books affect the future of mankind. Here is the pitch: Orion enjoys his uncomplicated life hunting deer and bison, using only his wits and extraordinary speed to run down his prey, until a girl of a different sort and the invasion of another tribe threaten to change his way of life forever. Orion lives five centuries in the future, in a village called Holt on the Missouri River, in the middle of what used to be the United States of America. Life has drastically changed for the entire world after a series of coronal mass ejections destroyed the power grids, decreased the sun's energy output, and plunged the earth into an ice age. Three quarters of the earth's human population has been decimated, while many of those who survived have evolved into a race of people with superior genes. Orion belongs to one group of these evolved people called Tall Ones, possessing enhanced genes for strength, speed, and stamina, along with increased height. Sage, the girl he falls in love with, is a Brain, an evolutionary mutation that greatly enhances cerebral capacity. The Tall Ones and Brains have lived in unity, although rarely intermarrying, and have successfully used all the knowledge of science and history accumulated to date to make their simple, pastoral lifestyle comfortable and enjoyable. Yet, not all humans have been so successful, and one such tribe, the Outliers, threatens to usurp Orion's village and way of life from them.
The Random Questions
Actually, I’d rather have something salty like pretzels..
Dinos or dragons?
What psychic power would you want?
The power to control people’s minds.
Favorite Disney character?
Since Disney bought the Star Wars franchise, I guess I can choose Chewbacca, right?
A week with nothing, and I mean nothing, to do. And somewhere warm.
Tomatoes: Fruit or veggie?
A fruit, biologically speaking, since it contains seeds. (Can you tell I’m a science geek? LOL)
Morning Person or Night owl?
Definitely a night owl. I get up with my husband at 6:30 am but still can’t go to sleep before midnight. On his days off, we sleep in and stay up until 2 or 3 am.
Favorite Book Ever:
Another hard one! There are so many I love. If you’re going to make me choose just one, I guess I’ll go with a classic: To Kill a Mockingbird.
Favorite Movie Ever:
Terminator 2: Judgment Day
Music Earworm of the Moment:
No Rain by Blind Melon
Thank you so much, Julie!!!!