Tell us a little about your background and how you became an author.
I have wanted to be an author ever since the fifth grade, when I read Lois Lowry’s The Giver. While I’d always loved reading, I don’t think I fully understood the power of strong writing until I read The Giver. As I finished the novel--and I don’t want to give too much away for those who haven’t read it--I remember feeling a deep sense of relief. They actually made it…. Wait a minute. No! My relief turned to dread, then awe. Good writing is vivid description and clear storytelling. Great writing surprises, even shocks, and provokes interpretation. An ending can be tragic or triumphant. The words on the page are the same no matter how you look at them. It’s up to the reader to decide. Once I discovered the effects a great book could have on a reader, I knew I wanted to write and, hopefully, one day be able to achieve what Lois Lowry had done with The Giver.
What is one of your favorite books and why?
Aside from The Giver, I’d say that To Kill A Mockingbird is another novel that inspired me to write. These days, with all the new categories and genres popping up, writers can feel pressured to adhere to stringent guidelines. Is your book middle grade? Then why in the world do you have a nine-year-old main character? You’re writing for young adults? Where’s the romance? You can’t write YA without an element of romance. At a certain point, you begin to feel like it’s the person writing the guidelines who is now writing your book. You begin to panic, maybe shut down your laptop. Then you remember Nell Harper Lee. Literature can transcend genre. You can imagine a novel starring an eleven-year-old girl and write it in such a way that readers from eleven to ninety-nine will be captivated by your story. For me, To Kill A Mockingbird is a novel that can resonate with anyone. That makes it one of my favorite books.
What inspired you to write this book?
My middle grade novella, The Realm of the Lost, was initially conceived during a family gathering. My cousin was getting married; there were people from ages three months to ninety-three-years present. I began thinking about the life-cycle and what happens when we die. What do we leave behind? Where do you go? These questions stuck with me, and I began The Realm of the Lost on the flight home.
How would you describe your writing process?
I like to get to know my characters long before I start writing. For some reason I think of Louis Malle’s Vanya on 42nd Street whenever I begin a new story. Just as the director in the film gets his actors interacting before they embark on Chekov’s intimate play, I like to sit around with my characters for a bit and get a feel for how they react to certain situations and, ultimately, how they will react to each other. Once I’ve established that, I begin to build the story.
How have you marketed your book?
The Realm of the Lost comes out on September 14th. I have set up a facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/TheRealmOfTheLost) for my novella. As the release date nears, there will be some surprises on the page. I have also set up a number of reviews and interviews.
What advice would you give to other authors?
Read, write, and don’t get discouraged. Not everyone has the same taste and the same opinion about what it takes to write a great story. Don’t expect everyone to love your work. Learn from criticism, be humble and open to praise.
Please provide a favorite excerpt from your book.
The Realm of the Lost: what if you were to die before your time?
The Realm of the Lost tells the story of thirteen-year-old Kathleen "Kat" Gallagher. After a tragic accident, Kat finds herself stuck in the place where people go when they have died before their time. Upon her arrival, Kat meets two of the young inhabitants of The Realm of the Lost. Will she learn to embrace her new surroundings? Little does Kat know, the relationships she builds in death will teach her to appreciate the ones she had in life.
It was warm when I came to, and I felt no pain. Standing with ease, I bent over and inspected my pant-legs, searching for some remnant of dirt or ice. Nothing. Could this be a dream?
Then I noticed a bright orange ray reflecting off my necklace. The glare almost blinded me. I surveyed my surroundings.
Positioned atop solid dirt ground, I gasped in awe. Pine trees stood skyscraper high, haloed by dusty golden light. The sound of chirping birds echoed all around, and I spotted, to my left, what looked like a duck, but with a sharper and more pronounced beak. Bending down to inspect the creature as it waddled past, I heard a small voice from behind me.
"If you're a poacher, you belong in the under realm."
"What?" I asked, turning to face a boy who couldn't be more than eight. He wore navy blue shorts that folded at the tips of his scrawny knees. His white-collared shirt, grey vest and checkered cap reminded me of something out of an old movie. I couldn't help smiling as he stood, arms crossed, with an air of authority.
"If you're a poacher, you are in the wrong realm," the boy said.
"I'm not a poacher. I've been in an accident and—wrong realm?"
The boy sighed, twiddling his thumbs in a way that made me think of my brother.
"Okay," he continued, after an awkward pause. "Well, first, do you know where you are?"
"Like I said, I was in an accident. I guess I passed out. I don't—I'm not sure if my mother knows—"
"Oh. No. She wouldn't know a thing like this."
"A thing like what?" I demanded, stomping my foot.
"That you've come to the Realm of the Lost."
I opened my mouth to respond, to tell the odd boy I wasn't in the mood for fantasy and games, but I was cut off by a more grown-up sounding female voice. "Mikey! Mikey, how many times has Miss A told you? You're not to explain anything to the newcomers!"
"She asked," Mikey protested, fidgeting with his hands. "I can't help if people ask me. And you can't blame me this time because I was the first one here."
"Shush!" the voice snapped, its owner walking out from behind one of the tall trees. She was in her mid-teens and had beautiful olive skin. Her thick black hair fell past her waist, and I immediately felt captivated by her deep-set brown eyes. "You can be such a pest." She glared at Mikey. "And she didn't ask. I know that be—"
"Excuse me," I interrupted. "My mother is home with my brother. I should be with my sister Ellie. We were supposed to walk to school together, but we had a fight and Ellie—"
Mikey’s eyes bulged. "Your own sister killed you?"
Where can readers find you and your book?
The Realm of the Lost will be available through MuseItUpPublishing’s bookstore. It will also be at Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes and Noble, and a number of other venders.
I love the excerpt--sounds like a great premise! I'll put this one on my "to read" list! Thanks so much for being here Emma!