For Tides' launch, I did an interview to include with my media kit. But then, it occurred to me that you might like to read it, too.
So, here we go.
Did you always want to be an author?
Far from it. I was going to be an engineer. And then a teacher. And then an editor. I only ever considered actually creating my own writing after I serendipitously fell into an internship that forced me to, write, very much against my will. And then I found I loved it.
I became a journalist, and then a marketing and public relations writer. Only then did I slowly come around to a desire to write fiction in my mid-20s. Then I spent five years writing my debut, Mud, while living in four different states.
It took me a while to understand the ways a creative pursuit could enrich my live, but I couldn’t quit it for the world now.
That said, my parents have told me that as a child, I was constantly making up wild, elaborate stories. So perhaps it was inevitable.
Where do you get your ideas from?
The short answer is, everywhere. But that’s not very helpful, I’m afraid.
For the Chronicles of the Third Realm Wars series, of which Tides is the third release, it all started with browsing an online monster encyclopedia. I came across golems, and I was hooked. One of the central characters, Adem, just started speaking to me, and I could feel his sadness. The first book, Mud, started with me writing to understand that sadness.
So that is one example, but the kernel can be anything. An image I scroll past on Pinterest. A conversation I overhear. A dream. From there, it’s just asking, “But why?” over and over and over until there are no “why’s” left.
Coming from a creative professional environment, I’ve gotten used to ideating on demand, and it’s been incredibly helpful. I’ve also gotten used to breaking past creative block by powering through—after all, if a client campaign is due, lack of inspiration isn’t an acceptable excuse. It’s helped me to show up every day and write, even if it’s just a little, even on the days when it’s hard.
What authors inspire you?
Oh, there are too many to name! V. E. Schwab, Tahereh Mafi, Charles Yu, Chuck Wendig, Neil Gaiman. But my religion is Ray Bradbury. Not just for his incredible books (Martian Chronicles will mesmerize me until my dying day) but also for his attitude towards the craft.
Bradbury believed in just continuing to write, continuing to submit, and that it becomes a sheer numbers game after that—you learn, you improve, you find the right editor, and eventually, you succeed. Persistence is something I have control over, so I am in love with this mentality toward the process.
How do you write?
Early, before my head is awake enough to tell me how crazy I am, or my day’s responsibilities can catch up to remind me I should be doing those things instead. Every day.
Where did you get your inspiration forTides from?
I figured out in my first draft of Mud that a sequel would be necessary—this was simply not just Adem’s story to tell, and the war unleashed in book one was just the beginning.
I know a lot of readers wanted to hear from Jordan next—as a young boy with a great burden of a gift (speaking to the Gods), intuitive charisma and a huge heart, he was easy to love in Mud. But Rona, who was brought back from the Underworld in Mud in a ploy that goes terribly wrong … well, she had a lot to say, and she insisted on being heard.
How did things end in Mud?
I don’t want to give away too much in the way of spoilers, but let’s just say Rona got entangled in Adem’s quest for a soul, without any choice, and it has backfired big time. Adem’s mistakes in Mud have set the middle realm of Terath into a war zone between the Gods and rebel demigods determined to overthrow them. But just when they’re needed the most by the mankind caught in the middle, the Gods can’t be found.
So as we enter Tides, the Underworld’s worst creatures are breaking through, the Gods are MIA, and Rona’s pissed as hell at our two “heroes,” Adem and Jordan, for setting it all in motion. And she doesn’t know it yet, but now that she’s alive again, her past is coming for her.
Who will enjoy reading Tides?
This is a book for readers who love dark, gritty fantasy. It’s also for those who love a good antihero, and complex female characters. Rona is amazing, and just the hero for the times ahead in Terath, but she is far from a classic “white knight” figure. She is damaged, and pragmatic, and unflinching. Some readers may not like her, so if you prefer a classic hero, this isn’t for you. In Terath, the lines between right and wrong blur quickly.
Tides is a fantasy novel. Is there anything here that ties back to the real world?
Definitely, in a few ways.
First, the characters are very real. They’re messy. Just like us real people, they want to do the right thing … but sometimes it’s hard to know what the right thing is. And even the best of intentions sometimes go terribly wrong.
Life can be ugly. Certainly in today’s political climate, things can feel like they’re falling apart. What can a person do about it? Does it really help? The Chronicles of the Third Realm War heroes are wrestling with these questions constantly, wondering if what they do helps, or makes it worse, or doesn’t matter at all.
The questions at the core of Tides, and the whole Chronicles of the Third Realm War series is: While the world falls apart, where are the Gods? It’s an easy question for the real world some days, too.
So while many read genre fiction for escapism, the Chronicles of the Third Realm War may be more catharsis, wrestling with the world, and the spiritual, and our own flawed nature.
What’s your position on the strong female protagonist, and diversity in general in fiction?
Even more than strong female characters, we need a broader range of female characters in our stories. What’s “strong” character, anyway? Are we talking physically? Emotionally? A character that makes a strong impression on a reader?
There are so many definitions it becomes a meaningless phrase.
As with many types of diversity, I’d rather see more variation from the archetypes, so that no single character holds the burden of representing an entire demographic within a story.
That means many genders, many races, many sexualities should show up in fiction. In short, it means that fiction needs to be a mirror for reality in this way.
How has having ADD affected your life as an author?
I was diagnosed with attention deficit disorder inattentive type in high school. I was smart, but I wasn’t that smart, so this diagnosis followed a few rocky years in middle school and high school of bad grades, tension at home, and personal anger and confusion. To finally have a name for what was happening was like turning on the lights.
As a result, I have to say I’ve grown quite comfortable with failure. I don’t like to fail, of course, but when I do, I give it a hard look and learn all I can from it. I think this ability to accept failure as a speed bump instead of a road block, learn, and keep persisting had a lot to do with my success. (See the aforementioned Ray Bradbury approach to writing.)
It’s also taught me to listen to myself and not worry about anyone else around me. We’re all different, whether there is a label for something or note. All I need to do is know myself well enough to know what’s right for me, and respect others to know what’s right for them.
Beyond that, I’ve learned to embrace my strengths and cope with my weaknesses. I’m highly habit-driven, so I can ensure I write every day by simply making it habit. I can tap into my tendency toward hyperfocus and use this power for good to tackle a big project.
More than anything, when we talk about learning disorders, I think it is important that we talk about differences and strengths, not only weaknesses and treatments. I see too many people labeled and then just accept themselves as deficient. It brings to mind the famous Einstein quote: “Everyone is a genius. But you can’t judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree.”