How did you get the idea for Life First? The way this novel originated was a bit of a fluke. I saw a story on the news about a woman who refused to have a c-section because she didn’t want to be — if I recall the wording correctly — “sliced open like a pig.” The woman’s baby died because she refused to have the procedure. I was horrified by the situation and thought the woman awful for refusing surgery to save her child. However, the more I thought about the issue, I wondered if I was being fair. I asked myself, how often are we told we need to have a surgery, with potentially life-threatening consequences, to save somebody else’s life? Should she have to be sliced open to save her husband? Her brother? A neighbor? I wondered, what would it be like to live in a world like that, where we must undergo injury to our body in order to save someone else’s life? I started writing Life First soon after, with just that one question in my mind. The analogy to pregnancy isn’t quite perfect, as you have to eventually get a baby out by some means. You can’t just say I’m not going to do anything to help the baby survive because — as the maternal mortality rate in many third-world countries shows — maternal health is often inextricably linked with that of the baby. But, this news story was enough to plant the seed of Life First in my mind.
Did you always plan for Life First to be a series? I didn’t even plan for Life First to be a book. As I mentioned in the previous question, I just thought I’d write about a world where every person had a responsibility to save a human life, even if it meant surgery (so long as it wasn’t life threatening). I thought it would be interesting if there was a character who wasn’t quite down with that. My mind came up with Kelsey. I started writing the initial book sequence as a short story that I planned to be ambiguous about the surgery she was having and end with the reveal that Kelsey was scheduled to undergo a mandated kidney transplant. However, more and more kept flowing until I realized this was more than a short story.
How long did it take you to write the book? The first book, Life First, I spent between four and five months writing, and as long, probably longer, editing. Because it was initially a short story, it ended up with some extra scenes in the early stages that became irrelevant to the larger book. I cut many of those scenes.
Are there cut scenes we can see? Perhaps. I’m in the throes of writing the rest of the series, and trying to get another two books out by year’s end. I will try to find some cut stuff that might be of interest to readers. I cut one of my favorite scenes, Kelsey interacting with Haleema, because it slowed the story too much. If people are really requesting it, I’ll post it. If not, I plan to focus on writing.
Any other non-book tidbits you willing to share with us? As a matter of fact, there are. I’ve posted a couple of scenes that are not in the book. Rocky Road at Midnight is an extra scene I wrote because I wanted to get a different perspective on the story. Because the scene doesn’t include Kelsey, it’s a scene that I could never include in the book (the book is told in first person, from Kelsey’s point of view). I like the scene so much, it’s referenced in the second book. There is also the scene, After No, which occurs right before Rocky Road at Midnight. You can find all the extra scenes on the Extras page.
So, you just mentioned the second book. Have you finished it? Yes. Second Life was published Dec. 4, 2013. I actually started writing what will be Book 3, after finishing Life First. I was roughly four chapters into Book 3 (which I thought would be Book 2), when I realized I’d skipped too much time (2 years) and hadn’t fleshed out enough of what had happened in the interim. So I stopped writing. A couple of weeks later, it occurred to me what to do, and I started writing what has become Book 2.
Since you mentioned Second Life, tell us why you decided to go to alternating viewpoints? (Life First spoilers included)
In the previous question, I mentioned that I had skipped too much time between the events of the book 1 and what I’d initially intended to be my sequel. So, what is now the third book in the series, is set two years after the completion of Life First. I started at that point, because I thought it would be difficult to tell Kelsey’s story, given that she was pregnant. With that in mind, I felt like I just wanted to tell the story after I was free to let all sorts of mayhem rein down on Kelsey. However, the more I started writing this third book, I realized I had holes missing about what happened. As I tried filling in those holes, the story pointed toward Susan. Kelsey had left her in a holding facility. She’d left her there, reluctantly, because Luke and Susan had both said everything would be OK. FoSS would release Susan because she was an innocent bystander duped by Kelsey. So, I started to play with that assumption. I wondered, what if that assumption was completely wrong. Once I did that, the story had to come form two points of view. I needed Susan to tell us what was happening in this facility she’s being held at. While the series is clearly Kelsey’s story overall, Second Life is Susan’s part of the story. It was a lot of fun to write Susan and explore both these character’s shot at a Second Life.
This book has a lot more romance than Life First. Was that always the plan?
I can’t say it was always the plan, but that is the way it worked out. I really like a suspenseful story, but also some romance. So writing Susan and Rob’s story was a lot of fun. I realized, based on what I’d started writing for book 3, what I wanted to happen between Susan and Rob from the moment he walked into her room. However, it was fun to see their story blossom, even the minor bumps in the road. I particularly loved the introduction of Patricia in Second Life. She is mentioned by Kelsey in a single line of that initial draft of book 3, yet it was such a memorable, off-hand comment that I had fun fleshing out Patricia’s character.
First there was Ingo. Now Ringo. Is there something we should know?
Hmm. Fair question, but there is nothing to know, except I’m apparently a fan of people with Ingo in their names. 🙂 Truthfully, I used to watch General Hospital (though sadly, I hardly ever see the show, nowadays), and one of my favorite characters, was Jasper Jacks, played by Ingo Rademacher. So, that’s where Ingo came from. I thought of that name because Rademacher has a child who is actually named Peanut (yes, on the birth certificate), so that was my little inside joke for those of us who adore Ingo Rademacher. Secondly, I love the Beatles, so Ringo just happened to fit. I didn’t plan it initially to end up using both those names in the series, but since it happened, it happened. C’est ca.
Do we see more of Haleema in Second Life?
A little bit more, but, again this isn’t Haleema’s story. It’s Susan’s and Kelsey’s. I know earlier I’d said I wanted to make Haleema more of a presence, because she is important. But, unfortunately, she’s more important to the backstory of Kelsey’s, and even Susan’s, life. In the present, especially in the situations in which Susan and Kelsey are in, Haleema can’t really be as much an active participant. Again, I had this bonding scenes between Haleema and Kelsey at the end of the book. I felt it was a glimpse into their relationship, their closeness, and I ended up scrapping it (again) because it just made the story labor on longer than necessary. There’s always book 3.
You keep calling the final book in the series Book 3. Does it have a title?
Not quite yet. I’ve called it Third Life, and that may end up being the title because it’s appropriate, but I don’t fell ultra inspired by Third Life. My daughter suggested I call it End Life, since it was the end of the story, but I wasn’t quite enamored of that, either. I’ve got a couple of ideas percolating, but for the moment, it’s just Book 3. If you have a suggestion for a title, I’ll certainly consider it.
So, how much of book 3 is written?
I’ve completed the first three drafts and the story is 76,000 words, so it’s shorter than both the other stories. For a point of reference, Life First was 85,000 words, and Second Life was 100,000 words. While the final book has fewer words, the story runs fairly tightly and it doesn’t need 80,000 words to tell it, and certainly not 100,000.
What was the single off-hand comment that Kelsey makes in book 3 that was so memorable you were able to flesh out Patricia Donnelly?
Well, I’m debating whether to tell you or not. But, hey, I like you, so I’ll spill. In my initial vision of book 3, Kelsey and Susan chat regularly, and Susan is often delivering an earful about her dreadful mother-in-law. So, Kelsey says, “At least there’s no competition for who has the worst in-laws.” When I went in and started writing book 2, I knew I wanted Rob to be this guy Susan had found happiness with by the time we get to book 3. So, that single comment led me to make Patricia really just horrendous. Now, writing book 2 changed some of the outcomes of things. Patricia does things much worse than I’d anticipated when Kelsey made that comment. But, that comment was the driving force to me seeing just how wicked Mama Donnelly could be. The irony of it is that the comment that led me to fleshing out Patricia’s character doesn’t even appear in the latest draft of book 3. So, things do change as we write.
What can you tell us about Book 3, Third Life: Taken?
Oh, I could tell you tons. But, I won’t. Just know that a few of the minor characters we met (or just heard about) in Second Life appear in the final book and provide some major tension. We see Zuri Nassorou, Jasper Christensen and even Susan’s ex, Kevin Hollingsworth. As far as other things I can tell you, hmm? I’ll say that something big enough happens in Book 3 that brings Kelsey back to FoSS, despite the obvious danger of her being here. There’s no longer a bounty on her head, but she is still a fugitive. She is still wanted, and coming back is an incredibly dangerous thing to do. Expect the book to come out September 10. In the lead up to that, I’ll be posting the first few chapters on Wattpad (one every other day for a week). So, you’ll be able to sneak peek it. If you subscribe to the mailing list, I’ll actually email you all the opening chapters before I start my Wattpad preview. So, if you want an earlier look, join the list. I don’t spam, nor do I share you email address with anyone else. I typically send out once a newsletter once a month. UPDATE (9/3/2014): Please check out the Third Life: Taken Q&A on September 10. There will be a link to it on the Third Life: Taken page on the day the book publishes. It will contain spoilers.
What’s it about? Four Mothers is a short story collection that focuses on motherhood. A lot of the short stories I tended to write focused on parenting or something I’d dealt with as a parent. As such, I decided to go through and compile a few into a collection. The short stories are interesting, but they weren’t necessarily in line with my other released work, which was the Life First series. So, I debated whether I wanted to release the collection. Ultimately, however, I thought it was important to have something out there that wasn’t related to the Life First series. One thing you learn after publishing a series is that people don’t want to start in the middle, so you really can’t sell book 2 without selling book 1. The two are linked, so it was hard to promote book 2, because it didn’t stand alone. So, I thought the short story collection would be a good way to introduce myself to new readers without it being tied to Life first. I completely LOVE the Life First series, but I must admit I am looking forward to the release of Scented later this year, as it will be my first novel that stands alone and apart from the Life First series, so I’ll be able to try some different promotional techniques with it.
Any concerns about Four Mothers? I like all the stories in the collection. I was a little concerned about the story The Beads. The story has some discussion of religion, as the main character struggles with faith issues as she watches her comatose daughter. At one point, it may seem like the story is going in a heavily religious direction. And I do worry I might lose readers there. My hope is that they stick with that story because it’s not getting preachy, even though it might seem that way. If they can stick through it until Yassir and Iram chat, I think they’ll want to see where the rest of the story goes. That’s the one story I have a concern about. Everything else in the collection, I think is an interesting story that touches on the condition of motherhood. I do note that the bonus story, Lynch Party, is written in a way to graphically describe what is going on, so readers should be forewarned, but I think it’s a story worth reading. Still, I understand and respect that some people have limits on what they want to read.
Third Life: Taken
Third Life has it’s own Q&A page here.
Moving away from Life First, do you have any other books or series? I have completed, but not published, another book, Dark Visions, a paranormal mystery. There’s some extensive editing that needs to be done. Depending on my time, I may release Dark Visions in late 2014 or sometime in 2015. I am also working on a paranormal young adult novel, loosely titled Scented. I’m likely to release the YA title later this year, and I’m making that a priority over Dark Visions.
Do you write short stories? I do write short stories, but they’re not similar to my novel-length work. The short stories I’ve written tend to focus on the subject of motherhood and be a little more literary. I’ve compiled them into a collection, which is available as the e-book Four Mothers.