Sunday, December 13, 2009

Author Interview: Jacquelyn Wheeler

Jacquelyn has been super incredible to work as I have had the opportunity to do so through email over the last couple weeks. She set aside some time to answer some of my interview questions and thought it would only be perfect timing to post these in addition to the book give away contest of her first novel in the Soterian series, Rising Shadow. I proudly present the interview.

Growing up, when I was reading books I never really even considered authors to be human. I never gave a thought to actually talking to them or sending them letters. Now authors do interviews (like this), Skype conferences, blogs, email, etc. How does the utilization of all the latest technology and internet help you as a writer? Do you think it helps you or is it more of problem trying to fit it all in?

It’s been incredibly helpful.. I was dreading going out there and promoting my book, but it’s turned out to be almost as much fun as writing, because I’ve gotten to hook up with cool bloggers like you and meet some pretty amazing people all over the world. I have a day job and don’t have time to get on the road and do a book tour, and if I did, I still wouldn’t meet as many people as I am via email and Good Reads and stuff like that.

Rising Shadows is the first book that I have read by you and I really enjoyed the novel. Without giving anything away how did you come up with the idea for your story line. You have 5 books that you plan to write in the series. What caused you to think up the ideas for the series?

It was kind of like the idea dropped out of the sky, although looking back, it was a perfect convergence of several areas of my life. I had been playing the online game City of Heroes a lot, as well as doing martial arts in the real world, and I was thinking about how much I love the sensation of flying--I dream about flying all the time, and my ‘toons in City of Heroes always have flight as their travel power. I had also been thinking a lot about genetics, as I’m a co-inventor on a patent for displaying and managing your genetic profile. So suddenly, on September first of 2008, the idea just kind of hit me—what if people could develop special powers as a result of a genetic switch that was thrown by an environmental trigger, specifically an imbalance of good and evil? And what if evil couldn’t be destroyed, only brought back into balance? I sat there for about an hour as the ideas just flooded through me and the basic ideas for all five books came to me, and later that day I went home and started outlining the series.

This novel leaves the reader with a lot to think about at the end in terms of what is going to happen next. Do you have each book already planned out or do you just know key elements along the way?

I’ve got each book planned out at a fairly high level. I know what the major crisis is in each book, and how the series ends, and every now and then I’ll get an idea for a scene in a later book and write it down. So I’ve already started writing all of them, which is a really fun approach, because it means I can weave clues and ideas into the early books that don’t make sense until later.

You are involved in a lot of activities with martial arts and triathalons. On average, how much time do you spend each week writing?

I probably average an hour of writing a day. I write on the train going to and from work, which gives me about forty minutes a day during the week, and I often write in the evenings after my daughter has gone to bed. I try to do things in small chunks of time rather than wait for a free hour to present itself, which never happens, although the weekends provide me with a lot more time. I also tend to focus on one sport at a time, so right now I’m just working toward my black belt in martial arts and am taking a break from triathlons.

What surprised you most as you were writing this novel?

The most surprising thing was how much I loved what I was writing, and how it just seemed to write itself at times. I’d be typing away, and an idea would hit me, and I’d be kind of sitting back and watching it unfold as if I were reading it, not writing it. It’s so much fun when that happens!

You donate a percentage of the money you make to charities. How did you become involved with these organizations and/or why did you decided to do this?

I believe very strongly in volunteering your time and money wherever possible, and it occurred to me that I would be even more inspired to write if it meant I could give more to charity. Not the token 1% or 5% that most organizations donate, but 20%. Selecting charities was hard at first. I got the idea that there are really five main categories of human need: water, food, health care, safe shelter, and education. I wanted to select charities within each of these categories, and I wanted to make sure they were international in scope, used their donations wisely, and provided opportunities for volunteering your time as well as money. Thankfully, I found Charity Navigator (http://www.charitynavigator.org/), which ranks and categorizes charities. That made it really easy to find charities that met my criteria.

I recently read a book title, Six Word Memoirs, which has a website. If you had to write your memoir in six words, what would you write?

I have so many different interests, and I tend to get very enthusiastic about things. My family compares me to Mr. Toad in The Wind in the Willows, and they all cringe every time I say “I’ve had an idea!” I love to learn new things and embrace new experiences. So I suppose my memoir would be “I seized life with both hands.”

Do you listen to music when write? If so, what would be a playlist on your ipod?

It’s kind of backwards—I’ll be writing a scene, and a song will come to mind that matches it, and then that song plays in my head as I’m writing it. For example, in the scene where Ashlyn is driving to Santa Barbara, leaving her old life behind her, the ColdPlay song “Viva la Vida” started playing in my head, so I actually wrote that into the scene. In a later scene when her life seems to be hitting bottom, the Mazzy Star song “Into Dust” started playing in my head, so I put that on and played it over and over while I worked on that scene until my family was yelling at me to turn it off.. I seem to have an inner theme song for just about everything. When I’m doing triathlons, my brain plays the Mermen’s “Silly Elephant Who Stomped to Tea” during the swim, Finger Eleven’s “One Thing” during the bike leg, and Juno Reactor’s “Pistolero” during the run. Lately when I’m really stressed out at work, “Defying Gravity” from Wicked helps me through it.

What other books would you recommend young adults to read besides your own?

There are so many fantastic books out there! I’m crazy about the Harry Potter series, and I really like Pretties/Uglies/Specials (didn’t like Extras that much). I love the Artemis Fowl books. Right now I’m reading Snow Crash for the first time and I’m loving it. The best advice I can give is to follow blogs like Coffee for the Brain to hear about what’s out there, and then use a site like Good Reads to share ideas with friends.

Do you know when book 2 will be published?

The second book, Merger, is nearly done. I’m in final edits on it right now, so it just depends on when I feel that it’s ready. Should be about another month. Book three, Fracture, is about 75% written, but I spend a lot of time editing (it took me nine weeks to write the first draft of Rising Shadow and nine months to edit it), so I think Fracture is probably about nine months away.

What type of Soterian would you be?

Definitely a Scout, with strong Empath tendencies. I think I’d be an Alchemist for sure.

Here are some additional random questions that you could answer if you feel like it(though not really necessary, but students wanted me to add). These come from the Teacher Mystery Challenge that I have on my blog. They thought it would be cool to hear answers from an author.

1. What flavor of Kool Aid is your favorite?
I can’t remember the last time I had Kool Aid, but I always loved the red one.

2. What do you think of hot dogs?
I’m a vegetarian, and I love veggie dogs (there’s nothing gross in them like regular hot dogs) with a lot of mustard.

3. Favorite Holiday movie or tv special?
Gotta be Rudolph. As a kid, I remember laughing for hours after hearing Yukon Cornelius say “Bumbles bounce!”

4. What do you prefer to drink in the morning?
We’re sort of coffee snobs in my house, so mornings consist of Blue Bottle coffee brewed through a glass siphon pot topped off with Wildwood soy creamer. My husband is taking a break from caffeine, so we drink the Blue Bottle decaf, which is fantastic. If I get coffee with my co-workers in the afternoon, it’s a soy gingerbread latte from Peet’s or a chai.

5. Can you do push ups? If yes, how many?
I can only do about ten full push ups at a time. Pathetic. I’m working on it.

6. Favorite hobby?
I have a gazillion hobbies, but I would have to say that writing is my favorite.

7. Middle name?
Christine

8. Name 3 thoughts at this exact moment?
Is this swine flu or just a regular virus?
Will I ever stop getting zits?
Why are all my thoughts questions?

9. Current worry?
Whether this virus is actually swine flu.

10. Dum da dum dummmm what is that?
Tums! Do they still have that ad on TV? I hardly ever watch TV anymore.

11. Where would you like to go?
Scotland. I've had this thing about Scotland for like the last fifteen years. Not sure why, since I’ve never been there.

12. Do you own slippers?
Probably, but I never wear them.

13. What color shirt are you wearing right now?
Blue (I’m still in my pajamas)

14. Can you whistle?
Yes, and I can whistle very loudly through my fingers, which is quite useful at concerts.

15. Favorite color?
Black. No, purple. No, black! It used to be green.

16. Would you be a pirate?
I would be a ninja who can talk like a pirate and sail a ship. Think of the advantage the ninja skills would bring when you're climbing the rigging.

17. What was the last song that was stuck in your head?
The Tums theme (thanks for putting it there). Before that it was “Defying Gravity.”

18. What’s in your pocket right now?
Kleenex

19. Best toy as a child?
I loved my basketball and my tire swing. And I loved board games like Monopoly, Clue, and Life. We also had a pinball machine, which rocked.

20. What is your favorite candy?
In the non-chocolate category, it’s watermelon Jolly Ranchers. Otherwise, just about anything made of dark chocolate.

21. Favorite Sports Team?
The San Francisco 49ers and the Minnesota Vikings.

22. What are you currently reading?
Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson. It’s awesome.

23. What is your favorite book of all time?
I don’t think I could ever get it down to just one favorite. If I had to list the ones I’ve re-read the most, I’d say Pride and Prejudice, Neuromancer, Summon the Keeper, and The Goblet of Fire.

24. If you could meet anyone living or dead who would it be and why?
Gandhi. It is absolutely amazing what he was able to accomplish through non-violence.

25. What would we find in your refrigerator right now?
A lot of condiments. Hopefully some kale. I really like kale. My husband does all the cooking, so I really don’t know what’s in there.

26. What is one fact that readers would not know about you prior to asking this question?
I used to be terrified of a lot of stuff—bees, the dark, open water, sharks, heights, etc. And then one day, in my early twenties, I decided I was sick of being afraid and started facing my fears one by one.. I walked through the house with all the lights off until I finally got over it. I hung out next to a flowering bush covered with bees and focused on noticing how cool the bees actually were until they didn't freak me out anymore. I went skydiving to get over my fear of heights. Training for triathlons got me over the open-water problem. I still haven’t swum with sharks, but it’s on my list. Then again, there's not much reason to get over one's fear of sharks--that would fall into the "healthy fear" category.
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