Hey guys! I am so excited to share you Book Loves_ first Author Interview with you ! 😀 Laura L. Fox’s debut sci-fi, Initiate, comes out November 15 which is published by OfTomes Publishing. You can read my review of Initiate here and pre-order the paperback at Amazon/Barnes & Noble. For my Malaysian readers, you can pre-rder the e-book copy from any major e-book websites 🙂
A quick summary of Initiate before we get on with the interview:
The only home Riga Garrison has ever known is the Tunnel, a subterranean research facility buried deep beneath Antarctica’s ice and snow.
Yet, while a safe haven for the last outpost of humanity governed by the Initiate, it is also home to a secret so dark that they will risk anything to protect it.
Surrounded by deceit and faced with exile to a frozen wasteland, Riga must defy not only the Initiate’s top biologists and loyalists but also her own mother, in an attempt to unearth the truth.
About the author…
Thank you for taking the time to answer some questions for me! Can you tell us a bit of yourself and what can you tell your readers about your new book?
Hello, Shahirah! I am so pleased to be joining you on your blog today! Thank you for having me!
Who I am…Reader. Writer. Knitter. Crocheter. Cat-lover and lover of coffee, shoes, tacos, and chocolate. I also day-light as an administrative assistant. And, most recently, author of Initiate, my debut young adult science fiction novel releasing November 15, 2016 from Oftomes Publishing!
Initiate is the story of 17-year-old Riga Garrison, who lives with her biologist mother in a near-future subterranean scientific research community (the Tunnel) buried deep beneath Antarctica’s surface. While originally built as a safe haven for the last outpost of humanity, it also contains secrets that will upend Riga’s notions of both hers and the earth’s past…and future.
I absolutely loved Initiate! I love the sci-fi setting in the Antarctic, it’s so unique! Where did that idea of a human colony in the Antarctica stem from?
I’ve been intrigued about Antarctica for some time. As a kid, I was fascinated by the idea of Atlantis and one of the theories of Atlantis’ location was Antarctica (Plato). I also loved dinosaurs, and learning that dinosaurs once lived in Antarctica definitely captured my imagination. Then (even though it’s not a great movie by any stretch) in 2004, out came Alien vs. Predator.
When I went to work for Indiana University a few years later, I knew a faculty member whose husband gave tours of Antarctica, and her stories always amazed me…So, I guess you could say Antarctica has been tickling around the edges of my consciousness almost my whole life. There’s such a rich history and mythology surrounding Antarctica; it hasn’t always been the frozen, nearly uninhabitable place it is. But what really kicked off my interest was the documentary Encounters at the End of the World by Werner Herzog. It really brought to my attention the abundance of life that does reside in Antarctica already, and just how alien and otherworldly the continent and its surrounding ocean life is to most of the world.
That realization quickly grew into a series of questions that ultimately became the main thread of Initiate: what if humans did live in Antarctica? Why would they be living there? What if it was the last outpost of humanity in the wake of a worldwide disaster? What other secrets might they be able to hide in such a remote location? What if Antarctica’s extreme terrain and temperatures was something this group of humans could utilize as a natural barrier against some extra-terrestrial species? There are so many mysteries already surrounding Antarctica, that – paired with all of the above – it seemed like the perfect setting for a science fiction mystery.
Is this your first published book? If yes I’d love to know if you always planned on becoming an author?
Yes, Initiate is my first published book. I have LOVED writing pretty much since the time I could pick up a pencil. Although my earliest stories are most likely long-lost (I still vaguely recall some poem about a vampire bats, to give you an idea of my early writing interests, haha – I’ve since decided that young adult and science fiction are much more to my taste), my epiphany that I wanted to be a writer occurred when I was around the age of 11 or 12. Every month I devoured the Animorphs series by K.A. Applegate (fun fact: her husband is Michael Grant of the Gone series), and one day, with my best friend, decided to write my own fan fiction. After about 90-some pages in, I was hooked…and ready to create my own stories and characters.
Several manuscripts and an 8-year journey through an English Literature degree later, I am more passionate about writing and the incredible bookish community than ever – I’ve finally found my tribe!
I love how you highlighted about global warming and the effects towards an inhospitable environment! Did you have to do much research to get the facts right?
Fortunately, I have always loved science, science fiction, and documentaries, so I already had some foundation on which to build; however, I did watch many documentaries about the climate, oceans, effects of human behavior on the ecosystem, and particularly, about Antarctica, as I wrote Initiate. In fact, it was the documentary Encounters at the End of the World by Werner Herzog that first inspired Initiate.
As I got more into the meat of the story, I did have to do quite a bit of research about the progression of climate changes – particularly temperature increases on the ocean and how it would affect the polar and subpolar regions, as well as in relation to how those changes would impact the food chain. I hope I got the facts right, or at least within creative license! As you’ll see as the D’Andari’i Cycle progresses, too, even the version of events the Initiate has fed Riga and the Tunnel colonists isn’t always 100% accurate…or truthful. 😉
In your opinion, what can a first time reader expect from Initiate when reading it?
Aside from some sci-fi thrills and what I hope is a memorable, mysterious environment, I was aiming for a few main takeaways from reading Initiate:
1.) a strong female protagonist who is relatable and realistic;
2.) an awareness that our actions impact the world in minuscule and grand ways that are often far-reaching beyond our immediate sphere of experience;
3.) family ties – both biological and the families we create for ourselves through our friendships – and the roles varying levels of health and unhealthy relationships play in forming who we are and our decision-making;
4.) love – of the planet, friends, family, and other species (terrestrial and extraterrestrial!);
5.) SECRETS! Lots and lots of secrets;
6.) the questioning of authority, education, and truth; and,
7.) hopefully a dash of fun, adventure, and humor thrown in along the way.
Oh, also whales. Whales are a vital part of the ecosystem, and to many cultures worldwide, as well as the main catalyst for Riga’s journey.
Initiate is going to be part of a series! Can you give us hints as to what will be included in the second installment?
Oooh! Tricky question to navigate without giving too much away! There will be three books total in the D’Andari’i Cycle. In the next installment, Riga finds herself in an environment completely foreign to her – both in experience and what she has been told about it – and has to come to grips with the meaning of “truth”. The elements will test her, but even more so, she will be testing herself and coming to terms with some very difficult demons. One of the main themes throughout the series is love, and that includes loving yourself. Riga is very torn between her parents in a sort of familial love-triangle with her at the nexus between them so there will be a lot of push-pull as she finds her way in both interior and exterior journeys. She won’t be without help navigating these nebulous waters; though sorting out the complicated motives and alliances of all involved won’t be easy!
Ok, so your MC Riga Garrison, is just AWESOME. I love her fierceness and determination. What kind of inspiration did you take in creating Riga?
Oh, thank you so much! I am so happy you loved her! I had such fun writing her, though she does go to some dark head spaces at times that requires much chocolate to get us both through!
In creating Riga, I didn’t really have a specific inspiration. I mostly just knew I wanted someone who was brave, assertive, determined, intelligent, complicated, and relatable. I didn’t want someone who had it all “figured out”, but who was determined to try. I have to say, I am not a fan of angsty main characters or very passive or self-absorbed main characters because I find their motives questionable and don’t trust them. So I tried to stay away from that as much as possible. Other than that, I knew I wanted her to have a healthy relationship with her female friend, Mynta; someone she could truly love and whose family she could look to as a model of normalcy and happiness. I also did not want Riga to be fawning over a boy. As much as I love Rhys (and I do love Rhys!), I didn’t want it to be a “given” that just because there was a male character, Riga had to be immediately enamored of him and forget herself. I firmly believe that a boy (or girl) should be an enhancement, not her sole reason for being, so I wanted Riga to have that kind of confidence and level-headedness about herself regarding relationships.
I also wanted someone who could look at people and situations objectively. Not to say emotionally disconnected, but someone who was capable of putting her emotions aside to really examine the situation from multiple angles. She may not always make the right or the best decisions, but I wanted her to be someone who at least tried.
If you could give one piece of advice to aspiring authors what would it be?
This is going to sound so trite, but honestly – read and write. Read in the genre you love, read things you never thought you’d like (you might just like it after all). Talk to your bookish friends and the bookish community about the books you love and hate and everything in between. It’s great knowledge to have, knowing what people like and don’t like, what makes a strong character or plot in your eyes and in the eyes of other readers. Then, forget everything you’ve read and heard and talked about, and just write. Let your work overwhelm you, consume you, live and breathe it. Even if you don’t have a lot of time, a few paragraphs a day can be just the fuel you need to keep your creative fires burning.
Another thing that works wonders to get my brain fired up is watching documentaries. Maybe it’s true that life is stranger than fiction, or maybe it’s the beautiful videography…or maybe it’s just me. But the next couple of books I have brewing post-D’Andari’i Cycle have also been inspired by documentaries. They just work for me!
Lastly – ALWAYS keep a notebook with you! The best ideas can come at the most random of times. I can’t even count the number of times kernels of ideas or whole characters and scenes come to me while I’m in line at Starbucks or in the shower or staring off in space at work (kidding! I work the full 40-hours I am there… 😉 )!
How did you find the writing journey and what were the challenges you never thought you’d get past?
The absolute hardest part, hands-down, for me, has been finding the time to write. When I worked full-time and went to university full-time, there was no time to write. I hardly even slept! So those years were tough, and unfortunately, not very creatively productive as a result. Now, I work a very demanding job with slightly erratic hours, and come home so exhausted and not wanting to see another computer screen, I don’t even want to think about writing (even though I spent ALL DAY thinking about writing!).
Not making excuses and setting small goals for myself (typically around 500-1,000/words day during the week, although I do hit more than that many nights once I just get going at it), was the only way I pushed through. I wasn’t super-pressed to publish or perish, so I had that luxury of time in that regard, but it is still a daily struggle to find the energy to write after working 8-10 hour days.
Which book/author influenced you the most growing up?
Prior to the Harry Potter books, which came out when I was in junior high school, I voraciously read Animorphs, The Baby-Sitters Club, The Boxcar Children, Goosebumps, Nancy Drew, and anything by Michael Crichton. Then along came Harry Potter and I was gone. Nothing could compare to it (and little has still, in my opinion), and I delved more deeply into fantasy with Eragon and Inkheart, Roald Dahl, Louis Sachar, and Erin Hunter (her Warrior series is still one of my favorites, though I’ve gotten so far behind on all the storylines!).
I also loved anything about animals, particularly anything by Dick King Smith. Most of my early stories are animal stories with elements of magical realism! (One might even be salvageable for a serious rewrite for a future series…but we’ll see.) Douglas Adams, Kurt Vonnegut, and a whole litany of others came a bit later, but those were my earliest influences. Looking back over that list, I see a lot of similar themes of adventure, zany craziness, science fiction and fantasy with a good dose of friendship thrown in, so I feel fortunate to have those authors and books as a foundation.
I know authors have writing routines/regimes to stay writing, can you tell us what yours is?
Hahaha, I have a terrible routine. Which is, basically, that I have no routine. The only solid thing I try to do is aim for 500-1,000 words 3 days during the work week, and 2,000 – 3,000 words at least one day on the weekend, but I often destroy those goals…either by not doing them at all or by getting in such a writing fervor I stay up entirely too late to get up at 6 a.m. the next morning for work. A good routine for me would be for me to write from 7 – 10 p.m. and go to bed like a good little girl. Unfortunately, my brain gets active around 10 p.m., so in an ideal world where I didn’t have to work, I’d write from 10 p.m. – 2 a.m.ish, and sleep until 9 or 10 the following morning, and do some more then. Then I also do this thing where if I don’t write the night before, I somehow trick myself into believing I’ll get up at some crazy hour (like 4 a.m.) and write 3 hours BEFORE work…but I’m not a morning person, so I don’t know who I’m trying to kid. Basically, I’m all over the place.
One thing I do need though is utter quiet. I can’t write to music. If something is loud outdoors, I’ll shut the window or put in earplugs. If my cats are being busy and loud, I’ll feed them a treat because it always makes them sleepy haha.
To finish my interview, my last question is: are there any more books that you plan on writing alongside/after Initiate ends? 😀
Yes! I actually have two ideas in particular I am eager to get writing after Initiate/The D’Andari’i Cycle ends. One is a futuristic, somewhat dystopian, duology set in Southwestern Michigan near where I grew up. The other is a standalone, kind of “soft sci-fi”/coming-of-age story that is geared towards a slightly younger audience (14-15ish range) than Initiate. Now the hard part is deciding which to write first!
I’d like to thank Laura L. Fox for taking time off to answer my interview questions in such detail! I am so flattered she spent away from her busy schedule to answer my amateur questions :3 I truly enjoyed reading her answers and I hope you did too! Follow her on Twitter to know more about Initiate or just to talk random stuff with her (which is what I do haha 😉 )!
Thank you for reading!