Q. How did you come up with the idea for this book?
A. Well, I knew I wanted to write a sci-fi series for this age group that was fun and adventuresome, while also being grounded in what life is like when you are approaching and in your teens. So one day I sat on my front porch with a clipboard and pen and began brainstorming about what I wanted my characters to be like. I was toying with thoughts about “cultural difference” — the fact that so many of us are blends of races, ethnicities, and cultures — when the idea of being “half alien” came to me as an ultimate form of “difference” for a sci-fi story. Within an hour, the Reade family and their “special talents” were on the page — including the Globots and some Farbookonian characters we’ll meet in later books. I also knew a primary role of the parents would be delivering their incredible robots to humankind. And while I had lots of ideas about where I wanted the series as a whole to go, I felt that Anne and Atticus needed an introduction to Earth human society before any of it could happen. That’s how A Brief Stay at Earth Human Camp came to be.
Q. Do you know how you want to end the book series?
A. Actually, I do. It’s something I’ve known from the beginning, oddly enough. I don’t want to say too much about it though. Not only would it be a huge spoiler, but since it’s so far away, I want to make sure I can that the books take me there naturally.
Q. Who was the easier character to write?
A. So far the easiest main character to write has been Atticus. I think that’s because he’s younger than Anne and a few characteristics define him very well — his anxiety and his love of animals. But by far the easiest secondary character to write was Mosa. She pretty much jumped onto the page saying, “Hey! I want to play! Write me in!” The dynamic between her and her sister Fatia came very naturally too.
Q. Who was the hardest character to write?
A. The hardest character for me to write was Anne. At first I thought she was the easiest, because she is most like me — and a lot like my daughter too. But in the end that actually made her harder to get right. When you are close to something, you really don’t see it as clearly, you know? I thought who she was would be obvious to readers, but because I was so close to her, I frequently left out what readers needed to know to “get” her. I was too glib with her. She’s a little offbeat, which I like, but to represent her more fairly, I had to go back rethink literally everything she said and did.
Q. While writing book one did you ever get writers block? If so, how did you over come it?
A. No — not what I would call true writer’s block. I have a lengthy response about writer’s block on GoodReads so I won’t repeat that here. I’ll just say that, even under the best of circumstances, you can’t rely on the human brain like you can a machine. When I’m writing, things happen in my life, I cycle through moods, seasons raise and lower my spirits, my confidence wavers, and sleep — don’t get me started on sleep! I need lots of it to function at my highest level. So some days are just naturally better than others. Fortunately, writing a book demands several different kinds of brain work. If writing doesn’t flow for me one day, I might outline instead. Or edit. Or diagram a plot question that’s troubling me. Or update the documents I use to track my characters and plot threads. Or just write badly! Bad days are inevitable. When they happen, I try to remember that good days are too — and that when they come back around, I can fix whatever I mess up on my bad days. ☺
Q. What advice would you say to other people who wants to write books?
A. If you want to write a book, the most important thing you can do is start putting words down on paper. You don’t have to start with the story. Map a character. Develop your setting. Explore your “what if.” When you feel the urge to write something, go ahead. You might try writing from the point of view of a character, for instance, as that call help you get to know a character better. What you write may or may not be something you end up using. It doesn’t matter. You can toss it, change it, re-do it. And ultimately, knowing what you don’t want your book to sound like is as useful as knowing what you do want it to sound like. There’s no right or wrong way to write a novel. What’s important is to learn what works for you by trying different things and looking at the results you get. Keep at it. Every concrete step you take will bring you closer to your goal than you were the day before.
Q. Is there a lesson to be learned in this book?
A. Wow, hard question! Not something specific, like a moral, if that’s what you mean. As someone who grew up learning a lot about life and people by reading books, I would say there’s something to be learned just about everywhere. The chance to witness human interaction and see characters face challenges almost always provides food for thought. But what you learn depends on what you need to know, in my opinion, and I did not set out to teach anyone anything particular. That aside, a global takeaway from A Brief Stay at Earth Human Camp might be that there are a whole lot of ways to be “different,” or being different isn’t always such a bad thing.
Q. If could co-write with an author would you? And if so who would be your dream co-writer?
A. Another good question! To be honest, I am not sure. At times, I think it would definitely be a treat to have someone to talk to who is as invested in my plot and characters as I am, so we could wrangle over plot questions — and brainstorm solutions — together. But what are the chances of that? The more realistic answer is that I’m expressing my own vision with my writing, and unless I could find a collaborator who is weird in the same ways I am — or weird in a way that complements my weirdness — it would probably be hard to make our visions mesh.
Q. Do you have any writing habits?
A. Does talking to yourself count? Other than my conversations with myself, I write in silence punctuated by barking dogs.
Q. When you start a new book are you map out the book or just write?
A. For me, the more I know about where I’m going, the better I write. If I don’t know where I’m heading, I wander hopelessly, or spend too much time on details and events that interest me but don’t move the plot. To maintain control, I use many practical tools — outlining, charting, diagramming, deep questioning. But I don’t necessarily map out the whole book in one blow. I know the ending before I start, then it’s more like map, write, map, write, map, write. And so I inch along.
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