Elizabeth, I wanted to thank you for giving me a chance to give a more detailed of explanation of Ice. It’s my first novel, and I’m learning
- What is the title of your latest book? Ice is currently my only published novel. I am working on a novel called Earth right now, which will also be a paranormal crime thriller and the first of a six-book series.
- What inspired you to write this book? Its origins started in the summer of 2009, when I was housesitting for a professor in his family in Statesboro. They live at the end of an extremely long driveway in the woods. Part of my housesitting duties was to walk the dogs. It was the hottest part of the summer, and one day, the Georgia heat got to me and I thought “I wonder if there is a magical land located in these woods.” That summer, I also read One Hundred Years of Solitude, which served as a huge inspiration. Later, a Saw marathon and a documentary over Griselda Blanco latched on to the primitive idea of Ice, and the idea began to take shape. Just when I thought I had it done, the story of Cherish Lilly Periwinkle, the little girl who disappeared from a Jacksonville Wal-Mart, stuck with me and inspired the subplot involving Elenita. I had to rewrite the story to get it to fit.
- How did you come up with the idea for the Minter? Stephen King has something similar in The TommyKnockers. I’ve always been fascinated by the paranormal (telepathy, telekinesis, etc.). For this novel, I chose telepathy because it wouldn’t have been obvious to the Quirogas and other outsiders. I was hoping it would come across as a variant (like left-handedness) that is not really explainable, but I messed up with the backstory. This is something I’ll fix and something I’ll do better on in the Cadiz Beach series.
- Have you personally had any experiences you would consider paranormal? Yes, and I firmly believe that people possess psychic abilities. They can’t be used “on demand” so paying to have your future read is a waste of money. But have you ever been sitting close to someone and had the same random thought at the same time? That’s telepathy. Have you ever been stressed out and suddenly something falls off the wall or shelf? Have you ever felt suddenly anxious that something bad would happen (without any other reason to believe it) and it did? I have these experiences all the time. Many, many times, the day’s events come to me in the previous night’s dreams. My favorite story to tell on this subject: My husband and I used to sing karaoke a lot. Our favorite DJ had left, and one night I dreamed he was back. That very same day, he was. Now, if I can dream the winning lottery numbers, I’d be in business. Joking aside, experiences that we describe as paranormal spring from intuition. To develop your psychic abilities, you have to be closely in tune with your instincts.
- Minterville is a small closed community. With the expansion of the internet and the introduction of cell phones do you think small communities like that still exist? They do. People who feel like they would be labeled as misfits or freaks tend to keep to themselves. In rural Kentucky, there is a community of “blue people.” They have a genetic condition that gives their skin a blue tint. Minterville is only partially closed. They don’t discourage people from moving in, but they keep their distance to avoid their secret being exposed. But it’s becoming more open. Towards the end, Tom’s family moves there. Ly Kim stays permanently. The younger generation Mints are going off to college and meeting future spouses outside of the town. In the sequel, Shivers, several of the younger people from Ice are involved in relationships with people outside the community. I was hoping that Tom, Barbara, and Ly Kim would serve as foreshadowing that the whole business of the Mints intermarrying was coming to a slow end and that eventually the town wasn’t going to be “pure” Mint (something they aren’t quite ready to deal with, as you can see). That can only happen for so many generations before inbreeding really does occur. I probably should have expanded on that more (Note to self…). Since Ice was loosely based on One Hundred Years of Solitude, I planned for Minterville to be an American Macondo (which had been a closed community for so long that the people forgot there was a road out).
- Do you identify with any of your characters and in what way? Some of the characters in Ice are counterparts to those in One Hundred Years of Solitude. I don’t closely identify with any specific character. My three narrators were originally intended to symbolize the Id (Elliott), the Ego (Carolyn), and the Superego (Andy), but I have since de-emphasized that aspect. One reviewer nailed it on the head when he said that Minterville itself was the main character.
- Would you like to share a little about your next project? It’s called Earth. It’s a crime thriller (about six teenagers who become suspects in the murder of a sadistic relative of theirs) with a paranormal twist. The subplot involves various characters finding out they are “elementals,” meaning they possess psychic abilities that roughly correspond with the five classical elements of earth, fire, water, wind, and quintessence. In Earth, my protagonist, an abused seventeen-year-old girl is revealed in the first chapter to be a “Geos” (an Earth Elemental). She possesses limited telekinetic abilities, has a strong affinity for nature, has a melancholic temperament, and feels happiest and most energetic in the fall. The scientist who is studying the Elementals theorizes that it has to do with the way their brains responds to certain neurotransmitters (in the case of the Geos, dopamine. They are completely immune to caffeine, amphetamines, even cocaine, and the scientist can’t explain why). But as with the Minter, I’m making this a minor detail so the crime plot will be at the forefront. Earth is the first of a six-part series called the Cadiz Beach series
- Have you been inspired by any other writers? Most recently, our very own Terrick Heckstall, whose novel 11th Percent gave me the idea for the Elementals. Stephen King and Isabel Allende are by far my biggest influences.
- What is your process for writing? Do you dedicate a certain amount of hours daily? Do you go from beginning to end or just write in a non-linear fashion? Organization and I divorced a long time ago. Organization does not keep in touch or pay alimony. I cannot stick to a routine or schedule, and the thought of being placed on one gives me a panic attack. Ice was written in non-linear segments and was finalized when I was put on bedrest for potential pre-eclampsia. It took me literally not being able to do anything else to finally get it done. With Earth, I’m avoiding that by writing linearly and writing several rough drafts.
- What is your favorite book and why? That’s a hard decision to make. I can’t really say I have a favorite. I will say that Javier Calle is one of the most under-recognized authors I’ve read (he’s an APC member). I had a difficult time tearing myself away from his book.
- If you could make one of your books into a movie, which one would you choose and who would portray the main characters? The number of actors alone required for a film production of Ice would be cost-prohibitive even for Hollywood. But assuming an unlimited budget, I would love to see Tom Watson played by Vincent D’Onofrio, Andy played by Brad Pitt, Sigourney Weaver as Barbara, and for Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, and Liam Hemsworth to come back together to play (respectively) Stephanie, Robbie, and Elliot.
- What is the most difficult part in writing a book? I can’t tolerate being interrupted when I’m writing, so I have to write when I am guaranteed an hour or so alone. I do most of my writing on my lunch break at work or when my daughter’s sleeping. Finding time is the most difficult part, followed closely by trying to decide where I want a plot to go.
- Do you read your reviews and how do they affect you? All of them. I might as well be honest: harsh, critical reviews (which fortunately there have been very few of) hurt. I’m only human. Objective critical reviews I’m more appreciative of because they help me learn what to do better next time. But all writers get negative reviews so I just accept it as part of the territory. What irritates me is people who insist that a review is somehow dishonest because it didn’t match their opinion of the book. I don’t want all fives or even all fours and fives because they look fake, so I’m grateful for the occasional low review even if it stings at the time.
- Do you have any special steps or superstitions you follow when writing? My husband suggested that I write each draft with a different colored pen to keep them straight, since as I mentioned before, organization is not my strong point. I took this a step further and store each draft in a folder of the same color. I refer to my first draft as the “red draft,” the second as the “purple draft,” the third is the “green draft” and if I need a fourth, it’s the “blue draft.” The first draft is always completely red, but once I’m satisfied with a chapter, it goes immediately to the “black draft” (what I handwrite for typing).
- What makes a good book? I can always tell when a writer is enthusiastic about his or her work. If not, it shows. Poor editing, characterizations, plot pacing, etc. are all signs that the writer’s heart wasn’t in the book. No book is perfect, and any book can be improved on, but a good book is one that the writer put effort into, even if it’s not in a trendy genre.
- When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer? When my seventh-grade English teacher wrote my very first book review. I’ve always suffered from nightmares, and one day, I had the idea to write one of them down. The story turned into a full spiral notebook of writing. My teacher read it and gave me a complete review (a long legal page, front and back). She detailed the good and the bad. I still have that review. It’s one of my most prized possessions.
- If you weren’t a writer what career would you choose? I’m enjoying a satisfying career as a high-school Spanish teacher. There’s a lot of aggravation that goes with being a teacher but I wouldn’t want to do anything else.
- If you could describe your writing style in one sentence what would you say? My writing style tends to be wordy, but I go for the natural approach; that is to say, I try to write how people would be thinking (it doesn’t always work that way, though).
- “Ice” is unique since it combines the paranormal and organized crime. Do you think this will attract a more varied audience? It’s hard to say. Because the paranormal is in the background and plays only minor roles in the main plot, people who like fantasy have said it wasn’t enough, and fans of pure crime thrillers said it should be scrapped. Opinions on The Minter have been sharply divided. About half of the reviewers liked it and said it adds unique-ness. By far, my harshest critics have been fans of historical fiction. I’m interested to see how the paranormal in the Cadiz Beach series will be received. Purity of genre is becoming increasingly rare, I have noticed. I like pure crime thrillers, but they tend to be predictable and formulaic. I added the paranormal just to make it different. Fantasy is OK, but I’m more interested in the paranormal and didn’t want Ice to be a fantasy novel.
- Who is your favorite character in “Ice” and why? Tom Watson. I didn’t want the reader to know what was in his heart and mind, which is why he’s not a narrator. He will be a narrator in Shivers and the readers are going to see a different side of him. One that is capable of more brutality than Sebastián and Manuela combined. The reason I like Tom so much is because (in my mind, anyway) he’s so perfectly imperfect, and one of the most dynamic of all the characters in the book. And for the record, Andy will also be a narrator. I want to make him a stronger character
- Often after a writer has published a book she will wish she had written something differently, added or removed a character, or added something to the story. Do you have anything in “Ice” you feel that way about? One of my biggest regrets about Ice (and one that I intend to eventually rectify) is my portrayal of Andy. When I think of him, I feel embarrassed on his behalf. I didn’t intend to make him look so incompetent, it just happened that way. Ice was originally intended to be a standalone, but since many readers told me that some of the ideas needed further development, I got the idea to make an entire Minterville series, starting with James Minter’s service in World War II, his court-martial for killing another American soldier, his eventual return home, his founding of Minterville, and most importantly, how he acquired The Minter and was able to gift it to whomever he wished (and the reason why he wasn’t able to gift it to Tom or Barbara). Earth was originally a minor subplot in a novel for which the plot was becoming too cumbersome. I extracted Annalee, Sergio, and Liam’s story from that novel (which was called Glass) just to have something to write while I thought of what to do next, because I didn’t want to give up the characters I had become so attached to, thus, the Cadiz Beach series. I had to shift around some of the character roles, but I now have a workable storyline. You may have noticed that in Ice, although Tom and Barbara don’t have Minter abilities, they have other paranormal abilities of their own. I’m planning a Minterville/Cadiz Beach crossover ;).
- What is the last book you read and why did you choose to read it? Nowadays, I read only indie books. I love being a book blogger and writing in-depth reviews. The last non-indie book I read was The Hunger Games I don’t normally pay attention to fads, but a student recommended it and let me borrow his copy. I was hooked. The last book I completely was 11th Percent by TH Morris and am currently reading Bloodmarked by Lu Whitley.
- If you could choose any person living or dead to read and review one of your books who would you choose, which book would you choose, and why? I would give anything to hear what Stephen King would have to say about His writing style is so similar to mine (or rather, mine is similar to his). That man is my literary hero. Ray Bradbury, Rod Serling (creator of the Twilight Zone), Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and Horacio Quiroga are others I’d like to have an opinion from.
- In Ray Bradbury’s Farenheit 451 the characters memorize books to “save” them when all books are being burned. They are known as Book People. If you were a book which one would you be and why? I would be Catcher in the Rye because I am sarcastic, impulsive, sharp-tongued, and irresponsible, but also caring and protective. I bet Guy Montag got great pleasure out of burning Catcher in the Rye. Lord help him if Mildred caught Holden’s ‘tude.
- Is there anything you would like to add? The most important thing is to have fun. If you don’t enjoy what you’re doing, give it up. No one is going to become rich from indie publishing (regardless of the bravado some authors like to project), so if you’re trying to write for the sole purpose of making money, forget it. The extra money is nice, but it’s nothing compared to the satisfaction of hearing that someone enjoyed your book.
Wren FictionJessica Wren Fiction (Blog)