Tami’s preface : Jenny is the “Barto” I tagged in my own Next Big Thing. She doesn’t have her own blog, so I happily offered my webspace for her soapbox. Without further ado….
What is the working title of your book?
Where did the idea come from for the book?
Mythology, mainly. I took several themes from shamanistic and Pagan traditions. The World Tree of Norse mythology; the idea that shamans have a second soul; the belief that all people have a kinship with one type of animal. Then I asked myself what the modern world would be like if these things were true.
What genre does your book fall under?
Young adult modern fantasy.
Which actors would you choose to play your characters is a movie rendition?
I am terrible at remembering names (of people and movies alike). So I’ll take a pass on this question, lest I write something like, “Bart looks like that one guy who was in that thing… remember? No, not that one. The other thing.”
What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?
Rose Shannon, a girl born with a ‘second soul’ that allows her to speak to animals, struggles to understand her new-found powers and to save herself and her friends from malevolent creatures who devour the souls of kids like her.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Hopefully it will be represented by an agency. I want to do one more bout of editing and then I’ll start looking for an agent. If I can’t publish through an agency, however, I’m not adverse to self-publishing.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? May we see an introduction?
Three months for the rough draft. Though that was rough, rough, rough! I spent another two polishing it before I was willing to let anyone see the manuscript.
In this scene, Rose discovers one of her talents. After she hears a small boy calling for help, she confronts a group of bullies and tries to rescue their victim.
On the other side of the point, five boys stood around a large cardboard box that rocked violently from side to side.
“Hey! What the hell do you think you’re doing!” she yelled.
All of them jumped as she stormed over, glancing at each other sheepishly. For one second, Rose dared to hope that she could grab the child and run before they realized what had happened.
Then Donnie stepped between her and the box. “Hey there, Freaky,” he sneered. “What’re you doing here?”
“None of your business. Who’s in that box?”
She tried to step around him, but he planted a big, beefy hand in the middle of her chest and shoved her back. “There’s nothing in the box,” he said. As if she couldn’t see the thing moving! “We’re gonna throw it in the river, see how far out it goes before it sinks.”
“With a kid in there! Are you nuts?”
That was crazy, even for Donnie. Estabrook might be a bully, but he wasn’t a murderer. Did he really think a small child could swim through the Penobscot’s fierce currents?
“A kid?” the boy snickered. “What makes you think there’s a kid in there, Freaky?”
Rose planted her hands on her hips. “Like I’m deaf? I could hear him begging for help halfway back to Harford’s, you idiot!”
“He’s… begging?” Donnie’s eyes began to sparkle and his buddies snickered.
At that exact moment, the child spoke up. “Help me!” he cried. “Please, let me go!”
“See? Don’t worry, sweetheart,” she said, dropping to her knees beside the box. “I’ll get you out of there. I promise.” For some reason, that set all of the boys laughing. Rose ignored them. “What’s your name?”
The shaking stopped and then a quiet voice said, “Fuzzy.”
What kind of a name was that?
Donnie howled with laughter, but to Rose’s surprise some of the others shuffled away from her and cast nervous glances at their leader. “Holy crap, is she seriously talking to that thing?” Jeff muttered.
“Totally,” Donnie assured him. “Didn’t you hear how she flipped out in Mr. Smith’s bio class last May?”
Oh no… Rose’s heart sank. Not that again, please.
“Yeah they’re in lab, dissecting frogs and suddenly Freaky busts in the door and starts yelling about how they’re all murderers and the frogs are screaming!”
She could still remember the tiny wails of agony and despair. Even now there were nights she dreamed about it. Only in her dreams the lab door was locked and she watched, helpless, as the frogs shrieked.
“She goes crazy. Starts ‘freeing’ all the live frogs and stomping the dead ones flat.”
“They weren’t dead. Just paralyzed. I couldn’t save them.” Rose whispered, but the boys were laughing too hard to hear her.
Why was Donnie bringing that up now? While everyone watched him, Rose quietly reached for the box and cracked open one of its flaps.
A pair of green eyes stared up at her. Shock ran down her spine as she realized it wasn’t a child inside the box, it was a little orange tabby cat. Scrawny and muddy, he was basically a kitten, with huge, terrified eyes.
What other books would you compare this story to in your genre?
My husband dubbed it a cross between Harry Potter and The Hunger Games. That sounds pretentious, but it’s not because he thinks it’s going to sell a million copies! It focuses on a young shaman in the process of discovering her powers (hence the Harry Potter reference). Yet the world is much darker than Harry’s. The Great War has ended and the good guys lost. Rose’s magic awakens in a world controlled by an ancient evil, a creature that will destroy her as soon as he realizes she exists. That ‘secret rebel fighter’ angle reminded my husband of The Hunger Games.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Once upon a time, a long time ago, Tami and I were in a World of Warcraft RP guild. She asked me to write some fan-fic with her. Previously I’d never been able to finish anything I wrote. Working with her, I did. Then she upped the ante. What about co-writing a real book?
We made great progress and learned tons of things working together. Before we could finish our manuscript, however, things changed. Tami got promoted and could no longer steal time during the day to write. The gaps between our sessions grew long. In the end, we both decided this wasn’t working and we put the project on hold.
I decided to try a novel by myself, even though in the past I’d never been able to finish anything. But the time Tami and I spent writing together had changed me. I picked up some discipline, some practice, some knowledge. This time everything fell into place – and I finished my first book.
I don’t think I would have even tried if it wasn’t for Tami. For that gift, I will always be grateful!
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
A major theme of Second Soul is the treatment of animals and the world around us. If you know everything has a spirit, how does that change the way you live? For instance Rose, the heroine, realizes at one point:
Most people would call Fuzzy ‘just’ a cat. Once you could talk to something, however, it stopped being ‘just’ anything.
I don’t have the answer to my own question – so don’t worry, the book isn’t a lecture! Every character has a different viewpoint. Take, as an example, the problem ‘If everything can talk, what should you eat?’ Two of my characters (and one of my villains) would have completely different answers.
Rose: Vegetarian. At least until I learn how to talk to plants and then… hmm… I don’t know. I don’t have time to worry about that now, though. I’m just trying to stay alive.
Bart: If everything talks I might as well eat bacon. It tastes better.
Malichek: Eat people you don’t like. That way when your meal suffers and dies, it’s all good!
Technology is another theme. Many writers treat magic and science as enemies. Natural vs unnatural. Yet if a shaman’s drum can have a spirit, why can’t a modern shaman’s cell phone talk too? And if it does, what does that imply? For my heroes technology is an ally, not an enemy. A powerful tool that their ancient adversaries don’t really understand. Technology changes the world at a breath-taking speed – and that’s one of the few advantages these kids have against a creature that’s lived for millennia.