Excerpt from SHADE:
The next day, I remembered just how truly lucky I was. My mom drove me to school in her rusty old van. She was wearing some kind of hippie dress that reached down to her ankles. It was, honest to God, made out of bright yellow cloth covered in purple tulips with neon-green leaves, and she had painted her lips fire engine red and rubbed purple eye shadow all over her eyelids.
Kids stared as we drove up. My mom insisted on walking me inside and introducing me to the principal. I thought the principal might act snooty and superior toward her, like most of my other principals had, but I swear this one, Principal Lafferty, kind of flirted with her. Gross. But then he was sort of old—gray hair around a bald spot and hair poking out of his ears. So maybe his eyesight wasn’t so good, or he was an ex-hippie himself or something, I have no idea.
When I finally got through all that, I had to make my way through the halls and find my first class which was English Literature.
And then there was roll call.
“Galactic Shade Griffin.”
“Here.” As I raised my hand, I could hear the giggles, feel the stares. I just pretended to ignore everyone, as though I was totally unaware of the reactions to my name.
Once class started, I only got called on once, to answer a question about why Romeo and Juliet had pretended to die. That was easy. We had discussed Romeo and Juliet a little bit the previous year at my old school ... and, well, duh, because the adults in their lives wouldn’t let them be who they really were and date who they really loved, and they had to let everyone think they were dead so that they could sneak away, be themselves, follow their hearts’ desires and have no one look for them.
The teacher said, “Very good.” I was off the hook for the rest of the class. The teacher was mousy, kind of soft-spoken, but she seemed energetic and really into Shakespeare.
My next class was Chemistry. It had potential. It involved a laboratory and the mixing together of chemicals.
My Interview with Marilyn Peake:
Please tell us about your latest book.
My latest book is SHADE, a Young Adult Mystery novel with Paranormal elements. Tagline: “Shade: Girl on a hero’s journey, going from smart-ass to badass.”
Here’s the Book Summary for SHADE:
Thanks to her offbeat mother, Shade’s full name is Galactic Shade Griffin. Having a name like that while being the new girl in school is pretty much catnip for bullies. The summer before Shade’s junior year of high school, her mother breaks up with yet another boyfriend and moves them once again to a new town.
This time, they move into a dilapidated old house where Shade has an entire attic bedroom to herself—at least until she discovers it’s haunted by the ghost of a teenaged boy named Brandon Yates. When Shade’s best friend goes missing, her life becomes even more complicated. With the help of Brandon who’s struggling with his own issues in the world beyond, Shade faces the question of whether or not she has what it takes to become a true hero.
Although this novel deals with a number of serious issues—drug and alcohol abuse, cutting, and disturbing world events—it's primarily a novel about a teenaged girl finding out who she really is and that she's capable of so much more than she ever thought possible.
How much of your personality and life experiences are in your writing?
That’s hard to say. I’m too close to the writing. I think I probably have the same combination of sarcastic wit and belief in helping others that the teenaged girl Shade, the main character in SHADE, has. She also started writing in high school, so I was able to use my experience as a writer there. What I’m most conscious of when I write fiction, though, are social injustices in the news that upset me so deeply, I end up weaving similar themes into many of my stories. In fact, there’s an ongoing story on the news that I’ve been following with such sadness and anger, it gave me the idea for my next book in the SHADE series. Tonight, I experienced that Aha! moment in which I suddenly knew the mystery that SHADE would solve in the next book, and then my mind started flooding with ideas for the novel. This preoccupation with crafting a fictional story actually helps me deal with difficult news stories.
When did you first think about writing and what prompted you to submit your first manuscript?
I wanted to be a writer as far back as elementary school. I started writing in high school. I wrote short stories and poems, and I wrote articles for some local newspapers and had my own column and some poetry published in one. Later on, when I wrote my Masters Thesis, I loved doing both the research and the writing so much, it ended up being over 100 typed pages. Years later, I decided to try my hand at writing novels. I wrote three not-so-great “practice” novels. By then, I was hooked on the process. I wrote five more novels and lots of short stories, some published by small press and some self-published.
Generally, how long does it take you to write a book?
Six months to a year unless my life’s too busy to fit in enough writing hours in that kind of time frame.
Do you have a set schedule for writing or do you just go with the flow?
It’s really a combination of both. To fit in everything I want to do in my life and not be a completely miserable human being, I kind of go with the flow. Once I get on a roll with writing a book, however, I try to schedule regular writing hours and stick with them. I love when the writing just seems to flow—on those kinds of days, hours go by quickly. On other days: well, not so much—it feels more like watching paint dry or cheering on a tortoise in a marathon.
What about your family, do they know not to bother you when you are writing - or are there constant interruptions?
When my children were growing up, there were constant interruptions, including one three-year period of not writing at all when they were very little. I didn’t mind it, though. It’s true that children seem to grow up in the blink of an eye and you can never have that time back. My husband’s really great about my writing time, so now that my children are grown, I don’t have many interruptions in my scheduled writing time.
What do you do to relax and recharge your batteries?
Outdoor activities! I love hiking and swimming. I especially love hiking interesting beaches and listening to the sound of the waves. I find that totally rejuvenating. I’m also an amateur photographer. I love doing travel photography. I posted some of my travel photographs—from Ireland, Alaska, Niagara Falls and Roswell, New Mexico—on my Blog:
Where do your ideas come from?
That’s a great question. News stories, definitely. Also, observing the outdoors gives me ideas for details from nature that I might add to my fictional settings. I love creating a mood by the ways in which I describe the moon or the wind. For example, in the first chapter of SHADE, I use the moon, the wind, and the darkness of night to create a mood that reflects Shade’s mood:
We arrived close to . The sky was pitch-black. The moon was a slice of light that disappeared behind clouds as Mom parked our van next to a broken curb. A shimmering planet stared at us and a few stars winked, but mostly the night had been plunged into darkness. As I opened my door, a strong wind gusted, blowing the sheets of paper on which I had been drawing and writing across the front yard. I ran after them. The wind grabbed the shutters and slammed them against the house, causing me to scream without thinking.
The house hated us. I hated this house. I swore I would never forgive my mother.
I gathered up the papers, one by one. My mother laughed. “What a night, huh, Shade?”
“Yeah, what a night.”
I waited for her to unlock the front door. The lightbulb next to the door sputtered and gave out. My mother fumbled in her purse for her cell phone. Using its small patch of light to see, she inserted the key into the lock, then turned it just as her phone went dark to conserve energy. Once inside, she felt for the wall switch and flipped it on.
The place was filthy. How could she have agreed to rent this place? How could she have let the landlord get away without cleaning it?
“Where’s my room?” I asked.
“Top of the stairs. Are you going to bed already?”
“Yeah, I’m tired.”
I climbed the wooden stairs that creaked with every step I took. I found my room and slammed the door, as though answering the shutters.
The wind picked up. The shutters answered back.
“Screw you, house!”
What kind of research do you do?
It depends on the story. I always research every facet of a story with which I’m not familiar beforehand. When I wrote my short story, COYOTE CROSSING, I did quite a bit of research. COYOTE CROSSING has a Dark Fantasy twist; but it’s about the struggles and horror encountered by children illegally crossing the border from Mexico into the United States, led by guides called coyotes and worked by employers in the United States who want cheap labor.
There’s a lot of hard science in my science fiction novel, GODS IN THE MACHINE, including time travel and space elevators. For that, I read books and did a great deal of research.
For THE FISHERMAN’S SON Trilogy, my series of middle grade children’s novels, I also did quite a bit of research into ocean fish and ancient cities.
Please tell us about yourself (family, hobbies, education, etc.)
I’m married and have two grown sons whom I love dearly. I have a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and a Master of Arts in Clinical Psychology. I worked for years as a Social Worker and Staff Psychologist before staying at home to raise my children. I now write full-time and travel when I can, exploring the great outdoors and taking travel photographs.
Fill in the blank favorites –
Dessert: Anything chocolate!
City: New York City
Type of hero: Smart, witty
Type of heroine: Also smart, witty
What are some of your favorite things to do?
Getting together with family and friends, watching good movies and TV shows, reading, photography, traveling, and exploring the outdoors.
Do you have a favorite author? Favorite book?
There are so many great authors, it’s really hard to choose. THE POISONWOOD BIBLE by Barbara Kingsolver is definitely one of my favorite books. Every character’s so well developed, their voices are completely distinct from one another, and Kingsolver does an excellent job of putting a human face on real-world social injustice through a fictional story.
Who are some of your other favorite authors to read? Do you have a recommendation for those who are interested in reading your books?
I love reading most genres of books, including: Young Adult, Mystery, Paranormal, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Literary, and Magical Realism. Some of my favorite authors are: Hugh Howey, Aimee Bender, Brunonia Barry, Isabel Allende, John Steinbeck, and Barbara Kingsolver—that’s just a few, off the top of my head. If you mean which books by other authors that someone interested in my own books might also like to read…that’s a tough question because different readers will probably like my books for different reasons…But I’m guessing a reader interested in my novel, SHADE, might also enjoy reading THE PARTICULAR SADNESS OF LEMON CAKE by Aimee Bender.
Among your own books, have you a favorite book? Favorite hero or heroine?
Among my own books, THE FISHERMAN’S SON Trilogy and SHADE are my favorites.
I wrote THE FISHERMAN’S SON Trilogy, a series of middle grade children’s novels, when my own sons were little. I have wonderful memories of sharing those books with them. Other children also enjoyed reading this series. I was delighted when I received emails from parents, telling me that THE FISHERMAN’S SON was their child’s favorite book and they had written a book report about it, or from librarians, telling me that their library was interested in the trilogy. Wiley O’Mara, the main character and hero of THE FISHERMAN’S SON Trilogy, is one of my favorite heroes. And the setting is magical. Wiley’s main mentor is a magical dolphin with whom Wiley is able to travel under the sea.
SHADE is another one of my favorite books that I’ve written. Shade, the main character, is spunky, smart, loyal, and has a sarcastic wit. I definitely like her a lot. I’m very happy with the way this book turned out and I’m delighted with the reviews!
What book for you has been the easiest to write? The hardest? The most fun?
THE FISHERMAN’S SON Trilogy was probably the easiest and most fun for me to write. For some reason, the words just flowed with those books. I’d sit down to write and the words would just get written without any pause or hesitation. I enjoyed creating the world of those books because their setting is very magical, the story taking place on a Celtic island and under the sea. And research for those books was fascinating. I researched ocean fish, and ancient Greece and Rome to create an ancient city under the sea.
Emotionally, the hardest book for me to write was SHADE. I allowed myself to experience Shade’s intensely painful teenaged emotions as I wrote and she was dealing with some extremely difficult life events. Writing that book really put me through the wringer! There were days when I felt emotionally spent by the time I had finished a writing session. Writing Shade’s very funny wit really saved the day for me.
Intellectually, the hardest book for me to write was GODS IN THE MACHINE. For that, I read nonfiction books by physicists on how time travel might someday be possible and articles on ways in which space elevators might be constructed. Reading about the technical aspects of space-time in time travel theories requires thinking about concepts in four dimensions (length, width, height, and time). At times (no pun intended) it was a bit challenging to wrap my brain around how we might actually be able to travel through time by using four dimensions. I hope to rewrite GODS IN THE MACHINE someday. Now that I have a handle on the technical aspects, a basic story and characters, I think I want GODS IN THE MACHINE to have a more streamlined and adventurous plot.
Which comes first, the story, the characters or the setting?
The characters and setting usually pop into my mind around the same time. Maybe a character comes into my mind first, but then I very quickly figure out their setting. After that, the story begins to unfold.
What are the elements of a great romance for you?
In real life or fiction? LOL. I guess passion…in both real life and fiction.
What is the hardest part of writing/the easiest for you?
Hardest: Sitting for hours, days, weeks, months, pounding out words on a keyboard. Easiest: Writing when exhilarated by the story as it’s unfolding.
Have you experienced writer's block---> If so, how did you work through it?
Yes. Right before starting to write SHADE, actually. It turned out I was exhausted. I walked away from my computer. Started a rigorous exercise routine. Went on some outdoor photography excursions that involved lots of hiking and exploring. That did the trick! Now I make sure to mix up days of writing with days of doing something outdoors.
What is the most rewarding thing about being a writer?
Three things for me: the exhilaration of the creative process, bringing a brand new story into the world, and interacting with readers who enjoy my writing. Three of the best things in the entire world!
If you weren't writing, what would you be doing?
If I could afford it and wasn’t writing, I’d travel the world doing travel photography.
Are there any words of encouragement for unpublished writers?
Just keep writing. Don’t give up. Find ways to tap into your creativity.
What can we expect from you in the future? How many books have you written, how many have been published?
I’ve published five novels and lots of short stories. I’m now writing two more stories that I’m really excited about.
With Hugh Howey’s blessing to write and publish it, I’m writing a short story set in his WOOL universe. My story introduces Evangeline Hubbard, a hoarder in the silo of the first WOOL novel. I’m now about three-quarters of the way through writing it. I’ve contacted Mike Tabor, the artist who’s designed other spectacular book covers for the WOOL universe, to design a cover for this story, and I’m looking forward to working with him.
Also, tonight, I had a real breakthrough, suddenly coming up with lots of ideas for how to write the second novel in the SHADE series. I’m planning to write five more SHADE novels, one novel taking place during Shade’s senior year of high school and four more novels for her four years of college. I’m really excited about the ideas I have for the next novel and can’t wait to write it!
Five things readers want to know about you:
I can be funny. I’m addicted to Twitter. I’m a news junkie. I’m learning how to play computer games and love them! I don’t think I could ever write without coffee.