For those who haven't heard, what is your novel about?
My latest book for young adults –Mercy – brings together some of the genre-mashing I enjoy as a reader. It’s a YA mystery/crime novel – but with angels and Latin, choral music, school bullies and a whisper of romance thrown in. Its heroine is an exiled archangel who constantly finds herself shifted into an unbroken chain of human lives – she keeps “waking” to find herself inhabiting the body of a stranger and is forced continually to think on the fly, seek to find meaning, and adapt, just to survive. Despite possessing shattered memories of who or what she once was, she always remains true to her essential nature, regardless of what’s thrown at her. I tried to imagine what it would be like for someone with extraordinary powers to be suffering from a bizarre kind of amnesia where she only has prismatic flashes of memory and insight. The inklings of more than one past life, and of what she’s truly capable of, would (hopefully) make things interesting and keep the reader guessing, because the character would always be a little off balance. She'd be experiencing pretty much what the reader would be doing - trying to join the dots so that things make sense.
Can you tell us a little about your lead characters?
With Mercy herself, I consciously set out to create a female heroine who can, literally, do anything if she puts her mind to it. I wanted to show that it's okay to be a smart-mouthed, think-on-your- feet, strong and abrasive, yet empathetic character, who also happens to be female. It's not something that should just be the province of male hero-types. Ryan is the mortal boy who stumbles across the fact that Mercy exists, even though the face and body she’s “wearing” and the life she’s “living” belong to someone else altogether. To say he’s intrigued by her, is an understatement. Luc is Mercy’s flame from way back that she’s being kept away from for reasons that aren’t yet clear to her (or the reader). Despite Mercy’s exile, Luc is somehow still able to contact Mercy in her dreams, while she’s asleep, though physically, he’s never been able to track her down. When he gets too close, she gets shifted again into another life.
Is there one place you'd love to go but have never been before?
Marrakech. It just sounds so otherworldly and beautiful.
Can you give us a little information about the types of books you write?
I’ve written books for boys and girls aged 9 –12, toddlers (2 - 4), and teen (13+) and pre-teen (9 – 13) female readers. Every book has been a blast to write but I have to adjust the language (I’m often reminded “no swearing!”) and conceptual layering. I probably feel most comfortable writing for the YA age group because they’re open minded and willing to embrace anything the author dishes out, provided it’s a good read and they’re hooked into the story.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
When I was around 6 or 7, but reality kind of intruded and I got sidetracked into a “respectable” day job for a while.
Was there any research you had to do for your book?
I’m a lapsed Presbyterian choir nerd, so for the choral scenes basically had the Mahler Symphony No. 8 score open next to me while I wrote them. But I have to stress that “Mercy” is not pushing any religious wheelbarrow whatsoever. Angels appear across many faiths and cultures and I’m writing non-denominational angels here.
What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
A bit mad. I have 3 kids who insist on popping up like gophers in the middle of the night (when I do most of my work). The words are either flowing, or I’m on another planet altogether.
Do you think you have an interesting writing quirk?
Does brie count as a quirk?
Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
Everywhere. The news is pretty staggering; old poems; trashy magazines; the web; stuff I overhear in the street from eavesdropping on people.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
That YA readers are the most voracious and interested, switched on and questioning readers out there. It’s an entire universe I don’t think I was fully aware of, and I’m really privileged to be a part of it.
Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
I haven’t fully committed to the idea of creating a website or blogging about what I’m up to, because I’m not sure if any one would be interested, frankly. But I do catch up on some of my reviews for “Mercy” online. And some of them have been really lovely, but others have been a little surprising. I’m just happy when I find out that a reader “gets” what I’m trying to do. You create this stuff in a vacuum and hope that people will like what you’re doing and where you’re headed.
What do you think makes a good story?
Strong, authentic, believable characters. Plus, a pacy storyline that doesn't contain too many red herrings or cul-de-sacs. I personally can’t keep reading if the main female character acts brainless or has no backbone. That just gets my goat, sorry.