Today, author Lois Brown has graciously agreed to answer a few questions for my readers. Here’s a link, just in case you missed my review of her excellent new YA thriller, Cycles.
Lois, you’ve written extensively in the nonfiction arena. How did you decide to make a change to fiction, and how has your background played into this new writing experience?
I studied journalism in college, which is a great degree for those interested in becoming both non-fiction and fiction writers. Some very well known fiction authors–Truman Capote for example—have been journalists.
When writing non-fiction, I learned to quickly organize my thoughts and write a good “lead.” Those two skills are paramount in newspaper writing. That experience, I feel, has helped me write good first chapters because I know how to put lots of “good stuff” up front.
Journalism did not help me, however, learn to write visual descriptions. Instead, my work tends to be very plot driven. That is something I’m working on.
I switched to writing fiction because it was always a dream of mine to write a novel. When my youngest child started school, I knew now was the time to do it or I never would.
The idea for Cycles came about as a combination of unique factors. Would you share those briefly with us?
I had the idea for Cycles at the same time I was diagnosed with Simple Partial Seizures. These seizures don’t affect motor skills, but they can affect all of your five senses (hence their other name: sensory seizures.) My seizures created an odd mesh of symptoms, the most disconcerting of which was massive déjà vu. For those who are saying to themselves, “huh?” take a minute to read this article about the different types of seizures.
As part of my seizures, time would slow down to a crawl and everything around me faded in and out. It was like I had lived that moment a thousand times before in a different life. Needless to say, it was weird.
I went to bed one night thinking about my recent trip to the neurologist. In my sleep, I had a vivid dream about a girl who had frightening feelings of having already experienced things before but in another lifetime. It wasn’t like reincarnation—the same soul coming back to earth to live as someone or something else. Instead, it was like her life just kept repeating itself and she had moments where these “other-life” memories were intensely strong.
I woke up and knew I was going to write a book about it.
Gamma Didi simply leaped off the page for me. She’s unlike anyone I’ve ever met, yet she balances the two teenage main characters perfectly. How ever did you come up with such a unique character? Do you ever use bits of people you really know in your characters?
I have to be honest, Gamma Didi wrote herself. I know no one like her. I simple knew I needed to create a “mentor character” for my two teenage protagonists. When I started writing her, she literally appeared out of nowhere, and I instantly fell in love with her.
A sequel to Cycles, entitled Spaces, is due to release sometime this year. Can you give us brief hint into what we can expect, and when we might expect it?
Spaces is outlined and about a fourth of the way finished. A one-sentence plot of the sequel is: Renee and Sam try to find where Dr. Dawson, who is missing at the end of Cycles, has gone.
My plan is to release Spaces in Fall 2012, which means I have to work very hard.
Like Cycles, the crux of Spaces is based on real scientific facts that I twist to create fantasy. Cycles’ plot is loosely based on the Saros Cycle from astronomy and quantum physics. In Spaces, I use Space-Time theories found in physics and mathematics.
It may be no surprise that my father was an amazing physicist who taught for decades at a university. Even though science was my worst subject at school, I actually think it is fun to integrate real scientific principles into fiction. Who knows? Maybe I would have been better at science if I could have learned about it in a fiction book.
Please share with us some of your favorite books and authors.
I read a variety of books, so what I’ve done is listed books I’ve recently read from several genres. I really appreciate books that “keep it clean” so to speak. I found that the following books do just that:
Historical fiction: When My Name Was Keoko by Linda Sue Park
Recent Newberry: Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool
Fantasy: First book in the Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson
YA Humor: Anything by Janette Rallison. Many of her books are light and simple, but I feel completely at ease when my teenage daughters read them.
Mystery/Thriller: This is a hard category. I love a good scare, but so many thrillers these days are so gory that I rarely read from this genre anymore. However, I have found that author Lois Duncan keeps her language and descriptions fairly clean. Warning: some of her topics, however, are too intense for younger readers.
Thank you so much, Lois, for taking time to talk with us!