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If isn’t personal what the heck is it?
Author Interviews That Rock
Introducing Debut Author
And her thrilling sci fi adventure
THE UNHAPPENING OF GENESIS LEE
Okay Shallee, here we go!
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m a writer of things fantastical and futuristic, fan of Africa, frequent changer of hairstyles, and am apparently fond of alliteration.
Tell us about your new book. What is the blurb on your book cover or your quick synopsis?
Here’s the quick synopsis: A girl who’s genetically enhanced to store her memories in external objects must hunt a memory thief with the help of the only person she’s ever forgotten.
Just to get us started, how long have you been writing? In one sentence (it can run on) tell us how it felt the moment you learned your book would be published?
I’m the type that’s been writing since childhood, but I didn’t start writing full novels until college. As for the moment I learned this book would be published, it was sort of AHHHHHH! and WUT? and SQUEEEEE! and ij$%@fdjoi?!?!
What inspired you to write THE UNHAPPENING OF GENESIS LEE?
A world where some people can remember everything with the help of Link bracelets… Where did this fantastic premise come from?
My husband had the idea of storing our memories of a special object IN that object. He thought it would be a cool fantasy, but my brain had already twisted it into a sci fi premise. It took a lot of thought and research to figure out a scientific way for it to be in the realm of possibility! I found it fascinating how our central nervous system—brain and spine—and our peripheral nervous system—everything else—do and don’t work together. That’s where I came up with the idea to have to nervous systems hook together in a new way, so the brain sent memories through the peripheral nervous system into something the person touched. It opened up a whole host of potential and problems I needed to solve, and I find that the best parts of a story usually exist in the problems!
Why science fiction?
Sci fi is what I’ve grown up reading, watching, and writing! I love all the possibilities available in dreaming of the future. I’m also a mega science nerd, so I love using real science in my books.
What attracted you to the idea of a futuristic mystery?
When I first got the idea of story memories in external objects, I immediately started thinking what conflicts would come into play. And, duh, it’d be so easy to get memories stolen if they were outside your brain! That lead into the mystery, and the idea involved technology we don’t have yet, so futuristic it was.
Did you do special research on memory and the ability to retain/lose it?
Absolutely. I researched a lot of the basics of what we know about memories, and read a lot of articles and journals about current memory research. It’s really important to me to be able to extrapolate from real science!
How did you choose the unique setting for this story?
My setting is based on southern Utah and northern Arizona. I love red rock desert, and I had an idea for a scene early on where Gena, my main character, is dancing in a red rock canyon. So that’s what the setting became! And that scene is in the book, and it’s one of my favorites.
If your villain could give one piece of advice to your readers, what would it be?
As the villain says in the book at one point, “Bitterness stunts vision.” I love my villain in a lot of ways, because s/he (ha! Not even giving you a gender hint!) has been through some real crap, and in a lot of ways, survived admirably. But s/he also scares the heck out of me, I won’t lie!
What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever been given?
My freshman creative writing teacher in college said there are only two things you need for writing: have a take, and don’t suck. And really, that’s the basics of it. Have a unique take on an idea, one that readers find interesting and new, and then write that story so it doesn’t suck!
What is the most important thing for a writer to remember?
To trust your instincts. Instincts are very quiet, so you have to train yourself to hear. They aren’t the loud shouts of “you suck at this” or “oh my gosh, this is so horrible”—that’s insecurity, not instinct. I’ve found that I often have a vague uncomfortable feeling about certain things in a story, but it’s so vague, I tend to barely notice it. Nine times out of ten, my crit group nails that thing as something that’s not working. And then I realize I already knew that, I just didn’t pay attention to those instincts. I’m slowly learning to be more aware of those feelings.
Just for kicks… What are some of your favorite TV shows, movies?
I heart Netflix for giving me access to my favorites, because they’re old! I love Star Trek: TNG, The X-Files, Fringe…it’s no wonder all my story ideas involve weird science!
Other than writing, what do you like to do for fun? Hobbies?
I live right smack-dab in the middle of the most gorgeous mountains. One of my favorite things is to gather up my family and go up the canyon. We hike, we wade in the river, we roll in the grass, we ride bikes along the river trail…it’s just as blissful as it sounds!
As a kid what was your favorite book?
I also devoured Anne of Green Gables, because I wanted to be just as imaginative and fun as Anne, and the next best thing was living in her world.
Any closing words of wisdom for author-wannabes out there?
Everything in our writing world seems to shout that you have to get published now, you have to write that book now, you have to write faster, you have to query more, you have to run run run or the publishing train will leave you behind, and if the traditional publishing train doesn’t show up, you should self-pub this very minute.
Don’t. Don’t do any of that. Stop running after publishing, and start embracing your writing. You don’t HAVE to query your first book—or any book. You don’t HAVE to self-pub just because you hate to put that book in a drawer. You don’t HAVE to do anything. Writing is hard, yes, but it can be a joy, too. Find the joy in it. Find the story you love, and write it. Write that one and the next one and the next one, because it takes a long time to develop your skill and your voice. Let it take a long time. Let yourself love it, let yourself improve. Publishing will still be there when you do, and then you’ll have even more to offer than you ever dreamed.
And there you have it! Personal and Real with Shallee McArthur! Thanks for the super-cool, insightful interview, Shallee!