Firstly, tell us about Gears of Golgotha, your debut novel. What inspired it? Where did you get the idea for the world of chemists and scientists?
It's kind of a funny story how I came up with the idea for Gears, actually. The basic ideas of it came from a dream I had after a night of hanging out with friends (and no, it wasn't like that haha). From that dream came Erin, the main character; Dr. Sharpe; the villain (at the beginning, the villain was a man named Xerxes, brother of the Supreme Leader); and the Gears themselves. I knew I wanted to turn it into a novel, but I didn't know where to go with it. That was until NaNoWriMo 2013. I was hanging out at my cousin Amy's house (of Bella Morteand Letters to Daniel fame). I had a basic skeleton of the story, but didn't feel it had any meat on its bones. I had two choices to take on for my NaNoWriMo project: develop this new idea, or refine a murder mystery I had been working on. I eventually picked the new idea, but still couldn't think of a name. The idea of Chemists and Mages, as well as the title itself, are actually fossils from the era of story development where Gears was actually a commentary on the science vs. religion debate.
What made you sit down and start writing? Have you always been a writer?
This is another funny story, I think. When I was in first grade, my class had to participate in the Young Authors competition at my school. I've always been very competitive, and when I heard that there were going to be medals (at the time my life goal was to earn one of them), I jumped at the challenge. With the help of my Eighth Grade Buddy (an 8th grader that was assigned to first grade students to tutor them and serve as a role model), I wrote My Alabama Vacation, a story where I go on vacation to a zoo in Alabama, even though I have to this day never been there haha. There was no real plot to the book; it was mostly just about the trip there, and stopping at places like a barber shop and comparing human and animal behavior ("Do animals get haircuts, too?"). I glued in different pictures of animals, including one of a monkey picking bugs out of another monkey's fur for the "haircut" bit. I was really proud of my work, and submitted it to the contest. A kid in my class named Nicholas won first place with his story The Last Dinosaur. Even though I won second place, I didn't think it was good enough. I swore that day I would hone my skills as a writer, so that next year, I would kick Nicholas' butt. He transferred to another school the next year, and there were no more Young Authors contests, but I still kept writing and writing. In 7th grade, I wrote Chapparelle's World,a short story which can only be described as Edgar Allen Poe meets Alice in Wonderland, in which a woman ends up in her dreamworld and confronts her demons while in a coma after a failed suicide attempt. I won 1st place in my school's Young Author's competition, and even went on to the county-wide semi-finals, but it was then I realized something: I didn't care about the awards. Sure, they were nice, but I loved writing. And I was good at it. I've been writing regularly ever since.
What has been the most enjoyable aspect of being a writer? What keeps you writing more?
I love making up things. I love asking "What if...?" When I was little, I used to make up what I called "step-friends," imaginary characters that I would make up stories for. I think about different worlds, wonder what life would be like if someone changed one little thing, or if something never even happened.
Who are your favorite authors? Does any of their work influence yours?
I really love the classics; you can never go wrong with them. I feel like the darkness of my stories was inspired by writers like Poe and the Bronte sisters. I love J.K. Rowling's writing style, too; it's so raw and personal, and gets under the readers' skin, which is something that I strive to do as well.
What books did you read when you were young? What was the first book you ever read?
I read pretty much everything I could get my hands on. I would read anything and everything. While I can't remember the first book I ever read, I do remember that I started reading from a very young age. My mom will tell you that I started reading at 2 years old, when I picked up the newspaper off the kitchen table and started reading it to my parents. I mostly read Dr. Seuss, Harry Potter, and the Magic Tree House books. I didn't start reading classics until 5th grade, with my first being The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.
What do you have planned in the future? Anymore steampunk? Anything written in the Gears universe?
I do want to write a sequel to Gears, but I haven't even started it yet, let alone set a release date for it. Right now, my attention is focused on ALPHA, book 1 of The ALPHA Trilogy. Think Bourne saga meets Manchurian Candidate. It's my first spy/political thriller, but I've always been fascinated with MK ULTRA and other legends like it, so writing it has been a lot of fun.
What's the best convention you've attended to promote your work?
Imaginarium, by a long shot. It was my first convention, and I had never felt more welcome there than anywhere else. That was where I actually felt like my work could mean something to other people. I was offered and signed two contracts there for Gears and ALPHA from Hydra Publications. I had a lot of fun, and I can't wait to go again in September, where I'll be turning 21!
What advice do you have for fledgling writers?
KEEP WRITING. I can't stress this enough. They say that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to get good at something. And don't let ANYONE tell you to stop writing.
Lastly, where can we find your work?