Thank you so much for sharing your book with me and agreeing to do a Q&A for my readers. Give us a quick summary of Blaze!
Absolutely! So it’s basically a boarding school drama with arson thrown in. I derived the inspiration from the first three chapters of the Book of Daniel.
Essentially, Danny is forced to attend his rival school when his former school mysteriously burns down. He, and his three friends, have to figure out the identity of the arsonist before the arsonist figures out them.
What was the biggest hurdle you had to overcome in completing your book?
Good question! I think a number of difficult things came into play
- I was working four jobs and taking summer classes the summer I wrote the book. I don’t know how in the world I wrote it in 45 days, but time management was rough that summer.
- My parents split that same summer. This sent me into a spiral of suicidal depression, which made writing the book difficult.
- It required. So. Much. Editing. The pub board liked it, but they had a lot of changes they wanted me to make. I’m super appreciative that they found problem areas, but I wish I would’ve caught those earlier in the process.
While Blaze isn’t your first book, it is your first novel. Did you have any specific struggles writing this that you didn’t for your memoir Quiet and Storm?
Super awesome question! I think the WWII memoir mentioned was difficult because you couldn’t make up any details. It required an intense amount of research.
I struggled with Blaze because I hadn’t quite found my writing voice yet. It came somewhere in the third or fourth draft. I think I struggled with the description and finding ways to make the parallels to the original story obvious but not contrived.
The story really starts off with a bang, or should I say a “blaze” as Danny’s school catches on fire. What inspired this sort of inciting incident for your story?
Lol. I mean, the Babylonian captivity Daniel originally experienced inspired the school fire. The Babylonians literally set fire to Israel after cutting off food provisions. I wanted to find a modern equivalent. So, boom, fire on the first day of school. Fun stuff.
Many writers set their books in their hometown or their characters struggles mirror their own. What elements in your life seep into your writing?
Oh goodness, I would say any of the character’s struggles with mental health definitely seeped from my own life. Danny struggles with anxiety, and Hannah with suicidal depression. Those are realities in my every day.
I would also say family dynamics come from my own life. Most of the characters come from split families or single-parent homes. This doesn’t sound innovative, but you don’t run into it often in Christian fiction.
Danny is the main character, but there are some other beautifully developed character in this book as well. Where do you come up with your cast?
I wish I had a good answer for this one. I think I just wanted characters who were all vastly different from each other, so they all could have a unique perspective on the chain of events. I wanted some who were a bit braver than others.
But most importantly, I really wanted characters who were just different from what I’d read in literature. Hannah, for instance, spawned from if Tumblr and Hot Topic had a baby. Michelle, on the other hand, is a combination of Leslie Knope and Rita Skeeter (in a good way, I promise). I just wanted characters which I would have fun with, and hopefully, the readers would as well.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
I hate editing. So much. I really should edit far more than I do.
How long did it take you to get this book published, from its initial conception to the release date?
Oooh, I’ll provide a timeline
Spring 2017 – Got the inspiration for the book
Summer 2017 – Wrote the book
Fall 2017 – Pitched the book to a publisher
Winter 2017 – The book is making its way through the rounds of pub board, with various edits back and forth
Spring 2018 – LPC offers a contract
Summer 2018 – LPC assigns an editor to the book
Summer 2018-Summer 2019 – Author works on marketing plan and gets the book ready for the launch
Spring 2019 – Book is up for preorder
Summer 2019 – Book releases
What is the first book that made you cry?
This is going to sound heartless, but I’ve never cried during a movie, play, TV show, etc. I’ve only cried reading one book: Marley and Me. It was my fault. I read it when my first dog was dying.
Many of our readers are trying to decide which avenue of publishing to pursue for their books. Since your book is published through a small press, could you share with us what you’ve enjoyed about this process?
Awesome question! I really enjoyed how personal it was. I could contact the managing editor, and I knew she would get back very quickly. Not to mention, the turnaround time from acquisition to publication of the manuscript happens at a far quicker pace at a small press.
I will say, you do have to take on a great deal of marketing yourself, but even large publishers have moved in that direction.
What advice do you have for aspiring writers looking to publish their first novel?
Do. Not. Give. Up. Ever.
You will want to. Trust me, you will hit a wall at one point where you will question your sanity and whether you should continue.
You should. You have something important to say it.
What other books and authors inspire you?
So, so, so, so many. But I’ll whittle it down to Oscar Wilde, C.S. Lewis, Shakespeare, and Tessa Emily Hall.
What is your favorite book to recommend to others?
Great Gatsby. The imagery is stunning.
Can you give us a hint of what you’re working on next?
The third book in this series. I have the second one done, and I’m ready for the publisher to give the green light. I also have a few other young adult books on query, some children’s books, and a nonfiction book in the works. I love to write!