If you could travel in a Time Machine would you go back to the past or into the future?
I think I’d take the plunge and see the future. Imagine what people who lived just forty or fifty years ago would think if they were able to travel forward to right now. Back then, calculators that could add were cutting-edge (not to mention bulky!) What would they think of our smartphones with GPS tracking? Totally sci-fi. I can only imagine what inventions might come along in another forty or fifty years. I’d love to see a holographic television. Or a matter transporter!
If you were stranded on a desert island what 3 things would you want with you?
I am all about survival. Self-sufficiency. I’d love it if my island was a lush oasis with a fresh-water lagoon and plenty of coconut trees. But I’d more likely end up on a stretch of barren sand periodically swamped by the tide. Along that line of thinking, I’d make sure I had a multi-tool pocketknife, a large sheet of tough, clear plastic, and a spool of fishing line. Then I can set up a mini desalination station, fashion a pole or net with the fishing line, and the multi-tool – well, that’s self-explanatory. If nothing else, I can entertain myself carving coconut shells into adorable figurines I can talk to when I get lonely (i.e. go crazy.)
If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be?
I’m already in God’s Country, as people in Alaska call it. I love my home. But it would be nice to have a vacation home somewhere warm, with sandy beaches and enough breeze to keep cool. Kauai would be awesome.
What is your favorite Quote?
Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride. “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” Because I’m such an avid reader, I come across new words and don’t know how to pronounce them. When I try to use the word in public, I embarrass myself. I use this quote to turn it into a joke.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you "grew up"?
Let’s define “little.” I went through the usual gamut of ballerina and firefighter, all in the same week when I was six. But during high school, I really wanted to be a biomedical engineer. I was (and still am) a big science buff. I took AP courses and physics. I won a DOE scholarship and went to camp at Lawrence Berkley Laboratories where I karyotyped the HIV virus and toured the supercolliding super conductor. But in college, I became more familiar with the life of a dedicated research scientist. Living in the lab. Sleeping on a cot. No time for family. I wanted a broader life. So I became a fiction writer. Yeah, go figure. But I still get to use science when I write science fiction.
What inspired you to want to become a writer? When I was ten or so, my mom bought a new, electric typewriter and gave me her manual one. I loved that thing. I played reporter. I played college student. I played writer. Writer was my favorite – a very Hemminway-esque type of writer, with a glass of wine (grapejuice) and a cigarette (candy – remember those?) hanging off my lip. I thought I was so cool. And of course, if I was going to sit there with a blank page in front of me being cool, I figured I’d better write something. So the stories began. Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published. A person’s face speaks better than words, and I was rewarded with many open-mouthed, wide-eyed expressions as my niece read Botanicaust. How often does an author actually get to see someone reading her work? Now I imagine all my readers making those faces as they enjoy reading my books. What was your favorite book when you were a child/teen? I loved the Chronicles of Narnia, by C. S. Lewis. I think I read the entire series four or five times. When the movies came out, they brought my vision to life so well, I cried. Mr. Beaver was exactly the way I pictured, and the White Witch was terrifying. Of course, Mr. Tumnus played his part perfectly, and Aslan was terrifyingly magnificent. His self-sacrifice shaped my definition of a hero, and you’ll often find characters in my writing who make the same type of choice for someone they love. What's one piece of advice you would give aspiring authors? Learn story structure. So many advise, “just write,” and that is important, but I believe understanding the psychology of story – the way humans interact with story structure – is of utmost importance. The cadence of suspense and revelation for the reader is what keeps them not only reading, but also thinking about a story long after they have reached the end. The way a story is constructed guides a reader’s emotions, and emotion is what connects the reader to the story. I could write an entire article on my take on structure – in fact, I probably will some time soon – but for readers seeing this now, I suggest reading a book about screenwriting. Save the Cat by Blake Snyder was my first introduction to story beats. I would also highly recommend The Anatomy of Story, by John Truby, or if you are an auditory learner, try Michael Hague’s YouTube video series.
If you could have any superpower what would you choose?
I believe any superpower will also have consequences. For instance, in Botanicaust, the Haldanians photosynthesize sunlight, therefore do not need to eat; but their chloroplasts also create toxins in ultraviolet radiation which are deadly to children before puberty. The Fosselites have the secret to eternal life, but their medicine only works on the body, not on nerve tissue – while they might live forever, they slowly succumb to diseases of the mind, such as dementia and Alzheimer’s. So, to make a long story longer, I would very carefully choose my superpower. I think I would choose to be wise. My consequence would likely be that everyone in the world would seek my advice, and I would never get any peace. But I would be wise enough to handle it.
If you were a super hero what would your kryptonite be? I actually have a personal kryptonite that is very real; I am gluten intolerant. Eating wheat, barley, or rye makes me very sick. And you’d be surprised at the number of common food items that have derivatives of these grains in them. Soy sauce, for instance, is most commonly made from wheat. Yes, soy sauce. Potlucks are difficult for me. People try to feed me, but they never imagined the sour cream they used had modified food starch in it, or that I can’t eat the stew because they put beer in it. I suppose that is part of the reason I am so into growing and cooking food myself.
What is your favorite flavor of ice cream?
Hands down, chocolate peanut butter. But only if I can get to the carton before my kids steal all of the peanut butter swirl out of the middle. *grumble grumble* At least I like chocolate ice cream, too.
What is your favorite thing to eat for breakfast?
When I have time, I like a smoked salmon omelet with fresh chicken eggs and snipped green onions aside a slice of freshly baked, gluten free bread. The salmon, of course, is salmon we caught ourselves and smoked, the eggs were laid by my hens that very morning, and the green onions are growing on a windowsill if it is winter, in the garden in summer. The gluten free bread is homemade because store bought GF bread sucks.
One food you would never eat?
I think saying never will lead one straight to a situation where one must face that choice. Take the cannibals in Botanicaust – they didn’t start out choosing to eat other people, but were forced to make that choice in order to survive. One could say they are the ultimate conservationists. But if I had to say never, I’d never eat another human being. How’s that for an answer?
Skittles or M&Ms? Pfft. What a question. Green M&&’s, of course. Hey – not what you’re thinking! Green is for photosynthesis. Get your mind out of the gutter.
Please tell us in one sentence only, why we should read your book.
Food is a huge issue in the world right now, with genetic modification at the top of the controversial list, and Botanicaust will make readers think about the future of genetic engineering in a new way, not only for crops, but for humanity itself.
Who are your favorite authors of all time? I’m a very eclectic reader. I think it shows when I’m asked about my genre. (I say I write dystopian post-apocalyptic science fiction romance, in case you were wondering.) When I look at my keeper shelf, I see C.S. Lewis’ Narnia series, many Stephen King books, Anne Rice’s Vampire Series, Dan Simmons Hyperion Cantos, and Jean Auel’s first three books. In recent years, I’ve added Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games, Cassandra Clare, and Hugh Howey. Can you see yourself in any of your characters? I have to be careful NOT to see myself in my characters. I think many writers make the mistake of creating characters who are, in essence, themselves. In my opinion, that makes for very stagnant writing. Don’t get me wrong, our own essence creeps into every character we write. We can’t help it, because we interpret the world through our own experiences. But my goal is to be imaginative enough to put myself into someone else’s head. I intentionally give characters goals I would never pursue. Hidden talent? I am a certified Alaska Master Gardener. Not that I’d consider that talent hidden; you can see my garden on Google Earth (it’s that big.) But gardening is my other passion besides writing. I also graft my own Alaska hardy fruit trees and have a producing orchard. I’m brewing 15 gallons of hard cider right now.
If you were a super hero what would your kryptonite be?
I actually have a personal kryptonite that is very real; I am gluten intolerant. Eating wheat, barley, or rye makes me very sick. And you’d be surprised at the number of common food items that have derivatives of these grains in them. Soy sauce, for instance, is most commonly made from wheat. Yes, soy sauce. Potlucks are difficult for me. People try to feed me, but they never imagined the sour cream they used had modified food starch in it, or that I can’t eat the stew because they put beer in it. I suppose that is part of the reason I am so into growing and cooking food myself.
You have won one million dollars what is the first thing that you would buy?
Ever the pragmatist, I would pay off our house. Then the rest of my family’s mortgages. Then I might give the rest to a great charity. Habitat for Humanity, which my grandfather volunteered for extensively before he passed.
What do you do in your free time?
I love to be self-sufficient, which is not easy to do in Alaska. I have a 1000+ square foot garden, 22 fruit trees, and a greenhouse for hot weather crops. We have raised chickens and ducks for meat and eggs, geese, hogs, and even a steer – all on a 1/2 acre lot. We also hunt for moose and caribou, deep-sea fish, dipnet salmon from the river, and gather wild mushrooms and berries. If that isn’t enough work, I then have to process and preserve all that food. I jar, freeze, dry, jelly, pickle, and brew. Needless to say, in summer, I have no free time! At the end of the day, I feel really good about my life.
What's your favorite season/weather? In Alaska, we have early winter, dead of winter, break-up, and construction. Anything else is a fluke. But on those rare, fluke days, when the sun shines until midnight, a breeze keeps the mosquitoes at bay, and the mountains rise green around me, I am at my happiest. How did you celebrate the sale of your first book? I’m a small time kind of girl. I live in a giant state, but with an insignificant population (we only get 1 State Representative in Congress, and because of time zones, our vote is nearly last.) I went to a tiny college where I often had a mere five or six people in a class. I live in a small community in a plain-jane, small house. So to celebrate my book release, I took my very best critique partner friends who happen to live nearby, and I treated them to lunch at a local Mexican restaurant. Yep, my launch was lunch. They made me feel very special. What is your guilty pleasure? I play World of Warcraft. There, I said it. Yes, it is a huge time suck. I play until my eyes burn and my fingers feel like they have arthritis from clutching the mouse. I emerge into the sunlight, eyes burning and back kinked from poor posture in the office chair, and realize I lost an entire day. Um, I had a deadline? Whoops. If I find myself in the midst of fellow WoW players, conversation quickly turns to gear scores and DPS. Don’t show me photos of your kids - how ‘bout a screenshot of your last Raid Boss? Go ahead. Tell me another Chuck Norris joke. Favorite places to travel? I get motion sick on escalators, so travel is not easy for me. By far, my favorite type of travel is the road trip, because I can stop and get out for a breather any time I like. In Alaska, we only have two highways between Anchorage and Fairbanks. The trip is 350 miles long, over mountain passes, across alpine tundra, and through the Denali Wildlife Refuge right past Mt. McKinley. The sights are amazing, summer or winter. One time, I broke down in the Wildlife Refuge, with no cell phone coverage, and it was twenty below zero outside. The traffic at 3 at night (yes, night – it is dark by then up here) along that road is sparse, to say the least. But someone in another car drove a little way until they found cell coverage and called for help. I was glad I’d packed my snow-bibs and boots. That was one cold haul back, but a story I can tell forever.