Interview: Courtney Farrell - Author of Enhanced12:31 AM
interview originally posted here
Sixteen-year-old Michelle is a product of the Institute's eugenics program, where people are bred like livestock. One doctor decides which kids get to grow up, and which disappear. Only Culls walk into the slum outside Institute walls, and they never come back. Michelle has survived every purge, and she's about to win a luxurious life as a breeder. Then the doctor banishes her brother Seth and her boyfriend Brian, and she risks everything to find them in the cutthroat slum. She's in trouble until handsome Dillon stakes a claim to her. Michelle is mortified, because Norms are practically animals. But the doctor is using the missing boys in a twisted plan and she needs Dillon's help to stop him. Michelle and her friends must find Seth and Brian, but a plague is spreading, the doctor is after her and Dillon isn't thrilled to help her find her lost boyfriend.
1. Tell us about your current work
Enhanced is the first book in a series. I’m delighted to announce that the sequel, tentatively titled Run from Iron Torr, is under contract with Crescent Moon Press! Here’s the blurb:
At the Institute, they breed the best and kill the rest. Michelle is a survivor, but there’s one more hurdle in her way --a mission to Iron Torr, a military base on the frozen ass-end of nowhere. Communications are down, and nobody wants to deal with it. Just to irritate the arrogant colonel in charge up there, the Institute’s Founder sends a bunch of teenagers to do the repairs. Michelle’s half-breed boyfriend Dillon makes the team, along with her hot ex, Brian, who makes everything awkward. At the base, Norm insurgents attack. Michelle agrees to help the colonel, but soon begins to wonder if she’s on the right side. Normal women are imprisoned at Iron Torr, used as surrogate mothers for Enhanced offspring, and then killed. Caught up in the fighting, Michelle is captured by Norms, who are not the brutal savages she imagined. Their cause is a just one. Will she take up arms against her own kind? Meanwhile, Dillon faces his own temptations. A half-breed like him would never fit in at Institute Headquarters, but military doctors think he’s special. Parker offers Dillon a sweet deal, with rank, money, and gorgeous Enhanced girls who wouldn’t even talk to him back home. All Dillon has to do is wipe out the Norms who are harboring Michelle.
2. What do you have coming up?
I’m finishing a YA dystopian novel called Bait, about a bunch of street kids orphaned by a disease that killed most of the females on the planet. Women are now rare, and most of them live cloistered in harems. The main character, Jackie, is one of the last free girls. She leads, mothers, and feeds a gang of younger boys. These wild adolescents love and protect her, but the oldest ones have begun competing for her attention, and fights are getting nasty. While Jackie struggles to keep her crew together, she discovers that the disease they call the pox is actually sentient, and it wants her.
3. What is the most demeaning thing said about you as a writer?
No one has ever said anything I’d consider demeaning. Of course people in my critique group offer constructive criticism, but in the spirit of helping me improve, not cutting me down.
4. How do you react to a bad review of one of your books?
Since Enhanced just launched, I haven’t seen a lot of reviews yet. Those I have are all positive so far, 4.5 and 5 star reviews. Still, it would be unrealistic to expect every reader to love every book. Eventually I may see a bad review. I imagine I’ll be awfully sensitive about it.
5. When are you going to write your autobiography?
All my novels are autobiographies! With a lot of imagination thrown in. Okay, mostly imagination. But seriously, I think authors tend to write parts of themselves into all their main characters. As far as a real autobiography, I could do it, but I’d have to change the names to protect the guilty.
6. Are the names of the characters in your novels important?
I choose names I like, just like parents do when naming their children. In fact, I use baby name websites to help choose character names.
7. How do you come up with the titles of your novels?
Sometimes the title comes to me first, before I know what the story is about. For example, Enhanced started out as Only the Left Eye Cries. I loved that title and still do, but my publisher correctly pointed out that it wouldn’t fit that well on a book cover. A one-word title would be better, so we went with Enhanced.
Other times I start the story and name it later. My novel Bait had no name until it was halfway done.
8. Are there any occupational hazards to being a novelist?
Sedentary living is a big one. When writing fever overtakes me, I can sit at the keyboard for 12 – 18 hours and never notice the passage of time. Then I return to this world to find my back and neck aching. I have to force myself to take breaks and go work out.
Another hazard for some writers is loneliness. Once authors begin making a living writing, as I do, we drop our day jobs. Luckily, I have a good circle of friends, and lots of fellow authors to brainstorm with.
9. What's your favourite fruit?
Hawaaian papaya, drizzled with lemon juice. The best!
10. What is your favourite bedtime drink?
Although I don’t buy it often, I love Bailey’s Irish Cream.
11. What are the most important attributes to remaining sane as a writer?
Have a lot of writer friends, especially ones who are focused on publication. Submitting work takes courage. Facing potential rejection is neurosis-inducing, even for the most stable personalities. (And we creative types aren’t exactly famous for stability.) Non-writers can sympathize, but only fellow authors are really going to get it when you’re sweating the months it takes to hear back from a publisher. That’s why critique groups are so important. These people see how it took six months, or a year, or even ten years for you to write that novel, and they walked that path with you.
12. Has the dog ever eaten your manuscript?
That would be the worst! I used to email stuff to myself to save it, but now I back up all my files automatically with Carbonite.
13. Do you enjoy giving interviews?
I do, it’s fun.
14. Do you research your novels?
I’d have to if I wrote historical fiction, but my books are all made up. I do have a background as a molecular biologist, so at least the science in my science fiction makes sense.
15. How much impact does your childhood have on your writing?
Lots! Painful moments often come back in scenes, and this can be very cathartic. After writing a particularly sad scene in Enhanced, thinking about the memory it was based on didn’t hurt any more.
16. Are you jealous of other writers?
No, jealousy isn’t a big part of my nature. I enjoy meeting other authors and I cheer them on when they’re successful.
17. What makes you cry?
Anything involving child or animal abuse. That’s half the reason I switched away from writing nonfiction. I wrote for a great company, Red Line Editorial, but all the topics they wanted books on were sad. I sobbed all the way through Children’s Rights, Human Trafficking, The Gulf Oil Spill…you get the picture.
18. What makes you laugh?
Puppies! We recently got two German shepherds, littermates, and they crack me up. One of them, the boy, is a sock thief. I also laugh myself silly at parties with my critique group. Writers are a funny bunch, quit-witted and ruthless with jokes.
19. What's the loveliest thing you have ever seen?
So many choices…my newborn’s face…my crazy ex in a straightjacket… but I think I’ll tell you about the swans. Several times over the last few years, I’ve had the chance to participate in trumpeter swan relocations. These beautiful animals are members of a threatened species, so the Wyoming Wetland Society breeds them and releases them into the wild. Every spring in Jackson, Wyoming, groups of about fifty young swans are herded by kayak to holding pens, where they are gently caught for veterinary exams. Then volunteers (including me!) get to carry them to waiting trailers. There’s nothing like a flotilla of swans on the water at dawn. Breathtaking.
20. Do you have any advice for upcoming writers?
Know who the influential authors are in your genre, and read them. Join a critique group, no matter how much you fear it may sting your ego. These people will become some of your best friends. Finally, I’ll repeat the best advice another writer ever gave me: “Apply your bottom to the seat of the chair.” That means write. And keep on writing.
21. How can your readers contact you?
22. Last words?
I hope my readers love Enhanced! Find it on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Enhanced-ebook/dp/B00EVY04G6/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1378580184&sr=1-1&keywords=courtney+farrell
Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/enhanced-courtney-farrell/1116849020?ean=9781939173393
Crescent Moon Press: http://crescentmoonpress.com/books/Enhanced.html