Q. Struck has such a unique and refreshing idea. How did you come up with it?
A. My philosophy about coming up with ideas for fantastical story elements––like my lightning addict in Struck––is to “steal from the real.” We live in a weird, weird world, and I like to start there. When I first began thinking about STRUCK, I wanted to write about a human lightning rod, so I dug in and researched real life human lightning rods. That was when I discovered a park ranger who held the world record for most lightning strikes survived. He’d been struck by lightning seven times, and survived each and every one. He used to drive around with a bucket of water in the back of his truck in case he was struck, caught on fire, and had to put himself out. People even began to avoid him, because it’s dangerous to be standing next to someone when they’re struck by lightning. But . . . despite the danger to his life, this man remained a park ranger until he died. I had to ask myself, why didn’t he get another job? Something that came with a roof, perhaps. Theories started sparking in my brain, the most interesting idea being that the man liked being struck by lightning. That it made him feel more alive than anything else, like it was the ultimate drug. And at that moment my fictional “lightning addict” was born.
Q. What sort of decisions did you make when creating the main character, Mia?
A. The first thing I knew about Mia was that she was a cynic. She’s the kind of girl who’d believe a scientific explanation for why she’s survived so many lightning strikes over any supernatural or mystical explanation. She’s the quintessential unbeliever, but deep down she wants to believe in something that doesn’t come with a scientific explanation. She’s just afraid of what it would mean if she did.
Q. Were there any aspects of yourself that you put into the story/characters?
A. That whole “cynic” thing I mentioned above . . . that’s me. I’m the ultimate cynic, so I guess you could say Mia is an offshoot of that part of me. When I create a character, I need common ground with them before I can really understand who they are. I call this “finding the way in.” Everything else about Mia beyond her cynicism is all her. That’s the only piece of me I broke off to give to her.
Q. How long did it take you to write all of Struck?
A. From first draft to final draft it took me about two years. At the time when I started the book I wasn’t a plotter, so most of that time was spent revising the mess I’d made.
Q. The cover for Struck is beautiful and eye catching! Who designed it?
A. Thank you! I love the cover, too! It was designed by Andrew Arnold, who has my eternal gratitude for capturing the spirit of the story in such a dramatic and powerful image.
Q. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
A. Aspiring writers are often told to “write what you know,” or “write the story you’d want to read.” I would say do neither of those. Instead, write the story that only YOU can tell. Many writers get caught up in the imitation phase of learning the craft, and never progress from there. You have to dig deeper, peel away your “fan” self, and write something that brings your unique point of view to the page.
Q. If you could change one thing about Struck what would it be and why?
A. I would make Mia’s brother, Parker, less of a good guy. I have a hard time writing “nice” people. I’d much rather write villains! But I’ll tell you what I wouldn’t change, even though I’ve taken a licking for this from some readers. I would not change the message about religious fanaticism. I want to write stories that make you think about an issue after you’ve closed the book. Maybe you’ll agree with my POV and maybe you won’t. Or maybe you’ll hate what I have to say and take it out on me on Goodreads. But as long as you think about the issue, I’m happy.
Q. Are you working on anything at the minute? If so, what can you tell us about it?
A. My next book, THE KILLING JAR, will be released Fall 2014 from FSG/Macmillan. It’s a kidnapping thriller with a supernatural twist, about a teen girl who’s abducted into a utopian commune, where she discovers shocking truths about her past.
I would like to thank Jennifer for being here! You can find her book on Goodreads