How To Stay On Top of Your Writing While Dealing With The Anxiety of The Coronavirus (COVID-19)

By M.A.Greene

This pandemic is real.  Whether you’re in a position where you are staying at home right now or working and coming back than staying glued to the news for updates, it can be difficult for some writers to dive into their story worlds when the real world around us is starting to feel like a dystopian novel.

              I want to make a disclaimer. If you are unable to write right now, due to the coronavirus that’s ok. But it can be healthy to keep up with your writing. One reason is it’s getting away from the constant stream of updates on the news. Also, it can more productive than watching television. Keeping up with our writing can keep our writing dreams alive. It can use your energy that is used for worrying to put into something constructive you enjoy.

               Below are a few ways practical ways to keep your writing dreams alive during these stressful times of the coronavirus.

              First, figure out whether you need to journal about your worries and concerns for about 10-20 minutes before writing. I have heard of the benefit of journaling to get your thoughts not concerning writing out of you before starting creative writing is beneficial to some people. Try seeing if that works for you.

              Second, watch the news for an hour to see what is happening but have an alarm on your phone reminding you to write and turn the television or news updates online. Put a timer on for 10-20 minutes at a time and write. Also, put the remote out of arm’s length away from you when writing. Get off the internet. Do this before watching any more of the news.

              Third, write using a timer in 10-20 minute intervals before tuning into the news. And only make exceptions such as if there is time-specific times that news shows that concern your area that will be giving updates.

              Forth exercise for 20-60 minutes before writing. Numerous studies show working out releases endorphins which is the natural feel-good chemical and is all-around healthy for your body. Whether you keep up with the news while exercising or not is something you can experiment with to see what works best for you. But please when you exercise to do so at home or keeping 3-6 feet from others in alone or small groups of less than 10 or alone in noncrowded spaces outside. I’m recommending less than 10 because I personally, feel that is playing it safe rather than going to the maximum number of people that has been suggested.

               A fifth suggestion is talking to a loved one to chat about what is daily dystopian-novel-like events in the news before writing. Maybe processing these events with someone else and knowing you are not alone in this can help. If you do this please be mindful everyone has various levels of what they can handle. Do not do this everyday if you write on a daily basis or even every other day unless your sure your loved one wants to discuss the events. Some people need to unplug from the current events more than others.

The final talking about events that are not about the virus. Maybe you picked up a new hobby during this time or revisited an old one. Perhaps you are reading a great book and you really connect to the character or something inspiring happened on the news, such as when the two students played live music from a safe distance for an elderly woman. Whatever it may be, talking about uplifting things can help put you in a clearer mind frame to write sometimes.

Don’t forget it perfectly ok even though your staying on top of your writing if your not as productive as you might have been before this pandemic happened. Everyone is human.

               So these are some ways to stay on top of your writing during these difficult times. Let me know if any of these tips work for you. Also, if you have any tips that was not mentioned please tell me as well. Have a healthy rest of your day.

Eric Smith’s Don’t Read The Comments Author Interview

M.A.Greene: Hello. I’m M.A.Greene a YA author reaching for publication. You can follow me on writing journey on Twitter @MAGreene996.

  • M.A. Greene: So can you tell us when you realized you wanted to be a writer?

                Eric Smith: When I was a little kid, my parents got me this electric typewriter. It was this old thing with a tiny little LCD screen on it, and you could type up a whole story, hit enter, and then watch the typewriter bang it out. I’d write these little one page stories about my friends and hand them out at school, and it just made me so wildly happy. I think I knew then, and started taking it seriously years and years later, after college.

  • M.A. Greene: When did the initial idea for Don’t Read The Comments come to you?

              Eric Smith: I’d been wanting to write a story about teens who meet in a video game for a while, and when I went on a writing retreat with some friends four years ago (shout out to Bill and Phil of the James River Writers!), I started really digging in. But it couldn’t just be about that. It had to be about what happens in that world. The consequences of being who you are in that landscape. So, a story about cyber harassment in virtual spaces was born.

  • M.A. Greene: How long did it take you to write Don’t Read The Comments’ first draft, then to finish the book?

Eric Smith: The rough draft was something I’d gotten done in about two weeks… which I know sounds like I wrote it really fast, but it was a TERRIBLE first draft. Just awful. I spent a good year editing and polishing it up before I could even show it to my agent, getting beta readers and critique partners along the way. From that initial rough draft to it being actually published, it took four years. 

  • M.A. Greene: Don’t Read The Comments has a lot to do with gaming, are you a gamer yourself?

             Eric Smith: I am! I play a lot of games across all consoles, but mostly on the Xbox One. Give me a good story driven game, and you’ve got me. Lots of role playing games and action adventures. Dragon Age, Mass Effect, any of the Final Fantasy titles… that keeps me happy. Oh, and Skyrim! Elder Scrolls, all the way.

  • M.A. Greene:  What type of research did you do for this book? Did you research gaming? Computer coding exc.?

            Eric Smith: I mean, I do play a lot of video games, including online multiplayer ones… but I’m not much of a streamer. So I spent a good amount of time hanging around on Twitch and YouTube, watching Let’s Play videos and getting a sense of that community. The one that Divya and Aaron interact with is a fictional one based on the real spaces, but it draws from reality. 

  • M.A. Greene: What made you want to explore the darker sides that can come along with gaming along with the positive?

             Eric Smith: Because it’s an aspect of life for people who look like me, when living in a digital space. It’s a story that doesn’t get featured nearly enough, and those harsh realities should be talked about more. 

  • M.A. Greene: How did you develop Divya and Aaron’s characters?

               Eric Smith: Well, Aaron is based a bit on me. I grew up the same way he did, with similar parents, and also put together computers from out of the garbage. So he spooled out of my own life experience, and was a mashup of several of my close friends. Divya pulls a lot from the women I know who actually work in video games. Her strength and her fight. As for her family life, that also comes from people I know who were in the challenging position of being parents to their parents. All my characters in my stories tend to pull from real life, really. 

  • M.A. Greene: Are you a plotter or a panser?

               Eric Smith: Plotter. I outlined all of Don’t’ Read the Comments before I wrote it. 

  • M.A. Greene: Are you only interesting in writing for Young Adults or other age groups as well?

              Eric Smith: I’d like to break into writing rom-coms one day! They have a big piece of my heart, and it sure would be fun to write some adult romantic comedies. 

  • M.A. Greene: Do you write with music? And if so, did you ever write using real video gaming

music?

Eric Smith: I wrote a lot of Don’t Read the Comments while listening to I Fight Dragons, a band that incorporates 8-bit chiptune music into their pop-punk-esque songs. They’re absolutely a favorite of mine. Sorry to disappoint though, but I didn’t write it while listening to strictly video game music. 

  • M.A. Greene: How did you start your career as a literary agent?

                Eric Smith: I kicked off my publishing career at an actual publishing house first, Quirk Books. I spent a solid five years there, and it was awesome. But, eventually I wanted to focus on my own books, and agenting just felt like the next step. I’ve been agenting for four years or so, so I’m coming up on a decade in publishing. It’s not a terribly interesting route to agenting, sorry, but it’s how I got here. 

  • M.A. Greene: How has being a literary agent impacted your writing? Has it helped you know trends are out there? How to write a good hook or good ending for example?

                Eric Smith:  It hasn’t really. And I don’t pay attention to trends when it comes to my writing. If you’re writing to a trend, it means the trend has already happened and is over. I write what my heart tells me to. 

  • M.A. Greene: What do you enjoy the most about being a literary agent?

                 Eric Smith: Saying yes and telling authors that someone ELSE has said yes. Those phone calls are the best, letting someone know their book is going to happen.

  • M.A. Greene: What advice would you give aspiring writers in regards to staying motivated, the publishing journey, or so forth?

              Eric Smith: Just keep going, keep reading, and always work on the next thing. It can be really easy to just obsessed over the querying process and not work on something new… but you should. Get cracking on that next book, ignore all the noise, and keep pushing forward. 

Strike Your Fears by Being An Active Participant In Your Writing Journey

 

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Strike Your Fears by Being An Active Participant In Your Writing Journey

by M.A.Greene

This is for every writing reaching for publication. Mark Twain the famous
author of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, defined a word that we
all need by saying “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not
absence of fear.”

Sometimes people are not going to connect with your writing and you will
have serious doubts about your writing at times. Some people may not hate your
writing but they will not love it either. And sometimes it has nothing to do
with mechanics of storytelling.

I read a young adult novel because I connected with an author’s youtube
videos. The author’s videos helped me while drafting my manuscript and I still
listen to other videos by this author when I have a chance to. Because of this,
I know I will read another book by this author and there must be something
 I am sure there will be something I will enjoy more. However, when I
first read a novel by this author’s book, which is a popular book as well, I
finished it from beginning to end but was not compelled to read more of the
series.

I liked the main character and as a writer who has been studying the craft
of writing through self-study, my writing group James River Writers and so
forth, I realized she did everything right as far as plot, letting the reader
get to know the character and pacing is concerned. Strangely I did not love the
story nor the character that much.

It surprised me that I did not connect with the story even though I finished
it. I even tried to analyze why I did enjoy the book much. Where matters
irrelevant to writing affecting me so I was not enjoying the story? Well,
obviously not when I read another book I was engrossed in indirectly afterward.

 What I now realize is that is ok. When I publish my stories, even if I
make them the absolute best they can be, there will be people who do not have
strong feelings about my story and characters in them.

This is my first attempt at revising a novel because my manuscript is the
first novel I have written. I even read a novel on revising and had a game plan
and awesome beta readers by my side. I had been revising and I believe doubt in
other areas of my life had been seeping into my belief in myself about
revising.

Also the mechanics of how to revise with my original game plan made me
realized still had not planned out enough of a game plan. I went through the
rest of my novel and made notes about anything I could think of. Now I have
another revising book from the library to help aid me to figure out the correct
strategies.

One thing I am learning is truly understanding what I have heard before from
other writers. Writing really is a personal journey. I am very grateful to my
beta readers and my writing community for a warm and supportive environment. No
matter how many books you read or how much about writing craft you study,
someone else’s perfect method might not be yours. You have to figure out what
works for you and utilize what you can from sources around you.

Also listening to author Kim Chance’s video on being a fearless writer
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZXcXx49stNk (Disclaimer: Kim Chance is not the
author whose book I am referring to. I found her YA novel Keeper, to be
engaging plot and looked forward to following Lainey’s adventures in the
sequel)  made me realize how psychologically fears were holding me back as
well.

I had the wonderful experience of pitching my story to two agents at the
James River Writer 2017 conference, my first writing conference I attended.
Both agents said when I could finish the revising my manuscript I could follow
the submission guidelines and send them the requested part of my story.
 That in itself was a wonderful and rare experience. But still, fears
cling onto me.

I am not disillusioned about believing if something like being a New York
Times Best Sellers list does not happen all is lost, such as when I was a
teenager. This statement is in no way trying to put down teen writers. If it
had not been writing in my teens, I know I would not be where I am today. It is
only explaining my mindset as a teenager involving writing my stories. I
realize that is not going to happen.

What did and am still having to do is fight through the fears: What will
people think of me from reading this story? There are so many stories that I
want to tell will be I judged for this one? What about other stories I want to
tell in the future that are different in many ways from this story? Will I have
the courage to tell other stories to the best of my ability and still not be
that successful? If I am lucky and meet fans who want to learn more about my
life, will they be disappointed I’m just a woman trying to get by and make her
mark on the work in a good way as I grow? As I learned more about the
publishing world, I realized sometimes writers could be rejected because their
stories were already overly saturated in the market. Or simply the agent or
editor did not connect with it. Will this be my luck? Why didn’t I start my
serious writing journey a few years earlier such as during summer when my
school load was not so heavy when I was in college?

The lessons I am learning are no matter what you wished you realized or
understood earlier in life, all you can do is move forward. I am working on
myself in other areas of my life. That requires being as honest as possible
about what I need to do to be the best version of myself. That also requires me
to attempt to have more compassion when trying not to judge myself and others
too harshly. One way to be the best version of myself is to acknowledge that I
will keep having times when fears and doubts keep swarming around me like
mosquitos. What matters is I keep fighting. The best version of myself includes
continuing my writing journey.

Sometimes fear is there to help you realize you need to stop and assess
before making a move but other times it is there because you are only human.
Taking the time to try and be honest with yourself is a great way to try and
learn the difference.

Psychologically our memories and brains hold onto fear as a protection
mechanism. It’s why often negative memories can be more vivid than happier
ones.
(https://www.webmd.com/brain/news/20070829/bad-memories-easier-to-remember) We
need to be wise enough to learn when to fight through those fears.

So in the spring of 2017, I found a childhood object that reminded me of a
story. It particularly reminded me of a character.  Characters that I had
been putting on the back burner due to completing my education and striving for
other goals in my life. They would sometimes emerge when I was eating new food
and would instantly think of how that character would eat the food, when
shopping and how a character would react or even listening to a song and being
reminded of one of them. I had various different versions of this story I had
written parts of them off and on throughout the years.

The characters were pretty much consistent. And I had the realization, even
if a bit dramatic, that this world, these characters, these stories would haunt
me until I was on my deathbed if I didn’t write about them. One of my friends
Blair Cousins, twitter name @blaireverywhere, had written her first book Ouji
The Curious Cat, so saw first had it was possible for people in their twenties
to publish a novel. I had heard my aunt tell me for years how she had stories
she had with her since she was a teenager and they always stay with you.

 I listened to a reading of Langston Hughes poem “Dream Deferred”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=79YjXKYeWCk. I had heard it before but it truly
struck me that I needed to write that story and start my journey to be
published writer and take it seriously. Memories of myself as a teenager who I
had attempted to first write one of the versions of this story flooded my mind.
Back during my teen years, I was reading Writers Digest magazines and dreamed
of being a writer. Then memories of my childhood as I played with Barbie dolls
to release the stories inside of me also arose.

I have to thank that character. If it wasn’t for finding that object that
was connected to her back in the spring of 2017, I don’t think I would have
started my journey then. She is not even the main character of my story but she
is in my manuscript. I thank the people in my life who followed their own
dreams or encouraged me not to give up on mine. Even though I am still growing
in all areas of my life, I am a writer. I am going to make my dreams come true.

It is so much easier when you are juggling responsibilities to put off
writing.  Whether in your free time you are job hunting, spending time
socially with friends, family obligations, working out, doing chores or just
running errands and filling out paperwork. There will always be things in the
way. I am not saying not to be wise about when you start your journey. If you
are in the middle of a major life change such as learning the ropes at a new
job, starting a new school, or so forth, you need to be mindful you might not
be able to jump in like you want to. But you can plan maybe the week after your
starting to get settled when you can schedule a time to write and do
brainstorming or read on the craft of writing in the meantime or listen to
youtube videos.

 I do not know what my publication path will take me or how long. But I
will not let fear of anything stop me from moving forward. When you have had
stories with you as long as you were a child the only person who can truly
bring them to life is you. Whether you are just starting your writing journey
or have been on it for a long time. Keep reading to learn what you like and
don’t like in stories. Keep writing to hone your craft. Keep smashing those
fears and be an active participant in your writing life.

You can follow more info on my publishing journey and more at @MAGreene996
on twitter.

 

Book Review of Megan Tennant’s Aletheia

 

When I read the author has a degree in biology that was a hint Megan Tennant
would add something new to the dystopian genre. That was only the beginning of
something more spectacular. 736 is a complicated protagonist who lives in a
world that makes readers shiver. She has standards but is real and flawed. This
book engulfs the audience in every detail 736 experiences. It might not start
off at the speed most novels of this genre do, but that’s because the
relationships of various characters are examined with more depth many other
dystopian novels. The author goes beyond simply giving readers a dystopian
novel with twists and turns.

One unique aspect of Aletheia is many of gender norms in our present society
are not the norm. However, there are many other aspects of this world that
still present but far worst. For instance, social control, “a formal and
informal way of increasing conformity and social norms” is still present
in this novel. (The Real World: An Introduction To Sociology) It is very
present when 736 and many others, in the compound, the institution the cured
forced to wear bracelets that will give them pain when certain rules are
disobeyed. The absolute monarchy “which usually have complete control over
their subjects like dictators and constitutional monarchs” (The Real
World: An Introduction To Sociology) is the Prophet. He is the religious leader
and only one with the sacred cure to stop the spread of the disease. The price,
however, is people’s memories from before they drink the cure will be gone even
though your future memories are protected from extinction.

Aletheia does not gloss over anything that could happen in this
post-apocalyptic world novel. Before readers even start, there is a trigger
warning so they can go to a website with listed concepts in the story that
might trigger someone who might suffer PTSD or might be unprepared for how
vividly real this story can get. I finished the book by devouring 11 chapters
in one day to discover how this story would end. The first word is
“Who” and the last word is “death.” Read Aletheia to find
out how everything is linked. I really do not think there is another book like
this on the shelves.

M.A.Greene: Hello. I’m M.A.Greene a YA author reaching for publication. You
can follow me on writing journey on Twitter @MAGreene996.

 

 

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When I read the author has a degree in biology that was a hint Megan Tennant
would add something new to the dystopian genre. That was only the beginning of
something more spectacular. 736 is a complicated protagonist who lives in a
world that makes readers shiver. She has standards but is real and flawed. This
book engulfs the audience in every detail 736 experiences. It might not start
off at the speed most novels of this genre do, but that’s because the
relationships of various characters are examined with more depth many other
dystopian novels. The author goes beyond simply giving readers a dystopian
novel with twists and turns.

One unique aspect of Aletheia is many of gender norms in our present society
are not the norm. However, there are many other aspects of this world that
still present but far worst. For instance, social control, “a formal and
informal way of increasing conformity and social norms” is still present
in this novel. (The Real World: An Introduction To Sociology) It is very
present when 736 and many others, in the compound, the institution the cured
forced to wear bracelets that will give them pain when certain rules are
disobeyed. The absolute monarchy “which usually have complete control over
their subjects like dictators and constitutional monarchs” (The Real
World: An Introduction To Sociology) is the Prophet. He is the religious leader
and only one with the sacred cure to stop the spread of the disease. The price,
however, is people’s memories from before they drink the cure will be gone even
though your future memories are protected from extinction.

Aletheia does not gloss over anything that could happen in this
post-apocalyptic world novel. Before readers even start, there is a trigger
warning so they can go to a website with listed concepts in the story that
might trigger someone who might suffer PTSD or might be unprepared for how
vividly real this story can get. I finished the book by devouring 11 chapters
in one day to discover how this story would end. The first word is
“Who” and the last word is “death.” Read Aletheia to find
out how everything is linked. I really do not think there is another book like
this on the shelves.

M.A.Greene: Hello. I’m M.A.Greene a YA author reaching for publication. You
can follow me on writing journey on Twitter @MAGreene996.

 

Guest Post: Lucia Brucoli’s Article on Writing Setting

Hello there. My name is M.A.Greene a writer reaching for publication. I am revising a YA Sci-fi/Fantasy novel and write short stories and poems. You can follow my writing journey on twitter at https://twitter.com/MAGreene996. This is a guest post of a teen writer on setting. Enjoy.

Making the Most out of Setting

One of the first things we learn when analyzing novels is dividing them into manageable chunks: Setting, plot and characters. The last two have been broken down into sub-sections upon sub-sections, but what about setting? Some mark it irrelevant, but it can greatly influence your story.

Take ‘The Lottery’ by Shirley Jackson, for example. It’s the story of villagers who act inhumanely towards one another for the sake of tradition. It wouldn’t have worked if the place was fancy and classy, or if it was in modern day. The prose gives a feeling of the past, and it works in favor of the story.

So how can we write a well-rounded setting? Here are a few things to keep in mind. Make sure to refer back to your genre when reading through, as it will affect the location of your story.

1.      Timing
Setting isn’t just where the story takes place, but also when. It’s possibly one of the first things to think about before the actual world building. What is your world’s history, and where does your story fit into it? This can apply even if you’re writing about an average high school: cities always have a history, and this can be shown subtly throughout the course of your story. Timing becomes more important when your novel is set in the past, future or on another world entirely. For example, if your fantasy novel takes place in a kingdom which has just killed its tyrannous, violent king, there will be traces in your world of that king’s rule. Figure out when your story take place first, then find a physical location.

2.      Make it realistic (to your story)
When finding a physical location, it’s best to make it realistic to your story. For example, if your story starts with average teenagers being chased by ghosts in a haunted house… why are they there? How did they even get there? It’s not normal for modern-day teenagers to be wandering in a haunted house, or for a haunted house to be abandoned there in the first place without an explanation. Figure out what is possible and what is a bit of a stretch, so that everything can be logical in your story.

3.      Consistent
Nothing can confuse readers more than an inconsistent setting. Unless you clearly state that your characters go in a completely different area, be sure to make everything the same. Seasons can of course change, but be sure to make the overall physical location the same. If your character comes back from six months in exile and finds their previous snow-covered, Arendelle-style city turned into a raging hot, desert… There’s got to be some sort of explanation. An extreme exaggeration, but good to keep in mind.

4.      Don’t dump!
One of the most boring things readers can encounter in books is when the writer rambles on and on, describing the smallest, irrelevant details of their world. I get it: describing this wonderful kingdom you created and that you’re passionate about is incredible, because you want readers to visualize exactly what you’re seeing. But careful: too much info-dumping can make your reader lose interest in your story, making them mindlessly skim through the chapter or even worse: Put down the book. Don’t. Let. This. Happen.

So this is it. When done wrong, the setting can make the novel tedious to read through. But when done right, the novel will not only be a smooth read, but enjoyable as well. All the best of luck, and happy creating!

-Lucia

Bio:

Lucia Brucoli is a middle school student working on her young adult sci-fi novel. She is also working to create a community of teen aspiring writers just like her, a community of people who support, encourage and help each other, working together to be officially called ‘authors’. In her free time, she enjoys watching t.v shows, reading, and of course writing.

Twitter: https://twitter.com/BrucoliLucia

Website: https://writerluciabrucoli.wixsite.com/mysite

Antuan Vance Author Interview

  • M.A.Greene: Hello. I’m M.A.Greene a YA author reaching for publication. You can follow me on writing journey on Twitter @MAGreene996.
    So can you tell us when you realized you wanted to be a writer?

Antuan Vance: Let’s see. I started writing a journal of sorts about love and crushes at the age of nine, and superhero stories around ten, but decided I’d write a series of poems when I was eleven. So, I’d say eleven was when I realized I wanted to be a writer, and write a book of poetry. It’s been a part of who I am for a long time. Now, it wasn’t until much later in my life that I truly committed to not just writing but finishing books.

  • M.A.Greene: That is great your passion has been with you so long. What are your favorite and least favorite genres and why?

Antuan Vance: Favorite genre is most likely science fiction because I grew up on it. I watched Star Trek and Star Wars, read the books. I’ve always loved the idea of the future, better technology, and a more mature society. Not to mention, all the cool toys. It’s hard to choose a least favorite genre, primarily because I simply stick with what I know and like. But knowing myself, I’d say non-fiction, biographies. I don’t like stuffy, dry material. I usually associate that with biographies, except for Stephen King’s In Writing.

  • M.A.Greene: Science fiction is a genre is never boring for sure. Speaking of science fiction, your novel The Catalyst falls in that category. Was this your first novel? And if so did you take the traditional publishing or self-publishing route?

Antuan Vance: Yes. The Catalyst was my first finished novel, and indie published. Patience proved to not be within my skill set after I finished that book. The whole post-writing process was tedious, confusing, frustrating, and painful. I intend on taking another stab at traditional publishing with the next novel.

  • M.A.Greene: How long did it take you to write The Catalyst first draft, then to finish the book?

Antuan Vance: I spent a lot less time writing in the time it took to write it, which was about two years. It was really the last three months or so I think where I smashed through half of the book. Finishing it took half the time.

  • M.A.Greene: Are there any other types of writing you enjoy?

Antuan Vance: On occasion, I’m known to rant or blog about justice, integrity, righteousness, reason/logic, and the typical do-the-right-thing soapbox speeches that I hope will inspire people to make better choices or see things in a better way. I have a blog, The Impervious Soul, which is primarily pointed towards living a better life and being a person who is a benefit to those around you. That writing is a major part of my purpose. Regretfully, I sparingly update it. In time, that will change.

  • M.A.Greene: In your own words can you give us a quick summary of what The Catalyst is about?

Antuan Vance: It’s about the last stand of evil, kicked around the galaxy, finding its final fighting grounds on Earth. But they’re defeated. Now, they’re desperate and willing and able to completely eradicate humanity while making a new home for themselves. It’s about a father trying to make a cleaner, better world for his daughter and adopted son, even if it means sacrificing himself to do it. It’s about teenagers on the run for their life. Facing unexpected challenges and leaving a trail of destruction in their wake. It’s about friendship, obedience, trust, and faith.

  • M.A.Greene: Back to your novel, how did you develop the characters Levi, Abby, Violet and John Rider? Did you develop them prior to writing the book or during the process? Also, how did you come up for the aliens “The Red.”

Antuan Vance: There’s usually a little bit of me in every story, and Levi happens to be that bit this time. I started with the basic details of who my characters were, knew what kind of choices they were inclined to make, their motivations, and then let it all unfold during the process. Prepared more for Levi, Abbey, and Violet’s journey than John’s. His part of the story took on a life of its own.

The Red were something else. I knew I needed a villain that had incredible resources and influence. That’s why I gave them the powers they have. So they can be a challenge and are worthy of fear. I knew they were aliens, but their origin story wasn’t completely developed until later, when I had my bigger picture moment in chapter six.

But I saw them as evil lizard monsters, like dragons, like the devil in Genesis, but a species of people who turned away from good origins to serve an evil that promised more than he gave, and it turned them into monsters.

  • M.A.Greene: Speaking of references to the bible. Many of the characters in The Cataylst reference the bible and pray on many occasions. How did these aspects of the bible and God become something so interwoven in this story? Did you know that would central themes to your story beforehand or did the occur as you were writing it?

Antuan Vance: When creating my characters, I knew who was and wasn’t a believer, and that their choices and influence would reflect that. I wasn’t completely certain when certain verses would be quoted, but kept an eye out for opportunities as the story developed. At its core, it’s science fiction. However, I knew it had to exist in a universe with an all powerful God, and reference the story of our salvation. The opportunity to slip that in there was better than I thought. But the central theme was always going to tie into my faith, especially the lesson of obedience.

  • M.A.Greene: Are you familiar with the author Madeline L’Engle the author of A Wrinkle in Time? She wrote various book including fiction books that reflected her faith along with her interest in science?

Where there any other authors you enjoyed reading who had Christian faith based themes interwoven in what was centrally a science fiction or fantasy story?

Antuan Vance: To the first question, yes. A person of great value and purpose lended a copy. It took me a while to read it, as I’m not keen on books with child protagonists. Yet, I could appreciate the theme and intentions. I wrote a brief book review and posted it on Instagram. Didn’t care for the movie. Haven’t read any of her other stuff. Probably won’t.

This is going to sound odd, but Stephen King, well known as a horror writer, has written a number of books that had subtle and strong Christian undertones. The Stand had an older woman, almost like a prophet of sorts, who believed. The Man Jesus was mentioned several times in the Dark Tower series. Needful Things had a town influenced and manipulated by a devilish figure. I don’t seek out and read Christian books. But can see the influence of my faith in fiction.

  • M.A.Greene: Interesting. I have not gotten around to reading anything by Stephen King yet even though I have defiantly watched many of his movies and mini series. I probably will be examining his stories more so now that you have mentioned that whenever I get to reading it.

Back to your novel The Catalyst, minor spoiler alert, you have ADHD as a possible protective factor against the aliens The Red? How did you come up with that theory?

Antuan Vance: While ADHD has become a commonly diagnosed disorder, not all are equal or accurate diagnosis. I’ve come to understand that there’s a slight variance in how information is processed and stored in an ADHD brain compared to human default. I conceived it was an evolutionary and reactive disorder to combat current or future threats to our species. The variance in brain function is kind of like having a firewall in your brain. It can still be hacked or accessed, but with less ease. If a brain can hyper-focus, it can shut out outside influences. If a brain can shift easily from one subject to another, it’s like constantly changing frequencies or IP addresses, therefore making it harder to “log in” someone’s mind and maintain access or control. A brain is perhaps not so different from a supercomputer. Cognitive security could be the same as cyber security, assuming I have either of the two right in theory. I could just as easily be pulling this out of my butt.

  • M.A.Greene: That is definitely a unique way to use ADHD in your novel.
    How did you decide to have a character like Pisces and why did you give her hands? Can you explain Pisces character?

Antuan Vance: Pisces was an audible. I had no intention of having her in the story. But I put John in a tough spot, sent Sasha on her way. He needed another ally. Someone to help him finish what he started and talk him off the ledge. Pisces was the perfect choice. I gave her hands because it’s more convenient for her. For all intents and purposes, she’s a person. It would be nice if she could make her own tuna sandwiches. Explain Pisces. I’m trying to think of a way to explain her without spoiling the broader explanation coming in the sequel. She’s was injected with the alien nanotech and given human intelligence, sapience. She’s just as much a part of the team as everyone else. Because of her predatory nature, she’s a little more aggressive and straight to the point than others. It makes her a great warrior.

  • M.A.Greene: She is defiantly an interesting character readers will enjoy getting to know. Would you categorize The Catalyst as a YA sci-fi or a New Adult sci-fi novel?

Antuan Vance: Originally, I thought both. Abbey and Violet are 17. Levi’s 19. Can’t remember if Jeremy’s 19 or 20. But since this is all happening the day before Abbey’s and Violet’s birthday, they’re pretty much 18. And there are some scenes that are more fitting adult readers. So, let’s say new adult.

  • M.A.Greene: When I was reading it I was curious what category it fell into. So when you write do you write with or without music?

Antuan Vance: With music. Absolutely. Something low, not distracting, and usually nothing with lyrics. Instrumentals. Classics like Beethoven, Mozart, Chopin, Debussy. Soundtracks and suites from movies I enjoy.

  • M.A.Greene: Music can defiantly fuel the writing experience. What is your favorite book and your least favorite and why?

Antuan Vance: It’s hard to nail down a singular favorite. What makes a book my favorite is when it excites me to read more. And not just more of that specific book, but more books period. I like books that excite my interests in literature. William Shatner wrote a series of Star Trek novels. I ate those up as a kid. Dan Brown wrote Angels & Demons, The DaVinci Code. As a college student, I was sucked in. I’m a big Stephen King fan, aka constant reader. A recent favorite would be Ink Mage by Victor Gischler. We already talked about my least favorite, A Wrinkle In Time. Why? If something is my least favorite, it did the opposite of what my favorite does.Instead of exciting me about reading, picking a book, the books I like the least make reading a chore. If I’m forcing myself through and not liking the characters, enjoying the plot, or appreciating the style, I’m not likely to finish, unless I’ve committed myself to finishing it.

  • M.A.Greene: That makes sense. Reading books you force yourself to read, such as assigned readings when back when you were in school and dislike the story or characters can be a chore. What advice would you give parents and family members who worry about children and teen aspiring writers striving towards a profession they could perceive as being a “starving artist”?

Antuan Vance: My best advice is to “get a grip”. Writers are versatile, disciplined, and intelligent. Creatives are unique. They can’t be lumped in with the rest of the crowd, expected to have a regular career. But we can do anything, if we have to. I should also point out that you don’t have to have a degree in English or Writing to be a writer. So, choosing to study something “practical” will only influence and benefit what they write.

Also, free marketing, beta reading, and editing are life savers. So, if you’re going to worry, worry with helpful actions and ask what you can do to help.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Antuan Vance: One: If writing isn’t a top priority, and you really want to do this, you have to be willing to sacrifice time and money from something else. Less Netflix, Hulu, Crackle, TV, YouTube, Twitch, video games, mall visits, whatever. Writing is a passion and priority. Take it seriously. Reduce and ignore your distractions. Two: if you’re not writing, you’re thinking about writing. There are a lot of stories out there to tell. It’s best to always have your mind open to the next project. When you’re bored, as if that’s possible, brainstorm. When you have ten to twenty books on the horizon, pour good ideas into other writers/creatives. Three: people will lead you into a mental prison, but only you can lock yourself in. Don’t allow people to tell you what kind of writer you are, what you should write. If you want to write four, seven, eleven different genres in your career, do it, as long as it works. Also, it’s good to know what’s out there, but try not to get too caught up in what other people are doing. You are you. Unique. Special. Beautiful. Stories are bestowed upon you, to tell them as you are meant to.

  • M.A.Greene: That is wonderful advice for aspiring writers. Thanks for letting me interview you.

If you are wondering where you can purchase Antuan Vance’s The Catalyst, it’s on amazon. https://www.amazon.com/Catalyst-Book-One-ebook/dp/B00WET7HR4/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1542917789&sr=8-1&keywords=the+catalyst+antuan+vance