Thursday, March 7, 2013

An Interview with Gretchen Powell, author of Terra

What was the craziest thing you have ever done?

Boring as it may be to admit, I’m actually not a really exciting person. Unfortunately, I’m not the girl who has ridonkulous stories to share over martinis—ones about nearly getting arrested, or going to wild parties, or meeting celebrities (though one time I did see Sugar Ray lead singer Mark McGrath in an airport—anybody remember Sugar Ray?). I mean, I’m sure my boyfriend would fully attest to the fact that I’m crazy in a general sense, but other than that my life is pretty average—in the best way possible.

What impact does a bad review have on you?

I think anyone who puts their work out there to be critiqued probably goes through a similar set of reactions to negative criticism.
First, there’s the initial anger—“How DARE s/he say bad things about my book!”
Then, there’s the denial—“This person has no idea what s/he is talking about!”
And finally—hopefully—there’s the acceptance. And if the review was in any way thoughtful or explanatory as to WHY the person didn’t like the book, I know that accepting their opinion will only serve to make me a stronger writer in the future. Unfortunately, entirely too often bad reviews are little more than “This book sucks, don’t buy it.” Which is clearly super helpful. But whatcha gonna do? Not every person is going to like every book—individual tastes don’t work that way. All I can hope is that, in the end, there are more people who do enjoy my book than don’t.

How would you describe your protagonist?

Fiery. Passionate. Protective. Street smart. Frugal. Guarded. Loyal. There are just so many facets to Terra’s personality, I could keep going forever.

What is your dream for yourself as an author?

My ultimate dream is to be able to support myself writing—and only writing. Currently, I still have a dayjob, but I would absolutely LOVE to be able to support myself by writing books. I’ve a little ways to go yet, but the amazing thing about self-publishing in this day and age is that it makes being able to do exactly that without having to be the next Suzanne Collins or JK Rowling. And that, my friends, is a beautiful thing.

Do you believe in love at first sight?

Not exactly. I believe in attraction at first sight. Intrigue at first sight. And I believe that people can fall very quickly and very hard for one another if things are right. But LOVE at first sight? That’s always been a hard pill for me to swallow, and Terra’s the same way. She had to deal with a lot of stuff in her past, so she’s pretty guarded when she first meets Adam. But, of course, as soon as he starts to crack her armor… well, you know how these things go.

What inspired you to write Terra?

I’ve always had a love for young adult fiction, despite the fact that I don’t think I’m considered a young adult anymore (aw, sad!). Dystopian fiction in particular appeals to me, because while you can have fun with creating a world that is really different than our own, there’s always some threads of reality looped in. So while, sure, our current world hasn’t been wrecked by plague, and the Earth hasn’t been drained of all its natural resources, and the rich and powerful haven’t split off into floating skycities. But, who knows? In a few hundred or thousand years… maybe those things could happen. And that is what makes dystopian fiction so awesome.

If you could travel anywhere, where would you go?

I spent a lot of my childhood growing up overseas. My dad was in the State Department, so I went to school all over the globe—from Hong Kong to Poland to Canada to Taiwan—so while there are a ton of places in the world I still have yet to see, it’s hard for me to pick a favorite. So, if I really could travel ANYWHERE, I’d have to say I want to go… to space. Yep, just give me $500,000 and I’d be signed up to see the stars via Virgin Galactic’s commercial space trips like THAT.

Now that you’ve read criticisms about your work, do you wish you could re-write it and start over or not and why?

You know, it’s not really the critique from others that makes me think, “Hmm, I wish I had written that differently,” or “Ugh, I wish I hadn’t said that,” it’s me. It’s when *I* go back and read through the book, that suddenly I think of a zillion things that I wish I had been able to put into the book, or worded in a different way, or whatever. But, in the end, I am completely happy with the book that I published, and I stand by the choices I made when I decided it was ready to be read.

Can readers expect more books from you in the future?

Absolutely! Terra is just the first book in the Terrestrials trilogy, so you better believe there’s a lot more to come!

About this author

Half-Chinese and the daughter of a US diplomat, Gretchen Powell spent her childhood growing up in far-off places. She made it all the way to her mid-twenties whilst maintaining her deep-seated love for young adult novels, so she decided to write one of her own.

Her creative process involves copious amounts of Sour Patch Kids and sleeping fitfully. Her many interests include anything with polka dots, Harry Potter, and playing the ukulele.

When she isn't crafting devastated futuristic worlds and fiery heroines, Gretchen also writes a healthy living blog, entitled "Honey, I Shrunk the Gretchen!"

She lives in Northern Virginia with her two adorable miniature schnauzers. They wear many sweaters.

Excerpts of Terra by Gretchen Powell 

Excerpt 1:

The route to the southern wall takes three times longer than usual. With every other step, I find myself looking behind me, but by the time I finally reach the wall, I’m confident I haven’t been followed. I pull the gloves out of my pocket and put them on to protect myself against any residual water that has pooled in the wall’s cracks, then begin to climb. As I scramble up, the moonlight casts an eerie glow on the black brick, making me feel uncomfortably visible. My anxiety level is high as I reach the top, and I climb down the other side without checking the ground below. My boot lands in a shallow puddle of rainwater, splashing up a cascade of droplets that land on the arms of my jacket with a sizzle.
“Augh!” I yell out, then bite my lip and mentally curse myself for making noise. I leap out of the puddle and instinctively wipe down my arms with my gloved hands. Drawing a deep breath, I survey the damage. Fortunately, the thick soles of my new boots seem virtually unscathed, and there are only a few light scorch marks on the sleeves of my jacket. My gloves, on the other hand, are completely shredded.
“Well, those were a good investment,” I mutter under my breath, peeling off what remains of the gloves and inspecting the pink skin on my palms. My hands feel a little raw, but they don’t actively hurt. It appears the still-smoking material of the gloves absorbed most of the damage from climbing. I toss them into the puddle and offer up a sarcastic salute as they disintegrate, leaving nothing but decorative metal studs floating on the surface.

Excerpt 2:

“Got her!” The sound is victorious and terrifying. With the flashlight lighting my path from behind, I immediately understand why. An enormous wall made up of huge metal panels stands twenty feet in front of me, blocking off the rest of the tunnel from top to bottom.
“No…” A small cry escapes my lips. Barricaded in front, raiders at my back. There’s nowhere left to run. I reach the wall and pound on it hopelessly, my fists echoing against the steel. The adrenaline that has been propelling me drains from my body as my impending defeat washes over me. A muffled ringing fills my ears, pressing against my brain, and I feel an icy chill in my cheeks, which should still be hot from the chase. The throbbing rhythm in my head calls forth a cool darkness that begins to seep into the edges of my consciousness.
A surge of light suddenly blinds me. Strong arms wrap around me, wrenching me from the wall. The arms are bare; I can feel the smooth skin against my own. I wonder with detached interest why the raiders would take off their jackets after going through the trouble of using masks and gloves up top.
My instincts tell me to struggle but it just seems so futile, I simply let my captor pull me back. Through the fog of the spreading blackness, I hear screams of outrage.
Why are they mad? They’ve caught me.
I am shoved from behind and burst through a door into impossible sunlight. I blink rapidly; my eyes, adjusted for the blackness of the tunnel, burn in response to the sudden brightness. I reach up to rub them and find them wet. The light must be making them water. Yes, that must be it.
A heavy hammering echoes from behind me, fists banging against metal, but the darkness and pain in my head has consumed me. I spin around just in time to see bare arms reaching for me, before I crumple to the ground.

Excerpt 3:

“Hey, I’m sorry,” he says, grabbing my arm as he catches up. “I didn’t mean to upset you. Sometimes I don’t think about my words before I say them, and things come out wrong. But I wasn’t trying to offend you.”
I spin around to face him, throwing his grip off my arm. “You don’t know me!” I say. I am alarmed at the prickle I feel in the back of my throat, a precursor to tears that I refuse to let him see. “You don’t get to know me. And you definitely don’t get to judge me.”
“I wasn’t, Terra.” He calmly steps toward me. “It’s not my place to judge, and even if it were, I would never judge you for being independent. You’re so defensive. I’m just saying that I admire your ability to take care of yourself. I should probably add it to my notes, to be honest.” He offers me a grin.
“You admire me?” I say skeptically. I want to step away from him, but the Intheria statue’s large stone base blocks my path.
“I think you are strong.” He reaches his hand to my face and, surprisingly softly, brushes a lock of hair behind my ear. His fingers linger as they reveal the bruise underneath my hairline. “And I’m sorry this happened to you.”
I don’t know if he’s talking about my bruise or something much greater than that. A lump rises in the back of my throat. The heel of my boot presses against the statue’s base and, before my mind can tell it not to, my body folds itself into Adam’s arms. He leans into my weight, surprised, but in an instant has wrapped his arms around me. I stand there, pressing my cheek against his chest. The steady rhythm of his heart pulses against my ear.
“Looks like sunsets are growing on you,” he says with a laugh.

Excerpt 4:

I hear Adam’s voice calling to me faintly. Beyond my name, I can’t make out most of what he’s saying; a mechanical rumbling drowns out his words. I don’t understand the sputtering sound, which is growing louder, until Adam turns a corner and barrels into my line of sight.
He sits astride a motorized bike-style transport vehicle, with one wheel in front and two in the back. How the hell he got its centuries-old motor to run is beyond me. What remains of the paint tells me that the bike was originally black, though the shell that would customarily cover the engine is missing. At least that explains why it’s so loud. Adam is yelling over the buzz of the bike, but I can barely hear him. He races toward me with no signs of slowing down.
I lunge to the side as he rushes past me, nearly mowing me down. My shoulder hits the side of an abandoned vehicle that’s been pushed up onto the sidewalk, and I scrape my elbow as I fall onto the broken pavement. Outraged, I wrap my fingers around a chunk of rubble that has landed next to my arm. I am about to hurl the rubble in Adam’s direction when I hear the second transport round the corner.
Before I even have time to react, the raiders’ transport has begun to slow down, only yards away from me. The truck’s wagon is empty; two of the raiders sit inside the vehicle’s cab. Convinced that they’ve spotted me, I crawl around the vehicle I fell against, my heart pounding as it anticipates another chase. A few moments pass, and I can hear that the truck is still moving. I risk a glance back through the vehicle’s broken windows and realize I’m not the reason the raiders have slowed down.
At the end of the street, trapped between the raiders’ truck and a barricade of abandoned vehicles, is Adam. He faces away from the raiders, who angle their truck to block the street; only a sliver of sidewalk remains open, but I doubt it’s wide enough for the motorbike to fit through. Does he not realize how close they are? With his back to them, he is a sitting duck.

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