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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

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Interview with an Author: Valerie Wicks, Part 1

The Seven Spectral Series is a seven-part middle-grade/Y.A. series that takes place in a very interesting universe. There are seven worlds, each one completely toned one color of the rainbow.

The first and only published installment of the series, Into The Red World, is a promising start to what will be a long literary journey. The next book The Orange World Outlaw is due to be released in the fall of this year.

After I read the first book and learned that the author, Valeria Wicks, had six more to come, I knew it would be a great opportunity to do an interview and get a behind the scenes look at this ambitious series from a first time author.
Into the Red World follows young Emerald "Emer" Bogwater who is desperate for adventure, which is something very hard to come by in her village named Village within the Green World. Everything is green; the plants, animals, clothes, all of it, expect Emer's hair. Her firery hair and attitude set her apart from everyone in the cool Green land, and when she can stand it no longer, she escapes Village in search of adventure and her mother who also left seeking adventure long ago.
Adventure finds her in the form of a great Rainbow. Confused, curious, and exhilarated, Emer walks into the Red Spectral and is transported into the Red World. It is a vivid Egyptian land of crimson, wine, scarlet, and all other shades of red. And there is something very mysterious about its human and non-human inhabitants. Emer must solve this mystery in order to find the truth about her mother and free the people of the Red World.

The book is definitely for a younger audience, but that isn't a bad thing. The backbone of the story is strong, and readers are fully immersed in this blood red landscape as they slowly discover clues to why the Red World isn't quite right. And I found myself unable to put it down by the end once all the answers were revealed.

It's a good start for the series and first time writer, Valerie Wicks, who I was able to interview recently to learn about the process behind this first installment and the six more to come.
Please note, the interview may contain minor spoilers.

LBC: Ok! So let's get started. We can start with your first book in the series, Into The Red World. What was your inspiration for the book?

VW: The Seven Spectral series came to me in a dream when I was ten or eleven. I dreamt that I had stumbled into an Arabian world where everything was some shade of red. When I woke up, I had an epiphany to write about a girl who travels from the familiarity of her own Green World, into an exotic Red World. I also wrote the beginnings of a Yellow Book, a Blue Book, and a Violet Book...and then forgot all about them, as ten-year-olds do.

Then, about three years ago I went home to visit my family in Atlanta, Georgia. My mom wanted me to clean out my room so she could begin to convert the space. Every new adult goes through this moment of letting go of childhood, and I should have come out of it a fully baked human being. Instead, I found floppy disks full of stories I wrote as a pre-teen, brought them back to Los Angeles, and began devoting the next seven or so years of my life to developing those childhood novels. The Arabian world became Egyptian, the grammar became intelligible, and I became an author!     

I learned two things from that trip home -- always keep a dream journal, and if you find yourself in a state of arrested development, try to do something productive with fashion it into your life's career.  

LBC: That's awesome you've been with this story for so long. While you were writing and revisiting these stories, do you think you imbued any of the characters with characteristics of real life people? Is there any of you in Emer perhaps? Maybe an enemy in the Red Spectral? 

VW: There used to be a lot more of me in Emer. I think most authors start off writing themselves. But I realized that I don't work in this particular story and that I needed to craft Emer to be her own girl. She's hard headed, and impulsive, where I'm a flexible plotter. Actually, I'm a lot more like [the character] Shigeru in that way. Though, I would say I'm less of a flirt, haha. Where Emer and I overlap is in our drive. We are both extremely driven human beings, even to a fault, which is what gives the story life.

As far as all the other characters go, writers are constantly observing their surroundings and basing characters off of friends, strangers, and bits and pieces of people. So, yeah my characters definitely take from things I've seen in real life. Watch out if you're friends with a writer. You'll likely end up in one of their works! 

LBC:  That's really interesting that you realized the Emer's character needed to be different than your own. Do you often find that your characters lead you to where they need to go during your writing process?

VW: They do! It's the plot that leads me astray. Then I have to correct for it in the second draft. But the characters always keep me real! 

LBC: That's great! So, Into the Red World is only the first in a series of seven, and the second installment is coming out soon. Can you share a little bit about The Orange World Outlaw?

VW: I'm really excited to share this new book with everyone! The Orange World is a frontier setting, channeling classic Australia and the Americas. There's cowboys, kangaroos, and a traveling circus! 

Our lead character shifts to the second of the seven heroes of Seven Spectral, a laid back prankster named Javier Jones. Javier loves his home town and vows never to leave, but when a horde of outlaws attacks Autumnstead, he is forced to journey through the wilderness to the capital of the Orange World, Oz Canyon. If he fails to reach the capital in time, the outlaws will lay waste to his beloved home. 

Javier hitches a ride with a traveling circus and meets a precocious little jester-girl with a mysterious glowing pyramid. When they discover that the horde of outlaws is part of a larger, supernatural plan, Javier realizes that though he's never done anything more than laze about and play tricks on the town mayor, he may now be responsible for the fate of the Orange World, and the other six.

LBC: The Orange World seems really interesting. So Javier is one of the seven heroes and there are going to be seven books in the series. Does this mean that each book is independent from the last, or can we expect to see any cross-over in the series? I get the feeling that the jester-girl with the pyramid is someone we've met before...I think, haha. But will we see Emer again perhaps?

VW: Definitely! All seven stories are connected! There are cameos all through each book, and all seven characters come together at the end for the ultimate quest. You might just be right about the pyramid...keep an eye out for familiar faces!

LBC: Yes! I'm excited to see where all of our heroes end up! I'm assuming that the rest of the series will be published in the order of the rainbow; ROYGBIV. Are there any future titles you can share? And it's ok if they are guarded secrets!

VW: I don't generally like to title a novel until I have at least one draft of it done, but you can certainly count on a book set in each of the seven worlds!

Into the Red World is the first in a long and promising series. I for one am very interested to see how the story, characters, and author develop throughout the process.

The second installment, The Orange World Outlaw, is due to be released this fall. You can check out Valerie's kickstarter to pre-order. For up-to-date news on the series you can visit Seven Spectral's website as well as follow Valerie on twitter: @SevenSpectral.

And check back next Wednesday for the second part of the interview in which we discuss the trials and triumphs of self-publishing.


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