March 12, 2013

Author Interview: J.H. Walker ("Rewrite Redemption")

I'm hosting my very first interview today! J.H. Walker, author of Rewrite Redemption, kindly agreed to be my guest and do a Q&A session for my blog. Thank you J.H. for taking the plunge and being the first author to undergo my questions ;). Before we get to know this fine lady a little better, here's a spotlight on her debut novel...

Title: Rewrite Redemption 
Series: TBA
Author: J.H. Walker
Genres: Time Travel, Paranormal Romance
Year: 2013
Age: 14+
Available on: Kindle
Rewrite Redemption on Amazon | on Goodreads

Blurb: She’s sixteen. He’s seventeen. They don’t know each other…at least not yet.
She has a secret and her whole life revolves around keeping it. Every few months and with little warning, she simply disappears, pulled into the past for hours or even days. She’s terrified it will happen in front of someone, changing her life forever. So far, the only witnesses have been her parents, and that didn’t end well. She has no control over it and no idea why it happens to her.
She wants answers.
He has answers - at least he understands what’s going on. He has a secret, too. He’s part of an organization that goes back in time to rewrite reality. But he also has a problem. He broke the organization’s number-one rule by altering his own timeline. As punishment, he’s been blocked from time travel, which is most unfortunate. Because the changes he made to his timeline, accidentally resulted in disaster for his family. A disaster he’s now prevented from repairing. No one can travel beneath the organization’s radar except a Shadow. But they’re rare, so rare he’s never even met one.
Then he moves to her town.
Rewrite Redemption is a YA love story with paranormal/sci-fi elements. (Amazon)

Interview: I met J.H. Walker via a discussion on Goodreads, and we chatted about the weight of romance in YA books, along with her debut novel Rewrite Redemption, in a series of private messages. Since her book was out in those same days, I mentioned the possibility of an interview for my blog, and J.H. graciously accepted, despite me only being a budding blogger and this being my very first interview... 

So, first off, thank you J.H. for agreeing to a Q&A session on Offbeat YA! Would you like to introduce yourself?

Hi. My name is J.H. Walker and I've just debuted my first YA novel. Thanks, Roberta, for hosting this interview. 

Let's start with the mandatory question...what prompted you to become a YA writer? 

I was a great pretender as a child. I grew up in a very strict household that valued conformity and strict adherence to a rigid ideology. Right and wrong were absolute. Freethinking was wrong, and not allowed. On the outside, I conformed. I had no choice. But inside my head, I created very different worlds and those worlds saved me. I believe this was the foundation for my over-active imagination. As for the YA angle, I’ve always loved stories that go beyond the bounds of reality. YA is far more accepting of make believe than the adult market.

Besides, everything is so much more intense in the young adult world…the euphoria of a first love…the sorrow of a first heartbreak. It all entails so much more passion. Intense feelings can happen rapidly when you’re young, and they can be all encompassing and overwhelming. Reviewers cry, "foul, insta-love" and sometimes they’re right when it happens out of nowhere. But there are occasions where intense feelings happen fast and furious over something small that elicits your attention or bonds you to someone. Love comes in many forms. You can love ice cream. You can love a rock band. And when you’re sixteen, you can meet someone and fairly quickly feel something quite intense. I remember. Is that love?

Well, it certainly isn’t love as defined logically by an adult and run through adult filters. It’s not the kind of love that sparks and grows from honest evaluation and time spent together. It’s not the kind of love that will probably withstand hardship or even last very long. And you certainly don’t want to make any life decisions based on it, ha. But I say it is a kind of love. Perhaps you can call it a practice love. And maybe it only lasts a month, but while it’s happening, it can be quite profound and very real to the person feeling it.

I love the YA world. Even though it’s been a long time since I was a teen, I remember those years in all their intensity. Books helped me make it through my teen years. It’s only natural that I try to give back to something that gave me so much.

According to your bio, you've led quite the life. To what extent your peculiar experiences helped you shape your first novel?

I’ve had a lot of experiences both positive and negative. Hopefully, I’ve learned from them all. My life has opened my eyes to an incredibly diverse world. I’ve learned to search hard for the truth and not just accept what is thrown at me. My intense curiosity has often taken me beyond what meets the eye. These things have increased my awareness as one of the inhabitants of Planet Earth. That makes me cognizant of the imprint I leave as an author, which means that as I shaped my novel I was very careful of the messages it included. [...] 

If, like your character Constantine, you were allowed to go back in time in order to fix anything - for strictly unselfish reasons - what would you choose to do?

Changing the timeline is incredibly complicated as you will see if you read my book. In order to do anything significant, you have to find what I call the pivotal causal event. That's the one event where you can intervene and the cascade that follows causes significant change. This is extremely hard to pinpoint and often even harder to pull off. But there is one thing that would have been possible that I could see having impact on a global level.

Years ago, the then Vice President, Al Gore, talked about global warming to describe the dangerous changes in the planet's climate. About that time, a friend of mine, a scientist, had the opportunity to meet with him (the pivotal causal event opportunity). I would go back in time and have my friend convince Mr. Gore to use the term "climate change" instead of global warming. I think that if he had used that term from the start, there would have been much less backlash from people who look out their windows, see snow, and say, "global warming, right..."

Last year was the warmest in 4000 years. It's the most important thing we, as a planet, need to address. Boy, do I wish I could actually go back in time and make that change.

I have to say this is a great answer - and I mean it. You obviously gave a great deal of thought to the possible implications of time travel and the responsibility involved - if time travel were possible, that is. Anyway...I would like to explore some other aspects of Rewrite Redemption now. Let's talk about your characters, shall we? You sound perfectly at ease with them all, male and female. Also, they all have very distinct voices. Was it a challenge to actually write them the way they were supposed to be in your head?

Thank you. I am at ease with them. I know them intimately and they are very real to me. It was the least challenging thing about the book. I just had to listen to them and record their words and actions. It helps that I have a pretty good understanding of people and personalities. That helps keep them true to form.

Both your leads and their sidekicks can be considered, for different reasons, as damaged individuals. Do you think you were able to make a point about getting one's life back on track, or simply accepting one's peculiarities and making the most of them?

Constantine isn’t really damaged. He’s a fairly together guy who, up until recent events, had a solid home life. Then he made a serious mistake that had disastrous consequences for his family. Because of his integrity, he feels guilty about what happened. He’s trying desperately to rectify his mistake and turn things around.

A.J. is damaged, yes. Her mother took her own life and A.J. feels responsible. Her father retreated into his own world of sorrow, and there are other things going on with him that aren’t revealed until late in the book. But A.J. has something that makes all the difference between going off the deep end and surviving her hardships. She’s made a family with two other kids who also have difficult situations. The three of them, A.J., Lex, and Ipod each play different rolls in this family and it works for each of them in the ways they need it to. It holds them together. That’s the main thing you need from family - someone you can count on…someone who loves you. Having that ameliorates some of the damage caused by poor parental situations.

Lex is the tough one. She likes to be in control and is fiercely protective of both A.J. and Ipod. Protecting them is her way of coping with the fact that her own parents have little interest in her. Where she had a lack of nurturing, she becomes the nurturer. A.J. is vulnerable by sheer fact of her need to hide. She relies on Lex and this works for both of them. A.J. gives Lex the love and acceptance she never got at home. Lex gives A.J. the protection she needs.

As for Ipod, he’s the most damaged of the bunch, having been psychologically and physically abused. As a survival mechanism, he’s shoved aside emotion and lives in the world of fact and logic, the only place he feels safe. He’s the voice of reason in the group.

Perhaps the three of them don’t have supportive parents. But they have each other and that has allowed them to make it this far, relatively unscathed.

I think I’ve made several points fairly clear in this book. One: Actions have consequences. Two: It is what it is. No matter what happens, you have to pick things up from there and move on. And Three: Instead of freaking out when something happens, assess the situation and make a plan.

What kind of readers would you recommend your book to?

I’ve had a hard time classifying my book into a specific genre. First and foremost, it’s the story of teens in difficult situations just trying to deal with their lives. There are sci-fi elements, but the book is certainly not hard sci-fi. It has time travel, but most of the book takes place in the present. Some of the characters have paranormal abilities, but this isn’t the usual dark paranormal read with evil demons, and there certainly aren’t any zombies or vampires. And if you absolutely need a snarky bad boy, well, this might not be your cup of tea. But if you want an emotional read, a romance between two very real people, a complex plot, and some twists and turns, you might give it a try. And if you’re someone who has been stepped on by a mean girl, this book is for you.

Are you planning to write a sequel?

I am. I’m working on it now.

Thank you J.H. for you thoughtful and detailed answers. It's been a pleasure to get to know you and your novel better.

This has been fun. Thanks again, Roberta, for hosting this interview. 

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