My "Next Big Thing" Interview

Photo Courtesy of fostersartofchilling
The "Next Big Thing" Blog Interview is an idea from SheWrites meant to help female authors promote their WIPs. The lovely Alex Villasante tagged me in her interview two weeks ago, and I very am excited to spill the beans about my latest manuscript.

1. What is the working title of your book? ESSENCE

2. Where did you get the idea? The inspiration for ESSENCE came to me randomly. (See my full pitch here.) I was in Vail with my husband last winter, and we were watching a friend of ours get inducted into the Snowboarding Hall of Fame. There were tons of early '90's snowboarding legends there, and I was struck by how poorly many of them had aged. Some had mobility issues (thanks to the beatings they put on their bodies), some had substance abuse withdrawal issues, and many others just seemed "different."

I turned to my husband at one point and said, "It's weird. It's almost like these guys were given a certain allotment of life, and they've already used theirs up."

BAM. The rest of my story came to me like lightning.

3. What genre does your book fall under? My brilliant agent calls it a YA Near-Future Thriller, but I just called it a YA Adventure while I was writing it.

4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? I am a very visual person, so I pegged my male protagonist right away. His name is Ryder Stone, and I imagine him as a slightly more wiry Alex Pettyfer:

Photo Courtesy of Wiki Commons
My female protagonist (and narrator) is a little harder to peg. Her name is Autumn Grace, and her favorite feature is her wavy, strawberry-golden hair (which gets chopped off in one of the very first scenes). I could see her as a red-haired Lily Collins:

Photo Courtesy of Wiki Commons
5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? When seventeen year-old Autumn Grace stumbles upon a group of Outsiders living in the abandoned remains of Yosemite National Park, she must say goodbye to her cult-like Centrist upbringing and push herself to become one of them. 

(Wow! I've never whittled my pitch down to ONE sentence before! Thanks, Next Big Thing, for pushing me to make that happen!)

6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? ESSENCE is already represented by Hannah Bowman of Liza Dawson Associates. I'm crossing my fingers a traditional publisher will some day like it as well!

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? This novel is a personal record for me. I wrote the first draft in just under five months, and I spent an additional month and a half revising it before I sent it to my agent. 

8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? My agent says: "ESSENCE's wild setting and edge-of-your-seat action will appeal to fans of Alex Garland and Veronica Roth." (Definitely humbled to even be compared to either, but I think ESSENCE combines THE BEACH's illusion of paradise with DIVERGENT's adrenaline-fueled adventures.)

9. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? ESSENCE is set in the near-future abandoned remains of Yosemite National Park, and I actually spent the summer of 2004 living in a tent and working in Yosemite. I have based nearly all of my characters' experiences on something I either experienced or knew of others experiencing there, and all the behind-the-scenes details of the park are dead-on accurate--with only a few minor name changes to protect my favorite secret places. :)

Now it’s my turn to tag some fellow writers! Hopefully we will learn all about their WIPs next!

Shallee McArthur

Thanks for tuning in for my "Next Big Thing" interview, and I hope you have a wonderful day!