After reading and preparing my review for DL Richardson's Little Red Gem, I had the opportunity to ask her a few questions. See the full interview below! Also, please note that there are some spoilers ahead.
1) When you decided to become a writer, what got you to jump into paranormal YA over all other genres?
A writer has to be honest with themselves. It shouldn’t be “write what you know”, but “write what you love”. I love speculative fiction – fantasy, horror, paranormal, science fiction. I toyed with contemporary fiction a few years ago, but in the end it’s my name that goes on the cover and I have to truly believe in what I produce, because I have to market it and promote it and sell it. I’m too ethical to sell something I don’t believe in and I am very comfortable in make believe worlds. Fairy tales are my favorite stories. Fantasy and sci-fi are my favorite TV shows.
As for the YA bit, there is nothing in the world greater than receiving an email from a teenage fan telling me that they’ve read my book three times and that they love my book. Writing for teens means I get to do all the things that I wish were around when I was young. I get to talk to students and mentor them with their writing. Writing YA means I get to be involved in shaping a person’s life, even if it is a very small way and sometimes in a way that may result in that lesson remaining dormant for years. I kind of fell into writing YA, and let me tell you it is a hard slog to sell YA because the customer is a different person to the consumer, that so many times I think to myself “never again will I try to sell YA, it’s too hard!!!”, but when I talk to teenagers I fall in love with their bravery, their sense of fun, their sense of wonder. As we get older we lose all that. I guess writing YA keeps me young.
2) Why self-publish?
Sometimes the market is just so full of a particular type of book. I was getting feedback from publishers that a lot of editors were experiencing paranormal fatigue. If you get a lot of one thing you’ll start to look for something else. Readers on the other hand like to read what they like. So it was a matter of putting the book in a drawer for a year, or publish it myself. I did consider putting it aside, but as a friend of mine pointed out, I write paranormal. I can’t just write something else because the editors want stories about goodness knows what. This insight presented a great opportunity for me to do a lot more with a book than I have in the past, because I have a lot more control. That doesn’t mean Little Red Gem didn’t go through an intensive editing process because it did, or that I skipped obtaining feedback from readers about cover design because feedback is very important. This book went through the same processes as my two publisher published novels did.
3) I understand that music is a big passion of yours. It shines through rather well in your portrayal of Ruby and her friends in Little Red Gem, too. Does this book have a "soundtrack?" I don't mean music to the songs you wrote for the story, but rather, what songs kind of just "go" with it?
It sure does. Here is a list of some of my favorite songs by female artists that have inspired me over the years and are certainly an inspiration to strong, independent girls like Ruby Parker who valiantly tackle each and every challenge thrown at them. I hope some of these songs form part of every girl’s personal catalogue of girl power songs.
1. Gloria Gaynor “I Will Survive”
2. Katy Perry “Roar”
3. Pat Benatar “Hit Me With Your Best Shot”
4. Tina Turner “What’s Love Got To Do With It”
5. Joan Jett “I Hate Myself For Loving You”
6. Suzi Quatro “If You Can’t Give Me Love”
7. Kelly Clarkson “Stronger”
8. Pink “Perfect”
9. Christina Aguilera “Beautiful”
10. Cyndi Lauper “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun”
4) Stories about the deceased (or recently deceased) poking around in the real world are nothing new. What makes Ruby different from the rest?
Ruby is different because she gets to come back from the dead. I know some people might think this is cheating, that a character dies and like magic, at the end they get to return to life. Yet all of my books feature second chances as an underlying theme. I do this to teach teens that, although there are consequences to actions, throughout life people often get loads of second chances. Sometimes second chances come with warnings, you know that moment happens when something happens and you stop and tell yourself “whoa, hang on a minute, if I keep doing this then an irreversible thing might happen.” It’s a fact of life that humans make mistakes. We are not without our flaw.
Too often the message we receive from the universe is that we have to be perfect all the time. This is especially the case with teenagers who are shielded by their parents for so long that when they get out into the world they make a mistake and then they’re too hard on themselves. When my characters poke around in the afterworld they get to come back. Sometimes, life isn’t a journey of right and wrong, but a journey full of doors that open and close.
5) Did any research go into writing this book, particularly for the bits that involved Teri and Ruby's half-sister Audrey?
Many years ago, Little Red Gem started out as a very different concept. At that time I purchased a book on magic because I always wanted one character who could perform astral projection – i.e put herself in a meditative state and roam the world in spirit form – and one character who was a psychic. The tarot reading that Ruby receives is based on this book. The love spell she casts while she is Audrey’s body is from this book. And the art of astral projection is based on this magic book. Yes, this book contains genuine magic, though whether it works or not is up to the believer or non-believer. As William tells Ruby near the end of the book, magic worked because she wanted it to.
6) The poltergeist incident was pretty intense. Why did she incur such wrath from an unseen spirit?
Before Ruby took over her half-sister, Audrey’s body, Audrey explained how astral projection worked, and that malevolent spirits walked the astral plane so she had to be careful about avoiding them. Ruby doesn’t listen. In fact, Ruby pretty much spends the entire book not listening to anyone’s warnings or advice, nor does she think that her actions will have any consequences. She refuses to listen to Audrey’s warning and thus, finds herself on the receiving end of one of those consequences when a poltergeist attacks her during school.
This unseen spirit is really her reminder that she doesn’t belong in their world. This poltergeist attempts to get Ruby to return to her ghostly state and accept her fate, which Ruby isn’t prepared to do until she has completed her mission of finding out how much her boyfriend loved her. Because this book is told in Ruby’s point of view, we don’t get to see much of this spirit world. I aim to explain this at a later stage, which I’ll mention more about in one of the questions below.
7) What is the ultimate message you want to convey to young readers through the story in this book?
Ruby spends the entire book trying to figure out how much Leo loved her because she discovers she’s pregnant and doesn’t want to end up a single mother like her mom. And she feels that Leo is putting his career ahead of her and this is driving her crazy because she is a pretty good singer and has a shot at a musical career herself. So the main message in this book that I hope readers, especially female readers, will take home is that you must be true to yourself.
You must be happy with who you are and love yourself. I don’t mean love yourself in a selfish or vain way, but love who you are at the very core. By all means do your hair nice and wear make-up and nice clothes, but don’t be a victim to fashion. If you feel that you are less of a person because you don’t things that others do, then you need to remind yourself of this inner love. We all are very good at kidding ourselves that we put up with this and we can tolerate that, especially when it comes to love. And certainly don’t let a boyfriend or girlfriend walk all over you. It’s about independence and inner strength. I hope that makes sense.
8) I saw that you've got plans to release more materials and even some music that complement this book. What can readers look forward to in the near future?
I aim to write two novellas – one about what happens to Audrey, Ruby’s half-sister, when she is trapped in the underworld while Ruby is running around pretending to be her. The other novella I’d like to write is the story of the two ghosts, Anne and William. They are cursed because of their love and this would make for a nice story. Plus I have performed and recorded two of the songs and loaded them as book trailers to YouTube. This was such a fun book to write with so many cross sub genres – magic, music, ghosts – that it opens us so much opportunity for what you might call spin offs. Thought, I also have to be practical. These things take time, so please be patient while I find time to write the novellas.
9) If you could sit and have a chat with a spirit or ghost, or cross into their world like Audrey does, what would you want to talk to them about?
I grew up without grandparents. They lived in Ireland and Wales while I’ve spent from six months of age growing up in Australia. I never met my mother’s mother and I’ve met my other grandparents only once. One of the scenes involves Ruby projecting a grandparent persona to an old lady in the retirement home where she and her friends sing, and in a way this is a bit like myself. It’s said that you can’t miss what you don’t know, but that isn’t true. I have never known what it’s like to grow up with grandparents and I miss that. I’d like to have them spoil me with hugs and kisses.
10) If you could have any super power, what would it be?
My super power would be the ability to inflict the same pain to a person that they inflict on an animal or another person. I’d like them to experience it so they might know how it feels and stop. So many people think world peace comes will be attained when there are no more wars, but I think world peace will only be achieved when there is no cruelty.
Thanks again to Debbie for answering my questions and including me in this book tour! I particularly loved hearing her insight on second chances. I don't see anything wrong with a character getting to come back after experiencing what would happen without making some serious changes. It actually reminds me a bit of A Christmas Carol! Also, you can bet I'm interested in that novella about Anne and William's story.