Last week, author Gina West interviewed me for her blog, A Flash in the Pen, about the genesis of PUSH, my thoughts on David, and what’s next on my writing horizon. She’s graciously allowed me to reprint the interview here.
1. Where did you get the idea for Push?
David’s “voice” and story came to me in the middle of the night several years ago. I sleep with a pen and paper right next to the bed, so as soon as they came to me, I quickly jotted down a page of his words. I put the paper into a drawer and pretty much forgot about it. Then, about two years ago, a friend and I were talking about the NA genre over lunch, and she encouraged me to try my hand at writing fiction. For some reason, that paper tucked into my drawer popped into my mind. I pulled it out that night and just started writing.
David’s voice changed a lot from his original incarnation on that piece of paper. In the process of writing the book, he was reshaped quite a bit. But I hoped from the very beginning that David would be a character that really created a lot of internal conflict within readers. I wanted him to be thought provoking and to challenge readers to perhaps feel something for a person they would probably never care to know in real life.
2. Your male lead, David, is an emotionally complex character. Do you think you could ever fall in love with someone like David?
I know he’s fictitious and all, but I love David. I really do. And I’m okay with it. Because here’s the thing: even less-than-perfect people are worth loving. In a fictitious setting, they are to be appreciated – even loved – because they make the story complete by adding emotional complexity and creating conflict. Television shows like Dexter or Breaking Bad or Game of Thrones are great examples of this. In shows like these, sometimes we actually find ourselves rooting for the “bad guys” because we know the story behind who they are, we know the things that shaped them. And when we have a chance to see their life evolve, suddenly we might be able to empathize with them. For me, that discord evokes such a lovely set of emotions; it’s what makes a good story. The book Wicked did the same thing. It described the genesis of, and the motivations behind, the Wicked Witch of the West by telling us her story and generating empathy for a previously vilified character.
With PUSH, you only get small glimpses into David’s back story, and most of them come via someone else’s narration. But still, my hope was that it would be enough for you to question yourself, to ask yourself whether or not you could fall for him, just like Emma did. I wanted these small pieces of David’s story to give you just enough insight into his life to make you consider that maybe he too is worth loving. And that’s where the struggle might come in for so many readers. Maybe you feel some empathy or sympathy or love or appreciation for him – or maybe you don’t. And maybe that’s confusing. Could I fall in love with David if he were real? I suppose that I probably could. But I’d have to want to understand him first.
3. Given the book’s dark undertones and the imperfections of the lead characters, were you ever worried (beyond normal author worry, that is) about how the book would be received?
Yes, and I’m still worried! My agent and my editor at MIRA Books took a huge risk on this book. It’s deep and dark and quite different from most other books in this genre, and stepping so far out of the box apparently isn’t for the faint of heart. But we’re ready for whatever comes our way. I must say, though, that David and Emma’s story has been met with so much reader enthusiasm that my worry has managed to evaporate just a smidgen since the book’s release a little over a month ago. It’s been so incredibly awesome to hear from readers who have really relished the chance to step out of the box themselves because of this story.
4. How have you handled reviews – both negative and positive?
I was warned early on that PUSH was not going to be for everyone. But, really, that’s something that’s true of every book, isn’t it? It’s just that this particular story has more potential for controversy than most. That being said, the general response has been very, very positive. I’ve really enjoyed reading all the feedback I’ve received since the book’s release. When someone takes the time to post a review, or email me, or send me a PM, or string together a bunch of gifs to show me what they thought of the book, it tells me that the reader connected with the characters and story in some meaningful way. And THAT, to me, is what writing is all about. It is about connecting with readers in a way that provokes an emotional reaction from them.
5. You’ve been a non-fiction writer for many years. How did that help prepare you for writing Push?
It didn’t prepare me at all! In my experience, the non-fiction world is completely different from fiction, in both the actual act of writing and in terms of getting published. I thought being a non-fiction author would really help me transition into fiction writing, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. Writing a work of fiction means creating something that comes completely out of your own brain. It means that EVERYTHING is new and sometimes you really have to dig deep to find the right words. Writing the kind of non-fiction I write, on the other hand, is completely different in that it comes primarily from research and facts (with a little personal experience tossed in for interest). It is restating things in a novel way and lining up the words so that people pay attention, but it doesn’t require the same kind of energy that fiction writing does. Both are difficult in their own right, but for me, fiction had me digging way deeper than I’ve ever had to dig before. It brought a whole new set of challenges.
6. The order of the book, the way things are revealed is genius. Did you write the book in its final order or did that come about during the editing process? How was the editing process for you? (I’m an editor and I’m always curious about this).
I wrote PUSH in a very linear fashion, chapter-by-chapter, without looking back. I had no idea where the story was going even as I was writing it. The words just came out. I know many authors who work from outlines, which I certainly use in my non-fiction writing, but I don’t think I could be tied to an outline when writing fiction. I liked that David and Emma’s story went wherever it needed to go.
The editing process was so fascinating to me. Again, it was a very different experience than when writing non-fiction. Most of the edits involved deepening the motivations of some of the secondary characters and helping to flesh out David’s character a little more (I also had to “sex up” some of their sexy times, too!). The arc of the story and the chapter order stayed just as they were in the original manuscript. It was interesting to have the opportunity to see the book through my editor’s eyes and learn how an outside reader might view the characters. Prior to handing the manuscript to my agent and then editor, only a small handful of my best friends had read the story.
7. What’s next on your writing horizon? Can you give us some teasers about what you’re working on?
Well, there’s Book 2, of course! I’ve been fielding lots and lots of reader questions about its release and the most I can do is promise you that it’s coming! The logistics of when and how are still being worked out, but the story will be told. I pinky-swear promise!
And beyond that, I’ve got words from a woman named K’acy waiting on another piece of paper in the bottom of that drawer. Her story is next, and I can’t wait for you to meet her.