Monday, June 27, 2011

Eleven Up: Interview with Dawn Metcalf, author of LUMINOUS

Today is a fabulous day here on the Apocalypsies blog because we get to meet Dawn Metcalf, whose YA novel LUMINOUS debuts on June 30th!

From Goodreads:

As reality slips and time stands still, Consuela finds herself thrust into the world of the Flow. Removed from all she loves into this shifting world overlapping our own, Consuela quickly discovers she has the power to step out of her earthly skin and cloak herself in new ones-skins made from the world around her, crafted from water, fire, air. She is joined by other teens with extraordinary abilities, bound together to safeguard a world they can affect, but where they no longer belong.

When murder threatens to undo the Flow, the Watcher charges Consuela and elusive, attractive V to stop the killer. But the psychopath who threatens her new world may also hold the only key to Consuela's way home.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer? Why YA?

I think I first wanted to be a writer when I realized I could write words with my crayon and not have to say them out loud. I could write things I wanted to say but was too shy, scared, or emotional to do it. I do remember being five and telling my parents I wanted to be an author. I wrote my first full-length novel at age 11. It was 365 pages which was exactly how many days it took to write it and approximately how many characters and subplots were in it. I wrote a book a year up through college and then started writing "kid lit" in 2005. The less said about my attempts at picture books, the better, but I liked writing for tweens and teens and that's where I comfortably stayed.

I spend an inordinate amount of time teaching or talking or training with teens so it's really no wonder that I write YA. But while I was growing up, there were no "YA" books, it was either Science Fiction/Fantasy or Judy Blume for me, tossing in some mythology or mystery novels for spice. Those were the stories that spoke to me: the ones with a lot of questions, personal "What If?"s, and turning the regular world on its head. I find MG and YA both like to tackle these sorts of wild speculations more than other types of books and, given my penchant for weirdness, wry humor and overt sensuality, my writing is probably best suited to YA. Honestly, I consider it a compliment.

Was there any real place that inspired Consuela's story?

Actually, once I had the idea for Consuela in my head, I wondered how her powers would work. I saw a piece of art hanging at one of my favorite Mexican restaurants, Sarapes (, that gave me the answer: it was a sculpture of a face in three stages, each one exposing the face beneath it from human to skull. It's a mesmerizing image. I had my answer and another good reason to keep going back for something other than their fantastic mole sauce!

Consuela is such a strong individual. Do you see any of yourself in her? Are there any characters you connect with in Luminous?

I'd like to say that's something that we have in common! But while I'm a compassionate person and am willing to help strangers, Consuela's purpose is one I'd liken to a divine calling and her decision is one I'd have a hard time choosing, personally. We both like the "skin we're in" and crave donuts in times of stress, but while I take karate, Consuela's strength comes more from her faith and her family; it's a solid, inner certainty I wish I'd had growing up!

There are times I think I'm more like V or Wish; times when I am anxious for myself, but can be brave for others. It's easier for me to do buy presents for the people I care about than to be "selfish" and buy myself a pair of jeans! It's silly, I know, but when I used to get wrapped up in doubts or worries or concerns about my own stuff, I could chuck it all out the window in a heartbeat if one of my friends or family members needed me. That kind of selflessness (and an associated sense of responsibility) are a lot of what make both Wish and V tick.

There are some really creepy elements to this story. Do you ever find yourself getting freaked out when you're writing a scene?

Oh, yes, definitely! There were even some worse scenes that were (thankfully) cut in the editing process. Whenever I'd find myself cleaning the entire house or sorting clothes into labeled boxes for donation I'd know that I was avoiding some scene I didn't want to face. (This is truly the only explanation--I am not otherwise a tidy or organized housekeeper!) That said, there's something almost relieving about getting those tough scenes out on the page. I have two close friends who both publish very dark, very twisted and horrific stories but are bouncy, happy people in real life. I once asked how could they write stuff like that and both answered the same way, "Where am I supposed to put it all?" Everyone has dark thoughts and feelings just by living life and art is a good place to put them so we can live lighter. Luminous is a positive story of compassion, but the journey is sometimes dark and scary. Me, I'm drinking lemonade, blowing soap bubbles, and watching cartoons. It's all about balance.

Do you know how the book is going to end before you start writing or does the story take you for a ride?

I know how a book is going to end before I start and I often go back to make the beginning mirror the end. I am big on "bookending" stories so there is a balance and foreshadowing of what will happen and frame it so that the story feels complete; that I've answered the question I posed at the start and that the journey along the way meant something to both the main character as well as the reader.

That said, almost everything in the middle is a thrill ride for me!

And because we Apocalypsies are a bit obsessed with the end of the world, what treat/writing motivator would you bring with you into your bunker?

Does my family count? Because while they distract me from writing, I can't imagine being creative without their constant inspirational silliness and love. That said, it'd be something chocolatey. Decadent. I'd vote dark-chocolate-dipped candied ginger from Germany. Mmmm! Motivation!

Thanks Dawn! And CONGRATS!

Find out more about LUMINOUS here and here!

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