LAST Book Blog Tour Interview ~ Cloud Nine Girl

1. Where did the idea for this book begin?

One day while I was in a college class—humanities 101 I believe—the topic lost my interest. Instead, my walk through BYU campus, with the chilly fall weather and wind blowing crisp leaves around my feet, inspired a scenario in my head. It was about a girl walking through a forest and coming upon a river that brought back painful memories for her. I wrote about this girl grieving a loss, while wind blew around her and brushed leaves into the water. I didn’t know it at the time, but this scene would become the basis for chapter two of Lingering Echoes, and describe the prominent theme of grief, loss and healing.

2. Tell me a little about your desire to write. When did you know it was something you really wanted to do?

Second grade was the first time I voiced that I wanted to be an author. I remember the first book I “published” at school, entitled The Unicorns, and how I felt flipping through my very own laminated, spiral-bound copy. In my bio page, I proudly read the line, “This is Erica’s first published book” (back when I thought publishing was that easy!). All through elementary school, becoming an author was something I knew I would accomplish. However, as I became distracted with athletics and singing, I didn’t put as much thought into writing as a career move in the future—though my love for writing stayed strong, as evidenced by my fourteen detailed journals and now my family blog. Lingering Echoes was the first story I began to write where I felt the drive to make it into something bigger that could be shared with the world. (That “drive” is also attributed to my two sisters and my husband who kept me motivated through the whole journey!)

3. How long have you been working with this story line and the characters?

Lingering Echoes began in its infancy during the fall of 2008 when the market crashed and I lost my job, due to the shutdown of the residential treatment center where I worked. With all that time on my hands, I began to write! The first draft wasn’t completed until fourteen months later, while I juggled a couple part-time jobs and pregnancy. I have been trying off and on to get this book published since 2010, so these characters have been in my life (mostly hanging around anxiously on the sidelines!) for a few years now. I’m so happy they finally get some game time in the publishing world!

4. Where do you write? An inspiring safe place?

Since my toddler contributed to the destruction of my laptop over this past year (including using it as a trampoline any chance she gets), my writing space is limited to the computer and desk in my room. Before I had kids, I used to write outside occasionally, sometimes driving to serene nature locations for inspiration. Not so anymore! While my two kids nap, I shut myself in my room and utilize the limited quiet while I can.

5. What is your favorite color?

Purple. I’ve loved it for years, which is why my wedding colors eight years ago included various shades of purple, including lavender.

6. While writing this book, did you have a song that helped you write your main character? If so, what was that song?

I didn’t use a song during Allie’s creation but since publishing the book, I’ve thought of a couple song tributes to her character. The first is “Runaway Train” by Soul Asylum. It’s a song that I’ve interpreted as a person running from a past full of hurt and sorrow,  due to not knowing how to handle these emotions: “Bought a ticket for a runaway train . . . it’s just easier than dealing with the pain.” As Allie’s character grows, develops and heals, another song I give her is Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger,” which talks about how “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, stand a little taller.”

7. What 1-2 surprises came up while writing this story?

The love-triangle between three of the main characters was unexpected! I had a role in my head for one of the young adult males (do I dare say his name and spoil it??) that was supposed to be that of a protective older brother. However, as I discovered his character the more I wrote, and as Allie’s relationship with him developed, it almost became a natural transition. The conversations and time they spend together allows for that close bond. I have a huge heart for this character because he demonstrates support and tenderness throughout the book!

8. Briefly tell me a memory of you growing up, and how it helped define who you are today.

I attended 10th – 12th grade at an international school in Bangkok, Thailand. As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day-Saints, I was definitely a religious minority among my peers. Everyone knew who the Mormons were, though their understanding was often based on what we “couldn’t do.” i.e. smoke, drink, drugs, etc. There were less than a dozen Mormon youth in my high school, so everyone seemed to carefully watch us because we didn’t participate in some of the seemingly normal teen activities. Explaining that I chose to follow the “Mormon rules” because I believed in the standards we were taught helped define me and set me on the path that I’m currently on today. I didn’t follow the rules because I had to—I chose to put myself outside some of the rings of peer popularity because I understood my values, even though the experience was difficult at times. As a youth, making those small decisions and sacrifices to commit to my beliefs prepared me to continue living these principles as an adult—principles that I have leaned on during the most difficult challenges in my life. I most definitely would not be the same person had I chosen differently.

9. How have your experiences on growing overseas translated into your writing?

Growing up overseas, I moved every two-four years of my life from one country to another, although I completed most of elementary and high school in Thailand when we returned there. I haven’t yet pulled cultural aspects into my writing yet, but I do address the topic of “change” in Lingering Echoes, as well as in the novella I’m working on (which will serve as a prequel to Lingering Echoes soon!). I faced a lot of change in my childhood, especially every time we moved to a new country. My siblings and I learned to adapt and do it fast, no matter how big of a change we faced. We didn’t have a choice in what new experiences came our way, but we agreed to acclimate as best as we could. This concept of change is something Allie from my book is forced to face when dealing with her grief, as well as some challenging family dynamics. In her words, “Change was a scary concept. Whether you were ready for it or not, sometimes it crept up on you, ambushing without warning, and no matter if you wanted it or not, you had to figure out how to accept it and adapt to its insistent nature.”

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