Interview with the Author of Rewrite Redemption J.H. Walker
J.H. Walker grew up in Central America. She now lives in the foothills of the Colorado Rockies with her photographer husband and many, many books.
In addition to her never-ending study of human behavior, she’s a political junkie and a certified tree hugger.
Rewrite Redemption, her debut novel received raving reviews. She is presently working on her second book.
“Thanks a lot for taking the time to talk about your book and your writing live!”
Thinking all the way back to the beginning, what is the most important thing you have learned as a writer from then to now?
Writing is a new venture for me. I have spend my days in my study, now, instead of my art studio. I have never studied writing but I have studied creativity. And that understanding can be brought into play in any creative endeavor.
Walt Disney was a creative genius. When it came to creativity, he had a strategy that served him well. It’s too complex to go into detail here. But basically, he brought three “versions” of himself to the creative process: the Dreamer, the Realist, and the Critic. They each performed different roles in the production of anything he created, and they each came into play at the proper moment.
The key point is that when you’re writing, you’re the Dreamer. You need to be absolutely free to create without limit or judgment. You need to be able to wander without restraint. If you can learn to separate your Dreamer from the Realist and the Critic, you’ve taken a huge step towards expanding your creativity.
How did you get the idea for the novel?
I have always wished I could go back in time and talk to my younger self, give her the benefit of the wisdom that begins to come with age. That desire led me to a fascination with time travel and eventually a book about it.
Does your book have any underlying theme, message, or moral?
Morals are subjective. I spent my childhood drowning in morals—I’m not about to foist mine on anyone. I’m more into practicalities…strategies for understanding and handling life. I have woven a few of those into the story. I suppose you could call them messages. There are just certain truths, that if learned young, give you a better chance of having a smoother path through life.
First and foremost, life isn’t fair—the sooner one comes to terms with that fact the better. Life isn’t fair. It just IS. The truth is that bad things happen to good people all the time…sometimes really horrible things. And when you accept that this is just part of life, it makes it easier to move through the bad times and on to something better.
We receive subtle messages from institutions like religion and icons like Santa Claus, that if we’re just good than good will follow. We will be blessed. But the facts don’t bear that out. Good, honest, and even deeply religious people have their share of unfortunate circumstances. And some of the most crooked despots on the planet are billionaires. But because of these subtle and usually subconscious messages, there’s a tendency to react in less than useful ways when bad luck befalls us. People can get stuck in what I call a “wallowing-why-me mode,” instead of making a plan to deal with the situation. I think this is particularly true of young adults and teenagers, as they haven’t spent enough years on the planet to realize, “this too will pass.” What seems like a tragedy at the moment might be laughed at later or even completely forgotten. Seriously.
In this book, I wanted to include a simple strategy for dealing with what life dishes out. First, realize that life isn’t fair; it’s a mix of both good and bad. It is what it is. Besides, sometimes something that seems unbearable at the moment can turn out to have a silver lining. So when something happens that you perceive as bad, instead of freaking out, assess the situation and make a plan to deal with it or move through it. If you do this, you’re going to have a lot less heartache. And realize that even the most heartbreaking things hurt less over time.
Of course, my characters have paranormal abilities to help them out and real young adults don’t. See? Unfair to us lowly humans… But the message is the same. When something difficult happens, you still have to face it, even if it’s just to put it behind you. And when good things happen, enjoy them. Celebrate.
Are your characters based on real people?
Not specifically. I’m sure they’re compilations of people I have known in my life, combined with my knowledge of human behavior. The one exception is Ipod. Aspects have been changed to protect his identity, but I knew him very well. His father’s abuse drove him to suppress his emotions, but he found solace in the world of knowledge and fact. Facts were things he could trust…emotions, not so much. He’s grown now and absolutely brilliant. He was sweet and vulnerable in his younger days, and it was him I was seeing as I wrote Ipod.
A boy like Ipod was the only straight, teenage boy I could possibly have had, living in such close proximity to two teenage girls without problems. Not that I don’t think he didn’t have any illicit thoughts alone in the shower. But he was able to compartmentalize his thoughts. Ipod so desperately needed that living situation; he never would have done anything to jeopardize it. Nor would he have taken the chance on losing his friendships with Lex or A.J. over what he would see as a trivial, romantic inclination. He’s far too logical for that. I figured I’d get a little flack about the living situation, but these three kids have known each other since they were really young. In their minds, they’re a family.
Who is your favorite character and why?
I relate most to A.J. I understand her desire to be invisible. I wanted to be invisible myself, beginning in middle school and lasting until my junior year. But I enjoy writing Lex. She’s bold, and she’s smart, and as A.J. says, “Pretty much fearless.” Her parents provide financial support, but that’s about all they give her. Her father lives on the east coast. Her mother is a narcissist, thinking only of herself. In spite of this, Lex has found a survival strategy that has allowed her to remain relatively psychologically healthy.
Her mother, an attorney, requires her to see a therapist once a week. (Lex says her mom is just establishing a paper trail in case anyone ever accuses her of neglect.) Early on, Lex realized that understanding people gave her a certain amount of power…and Lex likes power. So she utilized her “Shrinks” in a somewhat unique way. Since she had to be there an hour a week, she used that time to learn as much as she could about herself, her parents, her friends, and just people in general. It’s given her a unique perspective and a level of maturity uncommon at her age. She’s a loyal and true friend, but you don’t want to cross her. I would have liked to have been like her when I was her age. So I suppose I get a little vicarious satisfaction writing for her character.
Are your plots based on your real-life experiences?
A few reviewers have questioned the lack of parental involvement in my characters’ lives, implying that their living situations would never happen without social services finding out. That’s where some real-life experience kicks in.
I don’t use specifics from kids I’ve worked with. But I know from real-life experience with kids, that in some homes, the parents are absent, neglectful, and even abusive. Neglect and abuse occurs at every socioeconomic level, across ethnic and cultural lines, within all religions, and at all levels of education. And some of the time, no one knows about it. So I respectfully beg to differ.
Kids can be really adept at hiding their situations…especially teens. They don’t want to stand out or be different. Often, they’re embarrassed or ashamed. Some are terrified of foster homes. There are a lot of wonderful foster parents, people who open up their homes to kids in need. But others do it for the money and reasons I won’t get into. And sometimes, those homes can be pretty scary. As for social services, Congress is constantly cutting their funding. Social services is overwhelmed and underpaid. Kids fall through the cracks.
It’s not as if my characters don’t have a place to live. Three of my kids band together and make a family. They have each other’s backs and cover for each other. I’ve seen this time and time again in real life. It doesn’t make up for the lack of parental involvement. But it does good things for the kids who have that option. At least, then, they have someone. Family isn’t always blood. Sometimes, family is who is there for you when you need them.
Give us an excerpted quote from your favorite review of this book:
I incredibly grateful to the wonderful people who have reviewed my book. I have had so many kick-ass reviews; I don’t think I could narrow it down to one favorite. But I’ll give you one that makes me smile each time I see it. It’s from a sixteen-year-old girl who shelved my book in her favorites. It’s only three words:
Abbey rated it 5 of 5 stars
IT. WAS. AWESOME.
If Oprah invited you onto her show to talk about your book, what would the theme of the show be?
If Oprah invited me on her show, we’d probably all be focused on the pigs flying around the room, ha. We’d know we’d just been transported to “Never gonna happen land.” Young-adult novels, with strange things going on, are not exactly her cup of tea. That being said, the title of my book is Rewrite Redemption. Oprah is big on redemption, so I suppose she’d make that the theme.
What would/could a reader or reviewer say about this book that shows they “get” you as an author?
If I have succeeded in getting readers to care for my characters, I know they “get” me as an author. I have a pretty good understanding of human behavior, and I work hard to make my characters real. And if the readers say I have elicited their emotions, then, yeah, I know they “get” me as an author. When I read a book, I want to be taken on an emotional ride. I love it when I can do that for someone else.
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything about your book?
I would have given my hero, Constantine, a shorter name, probably just one syllable. The long name got cumbersome when it had to be used over and over in close proximity. I probably could have come up with a more romantic/clever name for my heroine than A.J. Jones, but somehow it works for me. The irony is that I never consciously did any real choosing when it came to names. These were just the names the characters had when they appeared to me. Ipod was Ipod, right from the start. Weird nickname, I know, but I couldn’t see him as anyone else.
What genre have you not yet written but really want to try?
I’d like to do a dystopian novel. I love them.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I’m an artist and I’m very happy spending time in my studio. I’m also a political junkie and I keep up with what’s going on in Washington. Things are very precarious in politics right now. We have a faction in Congress that doesn’t believe in science and that’s really scary. When the very people, deciding the course of this country, make decisions that don’t consider fact and science, bad things result. If we don’t do something about climate change soon, this planet is going to end up being one of those dystopian novels everyone loves so much. Reading a dystopian novel is one thing. Living in one…not so much.
How did you get published? Please share your own personal journey.
I wrote the first draft in 2008. It was at a very busy time in my life and I set it aside. Then in 2010, I picked it back up again, and sent out a few query letters. I even had a couple people read the manuscript and say they’d look at it again if I made a few changes. (I didn’t realize at the time how rare that was.) So I played with it for a while, but was still really engaged in other things. I never sent it back to the editors who had shown interest. Then things began to change in the publishing world and suddenly, there was the option of self-publishing. I liked the sound of that. You own and control your own franchise. There are no deadlines. So I whipped the book into shape. I hired an editor as a second set of eyes. This year, I published it on Amazon.
What general advice do you have for other writers?
As a writer, I don’t have enough experience to be giving advice to anyone. But here’s something I discovered in the course of my journey. When you think you’re done, you’re probably not done. It’s amazing how much better you can make a book by going over it and over it. I’m horrible at catching mistakes, ha. But I love editing and polishing to make the story better. I suppose it’s the artist in me, but I find a lot of joy in making a passage flow. I think it’s the part I like best about writing.
What’s one thing that your readers would be surprised to know about you?
There was a time in my life when I was connected to the music world. I lived near Chicago. My then, boyfriend, had a lighting company and did lights for bands, including some big names. I had back-stage passes to all kinds of venues. I met a lot of interesting people and had some wild times. But I have to say, it’s a life that burns you out if you let it. I realized that and moved on for that very reason. I have some fond memories. But I’m way happier living a quieter life.
Where can people learn more about your writing?
Get my book on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00B6GT4H2
Check out my trailer on my website. http://www.jhwalkerbooks.com
Read reviews on Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17289823-rewrite-redemption
I’d love it if you’d like me on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jhwalkerbooks
And my Twitter handle is: @jhwalkerbooks
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