Hello Legendary Readers! Today we get to have a chat with author Janice Hardy. I am totally in love with her middle grade series The Healing Wars. Her new book, Blood Ties, just got added to my TBR list as well. There’s so much I want to talk to her about, but let’s try to keep the interview simple.
Me: Hey Janice! I’m so glad you are able to do the interview. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me.
Janice: Hi everyone! Good to be here. Thanks so much for having me.
Me: I just finished reading the first two books in The Healing Wars series, and I’m hooked. First I want to ask about how you came up with the idea for the process of healing and then pushing it into a stone. Actually, the whole process becomes even more complicated with Nya’s ability. How did you organize all of that?
Janice: Aw, thanks, so glad you’re enjoying it. It all started years ago when I was playing with the idea of twisting common fantasy tropes. I was working on a totally different book then, and one weekend I went to see the original X-Men movie. Rogue (a superhero who accidentally absorbs powers and emotions of anyone she physically touches) is my favorite superhero, and after the movie, I started thinking about healing tropes and someone who could bump into another person and accidentally heal them, pulling the sickness into their own body.
I played with the idea for a while, and even wrote a fifteen-page synopsis of the book—which was horrible (I mean, seriously bad). I stuck it in a drawer and forgot all about for maybe ten years, until I was at a conference and the presenters kept stressing how important fresh ideas were. I was sitting there with my stale, “prophecy idea #12” novel that was anything but original, and feeling very discouraged. But I went home, looked through my old idea file, and came across that synopsis.
It was as bad as I remembered, but the idea of pain shifting stuck with me. I’d never really seen any stories where healing had consequences and could be used for evil, and I loved the idea of turning pain into a commodity and healing into a weapon.
The first thing I did was develop the world. I wanted a society that bought and sold pain, so I needed a way to physically do that. Pynvium (the magical metal used to store pain) was my solution. Pain went into the metal, and the metal was melted down and forged into weapons and items that could release pain upon a magical trigger. Healing became the magic of my world.
Once that was worked out, I had to figure out the main character–someone whose healing ability was different and who would be miserable in this society (I’m so mean to my characters!). That turned out to be Nya, a pain shifter who can’t sense pynvium and can’t get rid of the pain she absorbs from healing people. All she can do it put it into another person. I loved the idea of a healer who was also a dangerous weapon.
Organizing it wasn’t too hard once I developed the world and understood how healing and pain shifting worked. But all that had to happen before I even had a story. I knew early on that until I got the world worked out, I couldn’t write the book.
Me: Are you a plotter or a pantser? If you’re a plotter, how detailed do you get?
Janice: A bit of both. I’m an outliner through and through for the plot, but I pants my characters.
For plotting: I start with a major turning points outline and figure out the big moments of the story. Then I write a scene-by-scene summary connecting those points. I update it as I write the first draft, since things change and my general concepts develop into specific actions. For example, in The Shifter, my ending was literally something like, “Nya defeats the bad guy using her ability.” That’s all I had when I started writing, but once I had half the book done, I knew how she was going to do that and updated the outline.
I work in chunks as I write the first draft, usually three to four chapters at a time. I’ll look over my outline summary for whatever chunk I’ll be working on, and flesh out anything that’s weak. Then I start writing, and often it’s a lot of dialogue and basic stage direction until I have the scenes down. Then I go back and flesh out those chapters until I’m happy with them. If it changes from my outline, I update the outline again.
For pantsing: I do very little character development before I start a draft. I know the basics, a little sense of their personality, maybe some key elements of the character arc if that’s a strong part of the book, but I don’t really know who my characters are yet. I discover that as I write them by putting them into terrible situations and seeing what they do. By the end of the first draft, I know them and a lot of my second draft is fleshing out the characters, putting in what I learned about them, and re-aligning the plot where necessary to reflect those traits and outlooks.
I always know where I’m going in a story (those major turning points of my outline), but rarely know exactly how I’ll get there. The specifics change as I write, and I update my outline as I go. And that holds true for forward and backward, as it’s not unusual for something unexpectedly cool to happen mid-book, and I realize I have to go back and lay the proper groundwork for it.
Me: I’m a middle grade author and I have a personal reason for writing for children that will one day be explained in a whole different post, but what draws you to write for middle grade and young adult?
Janice: It’s just fun, and my voice lends itself naturally to that age group (I’m a big kid at heart). But it’s also a rich source of great stories. Adventure and discovery are always right around the corner, because everything is new. Teens haven’t learned how “the world works” yet, so they have no preconceived ideas of what’s possible and what’s not. That’s a fantastic type of protagonist to write. There’s so much freedom to explore options in solving the story problem. Teen stories are also high stakes, and things matter on a more personal level to them. We lose that as we get older.
And of course, I love teen lit. I’ve always read it and I probably have more MG/YA novels on my shelf than adult novels.
Me: Congratulations on your new book! Blood Ties was just released and (of course) I have to add it to my list. Can you tell me a little about it?
Janice: Thanks! Blood Ties is a bit of a departure for me. It’s for adults, and urban fantasy, so it was fun to stretch my creative wings some. It was inspired by my husband asking a great “what if?” question on a long car trip. We kept brainstorming the concept and I knew I had to write this book. And I can’t say what that question was, because it’s a bit of a twist and I don’t want to give it away (grin).
It’s about a young woman, Grace, who has spent her life running from the monsters that killed her mother. When the same monsters kidnap her father, she knows she has to stop running and fight back, and to do that, she has to figure out why they’re after her.
It’s the first of a series, and it’s going to pair up classic movie monsters and religious mythology. I can mention book two as an example, because that doesn’t give anything away. It’s inspired by Judaism and Frankenstein, with the golem.
Me: How can I get an autographed copy of your books? Do you have any appearances coming up?
Janice: I used to have a bookstore you could order them from, but I moved to another state and haven’t found a replacement yet for autographed books (I need to do that!). But 2018 is the busiest year I’ve ever had for events, so I might be close at some point this year. I’ve already done three events, and there are a lot more to come. Here’s my schedule:
April 14: St. Augustine, FL: Florida Heritage Book Festival Novel Workshop: How to Turn Your Idea Into a Novel One-Day Workshop.
June 14-15: Orlando, FL: SCBWI Florida Mid-Year Workshop: From A-Z. Two full-day workshop/intensives. One on writing science fiction & fantasy, and one on writing the YA novel.
August 9-11: Cincinnati, OH: 10 Minute Novelists Conference. I’m also doing two workshop here: Planning Your Novel in Ten Easy Steps, and Revision Readiness: How to Revise.
I’ll be in Brea, CA next April (still working out the details on this one), and I might be in Dallas, TX in September/October 2018 if we can work out the details there.
Me: You also have a website called Fiction University. I have to admit, I haven’t yet checked it out. What exactly is Fiction University and why did you create it?
Janice: Fiction University is a site dedicated to educating writers, with over 2500 articles on writing and publishing fiction. It started out as my author blog ten years ago this month (March). Back then, everyone said I needed a blog, but I had no clue what to write about. My life was pretty boring, and no one wanted to read about me. But I liked talking about writing, so I tried that, and it worked. After a few years, the site had grown from a few hundred views a year to a few hundred thousand views a year, and I had a much better sense of what I wanted to do with it, so I changed to name and focus. I haven’t quite broken the one million views a year mark yet, but I’m close.
When it became Fiction University, I wanted to focus on education and create a safe and welcoming place for writers to share ideas and learn how to improve their writing, as well as develop their careers. I have articles for brand-new writers as well as tips and advice for career authors with dozens of books published. Traditional, indie pub, we’ve got it all. I bring in guest authors every week in both the How They Do It craft column and the Indie Author publishing column to show that not every writer writes the same way, and if one technique or path doesn’t work for you, there’s another that will. I’m very proud at what my little blog has turned into.
Me: Thank you so much for doing the interview. I look forward to meeting you again one day. Perhaps we’ll be at the same convention some time again!
Janice: I hope so! Thanks so much for having me, it was a lot of fun. I’m looking forward to chatting with some of your readers in the comments.
Well, Legendary Readers, I hope you enjoyed the interview, and if you’re interested in checking out any of Janice Hardy’s work, just click here. Next week, we’ll be taking a break from guest authors and I’ll be posting some more personal blogs. So much is coming up and I can’t wait to share!! See you next week!!
Janice: <waves good-bye to everyone>