Kev’s Author Interviews Presents:
A Short Bio
I grew up all over the United States, and studied in East Asia, though my roots reach deep into the southern Utah desert where most of my family members still live. I’ve set up house on the San Francisco Peninsula with my story-adoring husband and daughter whom keep me busy and inspired.
Kev: What is your latest book about?
Merrill Hinton is a lightning rod in a town named for bad weather. He’s an ace in math, but not smart enough to put together the pieces of his puzzling life, especially where finding his unknown father is concerned.
Musical genius Robbie Stubbs was born in nearby polygamist compound Colorado City. He has the chops to become another John Coltrane, but that will take running away from home, and into a firestorm of controversy–the kind his friend Merrill knows best.
Merrill sets Robbie onto a course that could rocket them both onto center stage, but being the focus of wide public attention will create serious issues. Robbie’s mother is not well, and the shock of her son breaking the family rules like this may put her over the edge.
And Merrill Hinton? His precarious future would become compromised in ways he doesn’t yet realize.
Kev: Who or what influenced you to write it?
I never lived in Hurricane, but my people were from there. They were some of the first to colonize the southern Utah desert, and before them it was the ants.
In many ways the region was a community of exiles, and that’s perfect because my story is about two young boys torn out of the same frayed social fabric. Both of them live on the fringes of their communities. Robbie is an outright refugee…a lost boy.
I wrote about belonging. The story explores questions like when it is important to reach for that belonging and when it’s better to run like hell. I wrestled with these ideas for a good portion of my youth. The search for connection led me, a lonely seventeen-year-old, as far away as the Taiwan countryside. It’s taken many years, but that search has come full circle now.
Kev: Did you do any specialised research for your story?
I interviewed former residents of Colorado City. They are a cautious class, but if you know how to ask, you can find them. My mother grew up in Hurricane, and most of my extended family members live in the region. I have had years to watch it growing and yet not change very much.
Kev: What challenges did you face while writing the story?
I started writing when I had just given birth to my daughter. Soon after that, my health declined fairly sharply. And yet I had this idea in my head and it kept coming to me. I wrote almost exclusively during nap times, and my daughter didn’t nap that well. Fortunately, Merrill did most of the work. It was amazing for me to feel his voice pouring into my mind.
Kev: Who is the protagonist?
Merrill Hinton is the narrating protagonist, the prickly, smart kid who is searching for his unknown father.
Kev: What would you say is the protagonist’s greatest weakness or obstacle and why?
Merrill is insufferably combative. He doesn’t know how to get along with his peers or even his own mother. Really all of that is a gruff mask for fear–fear of risk, fear of rejection. He thinks finding his father will somehow negate his abandonment, but he’s subconsciously terrified of what he’ll find—not so much about his father, but about himself.
Kev: What would you say is the main antagonist’s greatest strength?
There are a few antagonists in this story and talking too much about one will spoil the story. But I can call Warren Jeffs an antagonist. He’s in prison, but still pulling the strings out in Colorado City. That’s of powerful. Even prison hasn’t stopped him from terrorizing the lives of thousands.
Kev: Could you provide a short passage from your book to give us a taster?
Hurricane, Utah, is the sticks. Not the deep sticks, like Virgin, a few miles up the mesa—and believe me, we take it personally if you can’t tell the difference—but it’s still the sticks. Hurricane will never be like Park City or other small towns movie stars put on the map.
The good thing about Hurricane is it’s on the road to somewhere. One of the seven natural wonders of the world, in fact. If you’re visiting the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, at some point you have to find yourself in Hurricane—not because it’s your destination, but because your path lies through it.
For me, Hurricane is a starting point, not a destination . . . hopefully. But for Robbie Stubbs, Hurricane’s a mere pit stop. He is meant for the sticks even less than I am. He is going somewhere, and I’m not talking about the Grand Canyon. By the time I met him, he was already in trouble. But the road between the sticks and somewhere is never easy-going.
Kev: When you write, do write off-the-cuff or do you use some kind of formula?
No formula here. I write and rewrite and rewrite.
Kev: How do you deal with writers-block?
I’ve had plenty of writers-block in the past. My main theory, when the well dries up, is to stop what I’m doing and remember story. Sometimes you lose your thread and get lost. If I return to the broader arc, or discover the arc within the arc, then the path becomes clear.
Kev: Preference for writing: Day or Night?
Some would call my day night. I write in the very early morning or whenever my daughter sleeps.
Kev: What is your process for editing your work?
I hand the laptop to my husband. No, really. I get going and sometimes my punctuation falls apart. My husband is a much better editor than I am. We both went over the galleys, but he’s the one who identified most of the errors.
Kev: How do you come up with your book covers?
WiDo Publishing did it for me.
Kev: Do you think the book cover is important?
Yes. And I had my own ideas. But no. I got vetoed.
Kev: Which publishing platform do you prefer and why?
I haven’t self-published yet, but I may explore it in the future.
Kev: Do you face any daunting obstacles during the publishing process?
My health has been a challenge throughout. Imagine crushing insomnia all night long and a precocious toddler all day–but that’s not publishing.
As I say, I’m not doing the publishing, but the marketing has been tough. My story is not the hot new trend. Right now reviewers seem to want paranormal romance (still!) or thrillers, or maybe horror. I’ve got none of that. So thanks for keeping an open mind Kev!
Kev: What methods do you use to promote your work?
I’m relying mostly on online reviews and interviews. I also blog and will do a themed blog tour in early May. I’ve established a website and am planning to do some school visits in southern Utah post release.
Kev: Do you have any advice for new authors?
Love writing. (In proportion of course.) Writing is for life.
Don’t listen to people telling you how impossible it is to break in. It is that difficult, but I would not be publishing now if I’d listened…or realized how bad my earliest attempts really were. Keep your focus on the end goal.
It will probably take longer than you realize, so don’t do it if it’s joyless drudgery.
Kev: Which social media platforms do you use the most?
Facebook. And I blog at tayaokerlund.com/blog. My former blog was at maternitymindfulnessandmuses.blogger.com, but I expect to move that content to my new site.
My website: http://www.tayaokerlund.com
Kev: Is there anything else you would like to add?
WiDo Publishing will be offering a pre-release sale on my ebook prior to release at http://www.widopublishing.com.
TAYA OKERLUND, EVERYONE!