A young woman, determined not to fall prey to the consequences of inaction, must brave the nightmares beyond her known world in order to fight back against the nightmare within that is slowly killing her village and her people.
Lisa M. Green is a high school English and Special Education teacher with a degree in Secondary English Education from Kennesaw State University. Born in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1978, she began writing at a very young age and even considered a career in screenwriting or journalism. Throughout her childhood, she drove everyone insane with her constant stories and plays. Friends and family were forced to watch—and often take part in—a plethora of theatrical performances. This passion for writing won her the very notable and prestigious Fourth Grade Writing Award in elementary school; she was very proud.
Currently, Lisa Green lives in the metro Atlanta area with her fiancé and thirteen-year-old daughter. Her favorite place to be (other than asleep in bed) is the beach. She also enjoys reading, cooking, traveling, hiking, and playing video games that girls aren’t supposed to like.
The First of Many
Please welcome Lisa M. Green. Thank you for joining us today as you prepare to launch your book The First on Tuesday, February 25th, 2014.
It’s a pleasure and an honor to be here. I appreciate the opportunity to speak to others about the book and my experiences through the journey of writing.
Q: Could you describe for us the moment that launched you on your journey of becoming a writer?
A: Well, I was born. It must have started shortly thereafter because I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing. I wrote stories for myself, my friends, my family, my teachers. But, at some point, it started to dwindle. I lost myself for a long time and thought I was okay with that. It turns out that I was not. I have been talking about writing a novel since I was younger. What it comes down to is the fact that I was scared out of my mind. Scared of failure. Scared of the spotlight. I still am.
But something in me suddenly came to life last summer when I was playing around with some story ideas, bouncing them off my fiancé as they shaped and formed into something more each time. There was a moment, though, when something spoke to me and the entire tale just ripped out of my chest and into my head. I actually wrote a blog post about it a few months ago. The experience was quite truthfully spiritual in nature and impossible to fully explain. But I knew in that moment that I had to write, and I also knew what I was going to say.
Q: How has your ‘day job’ or post-secondary schooling influenced your writing? What would you consider to be the main influences to your writing?
A: My day-job consists of teaching Literature to high school students. My background is in English Education, and I have a major focus on writing, so I am generally placed in classes that need the most writing help. Academic writing is a completely different animal from creative writing, but my grasp of the formal side helps me in my editing phases. I may break the rules of grammar, but I try to be consistent, and I know when I’m doing it.
The main influences to my writing would definitely consist of the writers I have known and read. I grew up on Tolkien, Lewis, and LeGuin. I’ve read so many wonderful pieces of fiction throughout my life. As a child, I was never without a book in my hand. Ever. The experience I had with a creative writing course in college changed my life as well. The class was designed to teach us how to teach writing and grammar to our students, but it became so much more. To all of us, I think. My writing has never been the same since that summer.
Q: How instrumental was your support group (family, friends, colleagues) in making The First a reality?
A: There were positives and negatives, but certainly almost everyone was supportive and encouraging throughout the process. I did not inform my co-workers until just before Christmas, as I was nervous to announce something like this to a room full of English teachers. Most people at my school still don’t know, as I’m not great at bringing it up in conversation. The nervous anxiety still gets to me.
My biggest supporters by far would be the complete strangers who contributed to my Kickstarter project. I have met some wonderful people who have been nothing but encouraging and passionate about this book, people that took a chance on an unknown author with a desire to follow a lifelong dream. I can never thank them enough, as their support has allowed me to publish my novel.
Q: What were the most challenging aspects of bringing The First to life?
A: Trying to be the author, designer, promoter, salesperson, researcher, publisher, and coordinator for every single aspect of a book—all while teaching full-time—is a bit of a nightmarish experience. The other side is that now many things are established, and I am hurdling over the monstrous learning curve a little more each day, so the next project should be easier in some respects. I have learned so much over the course of this endeavor. I am seriously considering looking into teaching a class on self-publishing the right way, but I still have a lot to learn before I can help others.
Q: What is the story behind The First?
A: I have always been interested in mythology of all types. Archetypes and their patterns are a fascinating subject for me, and I love to think about the story behind the story. Finding interconnectedness among ideas is gratifying for me. I wanted to create a story that was a complete enigma at first but slowly unravels to reveal the hidden meaning.
Q: What is the fundamental message you would like readers to walk away with after reading your work?
A: Humanity is something defined by our character, not by appearance. No choice is ever easy, especially in the face of horrific circumstances, so we make the best decisions we can and hope they are the right ones. Sometimes we fail even when our intentions are pure, but we have to see beyond the choice itself and look directly into the eyes of the monster we are facing.
Q: Who is your favourite character? Describe an interesting moment in the development of this character.
A: There is no way to avoid being cliché about the main character. Of course Rinni, my protagonist, is my favorite character. She is more developed than the others are, as it is a first-person narrative and everything occurs inside or just outside of her head. There are pieces of myself, as well as other people, within many of the characters. I have a soft spot for Mori only because, deep down, he truly is a gentle soul.
Rinni’s development, however, is more complex over the course of the novel. While she never quite loses her lighthearted sarcasm, the consequences of her choices begin to unravel parts of her mind and her heart. She is not particularly brave, but she is certainly not a coward. There is a scene where she learns that she is capable of being selfless, even when the danger is her worst nightmare. She does not dwell too much on the event after the fact. To me, that makes it more compelling as a character development moment. The change in her is of great magnitude but only because it shows that people change slowly over time, not in one defining moment.
Q: What was the most difficult scene for you to write? Try to describe your efforts without revealing too much or ‘spoiling’ the moment for future readers.
A: Let me put it this way: I was aware that I would have to write the scene from almost the very beginning, and I put it off until the very end. My insides would knot up, and I would feel queasy every time I thought about it. Perhaps that is only because I grew so attached to the story. But I was in tears as I wrote, and it was one of the few times that I really let myself go into stream-of-consciousness mode, as that was my intended effect for the scene anyways.
Normally, I am too much of a perfectionist not to correct myself at least a little as I type, no matter how into the writing I am. This scene was different. I did not want to stop, did not want to examine the pieces of myself that I was leaving behind. The funny thing is that very little editing occurred in that area after the fact, other than some typos and such. I felt Rinni’s emotions as she felt them, and the result was a very raw, very powerful, section that was almost more poetry than prose. In the end, I felt shattered. I felt lost. But it allowed me to purge the emotions that had built up over the course of six months’ anticipation and dread.
Q: What are you working on next?
A: This next story looks like it will probably be a series. It will be some form of fantasy, possibly a little bit of steampunk. There is magic involved and some nice twists to the overarching story. I have a lot written down, but it is too early to talk about it yet.
Q: What insight can you give regarding the publishing industry and the route you chose for publication (traditional publishing vs. self-publishing)?
A: That is the question of the hour, it seems. Everyone is so hung up on both sides of this debate that they fail to see any gray areas on either side. Of course, there are pros and cons to both traditional and self-publishing routes. Different things will work for different people. I did my homework on this long before I finished the book. I researched everything I could find on the subject before I made a final decision. Sometimes I still question it in moments of doubt, but I think I chose wisely for my own situation. I will say this: if you are not a highly motivated, driven personality with the ability to handle massive amounts of stress and pressure, then self-publishing may not be for you. If you do not have access to professionals to help with various aspects of the project, then self-publishing may not be for you.
I am extremely lucky that my fiancé is a graphic designer and web developer. But just because I didn’t pay for those things doesn’t mean it didn’t take its toll. Between us, we have spent well over a thousand hours on this novel. Our nights and weekends are spent eating dinner in front of the computer and working like crazy. My point is, it will take massive amounts of money, time, or both to make an attempt at self-publishing. If it does not, you are not doing it properly. If you want to publish and be a professional writer, you must roll your sleeves up. The work is hard, but I think that is the difference between making it or not in this business when you do not have a traditional publisher in your corner. Now I can enjoy the fact that I am not turning over the majority of my earnings to an agent and a publisher. I control what is published and what is cut. I control the process. Maybe I will make mistakes, but I will learn from them. If you cannot put the time in, you can help yourself by finding an agent. They are useful for people who need them.
Q: What have you found to be the most challenging aspect of publicizing yourself and your work?
A: Social media is great, but it is not the only way to promote. The problem is that it is the easiest, for me at least. Promoting yourself takes a lot of face time as well, and that is something I struggle with daily. I do not like the spotlight. I have difficulty looking someone in the eye and speaking about myself. I am not a natural salesperson. My persuasion comes through in my writing. This is where I thrive. But in person I almost break out in hives at the thought of handing someone my business card. I can almost hear them say, “Oh, that’s cute. You wrote a book.” And my meekness while doing it only reinforces this idea. I am not saying everyone is thinking that, but that is what I hear in my head. It is just something I hope to get better at the more I do it. This is new territory for me.
Thank you for speaking with me today, Lisa. Your book launch on the 25th is fast approaching, I wish you well in this exciting endeavour. Do you have any parting words for our readers?
Some people jump out of airplanes. Some people lock themselves in cages with ferocious animals. This is the craziest thing I’ve ever done in my life. And the scariest. But the only thing that keeps me going is the knowledge that I have the ability to do it. I may not believe in myself enough, but I believe in my writing. I firmly stand behind it, and I welcome each of you to check out the sample chapters on my website to see for yourself. If you decide you like what you read, become a fan on Goodreads and purchase a copy of the book to continue the journey. The official release is on Tuesday, February 25th, but you can pre-order through my website http://lisamgreen.com. Thank you so much for your time.