Jamie Thornton, author of the Feast of Weeds series, joins us to discuss her experiences in writing, publishing as well as her upcoming projects.
Q. What was the first book you released? Tell us about some of the challenges you faced in regards to publishing.
A. My first published novel is Rhinoceros Summer. It’s a coming-of-age dark adventure from the point of view of a 17-year-old girl whose greatest ambition is to travel the world to take amazing pictures…but that ambition ends up getting her in a lot of trouble.
It wasn’t the first novel I ever wrote (that one is under the bed and shall never see the light of day!). I took about 3 years to write the book and during that time did a ton of research. I love, love, love research. I was also still learning how to write a good story, so that book also got a lot of revisions. Even after I finished writing the book, the challenge to get it published was still to come! That took another three years.
Q. How do you feel about ebooks vs. print books and alternative vs. conventional publishing?
A. I love books! Ebooks! Print books!
You’ll never catch me reading a really good non-fiction ebook. I mark up my non-fiction a ton. It’s sort of like having a conversation with the author while I’m learning something new.
I’ve almost completely switched to ebooks for fiction reading. I was one of those people who packed a second suitcase for my books – just in case, for emergencies, you know. Now with my Kindle, traveling is so much easier. Plus, I’m a total sucker for how easy my Kindle makes it to get the next book in the series. Don’t need to leave my couch? Sign me up!
I think the last few years in publishing have been really great for both writers and readers. Conventional publishing puts out great, award-winning books that I love, but they’ve also passed over books that I never would have found without alternative publishing. WOOL by Hugh Howey, for example. I can’t imagine a world where I never got to read his stories. Alternative publishing made that possible.
Q. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
A. Keep writing, but don’t keep revising. Don’t get me wrong – I go through several drafts for each of my books, so don’t skip revising either! But sometimes I see aspiring writers who have been working on the same story for ten years, endlessly revising. At a certain point, you’ve got to move onto something else that can teach you something new about craft, plot, character, story.
I’m also a big researcher and outliner. I absolutely hate the saying that a lot of writers hear to just “write about what you know.” What a terrible way to approach art.
Instead, I approach it more like “write about what you want to know.” That could mean trying to write a series for the first time (FEAST OF WEEDS), or writing about the underground world of showdown hunting (RHINOCEROS SUMMER). Learn everything you can about what you want to write to make the story feel authentic, but don’t limit yourself!
Q. Who are some of your favorite authors that you feel were influential in your work? What impact have they had on your writing?
A. I devoured the Anne of Green Gables series and I read White Fang a million times. When I was growing up I loved to read books about a girl surviving on her own in spite of incredible danger and hardship. I was like, “Wow, girls in books can do that?” Any one who’s read my books can tell I have a thing for throwing my main heroine into tons of danger and adventure.
Lately I’m in love with science fiction authors like Patricia Briggs, C.J. Cherryh, Kate Elliott, Octavia Butler and Hugh Howey. I want to read anything with awesome world-building, characters, plot, and social conflict. I’ve learned so much from reading their books about how to write more powerful stories that will keep a reader up all night turning those pages. I literally will diagram out chapters sometimes to analyze how a writer made me forget about everything except their story. Throw in the end of the world? Sign me up!
Q. Where did the idea behind Feast of Weeds come from?
A. I’ve always loved apocalypse fiction– seeing what a person, a whole society, will do when the world falls apart. To me, great apocalypse fiction usually has elements of a dystopian too. A lot of great apocalypse fiction was (and still is) zombie apocalypse stuff, but one of the things that kept bothering me was this sort of blasé approach to mass murder—they’re zombies so of course it’s okay to kill them all. The good guys were good and the bad guys were bad and that was it. Sort of the book version of splatter films—gore for no particular reason. Don’t get me wrong, it can be done well. I love The Walking Dead and all of its gore, though it also spends a lot of time on character and that’s what really makes the show for me.
I wanted to read something different, but I wasn’t finding it, so I thought, okay I’ll write it. I was doing a lot of non-fiction reading on memory and pandemics like the Black Plague and Ebola because that’s the kind of reading I do for fun. I picked up something random on PTSD, read a news article about a runaway, picked up a couple of books on runaways, and it all came together to form Feast of Weeds.
Q. How did you come up with the title of the series?
A. My very first glimmer of an idea for Feast of Weeds was actually as a romance. I even called it My Zombie Romance. But when I started writing it, hardly any romance came out! The idea became much bigger and darker over time so that title didn’t work anymore.
As the story morphed I also brainstormed new names. I finally settled on Feast of Weeds because I knew I wanted to create a cast of characters that would all be throwaways in some form or another – teenagers that family or society didn’t want. I thought Feast of Weeds evoked that sense of scope and darkness.
The runaways are those weeds that survive ANYWAY, whether you think they should or not.
Q. What was the hardest part about writing the Feast of Weeds series?
A. It kept getting bigger on me! I first imagined it as a stand alone novel, then two books. Now we’re at four books. The series is done at four, but there are a lot of side stories within the world that I might decide to write down the road.
Q. On your webpage, you describe you stories as dark adventures. What draws you to the young adult/fantasy genre?
A. I read to escape the real world and I want to write stories that I would love to read, so I think that’s a big part of it. There is so much going on in Young Adult these days and there’s so much crossover to older readers. Even though my books are categorized as Young Adult, I get a ton of emails from readers in their 30’s, 40’s, and beyond, who tell me about how they stayed up all night reading and can’t wait for the next release. I LOVE those emails. I love that I get to deliver that kind of experience to other people. It feels like I’m giving back because I’ve been thankful so many times for the awesome stories that made my life just a little (sometimes a lot) better.
Q. When can we expect the next book, Eradication to be released?
A. Friday January 22nd 2016!
Q. Do you have any other books you’re working on? What can we look forward to in the future from you as an author?
A. There’s this Young Adult fantasy series I’m probably going to work on next. It’s called Doormaker and it’s about this 13-year-old girl who is part of a family with a very special disability. Every time they open a door—cupboard, drawer, front door—something really terrible happens and it opens up a portal to somewhere else. She’s been trained her whole life to never, ever open a door. But then one day, her and her best friend are in a bad situation and she MUST open a door…and that’s chapter 1.
For more about Jamie, visit her website. Also, she is also giving away free copies of the first two installments of the Feast of Weeds series of her page, so don’t miss out!