Book Nerd Interview
Was there a defining moment during your youth when you realized you wanted to be a writer?
I always loved writing, but I had this weird awareness that writing was hard to break into and not realistic to bank upon as a profession. Oddly enough, I had this awareness during the same time period when I planned to be 1) a famous actress, 2) a mermaid, 3) an astronaut and 4) President of the United States, in that order. It wasn’t until I was out of college that I seriously started pursuing writing as an actual profession.
Why is storytelling so important for all of us?
Because it allows us to learn to see through a perspective other than our own. Learning to empathize with other people totally unlike you is one of the most valuable skills we can have in this world. Plus, it’s fun to escape reality and live in someone else’s (fictional) skin just for a little while.
Beyond your own work (of course), what is your all-time favorite book and why? And what is your favorite book outside of your genre?
The answer to both of these would have to be LEGACY by Susan Kay. I wrote a whole blog post extolling the virtues of this book once, but needless to say, I read it in seventh grade and became totally obsessed. It’s a novelization of Elizabeth I’s life from birth to death. It seriously changed my life. It got me interested in history (eventually I majored in it), it caused me to read about a hundred more books about the Tudor era, and originally I planned to be a writer so I could pen a great Tudor epic. Historical fiction is not quite my thing now, but the idea of it got me started.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another author?
Aprilynne Pike told me, “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.” I think about that from time to time. It’s easy as a newbie author to think solely about those stories of people exploding right out of the gate. However, if you’re doing it right, you’ve got a long career ahead of you. The thing never to forget when you have your first book out is that you’ll hopefully one day have twenty or thirty more, so don’t exhaust yourself or burn out on the first one
In your new book; Vortex, can you tell my Book Nerd community a little about it and why they should read your novel?
VORTEX is the second book of the INSIGNIA series. Like the first one, it’s a near-futuristic scifi much closer to our current reality that many others in the dystopian genre. The series centers around a close group of friends in a training program to become combatants in World War III. Like in INSIGNIA, it’s a mixture of absurd, silly humor and serious, dark drama, but unlike INSIGNIA, the main character Tom has some hard lessons to learn about the way the world works and how to be effective in it. Some past mistakes come back to haunt Tom and his friends, and he faces a big decision about how much he’ll need to compromise in order to achieve his goals in the world.
For those who are unfamiliar with Tom, how would you introduce him?
Tom is a creative, funny guy who grew up as a drifter with his father. He’s never had structure or any real authority figures in his life, which creates some of the main conflicts Tom has as a character once he’s recruited for the Intrasolar Forces in INSIGNIA. He’s a great friend to his friends, and totally obsessed with a girl named Medusa, the most deadly fighter on the enemy side—whether for better or worse.
If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
I’d introduce Tom to Rose from Vampire Academy. I think he’d make an idiot of himself falling madly in love with her, because she’s an unapologetic badass and that’s what he loves in a girl. I also think she wouldn’t give him the time of day, which would make it all the more amusing for me.
When asked, what’s the one question you always answer with a lie?
“How much do you weigh?” I will never answer this honestly.
What's the most memorable summer job you've ever had?
I interned in college at this tiny sweatshop of a nonfiction publisher in California. I worked full-time four days a week in this non-air conditioned office. It was this miserable work environment, and everyone who worked there was crazy, or depressed or neurotic. I realized I never wanted to go into publishing on the publisher side, though looking back, I think I had a very skewed perspective from inside that depressing place. The worst part was, I double-booked an author on her tour via Expedia (by pressing the back button without realizing it). Expedia wouldn’t issue a refund. For that infraction alone, despite working nearly full time my entire summer, the publicity manager who was my boss refused to give me a recommendation. I still seethe at the thought of the hours I wasted laboring for those people. That was my last unpaid internship.
Who was your first boyfriend?
I had such a huge crush on this boy, and we started going out. Then he fell out with my best friend at the time. A terrifying vision of having no friends flitted through my head, so I hastily broke up with him. I severely regretted it because I really was infatuated with him, so we got back together the next day after I broke up with him. My friend found out and got mad at me, so I broke up with him again the following day. Needless to say, he was not interested in getting back together with me when the drama between him and my friend blew over. Ironically enough, that friend and I didn’t stay friends very long, anyway. That was the sordid saga of my first-ever boyfriend.
Tell me about your first kiss
First real, non-truth-or-date kiss? It was with the same boy as above. I was fourteen. I knew it was coming, and I was waiting for it all night. The he dropped me off at my dorm, leaned into kiss me, and his lips were these gigantic wet cushions mashing mine. It felt like a wet eel writing against my face. His teeth smashed mine. He pulled back and I apologized because I assumed I was the bad kisser doing something wrong. He assured me, “Don’t worry about it.” I wandered up to my room in a daze, very happy, but also wondering, Why do people make such a big deal of that? Do people actually LIKE kissing?
When was the last time you cried?
When I got food poisoning at BEA the night before all the meetings I’d come to do. I could not sleep and was lying in agony on a very hard bed, my stomach aching terribly, as the sun rose outside and the hours counted down to a morning meeting. I knew I had to cancel it, and I worried I’d miss everything after paying a lot of money and flying all the way across the country. It was extraordinarily frustrating timing. That was not a fun night.
Which would you choose, true love with a guarantee of a heart break or have never loved before?
Ugh, unpleasant, but I guess I’d have to say heart break. Love is one of those fundamental human experiences everyone raves about, or dreams about, or writes about and romanticizes. I think I’d feel I missed out on something important reaching the end of my life never having fallen in love.
What decade during the last century would you have chosen to be a teenager?
I probably have to go with the 1980s. Even though I’d end up with tons of pictures of me with weird hair, awful jeans, and strangely assymetric clothing, I’d at least get some classic and awesome movies for my generation. Plus, I’d graduate college into a fantastic mid-90s economy rather than graduating when I did.
Top Ten List - Things you would change about your high school years if you could go back in time.
1) I wouldn’t just write in my journals when I was depressed. I’d write about the good things, too.
2) Take more pictures.
3) Ditch those terrible flare jeans—they did not flatter.
4) Go on antidepressants.
5) Go to assemblies rather than skipping them. I missed some great speakers.
6) Get involved in more clubs.
7) Take advantage of more opportunities offered through the school.
8) Befriend people more actively rather than assuming the worst about how they saw me.
9) Learn a sport like tennis instead of a team sport that I couldn’t play much as an adult.
10) Stop caring about the opinions (real or imagined) of people who aren’t close friends.
The impossible was just the beginning. Now in their second year as superhuman government weapons-in-training at the Pentagonal Spire, Tom Raines and his friends are mid-level cadets in the elite combat corps known as the Intrasolar Forces. But as training intensifies and a moment arrives that could make or break his entire career, Tom’s loyalties are again put to the test.
Encouraged to betray his ideals and friendships for the sake of his country, Tom is convinced there must be another way. And the more aware he becomes of the corruption surrounding him, the more determined he becomes to fight it, even if he sabotages his own future in the process.
Drawn into a power struggle more dramatic than he has ever faced before, Tom stays a hyperintelligent step ahead of everyone, like the exceptional gamer he is—or so he believes. But when he learns that he and his friends have unwittingly made the most grievous error imaginable, Tom must find a way to outwit an enemy so nefarious that victory seems hopeless. Will his idealism and bravado cost him everything—and everyone that matters to him?
Filled with action and intelligence, camaraderie and humor, the second book in S.J. Kincaid’s futuristic World War III Insignia trilogy continues to explore fascinating and timely questions about power, politics, technology, loyalty, and friendship.
Tom is older and has more experience this time around. His character development goes through a series of interesting phases as the story takes a turn towards a darker side. Tom’s problems seem to never cease and become more serious than the last. He will eventually have a major role in the war that is on the horizon. Choices and decisions are heftier and Tom realizes that any mistake on his part will have calamitous consequences. Tom’s life is full of ordeals and Kincaid pieces it all together in an enthralling story.
The single plot line that Kincaid disposes in Vortex is enough to keep readers turning pages. Tom’s moves are unpredictable and will have readers on the edge of their seats. Kincaid takes readers into a riveting dystopian story of cybernetics and an emerging third World War. As the country relies on Tom and his friends to save the world, callous politicians and businessmen quickly tarnish it. Unexpected twists and turns are scattered throughout the book that will have readers invigorated and fully captured with the unique and stunning story-telling of Kincaid.
You can purchase VORTEX at the following Retailers:
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