A Conversation with
Author of BRING ME BACK
How would describe your book, its genre? Do you write in more than one genre? Do you feel this will confuse your readers?
Bring Me Back is young adult fiction. Librarians would classify it under paranormal, but this classification may be a bit subjective. A gorgeous young male clone hiding in an underground maze and a teenage girl who bids her body to die so that she can cross over to find her lost childhood friend’s soul may seem paranormal to some. But who’s to say we won’t be able to clone a human being or recall the event of our own clinical death sometime in the not so distant future?
I also write children’s picture books and middle grade books. I don’t think it will confuse my readers because when I set to write a story, I become a part of it. I put my heart and soul into it, and I create a voice that is unique to each and every character.
How long have you been writing? How long did it take to write your book? And what motivated you to write it?
I love this question. I published my first book in 2011, but I’ve been writing since I was a teenager. I always had many stories to tell but was too busy raising my daughters and working in medical research to find time to do what I always knew was my real calling.
It usually does not take me that long to write a picture or a middle grade book. Bring Me Back is different, though. It’s a high-concept trilogy that is ahead of its time. It required not only years of experience in writing but a lifetime of learning about metaphysical concepts like a human soul, dark energy, life force, DNA sequencing, etc. Years ago, I had a vision of a mysterious, impassive girl in a white gown. That was all I had when I started to write the story. No synopsis, no clear voice, I began writing until I had 400 pages. An editor told me it was the most interesting story, but it was clear I had no synopsis. I deleted the entire manuscript without backing it up on purpose! Two years later, the girl was back in my head and with her a story I could not wait to put on paper.
Is it a stand-alone novel or part of a series? If it’s part of a series, how did you decide to make it a series? How long will the series run?
I spent almost a year writing and re-writing the entire manuscript because each time the story became bigger. That’s when I realized it was too great of a concept to fit into one book. The first book of Bring Me Back is mainly about a curious teenage girl, Ali, who’s searching for answers about her forgotten past. Her search leads to an old mansion where she finds a young male clone and an impassive girl that used to be her childhood friend. Ali’s life is turned upside down when she finds herself in the middle of the most unbelievable, fast-paced mystery in which she’ll have to bid her own body to die in order to cross over and bring the soul of her childhood friend back to reunite with the impassive body.
Crossing over, however, brings about a whole new set of problems and adventures. That’s where book number two begins…
Who are your main characters in the story and how would you describe them?
Aliana, Ali as everyone calls her, is seventeen. She’s daring, stubborn, sometimes even careless. She is as normal as she can be, except she hears an eerie voice reciting a strange riddle, and she may have the power to unlock time. That’s what she heard when she was a child but never knew what it meant. She’s about to find out in book number 2, and it will blow her mind away.
Damon is a fierce, unbelievably handsome eighteen-year-old male clone. He’s wildly unpredictable, inhumanely strong, and no one knows whose clone he is. Damon’s “creator” locked him in an underground crypt for most of his life before Ali helped him escape. He can help Ali search for answers, but there’s no way of knowing what he’s capable of. His body is cloned. The question is, does he have a human soul?
Nick is Ali’s best friend. He’s a seventeen-year-old heartthrob with eyes that are as blue as the summer sky. He can protect Ali from just about anything except her own, stubborn self.
Is there any symbolism in your book that you’d care to share with potential readers?
I wouldn’t even know where to start! How about the book cover? The hourglass measures time. We can see the sand falling through the neck, we can see when it’s about to run out. Unlike the real life where we never know when our time is up… The mysterious French alchemist Fulcanelli said, “The empty hourglass is a symbol of time run out.” I have a huge, two-story high hourglass in the old mansion in my book. When all of the sand falls through its neck, the hourglass, just like the human world, will have to be turned upside down, if it is to continue. The sand is almost all gone, the time is running out.
I could go on and on about symbols in my book. I love using them, I did a lot of research and many are more real than we’d think.
Do any of the characters resemble you? How about friends or relatives.
This is tricky. In my real life, when I was a teen myself, I’d identify with Ali. Definitely not now. I don’t think I’d have the guts to do what she did.
On the other hand, my characters are me. Writing Bring Me Back was not by choice. I was forced to do it by some inexplicable force. I’m not kidding. I was literally hearing an eerie voice telling me to sit down and write. I was not imagining a story. It was more like watching a big screen movie in front of me and writing down what I saw. I could not stop, I could not sleep, I’d wake up speaking the dialogues I wrote later in the book. The characters lived inside my head to a point my kids complained I lived in my own imaginary world.
What is the worst thing reviewers or critics have said about your book?
Nothing yet! I’m waiting for my first bad review or criticism. And when it comes, I’ll smile and say to myself, “Life is about balance. You’ll never appreciate the good if you don’t know the bad.”
Have you tried submitting your book to publishers? If so, how many? Did they provide any feedback? What was that feedback? Will you be submitting it again? Would you still want to work with a traditional publisher now that you have self-published?
I tried agents first. The problem is I can write books but I cannot put together a concise synopsis or a great query letter. Unfortunately, agents dismiss your work based on those two or the first 10 pages of your manuscript.
I submitted a sample to a couple of publishers and actually had one interested. It boiled down to the control over the story. I could not see it as a stand-alone, watered-down version. They did not have a trilogy in their current budget. Oh, well… Like I said, it really is a great, big story that cannot fit into one book. Since it took me a lifetime of learning all the amazing concepts I want to explore in this thrilling adventure, I decided to self-publish. This story is something I have to tell in its entirety, otherwise I’d feel like I did not fulfill my life’s purpose.
What has been the most difficult part of your writing experience? Dealing with publishers, agents, editors getting reviews, query letters, what?
All of the above. It’s all an intrinsic part of the “writing experience.” You’re not a serious author if you haven’t dealt with agents, editors, reviewers. Any experience, even the bad ones, fuels your determination and gives you a different perspective of yourself. After a while, you stop taking yourself so seriously and start really enjoying the creative part of writing.
Do any of your characters have secrets you can share with our readers?
Don’t we all? Can you imagine a mystery/thriller character that does not have a secret? Ali has quite a few secrets, but her main one dates back to 1492 even though the book is set in the present time. How’s that for a teaser?
Describe your writing process. Do you outline, create rough synopses, do you do detailed biographies of the characters before starting to write?
I wish I had a synopsis! That way I wouldn’t have to re-write so many times. Well, that was the case of the first book of the trilogy. By the time I re-wrote it so many times, I knew the rest of the story. So now I have a synopsis for book number two and book number three.
Since there is a lot going on in the story, I do have to keep a journal with all the important events that I have to either return to or explain later. I hate it when I read something in a book and I have no idea why it is there. I tried really hard to avoid something like that.
How much research do you do before starting to write? Where do you find most of your background materials? How do you fact check?
Bring Me Back is a big concept idea even though it’s a fast-paced mystery/thriller. I’d be beyond embarrassed if any of the scientific concepts and facts were incorrect. Like I said, I have a lifetime of learning and experience about much of what I’m writing about. Now it all boils down to make sure it’s written in a way teens understand and enjoy it. I have piles of research papers, magazine clips, and books. I read them all and highlight everything that’s important to my story.
Describe where you do your writing.
Everywhere. I have an office at home with a big computer. That’s where I write the most. Sometimes I write on my laptop in the kitchen. I carry a paper notebook everywhere and write down ideas and dialogues when I stop at a red light or even in my yoga class. Scenes and dialogues just pop out and I’m afraid I’d forget them if I don’t write them down.
If you had to do the experience of writing your work over, would you still write it? Would you change it? How?
Since I re-wrote it many times, I feel it’s perfect just the way it is. I’d write it the same all over again. I love the story. It’s something that must be told.
How did you choose the title?
My first title was Unraveling. I liked the idea of how the story started simply and it spiraled and unraveled all the way to the end. Then I was at a SCBWI conference and an editor from one of the big six publishers announced they’ll be publishing a new YA novel called Unraveling. I was crushed and excited at the same time. Crushed that someone else took my title (LOL). Excited since I thought it was a sign…
I wrote down a whole bunch of titles and had my kids and friends vote on one. Everyone had an opinion, but I stuck with my first choice: Bring Me Back. It symbolized many things in the book. Ali bringing back the soul of her impassive friend from beyond; Damon being cloned so, in a way, brought back to life; and the final, most dramatic comeback will take place in the sequel. I won’t spoil the suspense by telling you what it is, though.
How did you decide on the cover and did you design it or did you use a professional designer? However you created the cover, will you being do it that way in the future? Why or why not?
I designed all the covers of all my books. It’s something I really enjoy. I had some help with the cover for Bring Me Back. My friend Madeline Irene (by the way, Madeline looks exactly like my heroine Ali and she even posed in some of the photos I used for my book trailer that can be viewed on YouTube) is a talented photographer. She took a picture of the hourglass and managed to edit a drop of blood in its neck. She did it exactly how I wanted it, and it looks great. I did the rest of the cover— everything from the background to the font that looks like dripping blood. If I had to do it again, I’d use more lighting effects because the cover looks great on the computer screen and paperback, but Amazon’s miniature icon looks a little too dark.
I will certainly do my next cover. I already know what it will look like. I took a lot of photos in Italy this summer, and I will use some of the shots from the Dome in Milan. It was built by the Knights Templar so it is perfect for another one of my mysterious twists.
How much literary license do you take with your stories? Do you create fictional locations? Do you use real locations, with some fictionalizing or do you stick very close to the actual setting? Why?
The first book is set in Boston in the present time. The sequel will take the readers to the United Kingdom where the characters search for clues and secret passageways to a world hidden from ordinary humans. This world may exist in what we call dark matter or in one of the many dimensions we know exist but cannot access at this time. So, in a way, the trilogy is set all over the universe.
I like to set the books in real places first so that the reader can relate to it. I strive to pull the reader in so that he can enjoy the journey wherever it takes him next.
What types of hobbies do you have? Are you active in sports or your community? Do these activities find their way into your books?
My life is one crazy catch up game. I love to decompress in my fitness center during cycling, power Pilates, and yoga. I need to compensate for sitting by the computer a lot. I run my own publishing company, Midnight Hologram, LLC. It’s a lot of work on top of my writing. If I have any time left, I read, watch fun shows, and spend time with my daughters while they still want to be around me. I travel a lot. My birth family is in the Czech Republic. I have my second home there—I kind of live on both continents. I’ve traveled all over Europe, North America, and I enjoyed my trips to South America and Africa. It’s important to get to know the world we live in. It’s an experience no one can take from us.
What types of books do you read (if any) for entertainment?
Lots of young adult literature. From The Hunger Games to the Diary of a Wimpy Kid. I try to be informed of what’s out there. I love to read inspirational books by Dr. Wayne Dyer, Deepak Chopra, Gary Zukaw, Eckhart Tolle, and others. I also love mystery/thrillers.
Tell us something about yourself that you don’t usually share with anyone but close friends.
I talk to myself a lot. Like every day! I imagine myself as my characters and have real dialogues. When I started writing Bring Me Back, I wanted to be alone and write so badly, I did not even want to be around my friends. I pretended to be sick, travel away from home, and anything else to be home alone free to write. When I was in the middle of the book when the story takes a very unexpected turn, my mother was visiting from the Czech Republic. I could not wait for her to fly back home. I just wanted to be alone and finish the story. Shall I feel bad about it?