June 4, 2017

An Other-Worldly Debut! {Review / Interview}

A heart-tugging story of strength in vulnerability, perseverance, and fight in the face of doom, with plenty of heart-stopping moments in this riveting page-turner.

This book may yet make me a fan of the genre, which I admit to seldom reading. It is Swanson's deft hand with vivid descriptions of Fern's world clashing with Tristan's that first pulled me in. Add to this&mdashthree-dimensional characters and a rollercoaster of a story that left me up far too late reading it&mdashthis story has it all. From Fern, the overcomer of so much trauma with one of the biggest hearts I've ever read, to Tristan. Oh, Tristan. That boy. I'm telling you, these two leapt off the pages and hooked me captive into their worlds, their hurts, their loyalties and the struggle to bridge the gap between two very different worlds&mdashtosave them both.
It's hard not to go on about this novella, whose only "flaw" is that is *is* a novella! I only wish it were longer, but when it did end? Oh, what a spectacular finish it was. Both surprising, and gratifying after the rollercoaster ride this talented author takes the reader on from page one. You'll just have to see for yourself.

*Disclaimer: I received an early copy of this book from the author with no expectation of a review. These are my own thoughts and opinions. And I loved it so much, I'm absolutely buying a copy, too.

AMAZON | GOODREADS

ABOUT THE BOOK:
All her life Fern has been told she is blind to reality—but, what if she is the only one who can truly see?

Fern Johnson is crazy. At least, that's what the doctors have claimed since her childhood. Now nineteen, and one step away from a psych ward, Fern struggles to survive in bustling Los Angeles. Desperate to appear normal, she represses the young man flickering at the edge of her awareness—a blond warrior only she can see.

Tristan was Fern's childhood imaginary hero, saving her from monsters under her bed and outside her walls. As she grew up and his secret world continued to bleed into hers, however, it only caused catastrophe. But, when the city is rocked by the unexplainable, Fern is forced to consider the possibility that this young man is not a hallucination after all—and that the creature who decimated his world may be coming for hers.
***
Kara, my friend! I am so thrilled to have you here today. Thank you for stopping by to share all about your debut and the journey it took to get to here.

Kara: Hi Meg! I’m so, so happy to be here too! It’s such a pleasure to be featured on your blog, friend.

So we know this riveting adventure is your official debut. Tell us a little about yourself and how you first started writing.

Kara: Well, I am 20 years old and spent the first 16 years of my life overseas, as the daughter of missionaries. I grew up in the jungles of Papua New Guinea, an island above Australia. We lived in a remote tribe, surrounded by jungles, and only accessible by airplane.  Living in such a remote area really fed my imagination, and ignited a love for stories that centered around characters dropped into unique worlds. Thus, my love for speculative fiction was born. I think I’ve been scribbling in notebooks for as long as I can remember, but it wasn’t till I was seventeen and co-authored a fantasy novel with a fellow missionary kid named Charis Smith that I really fell in love with writing. Charis and I released that fantasy novel about two years ago—but it wasn’t till The Girl Who Could See that I released a work I’d written on my own. So I consider this to my independent debut novel ☺

What, way back when, sparked the idea for The Girl Who Could See? Did it ever have a former title, different character names?

Kara: Yes! I originally called it “Imaginary Friend” and Tristan—my main guy character—was originally named Desh. The inspiration for The Girl Who Could See came from two sentences that sparked an idea:

They say every child had an imaginary friend.
Mine never left.

Usually, my story inspiration comes from images or a vague idea. For TGWCS it was very definitive. Some of it too is probably because I’ve always had an imaginary friend, growing up, and my characters almost feel like imaginary friends. So taking that idea and running with it—what if your imaginary friend was real?—was really fun to do!

Give us a glimpse into your process from that earliest draft, to when you decided to make the jump to indie-publishing.

Kara: My first draft was 16,000 words. It was for a sci fi magazine, but I didn’t end up submitting, because the idea just kept expanding. However, because I originally wrote it for a magazine and had a specific word count, I decided to outline the novella, so I could fit in everything I needed. That ended up helping me to keep it compact and developed, even though its now 30,000 words. I’m definitely more of a pantser—seat of my pants writer—than a plotter, but because the TGWCS really takes place in the stint of two days, I was able to come up with a fairly clear outline.

As the story progressed and developed, I realized I had something special, and I wanted to be able to share it. As a novella, it was too short for a traditional house to consider, and I’ve always wanted to try my hand at indie publishing, so it just seemed like a good option. A way to dip my toe. And to have the control over the cover and whatnot. I actually had over 10 edits/critiques done on the manuscript, as well as my own formatting and hired a cover designer. I wanted to do this right, even if it is just a short novella, and I’ve learned so much in the process!

Easiest/best part of writing a book, and the hardest? Go!

Kara: I’d say the hardest part is getting a really crushing round of edits when you feel like you have to rewrite the whole thing. When it’s overwhelming. It cuts to your heart, and you wonder if this story is really any good. The best part is that moment when you’re writing it, and the words are flowing, and the characters are living, breathing.  It all feels so natural. Effortless. Those are the moments I live for as an author ☺

What’s one of the biggest lessons you took away from writing Fern’s story?

Kara: To believe in the impossible, to have a faith that goes beyond what you can see. To stand by a love that is unconditional, even if no one else in the world can see it. To see the world through fresh eyes—instead of trying to blend in, to make a difference by standing apart.


Can you share with us one piece of advice you wish you had known when you first began writing?

Kara: Write what you love, and love it enough to write it. Meaning, write a story you are passionate about. Something that means so much you cannot help but write it. Write it first for yourself, and then write it for others who may need it as much as you do. Write what you love. But, also, love it enough to write it. Again and again. To finish a first draft, and then edit it. And rewrite it. And revisit the characters. And the world. And the hope and the meaning and the beauty. Because no one can tell this story like you can.

And don't forget to collect all the clues to enter a giveaway at the end of the scavenger hunt blog tour!






















ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
As the daughter of missionaries, KARA SWANSON spent sixteen years of her young life in the jungles of Papua New Guinea. Able to relate with characters dropped suddenly into a unique new world, she quickly fell in love with the speculative genre and was soon penning stories herself. You can find out about her novels here. Kara received the Mount Hermon Most Promising Teen Writer Award in 2015. When she’s not creating new stories and placing characters in peril, she’s probably binge-watching Marvel movies, playing with her huskies, reading till two in the morning or experimenting with a dairy-free mocha Frappuccino (skills, I’m telling you).
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