Can you tell us a little bit about Inside Out, the final book in Off the Map trilogy?
Upside Down and Sideswiped were more about taking chances. In Inside Out, I wanted to explore what happens if you try something and fail, or (in Bran’s case) it doesn’t turn out the way you imagine. The twenty-something years are a perfect time for risk-taking, but that doesn’t mean every decision is going to go off without a hitch. However, with trying, comes learning, and every experience can hold a lesson. Also, I wanted to show Talia and Bran complete their character arcs and implement what they learned in the previous two books.
Does the 'Off the Map' trilogy have any autobiographical elements?
I met my husband during a study abroad trip to Australia and our first house was a small cottage in Hobart, Tasmania. We currently live in Santa Cruz, California and with the exception of Malawi, I’ve visited all the places mentioned in the books. My sister was a Peace Corps volunteer based in Malawi so her two-cents were invaluable.
You document Talia's mental health problems - which surface after the death of her sister – with great insight, do you have any obsessive compulsions yourself?
Yes, I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and generalized anxiety, two kissing cousins. These conditions have been part of my life since I was eleven and for a long time were an incredibly shameful secret. As a coping mechanism, I became an expert in self-deprecation and deflection. Writing Off the Map was an opportunity to “come out” as someone who struggles with mental health issues, but also an attempt to “normalize” the experience. I’m not a mega freak (most of the time). I’m the kind of person you’d stand next to in the coffee shop line. These days, I’m MUCH more aware of my own personal triggers and have made inroads to recovery. I go to therapy every week, have regular acupuncture, and manage my flare-ups with yoga and meditation. So far, this helps me manage my symptoms and I’m very grateful.
Environmental issues are very important to Bran, do you share this ethic?
Activism was a major component in my own New Adult years. I took part in protest movements and forest campaigns. These days, we try to be a socially and environmentally conscious household, and fortunately live in a community that shares these ideals.
Was it always intended to be a trilogy, or did one story grow from the previous?
Originally, Upside Down was intended as a stand-alone. I pitched the book on three chapters with the idea that Sunny and Beth would have their own stories in the next two books. My editor bought the book on the condition I stretched Talia and Bran’s journey over three books. A tall order for a debut author. Luckily, I get the chance to tell Sunny and Beth’s stories in Off the Map companion novellas set for 2015.
How does writing a trilogy impact the writing process?
Writing the Off the Map trilogy was an absolute privilege. I loved being able to go down the rabbit hole with Talia and Bran, testing and growing them over three books. In the end, Talia came into her power and Bran transitioned from a baby man to a proper hero.
What is it like to return back to familiar characters?
Hanging out with old friends. I loved writing Marti again in Book #3 and have a mega soft spot for Sunny.
Which is your favourite character; Bran or Talia, and why?
Oh, wow, that is a very tough question. I had a really hard time writing Bran in Book #1, hence why Upside Down has so few Bran chapters. Originally he had none, but then he started whispering. Talk about a TOUGH nut to crack. Once I started though, he wouldn’t shut up. By Inside Out, I could have written the entire book in his POV with my eyes closed. Still, I really love Talia.
Sorry, can’t choose between my babies.
If the Off the Map series was to be made into a film, which actor/actress would you like to be cast?
I’d cast Bran as Colton Haynes and Talia as Emily Beck Rickards
Have you any plans to write another series?
I’m currently under contract to release two Off the Map Companion novellas (April and September 2015), a full-length New Adult (December 2015) and a contemporary adult series (June, August, November 2015). One more secret project might be in the works. Things are busy in writer land but I’d have it no other way.
What does a typical writing day look like for you?
I start writing in the dawn dark and finish writing in the night dark. During the daylight, I wrangle my two tiny ones.
Where do you draw the inspiration from for your stories?
Things kind of just come from the ether. It sounds weirdly pretentious, but that’s how it works. I just kind of tune into a frequency and go for it. Sometimes there’s lots of static, and on good days, the voices come in loud and clear. I’m drawn to a specific core story, the idea that everything my characters want waits on the other side of their fear. This is a common theme in all my books.
If you were going to include a famous person into one of your stories, who would it be and why?
Brutus? Judas? They’d have interesting stories.
If you could write another style of genre, what would it be and why?
I’d love to write an epic high fantasy, but realistically I’m better suited to women’s fiction.
If you could write in collaboration with another author, who would you like to write with?
George RR Martin, because I have DEFINITE opinions about how Game of Thrones needs to conclude.
If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring author, what would it be?
If you wait to write when you feel inspired, you won’t get very far. Make a word count calendar and stick to it every day.
When you’ve finished writing a book, do you treat yourself to a reward?
I usually watch one of the Jane Eyre movies and indulge in mexican chocolate ice cream.
Where would be your idyllic location for a writing retreat?
A three way tie between: a cliffside house in Big Sur, a Scottish castle or a trans-Atlantic cruise ship.
As we're coming up to the festive season, let's throw in a few festive questions...
What makes Christmas special for you?
We don’t live close to extended family, so spend holidays with people we don’t see nearly enough.
What is your most memorable Christmas memory?
My dad used to dress up like Santa Claus and run around the house on Christmas Eve. He said one time I crashed into the window in my excitement. He watched me scream “Santa! Santa!” and then go bouncing off.
Who would you like to kiss under the mistletoe?
Matey, my dear husband (and a hall pass for Michael Fassbender, Colton Haynes, Stephen Amell, Gael Garica Bernal and…LOL)