My guest today is author Janelle Gabay, please help me make her feel welcome.
Welcome Janelle, let’s start with you telling us a little about yourself including where you are from.
I’m an Air Force brat so I traveled a lot during my elementary years from Nebraska to Philippines to Virginia to Alabama to Maine then Florida. I currently live in Florida with my husband and three children. Our house is always full of dogs. We have three at the moment. My husband and I are suckers for dogs. I spend my days writing or helping the kids with school projects or sports. My older two are terrific tennis players and though them I’ve developed a love for the sport, but I’m a mere spectator. They would call me a crazy tennis mom.
Can you tell us about your books and how your got started.
First Born is a YA fantasy thriller that began a little over 4 years ago. I had always been a writer but had not written a complete novel. Something clicked in me while helping my daughter research for a Civil War project. The brutality of it fascinated me and my imagination went wild. Once I got the idea clear in my head, I moved the story into the future. It’s a series and I plan to take the characters back in time, but I didn’t feel experienced enough to tackle Historical Fiction. The First Born Books are a trilogy set just short of one hundred years in the future. The entire Guardians of Dare Chronicles will span from the 1500s to 2112. I published the book in December 2015.
What made you decide to write books?
I graduated with a BA in English Literature and always loved writing. I wrote ad copy for a while, got married, traveled, had kids, etc. But it wasn’t until my kids started to grow up, especially my daughter, that I decided I needed to fulfil my dream. The teenage years are strange, and I needed my children to see that I was not just mom, but I could have a career too. I also wanted to show them that goals can be achieved at any age. My kids are goal oriented and have always strived to be the best so now I needed to do the same. Also, as a mom of a young woman I wanted to set a good example. If in between all of our crazy life filled with dogs and their shenanigans, out-of-state tennis tournaments, school projects and more, I could write a novel, then she could aim high and believe in herself too.
What was your inspiration for your books?
An 8th grade Civil War project. Somehow the secret society of immortals, Guardians of Dare, came to me while helping my daughter with her homework. My book has nothing to do with the Civil War by the way. Also, while reading Deborah Harkness’ Shadow of Night ( book 2 of the All Souls Trilogy) I learned about the lost colony of Roanoke. Harkness briefly mentions the colony in her book but it piqued my interest. I looked it up and found the origin for my immortal society. Eleanor White Dare who is the Chancellor in my book was a real person. She was John White’s daughter and one of the many colonists that vanished mysteriously in Roanoke.
How do you create your characters?
I wanted a strong female protagonist, but my story centered around the first immortal to be born in over 500 years. This person who just discovered his/her identity would seem a little weak at first and I didn’t want a damsel in distress. I thought, why can’t the girl be rescuing the guy. I also like the twist that the girl is hundreds of years old while the boy is only nineteen. The opposite of Bella and Edward and the whole cougar scenario. So that is how Tarian became the young man finding his true identity and Audrey became the fierce immortal fighter that saves his life. I cut 130 pages of backstory introduction in which I had developed Delia, Gabe and Maria. Instead, I tried to give the reader a sense of history between these characters and Tarian without going into all the detail, but I had all the detail written down. Piper was a surprise to me. I needed her. I needed a lively, light-hearted character to jazz up the Guardian Headquarters. In book 2, Piper plays and deeper role and so does Tarian’s sister Teresa.
Do you have an agent?
No, but I’d like one.
What challenges did you face as you wrote this book?
Time is always my biggest obstacle. My car was my office. When I started, my daughter didn’t have a driver’s license, and she homeschooled. In the middle of the day, I’d drive her to her fitness lesson, her private tennis lesson, and also drop-off and pick up my youngest from regular school and take him to any of his afterschool activities. My oldest drove but I liked hanging out with my kids, so I didn’t force him to drive his siblings, but he came in handy when I needed him. Plus my daughter and I love food, so a long lunch at a good place was also on our agenda. Having a portable laptop is the only way I was able to write First Born.
What is your writing schedule like? Do you strive for a certain amount of words each day?
No, I’m not a structured person, and I can’t force the story out of me so if I go a while without writing that’s fine. When I’m on schedule, I get up very early like 4 am brew a hot pot of coffee and dig in. Once the kids get up and the day begins I find it harder to write. I find it easier to edit during the day and night, but creating is best for me in the morning. And with having three kids, usually one of them has a project that takes us away from our house which helps me to write. If I’m not worried about house chores or the dogs, I can focus on writing. For example, I spent two weeks in a hotel room so my son could go to movie camp in Atlanta, GA. Two weeks all to myself to write, it was heaven.
How do you develop and differentiate your characters?
This is a good question because I worry about my characters blending. When I’m done with my story, I go back through it over and over. I’ll reread and edit strictly focusing on one character’s POV at a time. I have a list next to me as I do this with adjectives and traits particular to that character. I feel repetition in character flaws, idiosyncrasies, smells, looks, and so on sets the tone of that character with the reader.
Where do you write? Is there something you need in order to write (music, drinks)?
All I need is my laptop and quiet. I have a hard time writing in public places like Starbucks. But having a cup of coffee (or wine) while writing is a must.
Lastly, what plans have you got for future books?
I’ve written the second book in the First Born Books trilogy but it needs editing. I’ve also started a book about a sixteen-year-old girl that lives at her moms’ dog rescue center. This is in the works and has a long way to go but I’m loving it. It brings my love for dogs and my love for writing together.