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Book Blitz (Day 2): Author Interview with S.M. McEachern

How did the idea for Sunset Rising come to you?
I’m asked this question a lot and it really is one of the most difficult questions to answer. I’ve always wanted to write and attempted to pen a few novels in the past, but I never found a topic interesting enough to stick with it. When my oldest daughter started reading young adult fiction, we decided to do buddy reads together and that’s when I discovered the YA genre. I fell in love. I suddenly had tons of ideas for a plot, but only one really persisted.
Back in my university days, I did some research on a biodome in Arizona and had to ask myself the obvious question of why would humanity need a hermetically sealed environment capable of sustaining life? Given the current geo-political climate, it wasn’t difficult for me to come up with a good reason, and the foundation for the “Sunset Rising” series was born.

Sunset Rising is a series? Where do you see the story going?

If someone hit the reset button on Earth, how would you change the future? Would you try to rebuild what was already here or go in a different direction? The series is a cautionary tale and I try to show an entertaining, yet realistic, vision of how civilization might rebuild itself.

Sunset Rising is the first book in the series and focuses on how humanity might evolve when forced to live in close quarters in order to survive a nuclear apocalypse. This book deals with issues like bonded slavery, caste systems, physical and sexual abuse, and how limited resources can lead to war. The second book of the series, entitled Worlds Collide, was just released, and I think I surprised a lot of readers with it. SR was often compared to The Hunger Games and The City of Embers, so Worlds Collide blindsided a few readers. This book picks up exactly where SR leaves off and continues to build upon the story. I introduce a lot of new characters and construct an entirely new political system. The third book will pick up where the story leaves off in WC, but you can probably already guess I’m building a whole new world in this book as well.

Sometimes it’s hard to keep at it – what keeps you going?
I love writing, especially world building, so I don’t actually need any more motivation for that pursuit. The hard part is trying to juggle family life with being an independent author. Marketing takes up an enormous amount of time, leaving little left over for writing. It’s a difficult balance.

What movies do you like to watch?
I love watching action movies—especially if there’s a hot guy starring in it! Some of my favorites were The Avengers, Star Trek (all of them!), and Red (the first one). I don’t usually watch typical “chick flicks”, although I was talked into watching Crazy Stupid Loveon Valentines Day. The scene when Jacob (played by Ryan Gosling) takes off his shirt in front of Hannah (played by Emma Stone) and she just stares at him, mouth agape, and finally says “Seriously? It’s like your Photoshopped!” was hilarious.

Action heroes, huh? Which one—Ironman or Thor?
Although Thor is hot, he’s a little too melancholy for my liking. Ironman’s not only a hero, but he’s witty, funny, charming and filthy rich. Definitely Ironman.

As an author, how do you work through self-doubt and fear?
I think everybody on the planet has to work through self-doubt and fear no matter what s/he does for a living. Writing isn’t any different. I understand that when I put my work out there for people to read, I invite their opinion. Most of the feedback has been fantastic and a real confidence boost, but there are some critical reviews that keep me grounded. Accepting that I’m never going to write a book that every single person on this planet is going to like is the first step conquering my fears.

Do you find it hard to share your work?
Yes! Especially with people I know. My husband’s still not allowed to read my books.

Is there anyone you’d like to acknowledge and thank for their support?
I have a LOT of people to thank for supporting me. My family for putting up with me locked away in my office for hours; my husband for his technical expertise on my blog and ebook formatting; and, most of all, for complete strangers who got in touch with me because they read Sunset Rising and loved it. I have a lot of beta readers as well that have taken the time to give me their valuable opinions and critiques. I’m really just blown away and humbled by the amount of support I’ve received by so many people.

Every writer has her/his own idea of what a successful career in writing is, what does success in writing look like to you?
As a debut author, for me success is being able to write something that readers want to read! Luckily, I’ve been able to do that, so I guess it’s time to set the bar a little higher. I’d like to expand my audience. Quite a few of my readers said they’d like to see Sunset Rising made into a movie—that would be super cool!

Tell us about your new book—what’s it about and why did you write it?
Worlds Collide is the second book of the Sunset Rising series. It picks up exactly where Sunset Rising leaves off—with the two main characters, Sunny and Jack, outside the Dome exploring a world they always believed had been devastated by nuclear war. They discover the Earth is fine and there are people living outside! As they uncover the horrifying truth of President Holt’s plans for the Pit, they realize time is running out to not only save the urchins, but the world.

If you could do any job in the world, what would you do?
That’s easy. Be a writer.

What’s the reason for yourlife? Have you figured out your reason for being here yet?
I’m here because I was born, so I might as well use my time wisely. Reading, writing, researching, interacting with others, teaching, learning, raising two kids, being a wife, being a friend—this is what life is all about. We take what we need and then we give back. Learn about the world you live in and see how you can contribute.

Do you do much research for your books?
I do a ton of research for my novels. As a reader, nothing takes me out of science fiction story faster than bad science. For Sunset Rising, I had already done quite a bit of research on the Biosphere in Arizona, so that was a bit easier. For Worlds Collide, I got in touch with a scientist from the National Institute for Nanotechnology (NINT) to advise me on theme in that novel. I’m currently doing some research for the third book, which I’ll keep secret for now 

Have you ever had writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it?
I’ve had writer’s block a few times and I cured it by going to see an action-packed movie. A really good book can get my creative juices flowing too. On a daily basis, I also go for a run with my iPod loaded up with inspirational music, like Moby, Keane, Cold Play, and Lana del Rey.

Have you started another book yet?
I have started the third book in the Sunset Rising series. I’m doing a lot of research at the moment, so not many words have put on paper yet.

Do you have any advice for writers?
Invest in your craft. Listen to what readers are telling you through their reviews. Constantly seek to improve your skills. If you truly like writing and want to make a career of it, join a writer’s group, take workshops on writing and network with people in the industry. Research is an important component of being a successful writer, both in terms of writing a story and selling one. If you’re going to self-publish, find an editor you can work with, a good cover artist, and beta readers who can give you critical feedback. Learn to accept that the bad reviews are just as important as the good reviews.

If you could have a dinner party and invite anyone dead or alive, who would you ask?
I’m not so sure I’d want to invite a dead person to a dinner party… ew! I’ve been lucky in that I’ve met a lot of influential people. My mentor in university was Elizabeth Mann-Borgese, the daughter of author and Nobel Prize winner Thomas Mann. Her entire life was devoted to finding a way to foster world peace and, like her father, she’s been nominated for the Nobel Prize. I’ve also been to Buckingham Palace for a tea party with Queen Elizabeth (alongwith 3,000 other of her “closest” friends!). And I once had the opportunity to meet President Bill Clinton when he was in Halifax for the G-9 Summit meetings, but got tired of waiting for him and left. I always regretted that. So, if I had to choose someone to come to dinner, I’d probably pick the President of the United States. I wonder if Mr. Obama would come?

When you are not writing, how do you like to relax?
I have a hectic family life. My oldest daughter is a competitive swimmer and my youngest is competitive in martial arts. My husband just returned from a one-year deployment to Afghanistan. So, honestly, I don’t spend much time relaxing. If I do find some time, I like to read a good book and sip a nice vintage.

Are you a city slicker or a country lover?
I’m a city girl who likes to escape to the country from time to time. I prefer to have modern amenities within walking distance in my day-to-day life. I’ve lived in the country before and ended up doing way too much driving for my kids extra-curricular activities, shopping, doctors, etc. However, I do like to go hiking, kayaking, bird watching and exploring coastlines, so the occasional escape to the countryside is fun.

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