Monday, November 23, 2015

The Scourge by A.G. Henley

Welcome A.G. Henley, author of The Brilliant Darkness series ( )  to It's All About Story.

A.G.'s website is ( )

1) Describe The Brilliant Darkness series in one paragraph.

Thanks for having me on your blog! I'm so happy to be here. The Brilliant Darkness series is about a teen who's told her blindness mysteriously protects her from the flesh eating Scourge that threaten her forest-dwelling people But she hasn't been tested--until now. There are three novels and two novellas in the series.

2) What inspired book #1, The Scourge?

In 2010, my family took a trip to south Louisiana. I'd just finished reading The Forest of Hands and Teeth, a YA post-apocalyptic zombie novel by Carrie Ryan. I looked around at the vast expanses of swampy bayous and thought: I wonder how people would survive a zombie apocalypse in there? Maybe they'd go up in the trees . . . but what if half the people forced the other half to live on the ground to preserve resources, and the people on the ground had to hide from the zombie-like creatures? And, finally, what if a blind girl was the only one who could survive the creatures, but she wasn't exactly sure how? Within a month, I had characters fleshed out and the world developed. Two years later, The Scourge was published.

3) Was The Scourge your first work of fiction?

I wrote a YA time travel novel before The Scourge--my practice book. I shoved it in a virtual drawer in my hard drive, but it wouldn't stay put. I sharpened the premise and wrote a novella based on it that will be included in an anthology of YA short stories. Tick Tock: Seven Tales of Time releases in March 2016. If readers like it, I might expand it into a novel, or even a new series.

4) What song or music piece would you put on a soundtrack for each book in The Brilliant Darkness series?

I love writing to music, but not usually specific songs or soundtracks. I have a Sonos system, and I throw on a channel with epic film soundtracks, video game soundtracks, or anything dramatic that helps conjure up the feels. I wrote one as-yet unpublished novel to the soundtrack for the Robert Downey Jr. film version of Sherlock Holmes. It was perfect for that book, but I was SO sick of it after five months of writing. On October 29th, I was listening to a Halloween-themed mix to get in the spirit of things.

5) Which character in The Brilliant Darkness series was easy to write? Which was the most difficult?

I'd say Moray--half-villain, half-hero--was the easiest to write. He has a strong personality, so I always knew what he'd say or how he'd react to most situations. Writing from Fennel's first-person POV wasn't easy, because she's blind. Obviously, I had to be constantly vigilant for any visual observations that slipped in. I also had to avoid metaphors and similes that included visual references. Harder than it might sound! It was very important to me to avoid stereotypes or microaggressions. I wanted to create an amazing, strong female protagonist who also happened to have a disability. Her blindness is a part of who she is, but it doesn't define her. I hope I succeeded.

6) What is your writing space like? Or can you write anywhere?

I usually work in my sunny home office on the second floor of our house, where I have a slivered view of the Rocky Mountains west of Denver. I love that! For too many years, I wrote sitting on the couch with my laptop in my lap, but I developed neck and shoulder strain and ended up at the chiropractor and massage therapist on a regular basis. Now, I use an ergonomic desk for the bulk of my writing time, and my body is MUCH happier :) I'd love to try a treadmill desk one of these days. That said, I've trained myself to write in lots of other places, too. I've written at soccer fields, swimming pools, airports, coffee shops, libraries, and many hours in the car while on family road trips.

7) Any odd writing habits?

Hmm, I can't think of any. I do sometimes resort to popping Hot Tamales to motivate myself to keep writing. The spicy jolt wakes me up if I'm starting to fade.

8) Do you outline?

I used to swear by being a pantser. My first three novels were a meandering tramp through half-formed ideas and plot points that somehow came together as novels. They didn't even need a ton of work to revise. (In other words, I got very lucky.) I figured that was just how I worked, and how I would work forever and ever. I blithely pantsed my way through my next novel . . . and it was a hot mess. Clearly a one off, right? I pantsed The Fire Sisters, my most recent book. Not only did it not work, but I also made many of the same mistakes that I had in the previous novel! It needed a massive rewrite. That was enough pantsing for me--time for a change.

Before rewriting, I created a detailed synopsis and wrote the first fifty pages to get a good handle on the plot, voice, and style, and I sent those to my agent to read. Knowing I was on the right track helped me move forward with much more confidence, and I re-wrote The Fire Sisters in a lot shorter time than I had ever written a book before. It became the perfect book to end my series.

9) What are some of your favorite world myths or fairy/folk tales? Why?

Funny you should ask! Like many, I grew up hearing and reading Grimm's fairy tales. When I studied abroad in Australia in college, I heard about Aboriginal Dreamtime stories, and I adored them. The Scourge includes several retellings, as well as one or two Native American folk stories.

10) What is your favorite fictional world, one you'd want to visit?

This won't be terribly original, but I'd live and teach at Hogwarts in a time-turning second. I'd be happy to hang out anywhere in the HP universe, even with You-Know-Who as a next-door neighbor! After that, I would love to have a mysterious Grace in Kristin Cashore's world in Graceling, and one day I'd like to visit Sesame Street :) Only, I'd avoid Elmo--that guy gives me the creeps.

11) What is the best writing advice you've ever received?

I'm always amazed and grateful for the advice and wisdom other writers are willing to share online. I read obsessively about the craft of writing and the business of publishing, so it's hard to remember one piece that stood out the best. A common nugget that I completely agree with is to be persistent. If  you love to write, keep writing, no matter what obstacles you encounter. Of course, that goes for almost any field. If you love doing it, it's worth the hard work and inevitable moments of rejection and heartache.

12)  In The Brilliant Darkness series, are there any hidden acknowledgements to friends, places you've lived, favorite writers etc;

That's a great question! The Scourge has several. I wanted to set it in Australia, but I couldn't pull off the Aussie dialect for my characters. Instead, I hid secret references to Oz in the story. For example, the male main character, Peree, is a storyteller. One of the important tales he tells is about a cassowary, a huge flightless bird found in New Guinea and northeastern Australia. While hiking in New South Wales one weekend, nowhere near the northeastern part of the country, I swear I saw a cassowary saunter across the trail. We looked at each other for a moment, and it went on. I was the only one who saw it. It was a special moment, one I'll never forget. I also used the Jenolan Caves in New South Wales as the inspiration for the cave system Fenn's people hide in to escape the Scourge. The names of a group in The Scourge are from a mixture of dialects of native Australian. A "tiger" Fenn and Peree encounter is roughly based on the now-extinct Tasmanian tiger. I could go on and on :)

13) Can you tell us what we have to look forward to after book #3 in the series, The Fire Sisters?

The Fire Sisters is the conclusion of The Brilliant Darkness series. As I mentioned, I'll have a short story in the Tick Tock anthology, and I'm doing NaNoWriMo for the first time this year. I'll be drafting the first book of a YA speculative fiction duology, and you can bet I'm plotting it out in advance! :)

Thanks for having me on your blog, Katherine!

Thank you, A.G.!

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