And now for something completely different...
So I guess you know that I have to start with the usual question: Why do you write?
Sure! But it’ll be the same answer as always.
I write because I don’t have a choice. Seriously. I’ve been in publishing since I was twelve years old and there have been times that I thought it would be interesting to do something else, but it couldn’t ever happen because at the end of the day I have stories blasting through my head and characters that won’t let me sleep.
Now that we've gotten that out of the way, I am really interested in the reasons you wrote this particular book.
To be honest, I’m very frustrated with the lack of honesty in our culture today. We’re trained to behave a certain way, and that way curtails to pleasing and sustaining a select few while the masses suffer. No one is supposed to speak out and the prevalence, and acceptance, of silence encompasses most subjects, honestly. It drowns people.
I’m very rebellious. In my life and in my writing. And I’m uncompromisingly honest, but I can only express my own truth. I can’t speak for all the wrongs in the world, and I don’t claim to, but I can speak for the suffering of women crushed in the fists of misogyny. I’ve lived it. It’s everywhere and most of the time it’s so normal, or so subtle that women don’t even recognize it for what it is.
It was the normal, subtle things – the lies we are taught to believe and base our behavior on - that I wanted to point out. I wanted to show the undercurrent that creates a chain reaction in a woman who figures out the game and can’t take wearing the mask anymore. So she changes the rules and works it to her advantage.
It happened in my own life and I survived. In fact, I won the game.
I wanted to show how it happens, and why a woman would do a drastic thing to save her own sanity while drowning in misogyny, and the aftermath of her actions as her family, and society, reacts to her decision of destroying the silence and the status quo of what she “should have done.”
So why "Lights of Polaris"? That's an unusual title.
There is a wonderful story from Greek Mythology about Polaris, the daughter of Apollo. It’s detailed in the book, but it’s a story of love, tragedy and hope. It’s also about survival after obliteration and becoming something greater than you were. Polaris is also the North Star and the source of finding direction when you are lost, so she’s deeply symbolic in that as well.
How many of your real-life experiences are in this book?
Do I have to admit that? Uh, I really can’t because if I did the man I based Daniel on would sue me and win in court. Not all of it’s plucked straight from the pages of my own life, but I’d give it a solid ninety percent, as for Daisy’s experience. As for the rest… that was just my over-eager imagination working out subconscious issues.
You have a reputation for being "edgy". Is that a deliberate thing?
Not at all. I’ve been through a lot in my lifetime. Edgy’s just who I am, I guess. Other people say that, not me. But I get it all the time.
When I was a girl, in the environment I was raised in, being honest got you in huge trouble. Everything was premeditated and any sort of authentic response was unforgivable and punished far worse than the crime. Somewhere deep inside, I knew that didn’t work, and that kind of retribution and shame wasn’t going to serve me in life if I turned it on myself. I knew all it was going to do was keep me trapped in a destructive pattern, so I decided if I couldn’t be outwardly honest, I was going to be that way with myself. And then, when I left that environment and I didn’t have to hide my thoughts, I suppose I became what people consider abrasive, because I don’t pull punches. But I’m not mean. I don’t abide by cruelty. Ever. I don’t dish it out, but I won’t stand back and watch it happen, either.
On a scale of 1-10, how edgy are you in your personal life? Then give some details.
That’s hard for me to judge. I’m actually a really sweet person. I just have a low tolerance level for unkindness. This is what I think: everybody is set on this earth worthy of empathy and respect. Therefore, no one has the right to walk around suppressing and disrespecting another being. I’m the nicest person on the planet, but do not come at me with unwarranted insolence, because you have no idea who you are dealing with. I do not abide rudeness. Ever.
Obviously "Lights of Polaris" delves into some pretty deep issues. I've also heard from reviewers that it's is an unflinching look into what women tend to think, and how they interact with each other when they get real.
I really wanted to show how women truly are – what they think, how deeply they feel, and how the world around them affects their decisions. I wanted to show them damaged and frozen, and then the lioness inside awakening. It was really important, too, that the women in the book spoke and interacted like women actually do. There are no negligees or pillow fights in Lights of Polaris. I tried to avoid any stereotypes and be bold with the sacred truths that women hold – and too often keep secret because of the shame society places on them.
The main character, "Daisy Cade", was in your previous novel, Burning Down Rome. What made you decide she needed her own book?
It was funny, because as I was writing Burning Down Rome, there were background characters that had nothing really to do with that book. I mentioned three names in Burning Down Rome only once or twice – Cooper Thomson, Stuart Adkins, and Daisy Cade. But somehow I knew that all three had major stories. I just didn’t know they were connected to each other, or how closely.
Writing can be a very schizophrenic thing. I literally see visions and hear voices when I’m falling asleep at night. Daisy kind of haunted me. Kid Cade had five sisters, but she was the one who didn’t jump out at me. It was that quiet that I became interested in, and I couldn’t let the thought of her go, so I focused in and what I found was a deeply fascinating woman who reflected the strangulation and torture of what conformity can do to some people.
And then the other voices began…
She's a high-functioning autistic woman, which is an interesting choice for a main character. Why did you decide on that for her character?
Well, I’m high functioning Aspergers, so I applied that part of myself to Daisy so she could make sense to me, honestly. Because she’s weird. She’s a total oddball, but she’s also wonderful, warm and embraceable. But she’s often terribly misunderstood, too. I suppose putting a label on her was almost an easy way out for me to let the reader understand her sometimes unusual behavior.
Do readers need to read Burning Down Rome before Lights of Polaris?
I’d say no, but I’d also say it would help to absorb some of the depth of the story. The characters from Burning Down Rome are all in Lights of Polaris, so if you’ve read Burning Down Rome, you’ll know what happens to the kids from Cry Baby Jake down the road. It makes it a bit more well-rounded and interesting, but Lights of Polaris definitely stands alone.
About you, personally: if you could wave a wand and rid the world of only one problem, what would it be?
Ignorance. I really wish people would educate themselves and stop believing what they’re told. Open your eyes. I’d have everybody question everything all the time and realize that they are empowered already and don’t need permission to take control of their own minds and lives.
So here's the part of the interview where I ask: what about your next project?
It may be asked, but I don’t discuss upcoming projects. I will say I’m looking at writing a series, though, and it’s nothing like I’ve ever written before.
Well, I know you'll publish more novels, 'cause that's what you do. I heard that you recently turned down an offer to sign with agents. What made you decide to stay Indie?
Ouch. Yeah. That. Well, this is the thing. The traditional publishing industry likes to keep things in a bottle – a specific formula of plot versus character versus page count. I think that’s fine for a bit of light reading, or if somebody reads for entertainment alone. But I believe there are bigger books that need to be written and stories that shouldn’t be cut by 30,000 words because if they are, they lose their impact. Books can change lives. Some books have a soul of their own. Some stories are real. Sometimes fiction is more real than truth. And when that happens, an author has an obligation not to compromise the integrity of that work.
So I didn’t compromise. Maybe down the road, with the right agent and the right house, I can find a place that I feel won’t ask me to concede what I believe in. But I don’t know. I’m way too punk rock to want to cooperate a whole lot when it comes to my art.
Edgy, right? Yeah. I guess maybe I do live up to that rep sometimes.