Friday, May 6, 2011

Author Interview: Taylor Stevens

Photobucket Today, we are so excited to have up & coming author Taylor Stevens to the blog! Her debut novel The Informationist is getting a ton of buzz and it's well deserved. You can find my review here.

GJR: How did the character of Vanessa “Michael” Munroe come to be? Is she based on anyone in particular or an accumulation of people you’ve known?

TS:I wish I could say yes because then having to explain it all would make for such a fascinating answer. But truthfully, the original idea behind writing THE INFORMATIONIST, even before I had characters or a plot, or any idea really of what I would write, was to bring a location—Equatorial Guinea—to life for readers who might never have the chance to visit. The plot itself, the characters, and especially Michael Munroe, chameleon and predator, a woman with her own brand of morality and a take-no-prisoners form of justice, gradually came alive as a result of putting this rather unusual and demanding location into a novel format.

GJR: Africa is so detailed in the book. As a reader, I have a distinct feeling that you are intimately familiar with the country? Did you spend time there in your youth? What made you want to focus on these particular countries?

TS: I had lived in Equatorial Guinea for a little over two years as an adult, and also spent several months in Cameroon, so I was quite familiar with the location. Before moving to Bioko Island (the part of Equatorial Guinea where I lived) I’d already spent a year-and-a-half in East Africa, and had backpacked the 1700 miles from Nairobi, Kenya to Livingstone, Zambia, and up again, so it’s fair to say that I was somewhat familiar with living in and traveling around Africa. But, nothing that I had experienced by that point prepared me for what Equatorial Guinea would be like: a world of its own, the land that time forgot, nestled at the edge of civilization. I was quite affected by my time in Equatorial Guinea, and there was so much to write about, that it was the natural location to set the story.

GJR: Vanessa is so full of rage, anger, hurt and disappointment in the beginning of the novel but by the end she seems to have been able to find some peace. Do you think that she has finally closed the chapter on her youth?

TS: Although I expect that she will grow as a person and lay many of her demons to rest; I don’t think she’ll ever truly close the chapter on where she came from, because so much of who she is today is a result of not only her youthful past, but the resultant paths that past sent her down.

GJR: Vanessa has some powerful men in her company but for me she was more powerful and smarter than all of them. How do you think this affects her ability to gather information? She’s a great master of deception; how do you think this has shaped her psyche? Will she ever be able to fully emotionally connect to another person?

TS: From the beginning, when writing Munroe, I never viewed her in terms of strong or weak, good or evil, or even, in a sense, male or female, she just always “was” based on the life she’d lived. For her, indifference is as much a matter of survival as her knife skills because when she feels, she feels completely and deeply. She is truly a brilliant mind, and although her logic and her own awareness of her ability often do get in the way of connecting with others, it’s on a logical level—by choice—and not because she’s emotionally incapable of connecting. When she does connect, she does so fully and consciously knowing that in her line of work, there will inevitably be a price to pay for it.

GJR: Vanessa is a survivalist, yet her youth seemed very much of her choosing. How do you think her youth shaped who she became?

TS: There are elements of her personality that were there from the beginning: the insight into what made people tick, the fierce independence, the ability to see many moves in advance, and of course the savant-like language ability—these were who she was from the beginning. And then life intervened to take what was there, and transform her ability into something much more dangerous. There was at first the brutal violence, followed by fleeing Africa and trying to adapt to a completely foreign world that forged the other aspects of her personality. Combined like two halves, these separate pieces make up the whole of who she is today.

GJR: If the novel was to be made into a movie, do you have anyone in mind to play Vanessa, Miles, Kate, Francisco, Emily and Richard?

TS: Having books turned into film is such a crapshoot, and the odds so daunting, that this is one of those questions I’m afraid to answer for fear of jinxing the very, very minute possibility that THE INFORMATIONIST would be turned into a movie.

Julie's Note: If I won the lottery I would figure out how to gt this movie made.

GJR: What are you currently reading? Any favorite authors or books you return to time after time?

TS: I’m still so sorely under-read from the decades of literary deprivation that I haven’t had a chance to truly pick favorites. I am a big fan of humor, though, so I have a read a number of Christopher Moore’s and Carl Hiaasen’s books and thoroughly enjoyed them.

GJR: What makes you motivated to write? How do you avoid the dreaded writer’s block? How do you overcome writer’s block?

TS: Ultimately I’m motivated to write because I have no plan B—no other career to fall back on, no other way to pay the bills. Because of that, writing is my job and so even though I don’t have a boss or any immediate threat if I choose not to “go to work” on a particular day, I still have to treat writing as if I did. When I am working on a book, I am at my computer every weekday, and often on weekends, with very demanding production goals. I also face writers block every single day, and in response, every single day I will sit at the computer and just write until I have something to work with. It might not be much, but sometimes all that’s needed is a few sentences for the rest to build upon. I won’t kid you though, writing is not fun. It’s the “having written” part that is fun.

GJR: The ending of The Informationist pretty much guarantees a sequel. Can you give us a glimpse of what Vanessa is up to next? Any idea when it will be released?

TS: THE INNOCENT, the second installment in the Michael Munroe series, which will be released on December 27th, draws heavily on my childhood of having been raised within The Children of God. Although the story is fiction, it’s based on truth and probably the closest I’ll ever get to writing an autobiography—and I’m currently working on the third Munroe installment. (You can pre-order it on I already did).

GJR: When you write, do you have to have background noise or total quiet? Has this changed as you’ve developed as a writer?

TS: It kind of varies day to day between silence and music. I can write with background noise, but not with background chaos, which is why I generally have to work around my children’s schedule. I consider their school hours to be my work hours, although in terms of production this isn’t the most ideal. My greatest creative time is late, late at night and into the wee morning, but because I have to be up early to get the kids ready for school, I’m rarely able to access those hours.

A HUGE thanks to Taylor Stevens for taking time out of her schedule (she's on deadline) to answer our questions.

For further information on her you can find her on
Facebook, Twitter: @taylor_stevens and her personal website Taylor Stevens



DarcyO May 6, 2011 at 8:59 AM  

Great interview! I so enjoyed The Informationist and can't wait to read the sequel.

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