Earlier this year I read The Informationist and did a Q&A with Ms. Stevens. Well, she's back with another Munroe book, The Innocent, that I reviewed yesterday. We are lucky enough to have her back to do another Q&A with us.
GJR: In The Informationist, the idea spawned from wanting to highlight certain countries in Africa and The Innocent is somewhat based on personal experience. How were they different to write? Was one easier than the other?
Taylor Stevens (TS): One was definitely faster than the other, but I wouldn’t say that it was necessarily easier. THE INFORMATIONIST took about three years to write, and when it sold, it was as the first in a two-book contract. Problem was, I didn’t have a second book. I so desperately needed the money, and was so terrified that I wouldn’t be able to write a comparable sequel and might have to give money back, that spurred on by fear alone I basically finished THE INNOCENT in six months. The story is straight up fiction, but at the same time, it is as close to an autobiography as I will probably ever write. Hannah’s story and her experiences are emphatically not mine, but in order to write her, I had to return to situations and emotions from my childhood, and in the process had more than one meltdown moment digging up a lot of pain that I hadn’t touched for awhile. So faster, yes. Easier, not so much.
GJR: Were you as familiar with Argentina as you were with Africa? If not, how much research went into understanding Buenos Aries?
TS: I was familiar with Argentina in a sort of passing sense—a lot of my friends grew up there, but I’d never been to South America. I spent a lot of time reading about the country, looking at maps, and talking to people who’d lived there. Once I had the story finished, I made a trip down and basically followed Munroe’s path to be sure that I got things right. I’d nailed a lot of it through research, but I also got a lot wrong—things I just couldn’t know unless I’d been there in person to see it with my own eyes.
GJR: We see Munroe wrestle with her demons via her nightmares in The Innocent. Will she ever fully work through her past? If she gained peace in her life, would it change how she worked?
TS: One thing pointed out to me by readers is that Munroe seems to be, not so much defined by her past, but on a quest to defy it. I find that to be a very apt observation. I don’t know if she will ever truly find peace—not because of the violence that made her what she is, but because of the conscience she bears for the choices she has made since. If and when she does find peace, I expect she will lose a lot of the edge—that borderline insanity that drives her, and should some unfortunate soul push her into using her skill set, she will become even more brutal and calculatingly dangerous than she already is.
GJR: Munroe is just as lethal as ever but she’s able to rein it in when she needs to, do you think this makes her more lethal in some ways because she can control it?
TS: Munroe is definitely growing as a character—much in the same way we as real people grow and change in response to events in our lives. In THE INNOCENT we’re also seeing aspects of her personality that weren’t as clearly on display in THE INFORMATIONIST due to the circumstances she was in.
GJR: Will we see Hannah in a future Munroe novel? I’d like to see how she is dealing with the changes in her life.
TS: At this point, I’m not really sure. Real life has a tendency to be messy and leave a lot open ended, and I tend do that with the lives of the characters in my books, too—we see them as they pass through Munroe’s orbit, but don’t necessarily go home with them to find out how it all ends once her role is finished. But who knows? We’ll have to see how these stories play out down the road.
GJR: How do you feel Twitter has helped you as an author? What is your favorite aspect of being on Twitter? (@Taylor_Stevens)
TS: I use Twitter more on a personal level than in any successful social media marketing sense, so I’m not really sure if Twitter has helped me as an author. One thing for sure, it’s an awesome procrastination tool! I am a big fan of my fans, and Twitter has allowed me to connect and interact with a number of readers that I probably never would have otherwise, and for me that’s a very special thing.
GJR: Was writing The Innocent cathartic for you? Did it help or hinder you that this was as close to an autobiography that you will ever get?
TS: Because there is so much misinformation floating around about my own childhood, as well as The Children of God in general, it was extremely important to me on a personal level to bring this book into the world with all the truth I had to offer. But the problem with truth in fiction is that it can also be very limiting and can box the writer in—it’s far easier to create a high concept story when you can make everything up. This, combined with the very personal nature of the material, made writing THE INNOCENT quite difficult, but I am very happy with the end product. Now when people ask me what it was like growing up in The Children of God, I can simply point to this book and say, “this’ll get you started.”
GJR: I know that there is a third book with Ms. Munroe in it, tentatively titled The Doll. Can you give us a quick synopsis? Will this be the last one?
TS: I really hope THE DOLL is not the last in the Munroe series, but what happens next depends a lot on reader response to THE INNOCENT. Hint, hint. Here’s what I have on my website about THE DOLL: In Dallas, Texas, Vanessa Michael Munroe's close friend, Logan, is violently kidnapped. In broad daylight, Munroe is tranquilized and abducted while Miles Bradford, the man she loves, witnesses the incident and can do nothing to stop it. Tying these threads together is a mysterious figure with an ambiguous past, a man known only as The Doll Maker, who has come to collect on a debt that Munroe must repay. While Bradford races to find her, Munroe is thrust into a world of human trafficking and sexual slavery. To keep Logan alive, she must deliver a missing Hollywood starlet--merchandise and real life doll--but by succeeding she'll guarantee the young girl's demise. Munroe must choose who lives, who dies, or find a way to out-think and out-smart a man who holds all the cards, because otherwise, win or lose, she will pay her dues in the only currency she values: innocent life.
GJR: What is the hardest part of the writing process for you? Is it getting the initial draft done, editing, etc?
TS: Definitely the initial draft. I can’t even begin to describe how painful and difficult and time consuming it is for me to get that initial draft laid down.
GJR: It seems like authors are under an incredible amount of pressure to produce books quickly these days, have you found that to be true? Do you think it’s limited to those debut authors who need to prove themselves?
TS: I’ve never felt pressure from anyone on my publishing team to produce quickly. THE INNOCENT was completed way ahead of schedule, but that was due to my own fear and insecurity—I needed to get it done just to reassure myself that I actually could. If anything, I’ve been told to take my time, and that if I need more to just let them know. I heart my publisher.
Heartfelt thanks to Taylor for taking the time to answer the questions. Now, I just have to waiting patiently for The Doll. In the meantime, if you haven't read The Informationist go buy it and pre-order The Innocent which will be released by Crown Publishing on 12/27/2011.