Interview: Mari Adkins, Author of Midnight

AdkinsMidnightHello everyone, please welcome Mari Adkins. She’s launching her book, Midnight, today! And she had time to swing by here and chat about the usefulness of Google maps, Buck Rogers, bloodlines, and Harlan County. You can check more about her book at Apex Publications.

1. What fictional world would you like to visit for the holidays? Is there a fictional holiday that you would like to take part in?

People are probably sick to death of me going on and on about Cornwall, brown betty teapots, and Penelope. But if I could go anywhere, I’d like to spend time inside Rosamunde Pilcher‘s The Shell Seekers. It would make me insanely happy to visit Penelope at Podmore’s Thatch and have lunch and afternoon tea. I would think around the middle of April would be perfect. The flowers and trees in her gardens would be sprouting and blooming. The vegetable garden would have been turned and seasonally planted. Everything would be homey, especially with the singing birds and laundry on the clothesline. And of course, inside, her father’s painting would still be hanging on the wall.

2. Reality in my fiction: how important is it? Lengthy travel, cussing, and bathroom breaks happen in real life. How do you address these mundane occurrences in your writings?

Reality in my fiction is just as important as the paranormal along with everything else. My Harlan County is, of course, based on a real place.

It’s a three hour road trip from Loyall, Kentucky, to Lexington. Likewise, it takes forty-five minutes to get from Loyall to Middlesborough, which is more or less halfway to Knoxville, Tennessee. So yes, getting places takes time. With Sami’s stories, she usually went to sleep, unless she was driving; then, I’d make note of the length of the drive, insert a discussion (if any), and have the characters listen to music and/or check out the scenery and/or think Really Deep Thoughts.

I don’t know about my characters, but personally, I require a pit stop at the Happy Mart in Pineville on the way to Lexington, followed by another at Renfro Valley Shell; reverse that for the trip from Lexington. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve sometimes had to add a stop, each way, in Corbin.

There’s plenty of cussing in Midnight. I tried to tame a lot of them, but Sami is fond of her many f-bombs. I’ve tried to use a bit more creativity in the teenagers I’m writing now. Teens are going to swear; it’s as much part of finding their identities as the clothes they wear and the music they listen to. Sometimes saying, “charlie foxtrot”, “cuss panties”, or “my hind foot” don’t and can’t convey how someone truly feels in a given moment.

My characters end up in showers, baths, and looking in the mirror a lot. It’s not uncommon or strange for them to end up doing these things together. Females tend to get their periods right on schedule without any comment. But if it comes as a “bad time”, the reader hears about it, plenty.

SizemoreAinsworthAegriSomnia3. More and more we see fiction being multimedia – a book, a TV show, a PC game, a graphic novel. How do you see the publishing industry evolving to handle this trend? Any cross over pieces (TV to book, book to PC, etc.) that you have enjoyed?

I reserve comment on how I feel publishing should be handling such changes. I can say I can’t see them as trends; I definitely see them as change. Having said that, I’m a big fan of The Walking Dead and Justified. While I haven’t read the TWD graphic novels, I have read the short “Fire in the Hole” that the pilot for Justified was based on.

4. What nonfiction works have you found useful in building fictional worlds, cultures, and plots?

As I’ve mentioned, Harlan County, Kentucky, is a real place. So, in a way, a lot of my worldbuilding is already done for me. However, I’ve made use of digital and print histories, genealogies, maps, and photographs. Mostly my own photographs–with the exception of the story set in 1959, obviously. I spent 1995 to 2013 talking with Art Halcomb Sr about Harlan County. We got to the point where he’d sometimes call me with questions. The running joke in our family is that I know more about the county than some of the people who live there.

Google Maps with street view has been useful. Not much of the county is available on street view, unfortunately, but there’s just enough that if I need to know real quick what something looks like, I can click through–which is often simpler than combing through a gigabyte of pictures.

I’m also one of those writers who creates or downloads floorplans of the buildings my characters spend the most time in. If I don’t, I’m sure to write a character going through a wall instead of taking a flight of stairs, looking out a window that doesn’t exist (onto a view that doesn’t exist), or taking an elevator into oblivion.

I’ve also made use of a 1995 county telephone book so I have authentic local names. For example, I might pull a last name from one part of the county and a first name from another and use that to start building a character.

AdkinsHarlanCountyHorrors5. In writing your bad guys, do you want the reader to enjoy hating on him/her, or do you want the reader to be waiting for that magical moment when they redeem themselves?

I’m one of those writers who doesn’t write physical bad guys. Sometimes readers have difficulty comprehending the lack of a physical antagonist. Readers are conditioned to believe a boogeyman or other kind of physical threat is necessary. But neither is. Just like in real life, characters don’t have to wage physical battles to grow as individuals. My leads battle their inner selves. Sure, there’s outward conflict. But inward battles can be even more damaging and traumatic than what we might face from someone else.

6. As a young reader, unspoiled by the realities of this world, what stories and authors drove you to delusions of grandeur, expecting to be swept up into a magical tale or a laser battle?

Anything by Arthur C. Clarke or Ray Bradbury gave me this. When we studied space in second grade (way back in 1976), I fully expected to be living on the moon by 2010. I thought that would be so awesome. Space stations, lunar colonies, daytrips to Mars, and so forth. I thought this would be common. I got my laser battles from visual media–Star Wars and Buck Rodgers. I’ve always envisioned a future world made of science filled with magic, which in my opinion, aren’t mutually exclusive; they comprise a whole.

ScullyEnterAtYourOwnRisk7. Writing in the fantasy genre, how do you take the standard tropes and turn them sideways? Or even upside down?

I wanted to write a “human having a vampire problem” story. How would it be if vampirism wasn’t at all like we’ve learned from books, movies, and even common folklore? How would it be if this vampirism was genetic, passed through bloodlines?

I kept asking What if? What if? What if?

My characters are human first. The vampire certainly lies at their core, but the vampire isn’t what or who they are. They aren’t monsters. They’re people. They have jobs, go to school, have parties, visit family and friends, have babies, fall in love–and have real, human problems.

One of the characters is quite fond of telling anyone who’ll listen, “You’re a vampire. Being a vampire is pain.” And that, to me, encompasses the entire human condition.
Humans have limits. Humans can be pushed only so far before they break–figuratively and literally. Vampire genetics makes that a bit trickier. They still become ill, grow old, get hurt, be killed–anything that can happen to a “regular human” can happen to them. The vampire genetics can make all that better or worse, depending on the overall health and mindset of the person at his core.

8. How did you celebrate that first time experience of having a piece accepted for publication?

My first reaction to having something published was, “Are you serious?” I jumped up and down a bit then had a glass of wine. I love a party, but I’m not much of a party person, despite the jokes I make about holding raves. The feeling returned when I received the anthology and got to hold it in my hands. I’d sometimes go to the shelf and look at it and see if it was really there. Or I’d read the table of contents–just in case!

9. Finally, what upcoming events and works would you like to share with the readers?

Midnight, my debut novel, launches May 27th. I have a signing June 7th at the Lexington Farmers Market at The Morris Book Shop booth.

AdkinsMidnightSynopsis of Midnight:

Samantha Clark has always known she was different. Growing up feeling unwanted and unloved, she escaped a bad childhood by going to college. There she quickly fell into an unhealthy relationship in an attempt to form a connection with another person, to be needed and loved in a way she had always craved. When the abuse becomes life-threatening, Sami is on the run again, turning to a college-friend for help. What she finds is not only a place to crash while she tries to make a plan for the future, but acceptance, friendship, and a new hope of ‘family’.

Set in rural Kentucky in 1985, Midnight is the inward journey of Sami’s self-loathing, self-reflection, and eventual self-acceptance. Through the love of her friends and the mysterious Michael, Sami not only heals from the scars given earlier in life, she finds her personal strength.

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