I recently finished a novel called Chasers written by H.W. Vivian. It is a Young Adult story about three kids – Shelby, May, and Gary – who live in Winston, Colorado. Each of them is born with what is called “the condition”, a local affliction where a child is born in a jewel embedded in him and cannot walk on natural ground. However, the condition is tied to a century-long curse, and Shelby must put aside her differences with May and Gary in order to unravel the mystery behind their strange connection before it is too late.
The story is a fun read, fast-paced, and certainly very unique. Personally, I’m always curious about things like where authors get their ideas, what their writing process is like, and what they’ve learned from their experience with the publishing world. I know H.W. Vivian personally, and as such I couldn’t pass up the unique opportunity to ask her some questions about her story, her inspirations, and her experience with self-publishing. She was gracious enough to answer my questions, and I’ve provided those answers below.
What made you want to write this story?
I wanted to write this story because I kind of thought a lot of popular young adult characters were either too unrealistically good-hearted that it’s impossible not to like them, or way too tragic that it’s hard not to feel sympathetic for them, and thus, like them for their shortcomings. I wanted to create a story with characters that were flawed, but real (Shelby for her arrogance, Gary for his moodiness, and May for her physical limitations). I think their transformations throughout the story, especially in Shelby’s case, makes them more believable, and are more deserving of people’s admiration than characters whose thinking and outlooks on life remain the same from beginning to end.
Where did you get the ideas/inspiration for it?
My greatest inspiration for this story was from observing people that I knew from my childhood. I actually had a dream about the three main characters one night many years ago, and wrote the beginning, middle, and end of the story. I didn’t think that I’d ever expand it out into a whole novel, but fortunately, I did!
It seems that a lot of your inspiration came from the three primary protagonists, but I was curious about why you chose to have the Native American influence in your story? Was that something that you planned initially, or was it an element you added as you developed the story?
The Native American influence actually came about randomly. My addition of the Spirit Man as well as the minor character, Chandler, were inspired by a friend who is Native American. Through random conversations, he told me a lot about his family’s viewpoints on American colonization many centuries ago, and also his own perception of his life growing up in the United States in the twenty-first century, and I decided that those would be an interesting things to add to the story of Chasers.
How much research did you do on Native American culture for the story? Are “the condition” or other elements that we see in the story based on Native American lore?
While my preferred method of research is through personal interviews, I did do some research on Native Americans on the internet, and I looked specifically at the Ute Indians in the mid to late 1800s, because, according to my research, that tribe was the earliest occupier of the Colorado-Rocky Mountain area, and that time period was the peak of American coal-mining. I only included some of my research in the actual story, though. For example, animals, specifically wolves and dogs, played a big role in Ute lore. The Spirit Man’s shape-shifting companion, Haintseh, actually means “friend” in the Ute language because they do not believe that anything in nature is inferior to humans; everything is mortal, and everything is equal. Man cannot own animals, but only befriend them.
The “condition” and the diamonds were elements that I added in from my own imagination. Any mineralogist or jeweler would tell you that diamonds cannot be found anywhere in North America, but including them in the mystical cave in Chasers was a “wow” factor that I wanted to create because of its impossibility. And I guess I added the “condition” in there because it sounds scary to be buried alive every time you walk onto dirt. You basically can’t go anywhere!
So I was curious about Steve’s daughter. She seems to have magical powers in the sense that she can see the future, but this isn’t really expanded on much, and as far as I could tell she wasn’t a Conditional. Why didn’t we learn more about her? Or is she the type of character we could see more of in a potential sequel?
I guess I wanted Steve’s daughter to be a “wild card” sort of character. A lot of stories have them. They’re usually magical entities like fairies and unicorns that just happen to show up out of nowhere when the main protagonists really need help. If I was to write a sequel, she would definitely be in there again.
Chasers is targeted more towards young readers, but I know that you are currently working on a book for adults. Do you prefer writing for one audience over another, and if so why?
Yes, I am close to releasing my humor novel, Days of Amber, which will be targeted toward adults. I honestly enjoy writing for everyone. Although Chasers is categorized as “young adult”, there are a lot of adults I know who have told me they found very mature themes in it, and also enjoyed revisiting a bit of their own coming of age while writing my first novel. As for Days of Amber, well…you’ll just have to read it.
I know you self-published this story, so I had a couple of questions about that. Why did you choose to take that route over traditional publishing? Was your self-publishing experience positive and would you do it again that way, or would you seek to publish traditionally in the future? Do you have any advice for other authors who might be considering self-publishing?
I chose self-publishing mostly because I didn’t feel like there was a traditional publisher that would understand my story. A lot of the ones I considered sending queries to (during mid to late 2013) wanted stories about vampires, werewolves, and the apocalypse, none of which had anything to do with Chasers. So I gathered up a bit of money, roughly $5,000, and self-published my book. The experience I had with Lulu, which was the service that I used to publish Chasers, was extremely positive. I highly recommend them to all writers who want to take the self-publishing route.
And yes, I would do it again, if I had the money. My advice for authors considering self-publishing is to prepare a LOT of money to cover costs associated with buying ISBNs, printing, cover design (unless they have the skill to design their own covers), and the big one, marketing. Other than that, being a self-published author is just the same as being a traditionally published author.
Who are your favorite or most inspirational authors and why?
Some of my most inspirational authors are J. K. Rowling, Stephen King, and Lois Lowry.
I admire J. K. Rowling for her “rags to riches” story, and I also admire Stephen King because he is a very detailed and meticulous writer. I admire Lois Lowry because her writing has a sort of spiritualism to it.
Can you give me some insight into your writing process?
I think I write best when there’s food in my stomach. I can’t do anything without feeding myself, haha. Also, I don’t think music helps writers a lot, especially music with lyrics. When you’re trying to write down your own words, listening to someone else singing words does not help!