Monday, May 8, 2017

Cover Reveal and Interview: Legacy Strain by Taylor Brooke!

Taylor Brooke is a traveling story-teller, believer in magic, and a science fiction junkie. She writes inclusive LGBTQ+ novels for teens and adults. She's the author of the resistance-inspired YA trilogy The Isolation Series. The last book in the series, Legacy Strain, comes out June 6. The first book in her romance series Fortitude Smashed was acquired by Interlude Press and releases September 21, 2017. You can find her at her website or on Twitter.

Check out the cover reveal for Legacy Strain below!

Sweet, right? I also got to chat with Taylor at length about her writing and other hobbies.

Tell us about yourself. How long have you been writing?

Well, first off, I’m not very good at telling people about myself. But fun facts: I live in a little mountain town in Central Oregon, but I’m from Southern California and my heart still resides there. I’m a Queer author and I write Queer books – science fiction, magical realism, contemporary – I dabble in a few different styles and genres. Yes, I really do have Godzilla and Mothra tattooed on my arm. I’m 25 and in a constant state of wanderlust. I’ve been writing since I was little, but my focus sharpened in high school. Fan fiction was my safe place, because I could write the stories I didn’t get to see in mass media – Queer happy endings. After I wrote a few lengthy fandom works, I started plotting my first young adult novel Weaponized which turned into Omen Operation after it was acquired. It’s been about two years since I started in the publishing world.

What attracted you to writing science fiction and dystopian stories?

You know, it’s cliché, but I had a dream about Omen Operation. I woke up and typed a messy, sleepy note to myself in my phone and showed it to my roommate in the morning. I didn’t exactly know what to do with the idea, but it was there and I couldn’t not do something about it. My brother (roommate) told me to outline it and let it sit for a while. So, I did. I opened a Word document and titled it “Weird Post-Apocalyptic Thing”. A few months later I came back to it, fleshed out some of the main characters, and started writing. Oddly enough, The Isolation Series turned into Urban Science Fiction rather than post-apocalyptic, but it still has a dystopian mood. I’ve always been drawn to Science Fiction. My Dad and I are huge Star Wars junkies. I’m a Pacific Rim fanatic and I watch The Fifth Element anytime it’s on. The fantastic elements of Scifi and the jarring realism that comes with most dystopian stories made it easy to fall in love with the genre. I think it’s important to explore realities we haven’t faced yet, or in 2017, realities that might be right around the corner.

Tell me about Legacy Strain, the upcoming third book in The Isolation Series. What are some of the unique challenges of writing a series? Is there anything you wish you would've done differently?

I always knew Omen Operation would have a sequel, but I never knew the series would be a trilogy. When the micro-press I signed with drafted the contract they asked how many books I had in mind. I honestly didn’t have a clue, but three sounded good, so I signed for three. ECHO Campaign, the second book, was almost half-way done when I signed the contract, and I doubled my efforts to get it completed. I didn’t know what the third book would be about yet, but then the second half of 2016 happened, and then 2017 happened, and I knew I had to redirect my efforts. I ran with some ideas I hadn’t had the courage to play with – polyamory, resistance, anti-heroes, conservation, activism, and Legacy Strain was the result. I think one of the toughest challenges when it comes to writing a series is the continuity of characterization while providing adequate growth. With a cast as large as mine, 10 prominent characters, I had to weave in small, individual arcs while focusing on Brooklyn, the protagonist, and her inner struggles. I hope readers can resonate with where the Omens and Legacies end up. It was a lot of blood, sweat and tears to go on this journey with them.

What is your next project?

I actually have a book coming out three months after Legacy Strain, a completely different concept and mood and voice, and I’m very, very proud of it. Fortitude Smashed was picked up by Interlude Press in late 2016. It’s a new adult contemporary romance set in Laguna Beach, California. It’s a play on the soulmate trope, where people have timers implanted under their thumbnails, counting down to the exact moment they’ll meet their soulmate. A detective ends up fated with an art thief, and a fun, complex romance ensues. There’s a lot I had to unpack to write this book and I can’t wait for September 21st, when it’ll finally be in the world.

What are some of your favorite SFF reads?

I have a few, but I think Lost Stars by Claudia Grey has to be my all time favorite. It’s a Star Wars YA and I absolutely adored it. Speaking of which, I think it’s time for a re-read. Another is Not Your Sidekick by C.B Lee which is a super cute, fun superhero book with a bisexual protagonist. I loved it. On the magical realism side, Maggie Stiefvater has my heart with The Raven Cycle.

What kinds of queer stories do you want to see more of?

Everything. All of it. I want to see more established Queer characters. Give me characters who are Queer on page one, who have a group of Queer friends, who are understood by their peers and don’t have to explain themselves again and again. I love a good coming out story, but I think they should be left to ownvoices writers at this point. I’m hungry for swoony romance in YA that centers a Queer relationship. More New Adult that isn’t fetishizing of Queer life. More re-tellings like The Seafarer’s Kiss and Peter, Darling would be amazing to see.

Do your characters and plot draw any inspiration from your own life?

Yes. I avoided putting too much of myself into The Isolation Series, but Fortitude Smashed was a different story. I started writing Fortitude Smashed in the dead of my first winter in Central Oregon. I missed home. I missed my friends and warm weather and Laguna Beach, so I started playing around with some scenes in that particular setting. I had no idea it would become what it became. I poured myself onto the pages, I just wrote and wrote for weeks until it was done. I pieced together the scenes and chapters, read it, and broke down crying in my office. There was so much of myself on the pages, so much I’d kept hidden and hadn’t had the courage to talk about, and it was staring back at me in book-form. I sent it to my brother and he told me it was my best work to date, but he says that about everything I send him. He also said he saw me all over the pages, and himself, and our young life, being reckless and wild in Laguna Beach. I cherish this book. I cherish the mental health aspects, the way the characters fall in love backward, the exploration of being in your twenties, growing up and into yourself at a time when everything seems to be going a million miles an hour. It’s an important book to me, and I hope readers enjoy it.

What do you do besides writing?

I work at a metaphysical shop. I sell crystals and rocks and sage and tarot cards. It’s the perfect day job for me. I get to bring my laptop to work and write while I’m here, and the energy is amazing. I’m also a Special Effects Makeup Artist. I worked in Los Angeles for a while, making monsters and gross wounds. I still love it. Every Halloween I bust my SFX kit out and do some crazy makeup on myself.

How much writing do you get done in an average week, and how do you motivate yourself to stay on-track?

I average 1500-2000 words a day. Sometimes it’s less, sometimes it’s more. I’ll get anxiety if I’m not writing or keeping to a schedule, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have days where I only write 500 words. It happens. I also take a day off a week to spend time with family and friends, go on hikes, get out of my head for a little bit. I’ll sometimes take a break from books to focus on a short fan fiction or novella. I like to travel. After I finished Omen Operation I went to Thailand, and after I finished ECHO Campaign and Fortitude Smashed I went to London. I’m planning on Cambodia next since I’ve finished some secret projects I can’t talk about just yet.

Any advice you'd like to give other authors?

Keep writing. Don’t give up. Publishing is a hard industry to break into, but there are people out there who want your book. Whether you decide to self-publish, or hybrid-publish, or traditionally publish, there’s someone who will enjoy what you’ve written. I started in hybrid-publishing and it gave me the tools to carry into my career in traditional publishing, and I’m still hustling to get to the next phase of my career. Take your time, keep your friends close, and write from your heart, always.  

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