Tara Ellis is the author of the Forgotten Origins trilogy, consisting of Bloodline, Heritage, and Descent. Books 1 and 2 are out already; #3, Descent, will be published September 30th. You can follow her on Twitter @taraellisblood.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Ms Ellis the other day; she was kind enough to take time from her busy day to answer a few of my questions. Enjoy!
Where did you get the idea for your trilogy?
You know, I’ve been asked this question several times now after someone finishes the story, and I still haven’t come up with a good way to answer it. I think that it’s been brewing and tumbling around in my head for a very long time.
When I finally had the time to commit to writing a full-length novel, I had recently finished the Hunger Games. Until then, I really hadn’t given much thought to writing in the first-person POV, but I was intrigued by it. So that was the first step.
I’ve always been a huge Sci-fi/invasion/plague fan, so that was a natural plot concept. My daughter was fourteen when I started so it was important for me to produce something that she and her friends could read which is why it’s such a clean read. That’s hard to find any more in the YA genre.
I LOVE a good conspiracy theory, and I even wrote ATS (Above Top Secret), a real conspiracy message board website, into the book. I used them as a resource for some of my research…and there was a lot of research. I spent hours upon hours looking things up and trying to come up with ways to tie them all together. It becomes more apparent in the second and third book, but I weave quite a large web of plot lines and it took a whole lot of planning.
The story itself…it just happened, as I tied all of my plot ideas together and then imagined my character, Alex, and how she would handle it. I daydreamed, dreamed, outlined, and thought about it for a couple of months. It evolved and grew as I wrote it and at one point, it seemed to take over and I was just along for the ride.
There is a theme of faith, Christian faith, throughout the books. Tell me about it.
Yes. I took a chance with this. It’s always risky to introduce any sort of religious undertone, because some readers can be put off by it.
One of my major goals with Bloodline was to make believable, relatable characters. While Chris is deeply involved in his local church, preparing for a mission trip, Alex is alienated from it. She questions faith and God. I think that a lot of us, especially teens, are in that boat.
Without giving too much away, it was necessary to introduce some scripture from the Bible, because it is a key element in explaining whom they are dealing with later on. BUT…I wasn’t exclusive to the Christian faith. I also used Sumerian script, ancient Egyptian culture, and Native American legends to tie it all together.
Bloodline, Heritage and certainly not Descent are preachy in any way. Although I believe in God, I don’t believe in trying to force one’s faith on anyone. I think it’s more important to realize that we’re all connected…perhaps more than we realize which is where I went.
I find it fascinating, that you can look through various ancient text taken from different locales and eras, and find certain similarities. THIS is what I focused on in The Forgotten Origins Trilogy. EVERY ancient story, scripture, and legend that I present in my trilogy is real. How I connected them though, was purely my imagination at work.
Later in the trilogy, while Alex continues to struggle with what it is she believes about God or a creator, it is a mild theme, but I think a believable one. Other characters also have their beliefs tested and my hope is that the reader can relate to their confusion and internal debate and come to their own conclusions.
The Egyptian heritage of Alex is not your average background for a YA heroine; was that just to make it easier to move the plot forward?
No. I didn’t actually figure out how that all tied into things, until later in my story development. My first goal when outlining Bloodline was to make it unique.
I have some pet peeves. Being a science fiction fan, it is extremely important to me, that a story NOT be predictable or generic. I wanted Alex to be a character that the reader would remember after they put the book down. Yes, she’s relatable, but I think that as a writer, to achieve that connection with the reader, she has to be different.
So while her heritage becomes a major factor in the plot, my desire originally was to have something fresh and not done before. This was my motivation. Egyptian culture, at least to me, is still something I’m not familiar with. Because of the pyramids and all of the mystery and legend and history surrounding them, it was a natural choice for me as a writer, to be pulled in that direction.
SO…I made Alex half Egyptian and gave her the dark, mysterious features to go along with it. THEN, I started the long journey of using that as my starting point for her story.
Describe your typical writing routine; how does your day go? How long did it take for you to write each book?
I found that I write best in the morning hours. In the summer, I would settle down to write before everyone was up, and during the school year, after the kids left for school.
I normally turn on some quiet, relaxation music (without words) and light a nice smelling candle. I have to write EVERY day, or else I lose my momentum. I also have very poor short-term memory, so I’ll actually forget what I wrote and have to go back and read it, if I don’t write consistently.
Bloodline took the shortest amount of time. The outline took around two months and I wrote the book itself in just under one month. The edit process was a bit scattered though and I didn’t
complete the final edit until after it had already been published, because as a new writer…I had a lot to learn!
Heritage took another two months on the outline and closer to two months to write. It is 20,000 words longer than Bloodline and much more intricate. I learned a lot about character building, and I feel like I grew as a writer.
Descent, (release date September 30th) was a huge undertaking. I still had SO much story to tell, and it was really important to me to do it right. I’ve come to love these characters and their story.
My other pet peeve is believability. You know when you’re reading a story or watching a movie and you go…”Oh come one! They would never do that!” Yeah. I can’t stand that. If anyone has a moment like that with any of my books…please tell me!
With Descent being the last book, it was critical that I tie everything in together in a believable way and do the story justice. So I took a lot of time. At least three, maybe four months on the outline. When I say outline, I mean over fifty pages of it.
I would have done it all faster, but I was in a car accident on the freeway. I was hit from behind and got pretty severe whiplash, so I wasn’t able to sit up at my computer long enough to write. But you know what? This forced me to take even more time on the outline, which resulted in a better story. I honestly believe that.
Writing it took about three months. It’s 95,000 words and I poured myself into every one of them. I hope that you like Descent as much as I do.
What is next on your agenda? Are you working on anything right now?
I literally JUST completed the final edit on Descent…but yes, I already have another project underway!
I’ve decided to narrate and produce my own audiobooks. I’m starting with my MG story: The Mystery of Hollow Inn. This is another love of mine. I have a whole series planned out, much like the Nancy Drew Mystery Series or the Boxcar Children.
It’s a small story, so won’t take me long to record. I figure I’ll learn the ropes and work out any bugs in the production end of it, so I’ll be ready to go for the Forgotten Origins Trilogy.
I am actually very excited about it. I have been involved in drama for most of my life, but still, I was going to have someone else narrate it until I was encouraged by a couple of people that I sound just as good as the professional narrators. To be honest with you, I think there is a lot of truth in the belief that no one can tell the story better than the writer can, when it comes to how you portray the characters.
So be on the lookout for the audio versions. It shouldn’t take me long to produce them. And then who knows? I might not be able to stay away from the world I created in Forgotten Origins for too long.