Monday, April 27, 2015

Author Interview and Book Review: Shadow of Deception by Sophia L. Johnson



Hi Sophia and thanks so much for coming to my blog! I’m super excited to have you here and have a bazillion questions about you, your debut novel SHADOW OF DECEPTION, and the cause you’re donating all your first year’s profit to. Let’s start there. Please tell me a little bit more about Covenant House and why this particular charity is so near and dear to your heart?

Covenant House is the largest charity in the Americas dedicated to help homeless, abandoned, abused, trafficked, and exploited youth.  They have shelters across the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.  They have a wide array of programs designed to provide youth in need with a holistic approach to leaving the streets and achieving independence.

I used to teach at a career college in downtown Toronto and there was a Covenant House shelter nearby.  I saw many homeless kids needing care and guidance during the time.  In my teaching I also encountered some under-privileged students who were trying their best to make something out of their lives despite the difficult circumstances they were in.  I wanted to help and encourage them because as cliché as it sounds, they are the future of our society.  They can do great things just like any other kids.  They just need a little help along the way so they can get there.


 

I've had similar experiences with Teen Challenge in San Diego through my church, which is why I reached out to you. (Readers, check out more about Covenant House and donate here.) Did you decide to donate to Covenant House before or after you began writing Shadow of Deception?

I decided to use my book as a fund-raising tool for Covenant House after I began writing it.  To be honest, Shadow of Deception is the first full length novel I've ever written and I didn't even think it could make it this far until it was almost done.

Is SHADOW OF DECEPTION traditionally or self-published? How did this affect your decision to donate to Covenant House?

It is self-published and it didn't really affect my decision either way.  In fact, self-publishing made this happen much quicker and I have full control over the entire process.

Although the book is not traditionally published, I did go through a querying process before I decided to self-publish.  I queried over forty agents and had some positive feedback and a couple of manuscript requests but it only went as far as that.  I could have continued querying but I knew this battle could go on for a long time.  I just wanted my first book to be printed exactly how I like it to be and in a timely manner.

Where did the inspiration or ideas for SHADOW OF DECEPTION come from?

I remember having a spark of imagination in my head one night that I should create a character like Kazumi and that was the start of it all.  I didn't have anything else to build on or even a plot.  I just sat down and started typing.  I remember telling my husband that I was going to write a novel.  He looked at me from the corner of his eye and said, “Sure dear,” and went back to watching his show.

I love Kaz’s voice, especially as her memories return. Did she come to you as a fully formed character or did you have to take some time to develop her before you started writing?

To elaborate on the previous question, she did come to me as my primary inspiration.  I wanted her to drive the story and any changes I made were not to her as a character but how she influenced the plot.

It’s really hard for me to write romantic parts in YA novels. How are you at it? Did Kaz and Finn’s slowly budding relationship challenge you?

Actually not at all.  Kaz and Finn's relationship came quite easily to me.  I think this is because I've always daydreamed about awkward and weird romantic situations ever since I was a little girl.  (Oh I think that came out wrong.  By weird I didn't mean anything kinky.  Oh God no!)  I meant I like complications in a relationship.  Make them work for it.  It builds a stronger bond between the characters.  The hardest part of writing Kaz and Finn was trying to keep it grounded, realistic, and of course PG.  I did have to delete a couple of scenes that were too steamy.

Steamy scenes can happen in YA. I've read some that make me blush. But you seemed to figure out the perfect balance in this novel. Diversity is such a hot topic right now, and your novel fits the bill perfectly with Kaz’s Japanese ancestry highlighting the back story. Was that part of your original novel planning or did it come in later versions of the manuscript?

I love that you brought this up.  I knew the minute I concocted her in my mind that she'd be mixed race.  The only thing I had to decide on was what mixed with what.  I didn't want her to be Chinese because being Chinese myself, I think it'd be hitting too close to home.  But I needed a heritage that I have a good understanding of, hence Japanese.  (My parents lived in Japan when they were young and I took a couple years of Japanese myself.)

I've heard writing industry professionals talk about how often diversity takes over a book, but you really managed to make it part of who Kaz is rather than what she's all about. Bravo! What was your favorite part of SHADOW OF DECEPTION to write? Which was the most difficult?

I loved writing scenes where Kaz kicked ass.  I felt like she deserved those moments after what she had been through.  It was thrilling and satisfying for me.

The most difficult parts had to be scenes where I killed off my characters.  Needless to say a lot of tissues were used during the writing of those scenes.  I even scared my husband one time when he came home and saw my mascara-streaked face bawling over the laptop.

I actually think that the fighting scenes were some of the best parts of the novel, so I can see why you loved writing them! Is SHADOW OF DECEPTION considered speculative fiction or science fiction?

A very good question!  The simple answer is both.  But I labeled it science fiction based on the elements of the genetically advanced humans and the fact that more people can relate to this genre.  But in terms of the world setting, I think it's definitely speculative. 

Is there a sequel to SHADOW OF DECEPTION being written? If so, can you give us some hints?

Definitely!  I have two more books planned in this series.  The main plot of the second book has been drafted.  There will be deception of course but less shadows.  While the first book focused on the Sarcomeres, the second book will cast light on the Neuronics.  We will also explore Kaz and Finn's relationship a bit further and who knows, maybe I might throw in another love interest.  Dun-Dun-Duuun!!!!!

AH! A love triangle?!?! Now I'm going to be so impatient for book two! :0) What else do you have in the works now? Story ideas? A manuscript in progress? Any hints?

The next two novels will keep me busy for a while.  Not to mention I have a little munchkin at home who takes up a lot of my time as well. :)

I'm a mommy too, so I totally know where you are coming from. Are you a plotter or pantser? Or something in between?

I was definitely a pantser for Shadow of Deception.  I only had Kazumi created in my mind and I let the typing take me away.  But for the second book, I'll need to be a bit of a plotter in order to make the story consistent.

I'm a fellow panster, but I've come to appreciate plotting for certain parts and pieces of my more complex novels. What do you consider your writing strength(s)? Weakness(es)?

Oh this question takes me back to my job interview days.  My weakness is that I care too much. . .  just kidding.  I think I write good dialogues, hence am able to drive the story forward in a swift pace.  I'd like to think I have a good imagination as well which helps my world building and what not.  But all this is really for the readers to decide.  If they think my dialogues are crap then maybe being delusional is my weakness.  I do have one major weakness though, and that is grammar.  Hate the big G word.  English being my second language just makes things more challenging.  But I'm working on it. :)

Grammer is my nemesis too. We should start a meeting. haha. Now for some fun stuff! What’s your drink of choice when writing? Wine? Something stronger? Tea? Coffee?

Sorry to disappoint but a nice cup of tea is all I need.

I love tea sometimes too! If you could have lunch with any character, who would it be and where would you dine?

I'd choose Finn because come on, he's dreamy.  But also so I can smack him on the head. (You know why.  No spoilers!)  And as for the place to dine, I'd have to choose the underground village inside their Rocky Mountain headquarters.  I'd love to see that weather hologram in person and see if it's made to my standard.

Describe your dream office or library. Where would you build it? What would it look/smell/feel like while sitting in it? Any windows with views?

Oh there's so much I want for my office slash library.  First of all, it has to be very bright and airy.  Huge floor-to-ceiling bay windows overlooking a bustling city with a dash of greenery here and there.  It has to be high above ground so the noise and action of the city don't disrupt my thinking.  I need to be in complete silence when I write.  The interior will have to be modern and elegant, with a hint of femininity.  Columns of books will line the walls in glass shelves free of dust.  The light yet aromatic smell of fresh peonies will permeate the room, telling visitors that the occupant is classy, fresh, and well-educated.  Too much??

Never too much! What recent book have you read and fallen in love with?

I just finished the series, Inheritance Cycle, by Christopher Paolini.  A fantastic fantasy series about a dragon and its rider.  And Christopher wrote the first one, Eragon, back when he was only sixteen and his prose was already better than a lot of adult writers.    

Christopher Paolini is awesome. I didn't want that series to end! I remember being quite irritated when I finished it. What is one of your favorite classic books?

The Chrysalids.  Even though I didn't understand the majority of it when I read it in grade school, it left its mark in my mind—an urge to understand.  So I re-read it a while back and finally was able to appreciate its significance and beauty.

I've never read that. [Adds to Goodreads.]

Thanks again for coming on my blog today! I really appreciate it and am 100% behind you and your donation to Covenant House. And because of this, I’m buying two more electronic copies as giveaways to blog readers!

To enter the Ebook giveaway,  comment below and make sure you follow my blog. Tell us if you’ve read or would like to read SHADOW OF DECEPTION, feel free to ask Sophia a question, or just leave a fun comment. Please also put your email or twitter handle in the comment. I’ll draw and announce two names on my next post Monday, May 4th.

If this interview hasn’t convinced you to buy SHADOW OF DECEPTION yet, read on for the synopsis and my review!


[From Goodreads] A horrific plane crash kills all five hundred and forty-two passengers except one. Kazumi comes out of the wreckage physically unscathed but wiped of all memories. Her miraculous survival attracts the attention of the Sarcomeres, a secret society of genetically advanced humans. Their heightened physical abilities and high-tech gadgets are not the only things that fascinate Kazumi, Finnegan O'Riley, a fellow Sarc also gets her heart racing. When she discovers that she possesses the genetic potential to become a Sarcomere, she welcomes the chance to train with them in the hope that she would recover her memories.

Meanwhile, thirty years after the Great War that almost destroyed the world, a centuries-old nemesis of the Sarcomeres begins to stir in the dark. Just when Kazumi thinks she can help protect her new found home, past memories surface to threaten her new identity. She soon realizes that layers of deception run deep and everyone has a secret agenda, including herself. Who can she trust when she can't even trust herself? One wrong decision could bring forth consequences worse than death. Is Kazumi ready to face her destiny?

My review of SHADOW OF DECEPTION:


It’s the year 2153 and natural disasters have whittled the world down to only three damaged and recovering areas: America, Europe, and China. The main character awakens to death and destruction, and quickly passes back out. She opens her eyes again without memories and at the mercy of the hospital that cared for her as the sole survivor a horrible plane crash.


Within a month of recovery, the hospital turns her out into an unfamiliar city. A motherly nurse whisks her away to Colorado, where super humans thrive in an underground city. As she learns of her own fast healing and agile-moving body and uncanny gun fighting abilities, memories surface and she discovers her real name: Kazumi. Friends and enemies are formed, loyalties tested. An unexpected twist in the plot had me flailing in my in-laws living room. I won’t tell much more in order to not spoil the ending. Sophia is an expert at creating characters. She also has a way with pacing, creating a plot that ebbs and flows naturally. I was sucked in and finished reading in less than 3 days, to the detriment of my sleep, work, and family.

Like many self-published books I’ve read recently, SHADOW OF DECEPTION would have benefited from a few more rounds with critique partners and an editor to weed out grammer, spelling, filtering, and adverb issues. But the story was so engaging that I hardly noticed these flaws. This book solidified me as a Sophia L. Johnson fan, and I’d love to become her critique partner if only to get to read the second Kazumi Chronicle that much sooner.

Don't forget to subscribe and comment for your chance to win one of two copies of SHADOW OF DECEPTION! I'll see you all next week!


 



3 comments:

  1. Sounds like a real goodread.cant wait to lay my EYES on it.

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