|HEATHER SUNSERI, author of MINDSPEAK
I have followed Heather’s writing career for a while–over on her lovely website: http://heathersunseri.com/. She’s recently published her YA romance/sci-fi novel, MINDSPEAK. Let me just say, I am IN LOVE with the cover of this book. Take a gander at this loveliness:
Here’s a little bio on Heather:
Heather Sunseri was raised on a tiny farm in the smallest of towns in thoroughbred horse country near Lexington, Kentucky. After high school, she attended Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina, and later graduated from the University of Kentucky with a degree in accounting. Always torn between a passion for fantasy and a mind for the rational, it only made sense to combine her career in accounting with a novel-writing dream.
Heather now lives in a different small town on the other side of Lexington with her two children, and her husband, Mike, the biggest Oregon Duck fan in the universe. When she’s not writing or working as a CPA, she spends her time tormenting her daughter’s cat, Olivia, and loving on her son’s Golden Retriever, Jenny.
Heather loves to connect with readers and other writers on her blog at http://heathersunseri.com, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter , and Goodreads.
And now, on to the questions! I loved our informative chat today. I know it’s going to help many who are considering self-publishing!
HG: I have so many questions for you, Heather! First off, congrats on getting your novel, MINDSPEAK, published. How did you decide to write YA?
HS: Thank you so much for having me, Heather (cool name, by the way). I didn’t so much decide on YA, as much as YA kind of picked me. I began writing MINDSPEAK as a Christian adult novel. I hadn’t even planned on it having a paranormal element. But once the paranormal consequences of what these doctors were doing came to light, and because I actually read more young adult novels than I do adult novels, I realized that the story fit better into young adult. And my voice seemed to have a young adult sound, or so I’ve been told.
And as far as the Christian element? Well, after entering the Genesis contest with the first fifteen or so pages… let’s just say the judges helped me decide that this book was meant for a mainstream audience. (Click to Tweet!) I got a 96 from one judge who begged me to finish the book and get it to an agent ASAP, and from another? A 48. This judge couldn’t believe I would ever consider such a subject for the Christian market. (Obviously, she didn’t know me very well. ;)) That same year, I pitched this idea to a couple of agents. And one of them, who simply loved to brainstorm like I do, was so fired up about the idea, he began telling me which editors I needed to talk to — all young adult acquisition editors. I hadn’t pitched it as YA, but he obviously thought it sounded YA. And since I hadn’t actually written the entire story yet, and when the paranormal stuff happened… Young Adult kind of stuck.
HG: I’ve been reading the book and I can’t stop! Everything is so mysterious. So, the topic of human cloning plays a role in this story. Do you have political views on this? And if so, this is probably a really nosy question. Feel free to hedge.
HS: Political views? It depends on how the question is asked. As you can imagine, my research into this subject dug up way more information than what is presented in this story (some of which will probably make it into future novels).
The subject matter of MINDSPEAKactually came to me after I had stumbled upon an article about a doctor, Dr. Panayiotis M. Zavos, who once worked at the University of Kentucky (my alma mater). This doctor and the University parted ways after the University couldn’t handle the good doctor’s controversial ways, according to Dr. Zavos’s website.
Anyway, Dr. Zavos has made numerous claims in the past that he was the first to create a cloned human embryo, and that cloning humans was the future of reproductive infertility. I modeled Lexi’s father, Peter Roslin, after this fascinating doctor.
What I hoped to convey with MINDSPEAK (or start to convey, anyway—this being the first in a series) is that we humans have a purpose before we are ever created. Whether we are born to drug-addicted, single-parent households, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, or to a geneticist who can guarantee with a simple switch of a gene that we’ll be tall enough to play in the NBA, we are loved and have a purpose that is ultimately good—if we make the right choices to accept that purpose.
I didn’t really answer your question, did I?
HG: Totally okay. Your main character, Lexi, swims competitively. I used to swim in college and loved it (not competitively, though!). Did you or do you swim? I love those scenes in your book, since they seem so realistic.
HS: Yes, I did swim, but only when I was young. I continued to swim for fitness off and on as I grew older, and my children both swam for a brief period when they were younger. I learned a bit more about competitive swim when my daughter showed brief interest for the sport. I love how swimming is a sport with team elements, but that it’s also a sport about improving your own times. You can lose a race, but if you’re improving your own personal best time, you’re still winning. I feel like that with a lot of things in life.
HS: ABSOLUTELY! I’ve loved almost the entire process. I’ve loved the control I’ve had over the product I put out. (Click to Tweet!) I’ve loved the creative aspects of designing the cover, making changes to my website, and deciding how to present the novel to the world. When I hit “publish,” I imagined myself in that scene of CASTAWAY where Tom Hanks created fire. He looks up to the sky and raises his hand yelling, “Look what I have created!” I feel like although he was pretty-darned proud of himself, he was also looking up and giving thanks to God.
Having said all that, I also think self-publishing is not for everybody. Certain aspects—like formatting and finding just the right editors, to name two—can be frustrating. Now that I’ve been through the process, though, I will most certainly do it again—with MINDSPEAK #2. 😉
I believe most writers are heading down a path toward a hybrid career made up of elements of self- and traditional publishing. We just all might start somewhere different to end up there.
HG: I know you’re working furiously on your next book. I can’t wait to see the cover art on it! I am just mesmerized by MINDSPEAK’s cover. Will we be following Lexi and Jack in your next book, as well?
HS: Thank you. I was really pleased with the cover art, and I’m already thinking about the cover for the second. If I (and by I, I mean my husband Mike) can pull off what I have envisioned in my head for the cover of book #2, it’s going to be very exciting.
Oh, yes. Poor Lexi and Jack have some obstacles ahead of them. There’s so much about their existence that neither of them know or understand yet. I feel sorry for them, really. Hopefully, they’ll find the strength to live through it and be stronger for the challenges. 😉
Thank you so much for coming over today, Heather. I know people are going to be referring to this post again and again, as self-pubbing is such a viable option nowadays!
She was created for a purpose so revolutionary, someone was willing to kill for it.
Seventeen-year-old Lexi Matthews keeps two secrets from her elite boarding school classmates—she’s the daughter of a famous and controversial geneticist, and she can influence people’s thoughts.
But after new student Jack DeWeese heals her broken arm with an anything-but-simple touch, he forces Lexi to face a new reality—her abilities reach much further than speaking to the minds of others.
After Lexi’s father goes missing and she receives threatening emails, she can’t decide whether to fall into Jack’s arms or run and hide.
As Lexi seeks answers to what she and Jack are, she discovers a truth more unsettling than anything her science books can teach. And letting Jack into her life of secrets is not only a threat to her very existence, but it just might break her heart wide open.
AVAILABLE AT AMAZON ◊ BARNES & NOBLE ◊ iTUNES ◊ KOBO ◊ SMASHWORDS
***Please leave a comment or question for Heather below to be entered for a giveaway of an e-book copy of MINDSPEAK she’s so graciously offering today! I’ll announce the winner on Friday, March 15th!****