TweetElle is the author of the Weeia urban fantasy series set in Miami, Florida in the United States. Growing up the only child of a monkey mother and a rabbit father she learned to keep herself entertained and spend time reading.
I hear you have some very exciting news! Can you share it with us?
Unelmoija: The Spiritshifter, book three of the Weeia Series, was just published. Woo hoo!
In Unelmoija: The Dreamshifter, book one, we met Amy, the lead character in the series, and Duncan, her love interest. That book is an introduction to the Weeia for Amy and the readers. After discovering her Weeia identity and a rare ability, she is forced to become self-reliant and mature in a hurry.
In Unelmoija: The Mindshifter, book two, we learn more about Weeia ways. The story takes us down a dangerous and dark side of life when Amy and her friends fight powerful slavers to rescue Lilly, her college friend who has been kidnapped. Amy’s new ability comes to light. She finds the courage to help others at the risk of her own safety. At the same time, she discovers she can accomplish much more by working with her friends that battling alone.
In book three, after Loi, a young superhuman, is found dead under suspicious circumstances, Amy, and her friends agree to investigate. Problems arise when it becomes likely that Amy may have the same ability as the dead man. If she uses her ability selflessly for the good of the Weeia, whoever killed Loi may come after her. Should she risk her life and place her friends in harm’s way?
What are the special challenges in writing a series?
It’s necessary for me to see the whole story from the outset and make sure everything in each book makes sense with what’s happened (or will happen) in the other books in the series. In the first book, I set the stage I build on for the story that unfolds in the other books, and go on working from that foundation. The further along in the series the more aware I have to be that the story is continuous, that the dates match, the timeline flows well and so forth. I write the books one at a time over months or longer, but a reader might sit down and read the whole series in days. I’ve known readers who finished a book overnight only to wake up hungering for the next one that I was still writing.
The facts of the story have to match throughout the whole series, even small details can make a difference; and readers notice and challenge aspects of the story. It’s a good thing, I think. It means they’re reading with care and they’re paying attention. As a writer it’s a wonderful compliment because it tells me that they’re engrossed in the characters, the setting and the story. Something as minor as the type of water a character drinks might draw a reader’s attention. At some point the characters I created no longer belong to me, they belong to the readers as well, requiring that I pay close attention.
What I mean is that the more readers get to know the characters the more they care that their words and actions match a reader’s idea of what that character might do in a particular situation. The more vested they are in the series the more this might be the case. At the same time, characters may evolve during the series. This is especially true of the main character such as Amy in the Weeia Series. She won’t be exactly the same person in the last book that she was in the first book. I have to handle that transition with care. Too little change and the character is immature in his or her evolution; too much change and it won’t be credible. Totally bad characters don’t turn into totally good characters so that the evil witch never becomes the white princess by the end of the story, although sometimes there are exceptional circumstances.
What part of writing a novel do you enjoy the most? The least?
So many! The story, journey, writing, and discovery of the characters inner thoughts and feelings. When the book is published I feel elated, excited and apprehensive all at the same time. Editing is my least favorite task and yet it’s essential.
Is it important for you to know the ending of a book before you write it? The title?
Yes! For me, it’s especially helpful to map out the essence of the story before I begin, and that includes the end. It’s possible that the story will morph along the way, but at least I start out with a direction. This is particularly true with a series. I can’t easily get from point A to point B if I don’t know I’m going to B.
Some writers edit excessively as they write; others wait until a novel is finished to do the bulk of the editing. How about you?
Both. I edit as I write and then again at the end. Writing and editing, editing and writing then repeat. That’s my cycle, ad nauseam.
How important is the choosing of character names to you? Have you ever decided on a name and then changed it because it wasn’t right for the character?
It’s important to me that the name fit the personality of the main characters. Yes, it’s happened that I’ve named a character and as I fleshed out his or her personality I decided the name didn’t match my vision of that character.
Have you ever written characters that you truly despise?
The slavers in Unelmoija: The Mindshifter were difficult to write. That’s such a horrible side of humankind that it was painful to write and edit. I strive for some character depth, at least a little within the limitations of the genre and readers patience. This drives me to the conclusion that even evil characters have reasons, feelings, flaws and motivations. The more we see of those the more engaging the story can be. At the same time, in real life people are complex and multidimensional. As a cartoon I read this morning said, we believe what we want to believe. We don’t always know what drives someone to commit a crime or do something petty or cruel. Should we expect to have all the answers in fiction?
In book two, Fecundo, the head of the Miami slaver organization, explains he is in it for the money. Yes, of course there are fringe benefits, but for the most part it’s a lucrative business, he explains in one scene. On the other hand, he points out that there are people in his network who work for the sadistic pleasure of controlling or hurting others. Both are terrible deformed beings who hurt defenseless people because they can. It’s an ugliness that’s hard to fathom, and yet the reality is so much worse than anything I could possibly convey in the story, even if I had it in me to drop down deep enough to that lightless place where they dwell. Maybe that was more than you wanted to know…
Do you have any advice for first-time authors
When friends ask me about writing, I suggest they first figure out their goals. In other words why are they writing? Is it to fulfill a lifelong dream to publish a story in their head, because they seek a career change, to make a living, because they’re passionate about writing? Once they know why they’re doing it they can measure success which can be a number of things. For example, sales might be a measure of success. Another measure might be positive reviews, critics acclaim, the admiration of friends and family or the sheer pleasure of seeing your name on the cover of a published book.
Please, tell us about your experiences with social media. What are your favorite and least-favorite parts of it?
Twitter is my favorite social media site. It’s easy and fast to connect with people in all walks of life across the globe. There’s a community of supportive, intelligent, interesting and engaging fellow writers there. The challenge is always time. I could spend half my day browsing Tweets, Twitter profiles and the links they lead to and never get any writing done!
How much research was involved in writing your book? How did you go about it?
I researched the geography of the region to describe the city in the series. Given that in an urban fantasy the setting is as salient as a main character it was important for me to paint a vibrant picture of Miami which is where Amy lives and most of the story takes place. In the book, Miami is a large area that in real life encompasses three counties with a population of several million people. In the series, some features are true to life and I modified others taking artistic liberties for various reasons.
In Unelmoija: The Mindshifter, I spent a lot of time reading, listening and watching interviews about the slave trade, especially in Miami. I remember in particular one interview on public radio in which experts shared tips with police and authorities on spotting victims at the airports. It wasn’t enough to identify them as victims, they had to follow the right approach to avoid spooking them because they were so afraid or under the control of their handlers. It’s hard to imagine and understand that those activities take place all the time and we don’t even realize they are happening, sometimes before our eyes because we don’t know the signs.
For Unelmoija: The Spiritshifter, Amy had to sing for her new ability to work. A rock band was the medium. I didn’t know much about the behind the scenes and professional side of singing or the ins and outs of a rock band. In addition to online research, several people who have personal experience as rock band members and fans shared insights with me. They were generous with their knowledge and time.
Is there a question I haven’t asked you that you would like to answer? If so, what is it?
Who are the Weeia?
The Weeia (pronounced way-yah) are superhumans living in the United States. They are like you or me in almost every way except that they have extra abilities. They live hidden among us unnoticed. Who is Weeia? It’s hard to know. It could be your neighbor, the person behind you at the grocery store, your banker, boss or doctor, maybe a person you’ve known all your life. A Weeia might be telekinetic, have super smell or ultra vision or one of many other extra abilities.
Trains, planes, automobiles, or boats?
Trains, planes, automobiles and boats.
What’s your favorite comfort food? Least favorite food?
It’s hard to say, there are so many… I love fruit. Homemade sweet potato fries (baked), French fries, and homemade cottage pie, though I rarely eat any, are up there at the top of the list.
What’s the best gift you’ve ever received?
The gift of life.
Okay, so maybe you were looking for something less existential? Someone recently gifted me a beautiful watercolor of a tiger. It was a total surprise, unexpected and generous. I smile every time I see the tiger because of the thoughtful gesture and because the piece is beautiful.
Do you have any guilty pleasures?
Cookies, cake and chocolate or is it chocolate, cake and cookies?
What simple pleasure makes you smile?
Nature makes me smile everyday. A couple of days ago, I saw a mother limpkin (shy bird) with two young on the edge of a nearby pond. This morning, I saw two muscovy ducks engaged in a dominance duel in the pond. It was beautiful, like an elegant, and at times violent, dance in the water.
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