Author Interview with Jodi Perkins

GUYS! I has an awesome guest today! Jodi Perkins, author of suspenseful, page-turning, and fantastical YA! BLACK LILIES was released earlier this month, part two in a series featuring a quartet of sisters with exciting season-based abilities. There’s a theme of time manipulation that runs through the books, and today, Jodi answers some of my nosy burning questions about the series, time travel, and saving yourself from a Goldilocks eating bear.

Part of BLACK LILIES takes place in the 19th century. How much research did you have to do for this part of the story, and how much fun did you have?

I honestly knew nothing about the 19th century. I mean, really, nothing. Obviously microwaves and stuff weren’t around in 1886, but did they have even a tiny bit of electricity back then? What about cars…or was it horse-drawn buggies? Had the phone been invented? What about the radio? Running water? Oh, and what did they wear? I kind of always pictured Amish clothing. And what was going on in America during that time? I did know that 1876 was a Centennial year, but WHAT ON EARTH DID THAT MEAN? So yes, I had to do a lot of research (and I don’t find researching fun at all). Google was a big help, but it still didn’t paint a big picture for me. Like, I’d learn that they–the 19th century people–churned their own butter, but I still couldn’t get a grasp on what day-to-day life looked like. Ultimately the greatest help was picking up a few books that take place around the same time period, such as Little Women and Little House on the Prairie.

Somewhat related, but one of the funniest things I came across during my research was the fact that toilet paper wasn’t “splinter-free” until 1913. So if you ever need a reason to stay in this century, there you have it.

What are your rules on time travel and how did you come up with them? Were you inspired by anything like The Time Machine or Back to the Future?

I’d say most of my time travel rules are your basic ones agreed upon by the SciFi community (i.e. Don’t kill your grandma or you’ll create a paradox, etc.), but I think a lot of my rules were inspired by Dr. Who. In the “Blink” episode, the Doctor tells Sally Sparrow “People assume that time is a strict progression from cause to effect, but actually from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint, it’s more like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey stuff.” (See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cwdbLu_x0gY for a great little clip). I knew I was going to do something special and wibbly-wobbly with Aviva’s letter to Kade. Finding Aviva’s letter leads to a whole chain of events on Kade’s part, but ironically, it is these precise actions and consequences that lead to Aviva writing the letter in the first place. The two are mutually dependent on each other for existence, which is impossible. But there’s something beautiful in this impossibility. That being said, I adore Back to the Future and I’ve always wondered if the importance placed on the Face of Maui in my series was unconsciously influenced by the iconic clock tower in Hill Valley.

I’m known to not be a fan of series, but you have me stuck on these books like a fly on flypaper. In your opinion, what are some of the components that make for an engaging series?

Awww, thanks Krystal. <3 I think loveable characters are probably the most important thing. I know when I’m reading a book, my love (and fear!) for the characters will keep me turning those pages. But also, I try to raise the stakes as the novel progresses. In Chasing Echoes, Stryder and Taz could have easily been trapped in a twenty-day time loop that never changed (like Groundhog Day), and it would have still been an interesting story. But I knew if I wanted the book to be ‘unputdownable’, I needed to heighten the intensity. So I started dropping days from their loop to give the characters a deadline–a race to the finish. We see a similar method employed in Back to the Future, when Marty’s body starts fading as he comes closer to erasing his own existence, and with the entire resolution relying on the characters harnessing one strike of lightning. In Black Lilies, I added tension using not only Kade’s impending death, but also by introducing a problem in present day Sezona Hills that makes Aviva’s absence even more dire. In my experience, giving a time limit to resolving the conflict raises the stakes and keeps those pages turning.

In CHASING ECHOES, book one of the series, there wasn’t a dull moment in the entire story. How does a person go about keeping a time loop interesting?

By giving the protagonists different approaches to reaching their goals every time they loop. In earlier loops, Taz and Stryder think Stryder simply needs to apologize for his wrongdoings–or maybe do a little community service–in order to escape the curse. But as the loops progress, Taz and Stryder become more desperate, leading to more extreme and dangerous approaches to break free. So although time is being repeated, the reader still gets a unique experience every time they cycle. I also made sure to include only a small handful of ‘landmark’ experiences, and those are grazed upon simply to remind the reader exactly where in the calendar the characters have landed. This way, even when it’s loop two, four, or twelve, most of the events occurring to Taz and Stryder are brand new to the reader.

You also have a picture book out JACOB JAX AND THE WATERMELON SEED that was illustrated by your daughter Trinity Amethyst. What led you guys to work on a picture book together, and will there be more picture book adventures in the future?

I actually wrote Jacob Jax at the age of 20, before I had kids. The story was inspired by the fact that an older relative (was it my grandpa? An uncle? I can’t quite remember) used to tell me and my twin sister to be careful not to swallow any watermelon seeds, because a tree might grow in our bellies. I forgot the story existed, but found it one day when I was cleaning up some old computer files. My kids–teenagers by this time–were sitting at the table and I said “Hey guys, listen to this.” They were so delighted by the story and insisted I publish it. I told them “I don’t have an illustrator,” and my daughter said “I’ll illustrate it.” She attempted a few drawings, but at the time was a little too inexperienced. About two years later, she picked up the project again. This time it was pure magic and Jacob Jax officially came to life! It was such a fun mother/daughter project. We do have plans and a basic outline for the next book…Jacob Jax and the Prickly Pear.

A genie is on the run from a nefarious magician. He offers to let you relive one day from the past if you will hide him in a closet for an hour. What day do you pick and why?

New Year’s 2010 (I even wrote a post about it way-back-when: http://www.oceaninacup.com/2010/01/2010-slumber-party.html). It’s funny because I’ve been to places like Beliz and the Bahamas, but it’s still the little memories that stand out the most. By the way, if that genie is wearing my new Vans or my Pashmina scarf when I let him out of the closet, he’s gonna be in big trouble.

QUICK! A bear has mistaken you for Goldilocks, how do you talk him out of eating you?

I’ll give him a Snickers bar and tell him “You’re not you when you’re hungry.”

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About BLACK LILIES

Book 2 of the Chasing Echoes Series

Aviva Aevos is stalked by a shadow that no one else can see–the ghost of a young man from the 19th century, Kade Oaks. Frustrated by the havoc Kade’s presence is wreaking in her life, Aviva seeks to unravel the mystery of why he haunts her. As she digs deeper into Kade’s past, she discovers a connection between Kade and the notorious “Angel Killer.” But the closer Aviva comes to the truth, the more Kade’s ghost fades…until he one day vanishes.

Determined to find the lost ghost, Aviva turns to her uncle for help. But will his dark intentions allow her to rescue Kade, or trap her and her sisters forever in the past?

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BIO
Jodi Perkins is a middle school teacher moonlighting as a writer of contemporary fantasy, mythology, and dystopian fiction. She lives with her hubby, two kids, and a handful of pets in one of those foggy little mountain towns that could be the setting for a horror flick. In addition to roughing out stories, Jodi loves to paint, draw, feed the blue jays and squirrels, shoot her compound bow (not at the blue jays and squirrels), camp, sunbathe, read, and stay up way too late. Her dream is to write full-time some day.

She also gets a little freaked out referring to herself in the third person. 

9 Responses to Author Interview with Jodi Perkins

Hi! ^_^