Ever since I can remember, I’ve always been someone who stood out in a crowd. In school, having fantasy novels permanently attached to the end of your nose will go a long way in making you feel like a social outcast, but it was more than that.
I don’t like to follow. I like to innovate, analyze, learn, lead and above all—create.
In her masterpiece of dystopian storytelling, Divergent, author Veronica Roth hit home for me when she described disrupter Tris Prior as being “divergent”. The Divergents of Roth’s world are not better, or more moral, more human or humane—they’re just different. A true mix of stereotypes that no one can “categorize”. That’s me.
Tris Prior is an embodiment of everything the word “disrupter” means; a universe of innovation, enterprise, and a thirst to understand the world around us that doesn’t stop at authoritarian barriers without at least asking the immortal question, “Why?”
If there is one thing I have learned over two and a half decades of reading and writing teen fantasy, it is that the best authors imbue into their characters; their heroes and heroines, all the traits that readers wish to see in themselves. That’s why we read fantasy—it’s like a mirror in reverse: not what we are but what we wish to see reflected in ourselves.
I decided to become a teen fantasy author when I was very young. I am a strong believer in paying it forward—my first real live role model (the ones on paper don’t count in this context) was Lady Melissa Sola. She was the first to nurture that divergent attitude, and taught me to love myself even as she encouraged my fumbling attempts to emulate the heroic deeds I so loved to read.
If there is one piece of advice I can offer to anyone, it would be—whatever you do; whoever you are, be different. Be YOU. Be great. Be Divergent.
Three years ago I was scrolling through Google images for ideas of a new fantasy novel I wanted to write. I saw a painting, by Heather Theurer titled, "Saraigh Ceol" or "The Enduring Song" in Irish. Instantly, I fell head-over-heels in love.
I ended up including that imagery in the description of the climatic moment in my second novel, Tales From the Kingdom of Telidore, which is now available in bookstores.
I would like to express my admiration for Ms. Theurer's work, and let readers know the creativity it engendered in me, and the gratitude I felt for the spark of beauty and divinity I glimpsed when I looked at her painting.
Children the world over, from my hometown of Portland, OR to Sierra Leone Africa and the UK are enjoying my book. There is a piece of Heather's soul inside, and she deserves to know.
One day I was walking through a library in Los Angeles and stumbled across a large coffee table book called Before They Pass Away by photographer Jimmy Nelson. I was stunned by the beauty of the photos he had taken of indigenous peoples while traveling on six continents. The message was not lost on me--this was 2017 and the recent shooting of 15-year-old Jordan Edwards, a young boy of African descent, by a white Texas Police Officer had sparked riots across the United States. Racism was a heavy topic at the time, and I felt an urge to speak up against what I saw as a basic human rights violation.
So I picked up my pen and wrote Space Patrol!
Allegory has long been used as an avenue of broaching subjects that are difficult to face. The word means, "a story, poem, or picture that can be interpreted to reveal a hidden meaning, typically a moral or political one." (Dictionary.com)
Through my work with Youth For Human Rights, I knew that underneath the violent acts of 2017 lay an even darker problem--the false idea that peoples of other colors, cultures or ways not our own are lesser, base or unworthy of help. This is the basis of acts done by the likes of Roy Oliver, Hitler and others down a long and bloody line. By writing Space Patrol! I hoped to target teens who are still at the beginning of that cycle--still have a chance to turn their backs on the racism and human-trafficking of earlier generations and build a new world.