Genres: Adult, Dystopia, Science Fiction
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When Mia Mitchell, a hardcore but lonely former Marine, steps into an alley to pull some thugs off an unlucky foreigner, she walks into a fight she expects. What she doesn’t see coming is the foreigner making her a job offer any sane person would refuse. So, she takes it. She thinks she’s headed for some third-world country; instead she’s mysteriously transported to an Earth-like parallel world. That’s a mad left-hook.
Mia discovers a matriarchal dystopia where freedom doesn’t exist and fighting for it means execution. Lethal force bends all to the law; women fear for their families and un-wed men suffer slavery. Mia’s job is to train an underground syndicate of male freedom-fighters for a violent revolution. However, the guys don’t want a pair of X chromosomes showing them the way.
Eben, an escaped slave, is encouraged by Mia to become a leader among the men. But when he turns his quiet determination on her, it spells F.U.B.A.R. for cynical Mia. Their unexpected connection threatens more than her exit strategy; it threatens the power struggle festering with in the syndicate.
Haunted by nightmares and post-traumatic stress, unsure who to trust or how to get home, Mia struggles to stay alive as she realizes all is not what it seems.
Interview With Author Stella Telleria
Can you talk a little about what the book is about?
This novel is about a former Marine who finds herself stranded on a parallel world where she must train a group of ex-slaves to defy a dictator’s stranglehold on the country.
Where did you get the idea for the book? Can you discuss choosing an alternate world instead of a future one, and choosing a matriarchal dystopia?
I’m not exactly sure where the idea of the book came from. Many writers will tell you our brains work in strange and mysterious ways. I remember an episode of a show I used to watch called Sliders. Every episode, the cast would travel to a different parallel world of Earth in hopes of finding home. One episode was about a world where the society was matriarchal instead of patriarchal. It really bothered me that the writers had simply reversed the roles. I always thought if a culture, from its beginnings had been matriarchal, there would be some big differences socially. There was also a comic book I’d read where a woman was transported to a matriarchal world, but I also didn’t like how it was handled. It was very juvenile and missed the big picture for me.
One day this story just started to build in my mind and it kept growing. It got bigger and bigger and I just started to write it down to get it out of my mind, but that didn’t work. It just got bigger and more detailed.
In regards to choosing an alternate world instead of a future one, and a matriarchal dystopia at that, I had often wondered how our world might have been different if our cultures had been honed as matriarchal instead of patriarchal. All the stereotypes for men and women have been taught to us our entire lives, but what if they hadn’t? What if our culture had taught us differently? What would that culture look like? I was fascinated by this possibility.
What message do you want readers to get from reading the book?
I don’t know that there is a specific message to be gleaned from this novel; each reader will come away with a different message depending on his or her personal disposition. My goal was to provoke a little thought. To hopefully show how we are all prisoners of our pasts and to what we’ve been taught. This is what the tagline on the cover is referring to “History makes slaves of us all.”
How long did it take to write the book?
The first draft took about 7 months to write but I revised and rewrote a good portion of it. From beginning to publication it took about 5 years. I went back to school during that time as well which slowed the process down.
Who is your favorite character, or what character was the most fun to write?
Ugh, that’s like picking a favorite child! There were aspects I really loved about writing from either character’s perspective.
I really felt a kinship with Mia. She was so interesting to share with readers. She really has a life of her own and at times she would not obey me. She’s so stubborn! LOL!
Eben, on the other hand, grew so much during this novel. It was great to see him find himself and for once in his life make decisions for himself and suffer the repercussions of it. His experience of freedom is so different than what I would know from my personal one, so it was really eye opening writing from Eben’s POV.
Can you talk about how you wrote it? Did you do any outlining? Did it take you in any unexpected directions?
This being my first novel, I pretty much charged forth without much of a plan. I wrote a rough point-form outline and then just ploughed through it. That was probably why I had to rewrite and revise for so many years. LOL! I write very organically. In the middle of a scene I thought would end one way, would instead go in a completely different direction. As my characters really developed their own personalities, I often found they were harder to control and often times I was following after them to see where the story would lead.
If you could go back and change anything in the novel, what would it be?
I don’t think I would change anything.
How did you come up with the cover?
While I’ve helped design covers or given feedback to authors on this topic, I’m no expert. But as an avid reader I know what I like and don’t like when it comes to covers.
When I chose the photo for my cover, the image was originally a beige scale. It was pretty boring to me and I feared it would feel like an autobiography about a solider returning from Iraq. Though the image was a little dull, I felt it conveyed the story, complimented the title, and was interesting in composition. So, I asked my designer to ramp up the color to give it an otherworldly quality. I think it definitely feels like fiction now and the color makes it pop. The trail in the sand really describes the characters long and hard journey ahead.
I felt my story could be appreciated by men and women in a variety of age brackets. I wanted to stay away from using an image of a man or woman on the cover. I don’t like it when I’m shown what a character looks like. I’d rather envision them for myself. My story is categorized as Sci-fi, but I didn’t want to go with a genre specific cover because I felt it was a sort of mash-up of categories. That my novel could appeal to many readers, especially ones that don’t primarily read Sci-fi.
Last but not least, never underestimate the power of font. Font choice is so important. It can make a story seem serious, or silly, or boring so be careful. I chose mine for its military stencil look.
When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
I’d always had made up stories running through my head. In high school I had my heart set on being an animator/digital artist. I had a few comics I had written and illustrated and I applied for a design and digital media program at a local collage. Alas, I was rejected. It was a really hard program to get into. Life went on and I had engrossed myself in a job I was no longer passionate about when my father suddenly became ill and passed away when I was 24. I was numb. I couldn’t find happiness in anything anymore and it really made me examine my life. I had this overwhelming urge to write my thoughts and feelings down and suddenly I couldn’t stop writing. That was when I knew I wanted to be a writer.
What was the first story that you ever wrote?
The first story I can remember writing was in grade 6ish. My teacher encouraged me to enter a story I’d been asked to write for class into a writing competition. It was a horror story about a girl whose family was one by one trapped in her haunted dollhouse. The Chucky movies really creeped my out at the time.
What are you favorite books and authors?
This is hard to answer. I love so many books for different reasons. I’d have to give you a top five series or books in no particular order: The Dante Valentine series by Lilith Saintcrow, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell, Journey to the Centre of the Earth by Jules Verne.
What are you working on next?
I am currently working on the sequel to Across the Wire tentatively named Molding the Marksmen.
What advice do you have for aspiring authors?
I can only speak to this from my experience and hope it helps others out there. Good luck my intrepid writing friends!
- Make a writing goal for yourself on a daily basis, or whenever you can sit down to write. Try to never stop for the day until you meet or exceed this goal be it two pages or two chapters.
- Just get the story out of your head in the beginning. Don’t worry if you don’t know exactly how all your plot points will connect. Some like to have a very detailed plan, others like to fly by the seat of their pants. Don’t worry about how others do it (the writing process) just do what works for you. Just write.
- In conjunction with #2, realize that all first drafts should never see the light of day. You will be super excited when you finish writing your first draft, as you should be. You will want to show everyone you know what you have written. Fight this urge like you would if someone asked you to pull his or her finger. Nothing good can come from it and if your curiosity wins out you will regret it.
- Revisions, for most writers, makes up 80-90% of the writing process/time. If you don’t have trusted beta readers or writing partners, you need to find some. I repeat—you need to find some. You can pay for an editor, but I think this is only something you should do once you believe you have gotten your manuscript into the best possible shape you can. I’m talking after revision nine or ten. I’m being totally serious. A great writer’s resource I found online is Critique Circle. This is a free site where writers critique each other’s works. I’ve found some great writer friends and have learned so much from critiquing other’s works and looking out for the same things in my own writing. Reading writing books can help, but don’t go overboard. My favorites:
Stephan King- On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White- The Elements of Style
- You have to develop a thick skin. You have to be comfortable with people judging your writing, your characters, your story, and you. Don’t take it personally. The majority of comments are not personal attacks on you, and when you realize this you will be able to do the most important thing—objectively consider the criticism you receive. You cannot and should not change everything anyone comments on. You have to sort through the advice and decide what rings true. Sometimes realizing what’s true means a rewrite, or writing an extra chapter, or cutting a few chapters. If it is going to make your novel better, more compelling, or stronger, you need to do it even if it hurts. Sometimes you have to murder your darlings.
- Writing is not pretty, it’s hard work. Just when you think you’ve revised something for the last time you’ll just figure out you need to do a rewrite.
- Be ready for rejection and a lot of it. Professionals are just amateurs who never gave up.
- Be realistic. Not everyone is going to love your work. This is about as impossible as birthing a unicorn who does Gangnam style in a tutu. Not likely. This is a feat unattainable by even the greatest of authors and the most critically acclaimed works. Don’t hold yourself to it.
- Write what you love not what you think will sell. I’d rather squander all my free time over the next ten years and be known for work I feel passionately about than work I feel apathetic for. Being original is more important than imitating what has been successful.
- You have to know when to stop revising. When to stick a fork in it and declare it done. This was difficult for me. I could have continued to revise for years. After nine revisions and a major rewrite, I decided I was finished working on Across the Wire. Could I have made it better? Maybe. But I really felt it was time to set the story free. To let go and have it stand on its own feet. I had to stop hovering and realize at a point it is simply out of my hands. That was a scary and liberating moment.
How do you juggle writing with family time?
It’s a hard juggle. Writers are hermits. I am perfectly happy to sit in my pajamas all day and write from morning till night. Some days are easier than others. You have to make time for a social life and your loved ones. I find it to be a constant struggle. There is this sort of obsession/passion in writing and other art forms. It can be all-consuming at times and unhealthy for the relationships in ones life. It’s a balancing act and I’m lucky my husband is as supportive as he is. He keeps me sane.
Thank you for having me!
One ebook copy of Across the Wire. Open internationally. Ends April 4, 2014.
Open to US, Canada, UK, and Australia. 1 signed copy plus swag.