Perhaps one of the most rewarding things I’ve been able to do recently is celebrate the success of my friend Addison’s debut work, Terra: Genesis. I had the privilege of asking her a few questions about her creative journey, one that is undeniably on the course to something amazing.
KL: How would you describe your book to those who haven’t read it yet?
ASW: Oh, start off with a hard one, why don’t you? This is one of those half hour long conversations that I get to sum up in a paragraph. I’ll do my best!
Terra: Genesis is the first book in a six book series about a futuristic society where people live in a strict environment—strict being used lightly here. At our current rate of planetary destruction, resource use, and failure to cut back at our impact on the planet, we’re looking at a good one hundred years about left on the planet based on our population increase in comparison to our death rate and resource usage. (It’s scary when you think about it, but the studies are there.) In an attempt to save the human race, Biosphere Containment Units were created, launched into space, and humans were relocated onto this strict society under the belief that the planet died. The society is called New Earth and for thousands of years, people have lived there under a dictatorship with rules for every aspect of their lives. Children at the age of three, six, and nine take intelligence tests to gear their education. Then, on their thirteenth birthday, they take a seven hour exam on their intelligence. Children scoring below a certain line are given a Career and that is the rest of their life until they are bonded (married) to someone selected by a genetics algorithm. Children scoring above the line are considered Exceptional and given five more years of grueling education and training. On their eighteenth birthdays, Exceptionals are removed from their families and never heard from again as they go forward into the “Exceptionals Program”.
Genesis is the origin story of Cala, a seventeen-year-old Exceptional, who suffers a tragic accident just seventy-three days before her birthday. The Exceptionals Program rebuilds her into a cyborg and the story follows what the true secrets of the Program are—which I can’t tell you because that’s a spoiler. However, I can tell you it’s dark, it’s twisted, and it’s emotional as well as emotion-evoking.
KL: What inspired you to write a dystopian/science-fiction story?
ASW: Honestly, this is not where I thought I’d end up. I know I’m strong at character building, character chemistry, character interaction, and dialogue. I’ve tried writing most genres out there and just nothing stuck. I was trying to write chick lits the year before Genesis started, but that didn’t work; it was too soft and too bland for me. Romance seemed to offer more for me than non-romance because it’s higher in character relationships and bonds so I wanted to stick with that. In a last ditch effort to write, I started weaving together the idea for Genesis while watching Star Wars and about a month after having read the Hunger Games series. The idea for Genesis was supposed to originally be a short story romance in a science fiction setting except it didn’t stay that way. I got drawn in by my research into anatomy, scientific studies on what the human body can endure, medical procedures, and more. What started out as romantic and short quickly turned into an epic adventure in dystopian science with a small undertone of romance. Romance will always be there because it’s a building block in how I write, but the rest was purely accidental. It brings me to life and I absolutely love it.
KL: Many of authors have a “playlist” for their books. Is there one particular song that fits with your series or one that you listened to while writing it?
ASW: One is honestly a feasibly impossible answer here. I have a soundtrack for the Terra series as a whole that’s almost 400 songs. Then, I have all those songs divided into playlists by book. The soundtrack for Genesis was only 33 songs because I never really stopped to do the division while I was working on Genesis. The second book, Terra: Identity, is 104 songs and building every day. One of my go-to songs for when I get stuck or lose Cala’s voice is “Human” by Krewella. It’s a milestone struggle throughout the whole series as Cala questions what it means to be human… her arms, legs, lungs, and heart are made up of an organic-infused metal and there are nano-bots coursing through her blood. She often feels more “robot” or “monster” than human, so it’s monumental song on my list.
KL: What’s one piece of advice you have for other aspiring authors trying to get their work out there?
ASW: Write every single day. I just did an Instagram post on this. Write every single day, even if it’s one sentence. One sentence added to another sentence spread of hundreds of days comes out to hundreds of sentences, pages, paragraphs… and eventually a full story. Don’t get deterred if you can’t get beyond that sentence, but just stick to a goal of one sentence.
Another big thing I’ve started telling people is don’t look back on your first draft. Write your first draft with the promise that no matter how much you may think it sucks, you won’t look back on the draft until you write the last sentence. You’ll find errors and mistakes and want to correct it. That only leads to a cycle of writing and re-writing and re-writing again the first half of the book. I’ve watched that cycle turn vicious as people end up giving up because they got frustrated with the first half and never got to the end. ALL FIRST DRAFTS SUCK. Get over it. They all do. But getting the ideas out is what is important. Once they’re all out, the process of editing makes that first draft a second draft and so on until it’s as close to perfect as you’re going to get.
KL: What inspired you to take the independent publishing route rather than traditional publishing?
ASW: I tell people to ask themselves this when they are trying do decide: “Why do I want to publish?”
If your answer is to make as much money as possible, go the traditional route and get an agent. Agents don’t get paid unless you do, which means they’ll push, prod, and pry to get as many books sold for you as possible because it increases their paycheck. That’s business.
If your answer is (like mine) to share a story with the world and you don’t care about the money, if the money is just a perk, then go self-publishing. You’ll reach people, but not nearly the volume. You’ll get it out there when you’re ready to rather than waiting years and years for someone in the literary business professionally to notice your good book, which could never happen honestly.
I don’t make billions of dollars this route and the likelihood is that I never will get close to that. However, I’ve met people and touched people with a story that I am in love with. Interacting with fans who have been moved by Genesis in one way, who want to know more, who want to read more of the series… that’s what gets me. I had a woman decide she was narrowing her field of books and opened up to more genres of books thanks to Genesis. I turned a non-reader into an avid reader with a pile of books sitting on her bedside for each night. I made a screenplay writer realize he wants to give a go at writing novels and will be publishing his first book all by himself next year. For me, that’s what writing Terra is about.
KL: When’s the next one coming out?
ASW: Terra: Identity is set to come out April 26, 2016 barring any complications. Beyond that I have a schedule of every nine months for the remaining books in the series: Terra: Eradication, Terra: Syndicate, Terra: Destiny, and Terra: Oblivion.
KL: Anything else you’d like to add?
ASW: Just a big thank you for letting me be involved in this! This was exciting to do!
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And, don’t forget to check out Terra: Genesis at: