If there's one thing I enjoy more than books that can make me laugh, it's authors that can do the same! Along with taking the time to answer my questions, Tominda Adkins, author of Vessel (Book I: The Advent) is sponsoring an awesome giveaway of her hilarious and fun novel. Check out the details after the interview, and join me in a warm Her Book Self welcome to Tominda Adkins!
Welcome, Tominda! Tell us a little about yourself - How did you get started as a writer?
Coming up with stories has always been my bliss. Four days out of five, I was that kid at recess who just got on the swingset and did nothing else. Except I wasn't just swinging, I was completely spacing out and building intricate plot lines about dragons and god-knows-what-else in my head. I was always writing up character profiles, drawing them, creating maps and new nations, and building story outlines. By the age of eleven I pretty much knew that I wouldn't be content until I published a book, and yet I never planned for a writing career. Majoring in English never crossed my mind. I wasn't interested in English; I was interested in my stories, and in telling them the right way. I discovered the right way by reading a lot, and by writing a lot.
How did you come up with the concept for the Vessel series?
The short story: Too much anime as a kid! My personal favorites were Ronin Warriors and Sailor Moon. The long story: When I was twelve, my best friend Lindsey and I stayed up until dawn writing separate epic fantasies. The notebook I filled that night hardly resembles Vessel, but the seeds are there: five young men, elemental powers, and comedic situations. It just kept evolving from there. Anyone who knew me in high school can tell you I was never without a spiral-bound neon notebook filled with this ongoing story and supplemental manga-esque doodling. I went to college, put it away for a few years, and tried writing some light literary fiction, which never got anywhere. And then one day, Jordan invited herself into my head and the rest of Vessel just came pouring out of me. It all fell into place, and this time I knew it was mature enough, it was good enough, so I dropped everything in order to get it published. Now I am finally able to share it with readers, and I couldn't be happier with the response so far.
One of the things I loved about Vessel: The Advent was that it is a road trip novel. I've always enjoyed stories where a physical journey parallels the journey of character development. Are you a fan of road trips? What is your favorite destination and method of travel?
I do love road trips! I'm generally content on the road, whether alone or with friends. I love driving, and I adore diners (I've honestly fantasized about being a trucker). Two summers ago, I drove from West Virginia to Seattle in four days. My car broke down five times and the AC was kaput for the entire journey. Despite what my travel companion will tell you, it was the best trip ever.
Honestly, my favorite destination is someplace I've never been, and my favorite method of travel is by horse. But since I don't own a horse and rarely get the opportunity to ride in Seattle, I'll say that 'by car' is a close second. It's when I'm driving around listening to loud music that I start to visualize key scenes for Vessel. Probably not the safest way to craft a novel, but it works for me.
Was it difficult to develop so many characters concurrently?
Character development always feels like the easiest part. One thing that consistently amazes about writing is the way characters tend to dictate their own creation. You start to get a feel for them, but sometimes when you begin priming them to be a certain way, they flatly refuse. You want specific relationships to form, or you want a protagonist to show strength before he's ready, but the characters have a way of pointing you in the right direction and thus improving the story itself--if you let them. It's truly a group effort. I sit and type, and I've got these guys glaring over my shoulder the whole time, saying: "Are you kidding? I'd never do that!" or: "I'm wearing what?" and: "Yes! Yes! I'd totally say that!" and so on. When this whole thing started, for instance, Corin was supposed to be a total ditz. He wound up being the most sensible character I've got. I wanted Ghi to stand out as the key male protagonist for Book I, but Jesse absolutely jumped up and stole the show. There was no stopping him. All these developments were for the better, though, and I have my characters to thank for it.
Whose storyline was the most enjoyable to write?
Jesse is obviously a ball to write, but Khan's storyline is probably my favorite right now. There's a lot of mystery to him--not just concerning his past, but his current actions. Doing a character who doesn't speak is a challenge, but a fun one. Readers sometimes ask why he doesn't talk. It's not that he doesn't know English; he just doesn't see the point in speaking in most situations. Or maybe he's just a total sociopath. I don't know. Heck, I created the guy, and I hardly know what he's thinking half the time. He has a lot of depth, though; he's a lot sweeter and selfless than readers realize right now, and I can promise that he'll continue to surprise.
Your website has a Vessel character quiz - which character is most like you and which is the least?
This is a fun one! I think a lot of people would guess that Jordan and I are the most similar, but I don't see it. Friends do tell me that reading Vessel is like sitting with me while I tell a story, and I guess the way I talk really does show through in Jordan's narration . . . but she's just so cranky. I like to think that if I were stuck on a tour bus with the Vessel, I'd have a darn good time. So I'll say that I'm most like Jackson. He's loud, friendly, up for anything, and rarely in a poor mood. I can identify with that. The least like me is probably Khan. He and I don't have much in common, except maybe a predilection toward tattoos.
Another aspect of the book that I found really entertaining was Jordan's narration and her witty banter with Jesse. Do your friends and family consider you a funny person or is most of your humor saved for your writing?
I see humor in everything, and I'm always bursting to tell someone a funny story. I'm a total ham, sure, but it helps that the most outrageous (and usually embarrassing) things always happen to me. I don't know why that is. I'm like a Seinfeld situation magnet. I can't walk out the door in a long skirt without it winding up over my head in a strong wind, or ripped completely off by bicycle gears, or half-digested by pygmy goats. You see? There's this stereotype of authors using their sorrows to inspire, or writing to make use of their pain. I suppose, then, that I write to make use of my absurd circumstances. So when a naked man accidentally locks himself in my kitchen pantry (true story), I just think: "Yep. I can use that."
Using a haiku, how would you persuade someone who had never read the book that Vessel: The Advent is a work they will love?
What an original question! Here goes:
Earth is in peril!Five gods, one girl, add liquor . . .Oh no. We're all doomed.
The Hollows were also a delightfully creepy new concept and I liked that you took a new spin on zombies as an adversary. Are you a fan of zombies in books and movies? How did you come up with your reinvention of them?
I had eight zombie apocalypse nightmares in 2010! I wouldn't call myself a zombie afficianado, but I do appreciate a well-done zombie movie or graphic novel. Zombies terrify me for the same reason that sharks do: you absolutely cannot reason with one, and it wants to eat you. You can't reason with a toddler, either, but a toddler can't gnaw out your intestines. Unless it's a zombie toddler.
Zombie movies definitely helped inspire the Hollows, who've undergone some major evolution throughout re-writings of Vessel. They used to be demon spirits in another dimension, then vampire-like beings, and probably other things I'm forgetting. For a long time, I wasn't sure what their endgame was, what they were after, you know? "Taking over the world" is overdone, and there are too many civilized vampires out there who kill with moral discrecion. I wanted the adversary to be savage, calculating but insatiable, and scary. Then I saw this bad movie a few years ago about seances, with this black ectoplasm floating up out of a kid's mouth, and I was like: Yes! That's what my evil is! It doesn't think, it just feeds--like zombies! No political goals, no dreams of eternal life, no name even--just a hunger. A hunger that takes the shape of the people it has fed upon and emptied. Hollows. Bingo.
You already have some plans for future books in the Vessel series - what can you reveal about the next book?
Well, there will be five books in all, and each one will shine a little extra light on one Vessel in particular. Jesse got Book I. Next up is Jackson. In Book II, we'll learn a lot more about the Luna Latum, the Vessels' abilities, and their drink preferences. Basically, the boys get a few months of R&R at their new digs, the Elysium (where Jordan is miserable, of course). Then they are called to Egypt by the Luna Latum Consulate, where sand is displaced and trouble is had. My website promises "cults, prosthesis humor, the bloody return of a certain not-quite-dead princess and her flesh-eating horse, and, naturally, a gay disco club". The book doesn't have a subtitle yet, and in fact I'm holding a contest to name it. The winner will have a doomed character named in his or her honor!
What other projects are you currently working on?
I write the occasional speculative short story, but right now Vessel is all I have time for. I'm always looking to do cover design, typesettng, and e-book formatting for other authors, though. Eventually, I want to expand my publishing capabilities and promote works other than my own. As for what I'll be writing after Vessel, who knows!
Where can we find out more about you and your work?
ReadVessel.com is a great place to start, and the Elysium blog: TomindaAdkins.blogspot.com. I'm always trying to keep things interactive and show visitors a good time. And, of course, anyone is welcome to email me: email@example.com. I love questions, comments, suggestions, rants, recipes, weather updates--whatever you want to send my way.
Thank you so much for sharing your time and work!
Thank you for the questions, Lisa! This has been a pleasure. Happy reading!
And now for the giveaway details! Great news for eBook fans: for a limited time only there is a FREE download available at the book's website! In case that's not awesome enough, Tominda Adkins will also send a paperback copy of the novel to one lucky Her Book Self reader! To enter the contest for the paperback copy, leave a comment below with your email address and answer to the question, "Are you a fan of road trips? What is your favorite destination and method of travel?" Giveaway is open to US and Canada mailing addresses and ends on April 13th!
Winner will be selected using random.org and will have three days to respond via email with a valid mailing address; if no response, a new winner will be chosen.