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Center Stage Moment: CJ Anderson

spotlightMason Cooley said, “Reading gives us some place to go when we have to stay where we are.”

A Center Stage Moment shines a spotlight on writers who give us great places to visit with characters we love and want to call friends.

Today, I have the pleasure of introducing to you the wonderful CJ Anderson!

“CJ Anderson has been obsessed with science fiction and fantasy for as long as she can remember. Star Wars, Superman and Transformers are among her earliest memories. But it was Madeline L’Engle’s book, A Wrinkle in Time, that first grabbed her attention as an elementary student to the genre in the world of books. She has been reading Young Adult, Science Fiction and Fantasy ever since!

Creating stories has been a life-long journey for CJ. As a young child she created stories to tell her imaginary friends. Later on in school, when she became bored during class, adventures in fairytale lands, were a common theme running wild in her imagination. It never really occurred to her to write them down, though, until she was older and taking a class on creativity. Once she started writing, she never wanted to stop. She says it’s one of the best decisions she’s ever made.

CJ has been teaching Gifted & Talented for six years and has been both encouraged and inspired by her students. She lives in Iowa with her husband, two beautiful daughters and two cats. When she isn’t writing, teaching or spending time with her family, you can find her working out, reading or fangirling, of course! The God Kissed: Awakened is her first novel and the first book in a planned trilogy.”

Without further ado, here’s CJ’s interview…

I love reading the bios of authors. Many of them did not start out as writers. Sometimes people stumble upon the craft. Have you always wanted to be a writer? I’ve always loved to write. I started out writing about my own life with content for newsletters and websites.  I have always made up stories as well.  But, actually writing them down and becoming an author has only been on my mind for the last ten years or so.  My first fictional story was a children’s book that I made for my oldest daughter when she was a toddler.  I wrote another children’s book for a college class.  Shortly after this I had a dream about the characters in my novel and from that day on they wouldn’t leave me alone. They had a story to tell and they wanted me to tell it for them.  So, that’s really where writing for more than for myself began to manifest.

Why did you choose to write Young Adult SciFi? Science Fiction and Fantasy are my absolute favorite genres for both movies and books.  Madeline L’engle’s A Wrinkle in Time was the book that hooked me on reading books.  I guess it only makes sense that I would want to write in this genre.

What is the strangest subject or topic you’ve ever written? It depends on your definition of strange. I’m a creative and out of the box person, so what is strange to others may very well seem normal to me.  Something that will probably strike a lot of readers of Awakened as strange is the approach I’ve taken regarding ancient artifacts and ancient sites.

“Seventeen-year-old Alayna West carries the responsibility of taking care of her family on her shoulders. With a delinquent younger brother to keep out of trouble and an ill-mannered, uncouth mother who is lax at best, inattentive at worst in her parenting style, things are rough. Added to this anxiety is the extrasensory ability of feeling and seeing emotions in color, which, Alayna has to keep a secret – after all, who would believe her? All Alayna wants in life is to complete high school, go to college and create a better life far away from her rural roots. But things start to change when the new guy moves to town. It doesn’t take Dru Sanjay long to determine that he hates small-town-life and as a matter of fact he generally dislikes Earth…period. To put it simply, he isn’t exactly human and there are some abilities that can’t be shared in public, such as the ability to levitate and use telekinesis to move objects, not to mention his struggle to keep the secret that lives inside of him hidden. The hardest thing about all this is not having anyone else like him. Tired of all of the pretending and hiding his true self, Dru adamantly refuses to start school. But, things start to change when he sees Alayna through the coffee-shop window and experiences an immediate feeling of connectedness with her. An unexpected attitude adjustment pushes Dru to start school, if only as a means to meet Alayna. Alayna is drawn into Dru’s world and learns of the God Kissed; others like her and Dru who have special abilities. Their genetics can be traced back to the gods, only the gods and the other god kissed are actually extraterrestrials, who have been banned from Earth for the last 2,000 years. Soon, Dru and Alayna discover that they have more in common than either of them could have imagined. The link between them grows stronger as a string of unexpected and mysterious occurrences unravel more questions than answers. Rings, sacred geometry, ancient wisdom, extraterrestrials, gods and goddesses, mythological creatures and super powers, how do they fit together and what do they have to do with Dru and Alayna? If they find the answers they are looking for, will it save the world as they know it or will it destroy it?” Available August 25th

What are you currently working on? I’m starting the sequel to Awakened in the Gods and Guardian’s series.

What motivated the plot for Awakened? As I said, I consume a lot of science fiction. Additionally, I like to read publications like Popular Science and watch the History Channel.  If there is anything that is a constant theme in History it’s that science fiction often becomes reality and there are always three sides to every story; two opposing sides and the truth, so in essence, perception is reality. (I never thought of it like that.) Overall, this is how I approached the plot for Awakened.

As for the specifics of how I came up with the plot for this particular book, it has to do with hypothetical questioning.  For instance, I’ll just be going about my day and all of the sudden a “what if” question or idea will pop into my head.  I also teach at the elementary level and often times my students will share their “what if” ideas.  I don’t remember exactly when this particular insight occurred, but it was a merger of “what if instead of ‘science fiction becomes reality’, it is ‘reality becomes science fiction?’” I was teaching Greek Mythology at the time and I shared this idea with one of my 5th grade classes.  This led to a whole conversation about the TV show “Ancient Aliens” currently on H2, which I had not yet seen.  I started watching the series and my plot grew from there.

What was the hardest part of the story for you to write? I don’t want to give any spoilers away, but I will tell you it was very hard for me to write the dark moment. It hurts me when my characters hurt.

What process do you use to plan your novels? The writing process for me is really more like the Engineering Design Process. Ask, Imagine, Plan, Create, Improve.

  • Ask: What if? What would happen if?
  • Imagine: Who are my characters and what is the plot?
  • Plan: I make an outline then I get to know my characters, the setting, and do research to build my characters’ world. I make folders in the cloud for everything at this level.  For example, each character has a folder with what they look like, clothes they wear, the house they live in, the car they drive, all that stuff (if applicable). My main characters have extensive character attribute interviews.
  • Create: I write. Not the entire thing, but a few thousand words.
  • Improve: Whatever chunk I have written I go back and add in more details and make revisions. If I get stuck and something doesn’t make sense, I start from the beginning with the whole process (just for the element I’m stuck on). I also like to have a friend who is good at proofreading take a look as I go along. (I like this method.)

Who has been your favorite character and why? My male protagonist, Dru, is my favorite to write. He’s a smart ass and has a bit of a big head.  It’s been fun coming up with scenes where the situation sets Alayna (my female protagonist) up to bring him down a notch and then writing his reactions.

Do any of your character reflect facets of your personality? Alayna and I share many personality traits.

Have you ever experienced writer’s block? If so, how did you overcome it? Yes! I just take a break.  Spend some time in nature, meditate, read or do some other creative activity.

If you were to choose another genre to write in, what would it be and why? I would love to write a Steampunk novel or series. I enjoy creating new worlds and I am completely intrigued by the combination of two different ideas or time-periods, such as you see in Steampunk. There is a lot of opportunity for creativity within Steampunk, but overall the feel of it just feels like ‘Home’ to me.

Which authors inspire you? It’s hard to narrow this down! I have so many authors to whom I look up to. But, I would say based on using a systematic approach of taking my favorite books where the author also has done interviews and/or speaking events I’ve seen online or in person, the top authors I look up to are (in alphabetical order):

Ginnifer Albin, Jennifer Armentrout, Cassandra Clare, Wendy Higgins, Taheri Mafi, and Marissa Meyer. (I see some of my favorites here!)

What novel would you read multiple times? The Infernal Devices series by Casandra Clare. I can’t pick just one book, so I would read the whole series over and over again.

If you could meet anyone in the world, alive or deceased, who would it be and why? I would love to meet media artist, futurist, philosopher, TV host of Brain Games and creator of Shots of Awe, Jason Silva! Jason has been called an Ontological DJ and is a self-professed wonderjunkie.  His positive energy is catching and his ideas inspire people all of the world (my elementary students and myself included) to think about things differently, to embrace creativity and to make a positive difference in the world.

What is your favorite quote? “We live and breathe words. It was books that kept me from taking my own life after I thought I could never love anyone, never be loved again. It was books that made me feel that perhaps I was not completely alone. They could be honest with me, and I with them.”  ― Cassandra Clare, Clockwork Prince

What is your favorite animal, real or imaginary? The Sphinx is my favorite animal.

What is your favorite color? My favorite color is gunmetal grey! In all actuality, I like a lot of black and grey with bursts of color like pink and ocean blue.

Look for CJ online at:

Website: http://authorcjanderson.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authorcjanderson/info?tab=page_info

Twitter: @Author CJA

Thank you so much for being part of A Center Stage Moment! This was so fun!

Join me next week for another “Center Stage Moment” featuring M.R. Polish!

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