by Kate Corcino
Publication date: December 15th 2014
Genres: New Adult, Post-Apocalyptic,
Synopsis:All that’s required to ignite a revolution is a single spark rising.
Two hundred years after the cataclysm that annihilated fossil fuels, Sparks keep electricity flowing through their control of energy-giving Dust. The Council of Nine rebuilt civilization on the backs of Sparks, offering citizens a comfortable life in a relo-city in exchange for power, particularly over the children able to fuel the future. The strongest of the boys are taken as Wards and raised to become elite agents, the Council’s enforcers and spies. Strong girls—those who could advance the rapidly-evolving matrilineal power—don’t exist. Not according to the Council.
Lena Gracey died as a child, mourned publicly by parents desperate to keep her from the Council. She was raised in hiding until she fled the relo-city for solitary freedom in the desert. Lena lives off the grid, selling her power on the black market.
Agent Alex Reyes was honed into a calculating weapon at the Ward School to do the Council’s dirty work. But Alex lives a double life. He’s leading the next generation of agents in a secret revolution to destroy those in power from within.
The life Lena built to escape her past ends the day Alex arrives looking for a renegade Spark.
Purchase:Will be found here come release day:
AUTHOR BIO:Kate Corcino is a reformed shy girl who found her voice (and uses it…a lot). She believes in magic, coffee, Starburst candies, genre fiction, descriptive profanity, and cackling over wine with good friends. A recovering Dr. Pepper addict, she knows the only addiction worth feeding is the one that follows the “click-whooooosh” of a new story settling into her brain.
She also believes in the transformative power of screwing up and second chances. Cheers to works-in-progress of the literary and lifelong variety!
She is currently gearing up for publication of Ignition Point and Spark Rising , the first books in the Progenitor Saga, a near future dystopian adventure series with romantic elements, science, magic, and plenty of action.
Interview Questions and Answers
Tell us about Spark Rising.
Spark Rising is a post-apocalyptic adventure set in the southwestern United States of the future. It’s the story of Magdalena Gracey, a young woman with the power to create and manipulate the only form of electricity left in the world, and Agent Alejandro Reyes, a man trained from childhood to be an elite soldier for the ruling government. He’s sent to investigate a report of an illegal Spark living in the desert. But Alex has his own agenda. And if the two of them can learn to work together instead of killing each other, they might have a chance at sparking a revolution…and love.
What gave you the idea for your main character in Spark Rising?
I’m not sure I ever really have ideas of characters. I sort of get lost in a daydream that just comes to me, and they are there, fully formed. Some are more vocal than others. Some daydreams I jot down. Some I let go. Lena and Alex grabbed hold of me when I was supposed to be writing something else and wouldn’t let me let go—which isn’t surprising, considering the characters of Lena and Alex are two very driven, stubborn, obsessive characters. They wouldn’t let me forget them even if I tried.
Would you say you know your characters well?
I’d like to think I do, although they do surprise me sometimes. They’ve also been known to fight back. If I’m not true to a character, they stop cooperating and the story flow stops until I get back on track. Alex, my male MC, is a huge pain in the ass and is very, very good at doing this to me (which should surprise no one who reads Spark Rising!).
Where did you get the idea for Spark Rising?
It just came. I actually sat down with an old, unfinished classic fantasy manuscript. I was determined to finish it. But when it came time to write, I found I was jotting notes about a completely different story—it wasn’t even the same genre. Lena and Alex wanted their story told.
What was the most difficult part of the writing process for you?
Editing. Absolutely. I had done beta rounds. I had revised it five times—heavy revisions where I cut thirty thousand words. I felt pretty confident. Ha HA! My editor, who is amazing, sent me a ten-page email shredding it. Having never been through the process, I was devastated. I printed it out and read it and cried and swore up a storm. And then I put it away for a week. Once I’d calmed down, I was ready to look at it objectively and make my revision list and go through it very methodically. But that first look—oh, that was brutal! It’s also the most important part. You’ve got to have an editor you trust, and one who is willing to make you cry if it means your manuscript is better at the end. Someone who tells you what you want to hear or is afraid to tell you what you need to hear is doing you ZERO favors.
What inspired Spark Rising?
In the days before the story came, I’d seen two sets of photos online. The first was an abandoned town in the desert that was being buried by sand. The second was a series of various city skylines from around the world showing what the night sky would look like if there were no lights, no electricity. I was blown away. Because yes, they’re both gorgeous. But the devastation of that loss of civilization…wow. Even in devastation, there would be beauty so long as we are the kind of people who have the capacity to see it. That’s the big "what if?” What kind of people are able to see the beauty?
Do you see yourself in any of the characters of Spark Rising?
Hmm. Not much, no. I think Lena has some of my negative qualities—the bossiness, the tendency to jump to conclusions. As her story moves on through the greater arc of the series, I think she’ll reflect a little more of me, as she discovers and fights with her maternal instinct. Alex has my extreme pragmatism and love of profanity, also not necessarily good qualities. Jackson? He has too much light in him to be a reflection of me!
What made you decide to end Spark Rising the way you did?
*laugh* It originally had a very different ending. By the time I'd made other changes that really were very necessary, the ending I wrote originally didn’t work. The ending it has now is actually the third ending written, I think. Those last two chapters changed A LOT.
What inspired the character of Lena?
Lena came to me fully formed, just a damaged, tough, ballsy, tiny little redhead. I think she’s rooted in my desire to explore life’s complications from that New Adult period of transition and upheaval. Who we love. Why we love. How we choose to express and live with that, even through the dark times. How do we carve out something that is entirely our own, or even believe we’re worthy of it, through all of the demands of society and family? And what is family, anyway?
I also really love exploring issues of perspective—what is the right choice for one person isn’t the same for another, and that’s okay—in womanhood, in relationships, in faith. I like the big, complicated, meaty issues that often cause darkness and angst. They’re the root of so many misunderstandings, but I like mistakes. I believe in second chances. Lena’s damaged heart provides a wonderful way of exploring those themes.
Do you have any thoughts on Alex's behavior throughout Spark Rising?
Ohh, Alex. *laugh* He’s a badass, broken man. He’s just as damaged as Lena, but he’s dedicated himself to one idea, to one cause, and is willing to do absolutely anything to further it. His love for Lena takes him by surprise. It’ll be really interesting to see how the battle between his sense of responsibility to the revolution that he founded and his feelings for Lena will play out. I think the battle will be as fascinating as his motives.
Who's your favorite character?
That's subject to change without notice! I love them all, even my villains. But I do have a soft spot for both Jackson and Marissa. They are both genuinely good characters, and in a post-apocalyptic world that's a hard thing to be.
Were you aware of how Spark Rising would end when you started it?
Not when I started writing, no. The first chapter came to me and I wrote that in a mad flurry, then I stopped and created a skeleton outline to guide me. So I didn’t know the end when I started, but I had it very soon afterward. I plotted the end of the book and of the series, too.
How many books long will the Progenitor Saga be?
Originally, I’d planned five main novel-length books. It may stretch slightly longer, but no more than seven. But they’re long, and it takes a while to write them, so I also plan to release collections of related short stories and novellas in between the novels. The shorts are about secondary characters, or side events, or past events and will all stand alone. The first collection, Ignition Point, is already out. In fact, readers responded so well to one of the characters in Ignition Point that I’ve written him into the second book. So, if you read it…yes, Ghost does return!
Are your settings based on real places?
Some of them are, yes. Lena’s home at the beginning of Spark Rising is a real gas station between Albuquerque and Santa Fe that I used to visit regularly when I lived in New Mexico.
Some of them are based on places that exist only in conspiracy theories, so whether you believe they’re real or not depends on if you believe in the theories about the existence of high-speed underground trains and DUMBs (Deep Underground Military Bases). *grin* After I read some of them online, I had a “what if” moment, and much of the novel is grounded in that jumping off point.
Do you have any writing rituals?
I always start a writing session by re-reading the last three paragraphs that I wrote. And I always end a session in the middle of a scene, with bulleted notes telling me what I was thinking as I finished.
And I try like crazy to stay off of Facebook!
Do you listen to music as you write, and if so what music?
I don’t. I have to have general background buzz—the TV going or coffeeshop business—but I can’t deal with songs and lyrics. They distract me. There are too many story ideas embedded in them.
If I’m struggling with a scene, I’ll listen to music when I’m driving and the ideas will flow. I go for a drive and blast the music. The choice of music is really eclectic and depends on character and scene that I’m trying to get into—Lena is all hard rock and R&B, women artists with attitude. Alex is sexy jams. If you think of a song that brings to mind a dark, sexy, confident man smirking and growling at you, I may have used it, or I need it. E-mail me!
Can you tell us about your writing process?
When I start a new project, I write the first chapter. That gives me a sense of who the people are and what’s at stake. Then I stop and write a bare-bones bulleted outline, including the ending. Then I feed that skeleton outline into my own story diagram that I hand-draw onto a huge sheet of construction paper—all of this has to be by hand. The diagram is where details start to appear, and they're separated by character point of view. Then I can use the diagram to go to Scrivener and create my chapter folders and parse out the details into something resembling a novel outline. They're short, because I need the story arc, but I fill in the details by the seat of my pants.
And then I can write. *grin*
Did you always want to write books when you were a child?
Yes. I've always been telling stories. Family legend has it that I was kicked out of a denominational preschool because of a story that was particularly upsetting. So, not only was I telling stories, but they were always controversial! I've been writing the stories down since I was able to write.
What inspires you to write genre fiction?
The people who read it! Science fiction, Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance—there may be differences among their readers, but the one thing they have in common is a willingness to lose themselves in a story, a joy in the fact that they have a story to lose themselves in, that I just don’t see in other areas. We’re wholly, unselfconsciously committed to our genres, and I find that beautiful.
When I was in my master’s program for Creative Writing, I had a conversation with another student that really sealed the deal for me. He was sneering at my desire to write genre fiction and telling me that I was limiting myself. “You know you’ll never write the Great American Novel writing that stuff.” And perhaps he's right. But the thing is, I’m not interested in literary elitism. If I can write a book that takes a reader—one reader—out of all of the everyday stress and noise of life and give them another world to lose themselves in, a world rich enough that they want to get lost in it? Well, as far as I'm concerned, I have written a pretty damn great novel, even if critics hate it.
Is there a message in Spark Rising that you want readers to grasp?
There are messages in the greater story arc of the series that I'd love to discuss, but they'd be spoilery. For Spark Rising, I think the message I hope readers take away is that we’re all worthy of being loved for who we are, for all that we are, even the dark, ugly parts of us. And that the only way to find that love is to be honest about who we are, especially with ourselves.
What book are you reading now?
I’m reading two books—I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who does that! I’m reading When Dark Falls by Pippa Jay, which is an awesome superhero deco-punk story, and I’ve just started Maven, a New Adult scifi novel by S.A. Huchton that seems amazing.
What are your current projects?
I’m working on the follow-up to Spark Rising, and I’m about at the 20% point. I’m also noting possible secondary characters and ideas for the between-novels short story collection that I’ll be starting as soon as it’s finished so it can come out before the novel, while I’m still working on revisions and edits.
And I’m participating in a group scifi/PNR series, The Complex. My contribution doesn’t come out until 2016, but I’ll be fitting in writing that after this novel, as well.
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
I was always interested in storytelling, and I was always read to. My Dad read aloud to my older brother and me, but he read the books he wanted to read instead of children’s books. So by the time I was five or six, I’d been exposed to The Hobbit, the Lord of the Rings, Isaac Asimov, Ben Bova.
Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Sure. The following scene is from the sequel to Spark Rising, when Lena is trying to root out a conspiracy to hurt her. In true Lena fashion, she acts first and thinks later, taking an opportunity to grab and force a conspirator to tell her the truth—and when she’s confronted, she’s too angry and frustrated to be nice.
Footsteps in the hall outside made her tense. She stood, readying herself, but when the door swung in, it was to admit two familiar men.
Two angry, familiar men.
“What are you doing?” Thomas’s pale blue gaze had swept down to Marc on the floor and back to Lena’s face in a mere second. Behind him, Jackson closed the door and slipped around them both to stand behind Marc.
“Rooting out the conspiracy you and Alex were so content to wait out. It’s not just a few rogue Guardians, Thomas. It’s Guardians and Agents and Senior Wards. It’s not ‘an infection,’ like you said. It’s a cancer. And it’s spreading.” She hated that her voice sounded so petulant, but dammit, she’d been through enough. She’d earned the right to be a full partner in the revolution. She’d trusted them. She’d given them what they needed. She’d never expected to find herself in the position of being so thoroughly fucked.
In every sense of the word. Alex had no reservations about using their physical connection to soften her to an idea.
Thomas stepped closer, his voice soft and even. “There’s a reason we wanted to wait—”
“I don’t care, and it doesn’t matter.” Lena spoke over him, her voice harsh. He started to continue, raising his own voice slightly, but she talked over him. “They’ve moved it up. The attack on me. Moved it up to take advantage of Alex’s absence.” She tilted her head at him, willing to take a dig to pay him back for all of the disappointment she’d experienced over the last three months. “I suppose that tells you all you need to know about what they think of your leadership, doesn’t it?”
Don’t do that, Lena. It’s not his fault.
Thomas’s eyes narrowed. He stepped past her.
She spun on her heel to track him, watching as he stood over Marc. His toes were close enough to tap Marc’s ear.
“Tell me.” The two words were all he said, but they seemed to chill the room by several degrees.
Hmmm. I think she made Thomas mad, huh? That Lena, always a diplomat. *laugh*
Did you have to travel much to research your book(s)?
I traveled some. I drove up to the Albuquerque area first, to take pictures of the area to supplement my memory. I recently had a girlfriends roadtrip to the Taos and Rio Grande gorge area for more pictures as I write the second book.
I’d love to take a driving tour of the Idaho and Washington areas, as quite a bit of action will take place there, as well. I need to make that happen!
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Keep writing. You can fix just about anything, but you can’t fix something that doesn’t exist.
Treat the people you meet with respect, whether they are editors, bloggers, readers or other writers. Writing is a calling, yes, but it’s also a profession. Be professional.
And for Indies…edit! Seriously, save your pennies and pay for professional editing by someone who has worked in your chosen genre as an editor. I cannot stress the importance of this enough. “My friend the English teacher” is not a professional editor. I’m not criticizing English teachers—I was one! It’s just a different skill set altogether, and you can’t appreciate the differences until you’ve experienced them. Hire a professional, and then listen to the advice you are paying for no matter how much it stings!
How about advice for readers?
Oh, gosh…I don’t know. Readers are awesome. They’re the reason I do this, and I have such huge anxiety about their experiences with the book. I know I’m not alone in that. So maybe that would be my advice: remember that authors are people, too, and try to remember to be patient and kind. That’s not to say you can’t have an honest, visceral reaction to something, even if it’s bad. I’ve thrown books across the room, too, and I’ve given honest reviews that were less than ideal. Just perhaps keep in mind that we’re doing this for you, even when we get it wrong.
What were the challenges in bringing Spark Rising to life?
There was definitely a research challenge—I love science and I’ve always read science fiction. But I knew nothing about the inner workings of electricity and electrical components, and I certainly had no working knowledge of new theories in nanite technology. Even though I was creating something fantastic, I needed to have a bed of knowledge from which to stretch.
The other huge challenge is the scope of themes, especially with women’s roles and faith. Lena, and other characters, make assumptions about other groups of people, as we all do, that are wrong. Those assumptions are slowly sifted through and revealed through the greater series arc. I’m afraid people will—ha ha!—make assumptions about what I mean in the meantime, that I’m criticizing deeply held beliefs. It’s not so, and that’s rough for me to think about.
Do you think you’ll ever kill off some characters? Which characters would you find hardest to part with?
Ohhh, boy. So, it’s a complicated, post-apocalyptic world. And it’s in a state of revolution. I have to assume that not everyone will make it. And it’s going to be extremely hard to part with anyone. I love my characters—all of them. Even the characters that others hate, I try to offer excuses: “Well, you see, he has all of these issues that fuel his decisions…” *laugh*
What genre do you consider your book(s)?
They are clearly post-apocalyptic/dystopian. I prefer to call them futuristic fantasy. Yes, they’re rooted in scifi, but there is an element of the fantastic that works into them. As far as categories, Ignition Point, the collection of related short stories, straddles the line between YA and NA. I consider Spark Rising to be NA. The series itself will sit on the border of NA and Adult fiction. Lena has a lot to work her way through, but the series will see her grow through her struggles with her identity, fear of failure, and first love.
Obviously, your story is genre fiction. What do you think of New Adult stories being told in genre fiction?
I love that New Adult is starting to push the accepted definition of what constitutes “New Adult”. It amuses me that a genre that started by defining itself is now so rigidly defined by powers-that-be. New Adult has to be X,Y, and Z in the first person! Those stories are great. I love them, too. But, in my opinion, New Adult is defined more by a sense of voice and of self-discovery and of someone facing huge choices than by college, or contemporary time period, or first-person POV, or even sex. There are so many fabulous paranormal and now scifi New Adult stories being told by both traditionally-pubbed and indie authors! It is growing organically into other genres and it’s amazing to watch and, hopefully, to be a part of that growth.
What do you think is the draw of the “strong female character”?
Well, I think we all like to root for someone who can handle herself, who isn’t afraid to face the bad guys, and who reminds us of the internal strength we have or we’d like to have. Personally, I really prefer the flawed female character. *laugh* Don’t get me wrong—Lena can kick some ass. She has to be able to, in her world. But I love that she is flawed. She leaps before looking, she’s mouthy, she makes shitty decisions and then has to live with the consequences. She obsesses…oh, how she obsesses! She’s not always likeable. She’s a twenty-four year old young woman figuring out where she belongs, who she loves, and what she wants, special powers or not. It’s important to me that she isn’t a caricature of strength on that journey.
Do you ever experience writer's block?
Yep. I call it writer’s block when I have drained the creative well. I believe that we all have a finite amount of creative energy to work with, like a reservoir, and we have to take time off to let it replenish. I do that by reading, by listening to music, by watching certain TV shows or movies. I think those activities aren’t taking away from writing time, they’re an important part of making writing possible. When I write obsessively and exclude them—BLOCK.
Do you write an outline before every book you write?
Yes. I’m a hybrid writer. I plot the arc of the story, and then I pants the details.
Have you ever hated something you wrote?
All the time. I think it’s an important part of my process. Or my anxiety!
What is your favorite theme/genre to write about?
Anything with a fantastic element. Scifi, futuristic fantasy, urban fantasy, paranormal, classic—I love it all!
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