Author Interview: Taylor Stevens
"She closed her eyes and relaxed, ready for what she sensed coming. Adrenaline flowed, and euphoria followed. Irregular footsteps. Metal on metal. A hand reached for her shoulder, and with celerity she grabbed the owner's wrist and forced his arm backward until she felt the snap, and in that same second slammed a fist into his abdomen. When he doubled over, she picked up his knife from the ground.
'That was a warning,' she said, and fought the urge to pummel him."
Excerpted from THE INFORMATIONIST by Taylor Stevens, Published by Crown, Copyright 2011 Taylor Stevens (c)
I recently had the honor of interviewing Taylor Stevens, author of the debut thriller, THE INFORMATIONIST. (If you missed the review, click HERE.)
HB: All right, Taylor, I know this interview is about your new book, THE INFORMATIONIST, but your background is fascinating so I've got to start with this question: How long were you in the Children of God cult?
TS: The Children of God/The Family International was the cult into which I was born and raised. My issues with the lifestyle, and with its leadership and beliefs, started when I turned fourteen. It took another twelve years before I was able to internally process my experiences to the point that I was able to separate what I had been taught my entire life from what I felt inside. It took another few years before the desire for something—anything—other than the world I knew, became stronger than the fear of what living on the outside would bring. I was finally able to cut ties permanently when I was 29.
HB: Did you write any novels before THE INFORMATIONIST?
TS: I wrote a bit when I was a young teenager, but those handwritten notebooks were eventually confiscated and burned by cult leaders and I was told to never write again. THE INFORMATIONIST is my first completed work of fiction of any size.
HB: You are really effective in evoking the heat, the smells, the feel of Central Africa, as well as its political scene. Was this the result of research or personal experience?
TS: I actually lived in Africa for four years during my adulthood, so the memories were very vivid. I was in Equatorial Guinea for a little over two years and also spent several months in Cameroon. My initial desire in writing THE INFORMATIONIST, even before I had characters or a plot, or any idea really of what I would write, was to bring these foreign and exotic worlds alive for readers who’d never and might never have the opportunity to visit.
HB: How long did it take you to write this story? How many revisions?
TS: Too many revisions to count. When I first started, I had no idea what I was doing. I’d never taken a writing course, never even got through sixth-grade English. I didn’t know how to plot, how to build characters, and learned everything as I went, which meant a lot of re-writes just to keep the first parts of the book consistent with the latter parts as the quality improved. In all, it took about two years, while I juggled being a full time mom.
HB: I understand THE INFORMATIONIST is going to be the first in a trilogy, was that your original intent?
TS: Well, again, when I first started, I had no clue as to what I was doing, and getting published wasn’t even on my radar of possibilities. I was writing in order to take back what was taken from me, to prove that I could do it, and so that I wouldn’t get to the end of my life wondering what might have been if I’d only tried. I think it was about half-way through THE INFORMATIONIST, when the characters had pretty much developed into who they are now, that I first realized that they were destined to live on in other stories.
HB: Clearly Munroe is a beautiful woman, yet can effectively pass for a man. What inspired you to make your main character so androgynous?
TS: Unfortunately, a large part of our world is still very much a man’s world. I’ve experienced many of the cultures through which Munroe navigates, and it made no sense to me that a woman, who is blatantly a woman, accomplishes what she does. Therefore, who she is and her characteristics are a direct response to the environments she has been thrown into.
HB: Do you create an outline before you start writing?
TS: I do now! I learned the hard way that I benefit from at least having a general idea of where the story is going before setting out to write it. The second book, The Innocent was complete in six months.
HB: Would you describe your social networking platform?
TS: It wasn’t until I’d sold THE INFORMATIONIST that I began building an online presence, and I still don’t really have much of a “platform” per se. I have a website (www.taylorstevensbooks.com) and a Facebook page (www.facebook.com/taylorstevens) and that’s about it. I believe most of the excitement surrounding THE INFORMATIONIST has come from word of mouth by those who’ve caught glimpses of it, or have read it.
HB: Any advice for new writers?
TS: Don’t listen to the people who say you have to know someone or have connections in order to get published. I wasn’t in a position to attend writers’ conferences or meet agents in person to pitch a book. Neither was I well read enough to track down the agents of authors whose books I liked, and my one favorite author was already dead. I couldn’t even afford the postage to SASE. My only option, really, was to cold query agents by email, which, if you believe the naysayers, is impossible.
Click the title to purchase a copy of THE INFORMATIONIST.