Author Chanda Stafford has stopped by today for an interview and an excerpt of her new book First!
About the book:
Describe your book in one sentence.
- First is a young adult dystopian that centers on a young woman’s choices between love, life, and making a difference in a world destroyed by greed and government control.
Give me a quick blurb about the book and pitch on why you think readers will enjoy it.
- Have you ever asked yourself, “What would you be willing to do to live forever?” Mira, the novel’s protagonist, is ripped from her home and chosen by Socrates, a man who does just that. Through her adventures, she falls in love, learns about the true brutality of her world, and has to make the ultimate choice: is her life worth that of her family and her people?
- Readers who enjoy YA with more layers than an onion (thanks, Shrek) will appreciate the adventure, romance, and deeper meanings in this book.
How did you come up with the idea for the book?
- I was actually daydreaming while watching a movie at a friend’s house. The idea just hit me and I grabbed a napkin to write as much of it down as I could before it disappeared!
When did you start writing it, and how long did it take you to finish it?
- I started writing this book for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) a couple years ago and finished it in about ten days.
About you as writer:
When did you begin writing?
- I’ve been writing for as long as I remember. Storytelling has always been a part of who I am and is as essential as breathing.
When did you first think, wow I have made it as a writer?
- For me, I think it was when my publisher told me the publication date for my book. Before that, it felt like it was happening so far in the future, it almost wasn’t real.
Do you have any special rituals you do when you sit down to write?
- Usually, I have to turn off my Wi-fi. I get so distracted by the internet and Facebook that if I don’t turn it off or go into a separate room, I can’t concentrate.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers out there?
- Don’t give up. Even when others tell you you’re not good enough, or that you’ll never make it, just keep going.
- It depends on the day! Sometimes I like green better, other times, gray. My favorite today is Tardis blue, but then again I’ve been on a Doctor Who kick for a while now.
Salty or Sweet?
- Salty, definitely. Especially if it involves peanuts or peanut butter. Peanut butter is my kryptonite.
- I have too many to count! There are some authors who, frankly, I stalk online, waiting for a new book to come out. It’s more the writing style that I love, though. When I find an author whose writing style engages and absorbs me, I can’t wait to read all of his or her books!
- Like the previous question, I have too many to count! It really depends on my mood or whatever I have downloaded to my Kindle at the moment.
Vampire or werewolf?
- Neither. One sparkles too much and the other runs around half the time without a shirt on. If I had to choose supernatural, I’d choose witch. Not the fluffy kind, either, but the hard-core, kick-butt kind who can take care of her own problems and doesn’t jump off a cliff because she can’t be with the man she loves.
“Don’t say a word.”
The room smells musty, unused. Kind of like the back storage buildings on the farm, or the old cellar the Chesanings don’t use any more where we explore and play games. Shafts of sunlight slant through the cracks in the heavy, dark red curtains, and when I take a step, more puffs of dust cloud the air. Chairs covered in white blankets line the walls and tower over me in stacks almost as high as the ceiling.
“What do you think they’re doing out there?” I whisper, but it’s so quiet, I could be shouting.
My servant, Will, shushes me. “If you listen closely, I bet you can hear your First talking.”
I creep over to the door and press my ear against it. Nothing. As if no one’s on the other side. “Isn’t this the Release Ceremony? Shouldn’t I be out there with him?”
Will nods, leaning against the wall, crossing his arms in front of him. “That’s normally how it happens. This is… odd.”
“Did I do something wrong? Did I make Thoreau mad?” I bite my lip to keep it from trembling. Grow up, Adrian. Stop acting like a baby.
“No, of course not.” He flashes me a quick grin, but I can tell he’s nervous.
“Are you sure?” I hate it when my voice is all shaky like a little baby’s.
“Definitely. I would know if there was a problem.” He shrugs, and a bar of light illuminates his carefree smile. “I bet it’s to save you from having to sit out there for the whole ceremony. Some of them can get pretty long.”
On the other side of the door, I hear clapping. An old man’s voice rises up as the applause dies.
“There, you see?” Will says. “Nothing to worry about.” I turn away and tune him out so I can listen to Thoreau.
“Thank you, my friends, for this most welcome reception. As a First, I’ve lived for hundreds of years, influenced this country in ways the average person can’t even begin to comprehend. With your continued support, and that of Princeton, I will use your gift to change the future and create a better tomorrow. Thank you.”
A dull roar follows his words, and I fidget in my seat, watching the door. My eyes dart to Will.
“This doesn’t make any sense, Will. I should be out there.”
“I’m sure they’ll call you shortly, Adrian. Maybe the usual waiting room was unavailable and—”
A loud boom shakes the room, and I almost fall down. The chairs weave back and forth in their towers, and millions of dust particles rain down. Will shoves me away from the wall and pushes me toward the back of the room.
“Move, now!” he shouts, but my ears are ringing, and I cough from the dust. He looks behind us at the door and forces me to move faster.
“Murderer! Child killer! Free the Second!” a loud, mechanical voice shouts from the other room. “Free the Second! Free the Second!”
There’s more yelling, but I can’t make out what they’re saying. Another, quieter boom. Will pushes me to a narrow closet.
“In here,” he hisses and shoves me inside. We stay like that for what feels like a couple hours before the door to our main room bangs open, and I hear the heavy clomping of boots.
“You in here with the Second, boy?” Will stays silent. There is a general grumbling outside, some swearing my mother would never approve of, then the deep, gravelly voice speaks again. “Alpha Code One, this is Underground Robin. Is the cargo safe and accounted for? I repeat, is the cargo safe and accounted for?”
Apparently these are magic words for Will because relief washes over his features.
“Who wants to know?”
“Papa bird.” The men march over to our closet and slide open the door. “Good spot, boy.” The head guard, an older man with a pinched face and a permanent frown sheaths his Artos. The other guards keep theirs out. Why? Is it still dangerous?
“What’s going on out there?” Will asks.
“Nothing we didn’t expect. Stupid rebels, always doing things half-assed.” He grins. “Let’s go.” One of them reaches out for me, but I jerk away.
Will touches my shoulder, reassuring me. “It’s okay, Adrian. We’re safe now.”
I shake my head and step back. “Where are we going?”
“Someplace safe.” The head guard takes my arm roughly in his. “Don’t worry. We won’t let anything happen to you.” One of the other guards laughs, as if that’s somehow funny.
“Is… my First all right?”
“He’s fine, boy.” He drags me from the closet. “Now let’s go.”
“Where?” My feet skitter, trying to find purchase as the guard forces me to follow him. The other men glance at each other, at me, then away again. Even Will won’t meet my eyes. Fear freezes me, and I dig my shoes into the thick carpeting. “Will? What’s going on?”
“Nothing,” he answers too quickly. “Just a trip down to the medical center, to make sure you’re all right.” He tries to give me another smile, but he’s lying about something. I can feel it.
“But I’m fine,” I protest as the guard pulls me to the side of the room, behind the curtains where, instead of a window, there is another door. “Can’t you just tell them that? I’m fine. I just want to go back to my room.”
Will shakes his head, sadly. “I’m sorry, Adrian, I really am.”
“What’s going on? Why are you sorry? Will?”
“Let’s go,” one of the other guards growls from the rear of our group. “We don’t have all day. Some of us have work to do.”
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About the Author
Chanda Stafford teaches middle and high school English. She loves traveling and currently lives in Michigan with her husband and a menagerie of rescued dogs and cats.
When she’s not reading or writing, Chanda enjoys old zombie movies, authentic Italian food, and comic books.
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/books/1046632684?ean=2940016614328
The First Tour page: http://redadeptpublishing.com/the-first-tour/
Book page on RAP: http://redadeptpublishing.com/firsts-book-one-of-the-live-once-trilogy-by-chanda-stafford/
Author page on RAP: http://redadeptpublishing.com/chanda-stafford/
Author Blog: http://chandastafford.com/
Goodreads Page: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17742946-first