This week I have the amazing Christine Rice. She was kind enough to talk about one of her favorite subjects. Her book. For any of you who haven’t read Blue Valley go and check it out. You’ll never think of dirt in the same way again.
Well before I give away too much, Let’s Play!
1.) Tell me a little bit about yourself.
I live in Los Angeles with my family. I have a master’s in film from USC. There’s more, but I also have 19 questions coming.
2.) How long have you been writing?
Screenplays and novels, 13 years.
3.) Do you have a preferred genre that you read? Is it the same as what you write?
I love speculative fiction, and my first novel is just that, a fantasy with a historical twist. My second novel is a straight up murder mystery, and I haven’t read that in a long time.
4.) What is the title of your book and where can it be found?
You can get it at this obscure little online bookstore called Amazon. Here’s the link in case you
can’t find it. Blue Valley
5.) Describe your novel in 15 words or less.
A man falls for an Earth Elemental in danger. Saving her means destroying the world.
Just made it in 15!
6.) Where did the inspiration for your story come from?
I visited the Salinas Valley on an archaeological dig in…well, a long time ago. And I found the farmland so inspiring I made it a character.
7.) How long did it take you to complete this novel from concept to published?
It was an award-winning screenplay, and that took a couple of years to write. Then I put it aside because no one wanted to make it. I picked it up to turn it into a novel three years ago.
So, I want to say, five years all told.
8.) When you sit down to write, how does that process go? Do you outline or just let it evolve?
I outline, then I throw it away. Same thing happens every time. I’m like a rebel rule-breaker with outlines.
9.) Are there any aspects of writing you struggle with?
Can’t type worth a damn. Don’t know nothing about punctuation (I was a screenwriter after all), and well, sticking with my outline. I really struggle with that.
10.) Are there any aspects that you simply glide through?
I write a really great outline.
11.) What sets your book apart from others in the same genre?
It’s about farming. How many other fantasy novels have you read about farming? None? That’s right.
12.) What is the era of your story setting and why did you choose it?
World War Two – for a few reasons, which I shall gleefully list below….
- World War 2 was a turning point in farming science. In the mid 40s and 50s we started
implementing all we’d learned during the war. How to use chemicals to produce more. How to modify a plant’s genetics. How to amend soil. How to separate the nutrients from the plant. You get the idea…
- Our main lady is an Earth Elemental, and her powers come to light just as the government is looking for “one perfect weapon.” Well, historically, we know what it ended up being, but in the book, the War Department wants to weaponize Sarah, and if they fail they will develop the atom bomb.
- My main character, Will, lost his family in the Dust Bowl diaspora. Literally. He went
to college, and when he returned they were gone. He starved himself looking for them, but he did not find a trace.
- The book is the first of four that occur during pivotal moments in American history. The next takes place in the 60s free love era, the third is the rise of conservatism in the 80s, and the last book ends on September 11th.
13.) Have you written the other three?
They’re outlined. So let’s see how that’s going to go.
14.) And are there other Elementals?
Four, naturally. And Will is our main character. He isn’t an Elemental, but the Sphere, which is a perfect balance of all four. This means he can hold Familiars, which are forces that are the essence of each Element. So for
instance, at the end of Blue Valley, Will has earned a Water Familiar, and this “creature” which we never see,
because it has no form, will do his bidding.
15.) What’s the point of that?
His purpose is to guide and mentor Elementals. They die and are reborn from their Element. Sarah literally born from the ground and adopted, but she was nearly institutionalized before the Water Elemental found her and told her what she was. They’re born stupid and crazy, but the Sphere is there to step in when one dies too soon and can’t help the next one in line. The Sphere needs the Familiars to help him find Elementals and gain their trust.
16.) Is he a superhero, or more of a brooding regular guy?
He’s as baffled as the next guy. He’s just a regular schmo trying to keep his life
together when he finds out he’s not only this superpower, he’s immortal.
17.) Where can readers find you?
Usually at work. I do have a day job. And kids. I have a blog.
18.) What are 3 random things about yourself that readers might like to know.
1) Sometimes, if I’m wearing boots it’s because I couldn’t find matching socks
2) I’m a Mets fan.
3) I produced a line of truck videos for little boys. It’s called Totally Trucks. Check us out on Amazon (same little bookstore as above)
19.) What do you do in your down time? For fun.
Eat great food and drink mediocre wine.
20.) How about letting me have a sneak peek at chapter one?
The baby was wrong. Wrong in ways that brought up words like “unnatural” and “abomination”. Wrong in ways that made Kat wonder if she knew anything about the world. So wrong that she touched the hugeness of her belly to make sure her own baby had not dropped out of her, inexplicably, without labor pains.
But she was both relieved and sad that the baby lying in the dirt was not hers, because as frightening as this
child was to the farm’s proprietor and the twenty pickers surrounding her, she was beautiful, somehow older than a newborn, fat and well-nourished, yet coated with dirt from her birth.
Benito, elbowed through the crowd.
“Get back to picking, unless you think the child can join the line.” He pointed to Kat, “You help me. You’re not much good on this line today anyways.” He pulled his knife from his pocket, and Kat knew what he meant to do.
She glanced at her husband, Alphonse, whose bin of strawberries was nearly full, such was the speed at
which he picked. He stood to his full six-four, “If she was available I’d say so.”
“She’ll get her day’s pay,” Benito said, standing between Kat and Alphonse.
I don’t want her touching that thing. Not while she’s carrying my son.”
“It’s okay,” she whispered, though no one heard. They had been hearing nothing but the baby’s cries; delicate, not demanding, more for attention than nutrition, since they had dug her from the ground.
At first, they thought the cries in the distance were from coyotes in the hills, then perhaps a trick of the wind,
until one of the pickers suddenly yelped, and pointed to the rows below. Peeking from the ground inside a perfect circle of soil, was a baby’s face. The rest of the its body was trapped underground.
Alphonse was the first to react. He shouted for a shovel. Benito barked orders, but they faded into the wind.
Kat reached down, stooping like she couldn’t for the strawberries, and dug around the face. Another woman helped, but all Kat saw were hands, and the face and the shovel blade carefully pushing dirt away. Soil got in the baby’s mouth. It gagged and cried. Panicked, Kat dug her hands into the loam, reaching for the baby’s body, feeling around muddy wet flesh, until her fingertips found the crevices under the baby’s arms.
She pulled, but the baby didn’t budge. She felt strong hands under her arms, pulling. Her heels dug in, fingers
wrapped around the dirty child as she pulled until she thought her elbows would come apart. When Alphonse got his shovel in under the baby Kat was thrown back like a fisherman with a suddenly loose line.
She panted from the effort. The baby lay on her chest, quiet now, slicked with mud.
Alphonse rushed toward her, then fell back in horror with the sign of the cross at his fingertips.
Seeing the baby, the others stepped back. Behind her, Kat heard someone vomiting.
A thick cable of white roots draped across her leg, too thick for strawberries, too healthy for an upturned tree.
She tried to shake it off, but it was too heavy. She pulled at its warm, soft flesh, sticky with supple white rootlets. She must have yanked a tree root when she pulled up the baby.
But the nearest tree was two fields over.
Alphonse pulled her out from under the child as Benito, whose wife’s barrenness was a constant pain to them, made the decision that a wrong baby was better than no baby.
“Leave her,” Alphonse said to Kat. To the other pickers he shouted, “Get out of here, all of you.” They hesitated.
Alphonse wasn’t their boss, but he was a hard man to deny. Some ran as fast as they could. Some backed away, then ran. Only Kat, Alphonse, Benito and the baby were left.
“The cord’s gonna be no picnic,” said Benito, “either help me cut it or get off my land.”
“Use the knife to kill it.”
Benito dropped to his knees and put the knife to the root.
Alphonse knew better than to defy Benito now. He needed the work, and they were negotiating a loan for Alphonse’s own piece of land.
Kat wondered if she could parlay the quiet into helping Benito with the baby, but it was not to be. She looked down at her skirt. Her water had broken.
* * *
I want to thank everyone who took the time to stop by and check out this latest installment of 20 Questions. Christine was so much fun to have. Now run out and pick up her book!