Instead of my normal 50/50 update, today I have something special: an interview! I’ve asked Alica McKenna-Johnson to join me in my little corner of the intrawebs to talk about her new book, Phoenix Child, which debuted on Amazon a few days ago. In case you haven’t read it: Sara’s dream is to find her family, but she doesn’t count on discovering magical creatures or catching on fire. On her fourteenth birthday a surprise inheritance changes her appearance, abilities, and identity. Welcomed into the family of the Phoenix, she is taught to use her new powers. Will Sara embrace being a Child of Fire, or will the evil that killed her parents destroy her as well?
First line: “Alien abduction? Extreme makeover? Witch’s spell?
Something had to explain the changes that had happened to me overnight. Even the doctor Melanie dragged me to had no idea what happened to me, but apparently I was in perfect health. I barely managed to stop myself from demanding to see his diploma. How was it possible to wake up looking completely different and be in perfect health? I looked down at the coppery tint which appeared this morning on my tanned skin. Stupid doctor.”
Imagine waking up looking completely different! This was enough to keep me reading, for sure. I’m curious about stuff like that. Maybe even a little jealous. Let’s face it, I’ve probably dreamed of having something out-of-this-world-magical happen to me. It’s why I like reading so much.
OK, enough stalling. It’s time to get to know the author!
First, thank you so much for stopping by to talk about Phoenix Child. You must be so excited! It looks like the cover is original artwork. How did the cover come to be?
My hubby designed and painted the cover. He’s of course spent countless hours listening to me plot, vent, and re-revise my book so he had a clear image in his head.
What made you start writing stories down after so long in other careers? (30 years…that’s a long time to deny a passion.)
Honestly I had no idea I was creating stories. As long as I can remember I would day dream—while walking, doing chores, falling asleep, etc. It never affected my school work, so I’m not even sure anyone else ever knew I went around with stories fluttering through my head.
It wasn’t until my sister introduced me to fan fiction that I ever thought about writing anything down. Then one day a ‘what if’ popped into my head and just didn’t go away until I wrote it down, then another chapter, and another, and 83 chapters and over 2000 reviews later I was hooked on writing and started working on Phoenix Child.
What was your inspiration for this particular story?
I wish I could say it was some magical mystical moment, but really I think I was reading a story about Selkie, and how the men would go and seduce human women and then couldn’t come back for seven years. And I thought “I bet that’s a lie, I bet they can come and go as they please, they just say that so they don’t have to commit.” It got me wondering what if (doesn’t every book start with a what if question) other magical creatures could turn into humans, and what if they had children with human women? Would the babies have powers? I just played with that for a long time until I came up with the premise for Phoenix Child: 4000 years ago the Phoenix King married a human woman, and Sarah is their most powerful descendant.
When you aren’t writing, what do you like to do?
It seems like all I ever do is write, but when I get away and I’m not working I love to watch movies with my hubby and kids. Go for hikes. I have a friend I go to the gym with. And of course reading—especially if I’m alone in the house.
What’s your favorite movie?
ACK!!! I could never pick just one! Sci-fi: The Fifth Element. Rom-Com: Love Actually. Horror: The Lost Boys. Muppet: Muppet Treasure Island. Bollywood: Om Shante Om. Anime: Spirited Away. Those are what popped into my head first.
What’s your favorite book and why?
Are you trying to kill me?
No, of course not *looks away with shifty eyes*
A favorite book. There are so many! I love classics like Tom Sawyer; books from my Childhood like Island of the Blue Dolphins; ones that made me cry like Harry Potter (especially the last ones); ones that hurt my brain like Wicked. Anything by Janet Evanovich will have me cracking up in public. I love Sherrilyn Kenyon but I prefer to read those alone because it’s steamy stuff. The newest one I’m obsessed over is one that’s not out yet. My friend, Mary, is writing the most amazing story. I can answer questions about the previous chapter faster then she can—it’s a bit scary.
I love them because I can get lost in them. I fall into the books and into the characters. I know what they are going through and I go through it with them. That’s what I need from any book, to get sucked into a new world.
I will admit, because I have so many writer friends that I purposely picked authors I don’t know, so no one would get mad at me that I left them off my list.
Probably a wise choice. I don’t want to be responsible for starting any writer feuds! So, what book are you reading now?
I’m reading Treasure Island to the kids and The Stream: Discovery by Bill Jones JR, for me.
You say in your bio that you (or your characters) eat exotic foods. What’s the strangest food you’ve/they’ve ever eaten, and how did it taste?
Oh, I can’t get too strange because I’m a vegetarian, as are most of my characters, so no intestines or tongue. I have drunk wheat grass juice. Is that weird? It tasted like fresh cut grass smells. It’s supposed to be super good for you, but yuck! I love ethnic foods and my characters rarely eat the same thing twice in a book because there are so many wonderful things to try (or have them try.)
Here’s something fun: in the next book they are in Argentina and Peru. I couldn’t find an Argentinian restaurant, but I did find a Peruvian one and went to eat there. It was fun. They eat lots of potatoes and they have this fruit and corn drink called Chicha; very yummy.
What do you mean by “diverse characters”?
I love colorful, interesting people. And I try to make each character as unique and individual as I can. Honestly, I’m a pervy middle-aged woman, and I adore looking at beautiful people of all nationalities. I tend to have characters from different ethnic backgrounds, frequently from the country themselves. In Phoenix Child, I have a first generation Korean boy, a boy from Zimbabwe, a woman from India, and characters of Mexican and African American and Native American decent.
I also have people with different religious backgrounds, and gay/lesbian characters. I’ll try different backgrounds or lifestyles as long as I feel like I can do enough research to create an honest, strong, realistic character.
Is there a specific message you hope readers will get from reading this story?
I want them to know being unique is beautiful, that they aren’t alone, that life sometimes really sucks, but if they hang in there and accept and fight for who they really are they will be all right. I want my readers to see themselves in my characters and feel inspired.
That’s a great message, and one that bears repeating as many times as it takes for it to sink in. So, what’s next?
I have finished book 2 (no title yet). It’s going through my critique group, then editing and revisions (sobs). I’m working on an adult Paranormal Romance: Poltergeist meets Ghosts Adventurers with romance. And I’m plotting out the rest of the Phoenix Child series. So far it looks like 8, possibly 9, books. I better get to typing!
Sounds like it! Thank you so much for stopping by, Alica!
If you haven’t already downloaded Phoenix Child, click here. If you have, and you loved it, please let her know by leaving a review on Amazon. A sentence or two is all it takes to show you care and make an author’s day. It won’t hurt, I promise.
For more information on Alica, or just to check up on her and see what she’s up to, please visit her website: http://alicamckennajohnson.wordpress.com/
Every author needs a little love!