Wednesday, September 23, 2015

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY: Sarah Elle Emm, Author

Sarah Elle Emm, Author
Harmony Run Series
With her most recent release of NACREOUS, Sarah Elle Emm completes her young adult dystopian Harmony Run Series. Emm considers the dystopian genre ideal for teenagers, given their turbulent time of life combined with making them think “what if?” She is a world-builder first, although her characters follow soon after. Although she definitely writes for entertainment, her books also parallel the real world and call for “harmony” given that we are all valuable human beings.

When she’s not writing, Emm likes spending time with her daughters and talking to her dog, who she says is a good listener. She is currently plotting her next young adult dystopian series in between spending more time with her family.   

Don't miss the giveaway opportunity and excerpt following the interview.

Q: The Harmony Run Series, and its newest release NACREOUS, is dystopian, written for young adults. Why choose this genre for these readers? What do you consider dystopian, that is, what are your readers looking for in this genre?

Sarah Elle Emm: I think a dystopian is sort of an upside down world. It is a story where there have been drastic changes to a “normal” societal structure. Think 1984, Hunger Games, Brave New World, The Giver, or the Divergent Series. Basically, the rules have changed, and typically the characters are dealing with an oppressive sort of situation in a dystopian. The question becomes, will they overcome these dire circumstances?

I think teenagers are going through so much between their hormones and their thoughts about life goals and their feelings that the dystopian genre is perfect for them. Plus, the dystopian genre really makes you ask yourself, “What if?”  What if the government collapsed? What if we were forced to live in segregated cities? What if we couldn’t go to school? I think teens can handle that sort of thinking and are into it. I was personally a rather rebellious teen, and I was always questioning authority and trying to express the pent up emotions I felt at the time. I can only imagine how a dystopian novel might have turned out had I tried to write one back then.

Q: How do you do your world building? Do you create characters first and then the world around them?

Sarah Elle Emm: Honestly, I think the world comes first, well at least a general idea about what is wrong with the society I am writing about. I had a dream about the Harmony Run Series and started taking notes immediately, outlining the story, but I think the idea had been brewing in me for years.

After my first trip to Dachau Concentration Camp in Germany back in the early nineties, I felt this immense pull to learning more about the victims of the Holocaust. It never really left me, and I think my desire to write about a future society, where people were treated so horrifically as those in concentration camps, old and present ones, sort of stayed with me.

I wanted to build my fictional world with some parallels to the real world. On the one hand, as sort of a statement…This has happened before, people. And people still discriminate based on our outward and cultural differences today, so I wanted to write a story where the theme was that we are all valuable human beings, regardless of differences.

So the world came to me first, at least in this case. Of course, in that dream I mentioned, I met my main character, Rain Hawkins. So I guess she sort of arrived with the world.

Q: In a dystopian world, how or what do you do to assure credibility? Does credibility matter?

Sarah Elle Emm: I tried to provide background information in snippets throughout the story, so you can see how the events unfolded that led to this unbearable dystopian society. I think providing some history helped for sure. I also tried to make you care about the characters so much, you weren’t really concerned about much else. Still, the fun thing about dystopian is that you can create a new government, a new system, if you will, where the rules have changed. It gives you more freedom as a writer.

Q:  How do you create engaging characters? Why do readers care about them?

Sarah Elle Emm: I wanted the reader to be able to relate to the characters. Basically, they were just your average teenagers until their lives were uprooted. Rain was a soccer player. They had normal lives in suburbia. In the series, you see glimpses of who they were before and how they use their past to get through their present. They joke around, fall in love, and challenge their parents’ decisions like other teens. And I think you can’t help but care for them once you get to know them and see what they are going through. You cheer for them. You have to believe they’ll make it through their situation.

Q: Tell us about your villains and heroes. Is conflict between them relevant to your story?

Sarah Elle Emm: My villain in the Harmony Run Series is a female, Elizabeth Nicks, and she was modeled after a few dictators throughout history. Slowly over the series, you learn a little bit more about Elizabeth, which gives readers a chance to decide for themselves if they want to understand how she became who she is today. I don’t make readers accept her or her past. I just wanted them to have the chance to make up their own minds about her.

The Freedom Front is a small group of teenagers, who are the heroes of the story. Elizabeth has a couple of things in common with the heroes, but I don’t want to give that away. As the series unfolds, the conflict between them becomes more and more relevant, but again, I don’t want to give too much away...

Q: How helpful is humor to telling your story or developing your characters?

Sarah Elle Emm: I think humor adds to every story, and I especially wanted to use it in the Harmony Run Series because it is a darker story. I knew the humor would lighten the intensity the reader was feeling. Whenever Rain and her friends are interacting, it isn’t uncommon to see joking around and light-heartedness between them. It’s how they get through the terrible things they are dealing with. I think it makes the characters seem more real. They joke around and tease each other just like other teenagers.

Q: Do you write your novels for entertainment alone or do you hope to deliver a message or two?

Sarah Elle Emm: I write for entertainment and to also deliver a message or at least leave the reader thinking about a few things. My first novel, Marrying Missy, was a women’s fiction, and though it had plenty of light-heartedness woven into the story, some of the issues pertaining to the story were loyalty when it comes to friendships, self-image, prejudice, and even abusive relationships. I guess it sounds sort of heavy if you think about it, but I think that most readers enjoyed it. A few readers said it had a Lifetime Movie sort of feel, which I would agree with.

In the Harmony Run Series, I tried to leave readers on the edge of their seats, desperate to know what would happen to Rain and her friends, but also rooting for Rain and Jabari as they fall in love for the first time. So yes, entertainment was very important in this case as well. Yet, there were many messages in this series also. The two most important ideas I wanted readers to take away was the idea of having hope, even in dark times, and that regardless of our outward differences or the spot on the globe we hail from, we are all human beings, and we should endeavor to live in harmony.

Q: Can you explain the significance of the title NACREOUS and Harmony Run without giving away your plots?

Sarah Elle Emm: Nacreous means exhibiting lustrous or rainbow-like colors, and it is a synonym to the other titles in the Harmony Run Series. Prismatic means brilliantly colored or iridescent. I chose the titles because I wanted them to represent how these teenagers are and how they work together. They come from various ethnic or cultural backgrounds, and they work together, sort of like a rainbow, if you will, to overcome evil with their good. Together, they shine throughout the series. I chose Harmony Run as the series title because 1) they are figuratively running towards harmony, and 2) Rain is a runner as you see in each book, and 3) Rain’s old voice-activated room back in Zionsville was called Harmony, and in a sense, Rain is fighting throughout this series to get home or to a place with freedom.

Q: What’s next?

Sarah Elle Emm: Well, my daughters put a big guilt trip on me this school year. They say I didn’t spend enough time like the other moms volunteering in their classrooms last year. I did, in my defense help out with every field trip and class party for both of them. Anyhow, I am volunteering in their classrooms twice a week in addition to those other things this year…So in between motherhood and their school, I am plotting a new YA dystopian series. I am also working on a suspense novel.

Q: Tell us about Sarah Elle Emm. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Sarah Elle Emm: Well, I spend a lot of time with my daughters. I do the household chores, help with homework, drive them to various activities, (piano, martial arts, speech), and I talk to my dog. (She’s a great listener). I go to church and do my bible study everyday. I experiment with my patio garden. I have loads of cucumbers right now, which I’ll eat and also juice. I spend lots of time prepping my healthy meal plans, which is key to dealing with my health issues. (I have SLE Lupus). I have stacks of books I try to make my way through. I love to read. And when my brain is too tired to write late at night or I feel like totally zoning out, I watch Netflix. I just finished half a season of Hart of Dixie. It is such a feel good show. (I also watch the Walking Dead and Game of Thrones).

About Sarah Elle Emm

Sarah Elle Emm is the author of the Harmony Run Series, a young-adult fantasy and dystopian series, released in May 2012 by Winter Goose Publishing. (PRISMATIC, May 2012, OPALESCENT, February 2013, CHATOYANT, September 2014, NACREOUS, August 2015) Her debut fiction novel, MARRYING MISSY, was published by Bird Brain Publishing in October 2011. Sarah is a graduate of The University of Evansville, she has lived and worked in Mexico, Germany, England, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and has traveled extensively beyond. Sarah lives in Naples, Florida with her family. When she’s not walking the plank of her daughters’ imaginary pirate ship or snapping photos of Southwest Florida scenery, she is writing.

About NACREOUS—Harmony Run Series Book 4

After two members of The Freedom Front are arrested and interrogated by the UZTA’s tyrannical President Nicks, Rain Hawkins and her friends face the alarming reality that their plans to liberate the mixed zones across the United Zones of The Authority might not come to fruition.

While the resistance movement is growing outside the walls of the zones, the president’s forces are strengthening and putting citizens everywhere in more peril than ever. When Rain receives warnings that her cousin, Calista, has agreed to support plans to kill the mixed zones, and that her life could be on the line at the upcoming pure zone initiation ceremony, she must decide where her loyalties lie and if all of her allies can be trusted.

As The Freedom Front use their abilities to unravel the mystery of the ceremony, The Authority captures some of their friends, forcing TFF to either go into hiding, or plan a rescue mission that could jeopardize everything they’ve been fighting for.

Excerpt from NACREOUS, Harmony Run Series, Book four…

For the rest of the walk I tried not to let fear creep over me, but the more I thought about Nata coming, the harder it was. Still, Takara had said we’d be okay. Help was on the way. I just had to believe.
We were led down a series of hallways and through somewhat familiar doors until finally we were pushed into a fairly large interrogation room. I recognized the set-up from my last trip here. But this room was larger. There were chairs lined up in a long row, twice as many chairs as there were people and a bright solar light illuminated the chairs in an otherwise dark, concrete room. My eyes instinctively searched the ground, checking for holes or iron bars like the last room I’d been questioned in. Either there weren’t any holes to lock people in here or I couldn’t find them. Part of me knew they’d be located in the dark corners, away from the light and though it should have made me more afraid, the hole was beginning to concern me less as I thought about the impending arrival of Nata.
Hands pushed me forward, and I was shoved into a metal chair. Glancing in either direction, I noticed that Marcello was right next to me on one side, and the crazy man was right beside him on the other side. But there were still six more empty chairs to my right.
Before I could wonder about the empty chairs any longer, the door opened and tension filled me anew. Was it Nata? She was here?
Surprise and relief replaced my tension as a tall man with light brown hair, Officer Eric Collins, our secret ally from the Elizabeth Guard, spared me a quick glance as he entered the room. Maybe Takara had sent him here. I closed my eyes. “Marcello, maybe Eric is our help. He’ll help us get out of here,” I said excitedly.
I’m not sure about that,” Marcello replied.
I opened my eyes and glanced towards Marcello, noting his alarmed expression. I snapped my head back to the door, expecting to see Nata. Why else would Marcello’s eyes have seemed so fearful?
But as my eyes settled on the doorway it wasn’t our evil dictator who was entering the room. It was a group of more prisoners, six to be exact, staggering into the room with another Droid Dog behind them. Their mouths weren’t covered with tape like our own, but their hands were cuffed.
The second prisoner in line stopped dead in her tracks as our eyes met. A drumming sound filled my ears. No. This couldn’t be happening. It wasn’t Nata, but it was worse.
The Authority had arrested my mom.

About CHANTOYAT—Harmony Run Series Book 3

In the wake of an interrogation led by the UZTA's dictator, President Nicks, Rain Hawkins and her friends must deal with the consequences of their defiance as the countdown continues towards the execution of the mixed-zone citizens across the United Zones of The Authority. The Freedom Front faces new challenges as Rain's cousin, Calista, prepares for her impending relocation to the pure zone, and Rain sets out to solve the mystery surrounding her mother's torment while being followed by an officer of the Elizabeth Guard. As she uses her abilities to dodge The Authority and follows the strange clues from her dreams, Rain is determined to persevere, to secure the future she and Jabari have been fighting for, and to earn The Freedom Front's ultimate goal of liberation.

About OPALESCENT—Harmony Run Series Book 2

Still enslaved in a mixed-race zone within the United Zones of
the Authority, Rain Hawkins is part of a secret resistance preparing to take on the tyrannical President Nicks before plans to kill the mixed zones across UZTA are executed. When unsettling dreams and a mysterious voice begin to haunt the dark nights, Rain fears someone more powerful than she has discovered the resistance and their secret abilities. With a known Authority spy on her heels, and her boyfriend, Jabari, suddenly acting strange, Rain doesn't know who to trust and if the voices calling to her are friend or foe. As conditions across all of the zones get worse and the stakes rise, Rain embarks on a quest for answers that will put the people she cares about most in more danger or take them one step closer to the truth and their eventual freedom.

About PRISMATIC—Harmony Run Series Book 1

Rare glimpses of birds are the only reminder of the freedoms Rain Hawkins once had. Now segregated into a mixed-race zone within the United Zones of the Authority, under tyrannical rule of President Nicks, Rain is forced to endure the bleak conditions set
upon her. The possibility of a way out arises when Rain discovers an organized resistance called The Freedom Front, and learns that she, along with many other multi-racial people, has special abilities. Determined to overcome her situation, Rain sets out on a mission with the resistance that will fill her life with wonder, romance, and the undying hope for a better world.

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-       1 Winner will get a $10 Amazon GC
-       1 Winner will get Signed Copies of all the 4 Books in the Harmony Run Series
-       3 Winners will get One Signed Copy of a book of their choice from the Harmony Run Series

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  1. Thank you so much for the interview, Joyce! :)

  2. An interesting interview thank you & I love these covers.