Author:Kristi R. Johnson
Genre: YA Fiction
Publisher: Black Rose Writing
Publishing date: February 12, 2015
Purchase Link: Amazon.co.uk
Synopsis: Ana “Reaper” Keating has moved onto the Hugo Liberal Arts College campus, forty minutes away from her hometown. Dorm life will be incredibly different from her life in the cave at the quarry. Reaper believes she will no longer be threatened by the powerful and wealthy Goldwater family that adopted her mother, Sue, when she was a child.
Then Mr. Paul’s son, Ian, enrolls at HuLAC, and Ana realizes that her days of dealing with the entitled and vengeful family are nowhere near over.
The author’s writing style is fresh and to the point. The story is not particularly eventful, but the engaging writing keep you reading: descriptions are colorful and there is no excessive wordiness that tends to be the norm in other YA-fiction.
That aside it is also important to mention that the book does contain it’s share of action, and plot twist. And even though the “teenagers goes away to colleges” can be somewhat of a cliché, the author has her own twist.
It was very refreshing for me, personally, to read a book where I did not expect the ending.
Where did the inspiration from Reaper come from?
— I have often though about this and honestly, I don’t have a very clear or straightforward answer. I love superhero origin stories, and while my Reaper is not a superhero, I have long had the idea in my head of a female character being really handy with scythes that went by the nickname “Reaper.” I also like characters that live in offbeat places, such as lighthouses or caves.
And then there is my love of YA books. It is one of my favorite genres and I always lament that there aren’t enough of them set in college. I get why most of them take place in high school, but I remember how much of a mystery college was to me when I was still a junior or senior in high school and I think kids look to movies, television, and books for examples of what college will be like.
What is your favorite part of Reaper?
— My favorite part of Reaper is probably the scene where she is watching boxing with her dad, Jim. I actually took this moment from personal experience as one of my favorite memories growing up is of watching boxing with my dad. I have a lot of random knowledge about sports in general because of moments like those.
Does you favorite part of the book differ from your favorite part to write?
— Yes. I enjoyed writing the scene where Reaper and Jim are watching the boxing match, but I love world-building and had so much fun creating the Hugo Liberal Arts College (HuLAC) that Reaper attends. I loved describing the buildings, coming up with their names, everything. And I probably had even more fun with it because I took the names from one of my favorite stories, Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
Which character (apart from main) did you enjoy the most?
— I easily enjoyed writing for Jim the most. Almost more so than Reaper. The man is just so ridiculously rigid and stern and generally intimidating. He is more or less both of my parents as one person, but without my dad’s sense of humor or my mom’s need to venture outside of her comfort zone once in awhile. Jim is a no nonsense person in a world that is full of it.
You wrote Reaper during NaNoWriMo 2013, how close or far from the “deadline” did you finish?
— If I remember correctly, I finished the initial 50,000 words at least a week before the end of the deadline. Then I took a rest until the new year and finished the 30,000 or so words in June of 2014.
Have you participated in NaNoWriMo after 2013?
— I did also participate in NaNoWriMo 2014 and it did result in another YA book. I just recently finished the last chapter so there is some heavy editing that needs to happen. With any luck I can find an interested publisher for this novel too.
Have you settled on a genre with Reaper? What kind of future works can we expect from you?
— I love reading YA, and it turns out that I enjoy writing it too. Of course, Reaper can also be thought of as suspense, or even mystery (sort of), but I don’t see myself doing much more than that. But I’m not all that into paranormal or romance YA either. Future novels will be more about issues that teens may face, like dealing with a difficult person who is only difficult because they are facing a hard situation, or being the only minority in a small town or other setting.
What is the best advice you would give to an aspiring writer?
— This is going to seem frustratingly simplistic, but my best advice is to just write. To get the words out. They’re called first drafts for a reason. Just sit down and get the ideas on paper, or on the screen. It isn’t going to be perfect the first time, or even the second time, or the third. The transitions won’t be a smooth as they could be, and if you’re anything like me, there will be whole sentences that won’t even make sense. But that is what editing is for. You can be an aspiring writer all you want, but you won’t get anywhere unless you actually write something.
Jim finally broke down a year ago when it looked like Sparky II was really done for and called Goldwater’s. Actually, that’s not quite true. Goldwater’s had known about Jim and I down here in the quarry for years, everyone did. It isn’t exactly a normal thing for a man to raise his daughter in a literal cave. Plus, I’ve gone to school with Ian, the youngest Goldwater, pretty much all my life. No doubt he heard about my lack of recirculated air he told his family.
Once word got around our small town of Mayer, Arizona that Jim Keating was looking for another Sparkman for his home to replace Sparky I, Goldwater’s offered to outfit the house with an indoor system for a ridiculously reasonable price, especially considering they’d have to work around the fact that it’s a cave, and not a small one, in a quarry. But Jim trusts the Goldwater family about as far as he can throw them, and held off until it looked like Sparky II was dead in the water. Naturally, because for whatever reason this is just how God likes to do things, Sparky II came back to life about a month after the central A/C was installed. Jim kept working at it, determined to use the Goldwater’s system as little as possible, if at all.
But Sparky II was down again, and had been for a month. So when I came back home after my first week at college to get the rest of my stuff, I had already gotten used to the constant air flow available to me in my dorm room, so the cave’s ability to trap high pressure air was even more oppressive than I had remembered. Knowing full well we’d have the same argument we’ve been having for the last seven years over the A/C, I turned the sucker on after Sparky II proved unresponsive and sat in front of the TV while waiting for the temperature to change.
Jim still doesn’t care at all for the Goldwaters. He still doesn’t like them, still doesn’t trust them, and I suspect is somewhat convinced that us using their A/C system will come back to bite us. He avoids them, and has instructed me to do so as well, which for me means avoiding Ian.
Which suits me fine.