For as long as 17-year-old Alex Wayfare can remember, she has had visions of the past. Visions that make her feel like she’s really on a ship bound for America, living in Jamestown during the Starving Time, or riding the original Ferris wheel at the World’s Fair.
But these brushes with history pull her from her daily life without warning, sometimes leaving her with strange lasting effects and wounds she can’t explain. Trying to excuse away the aftereffects has booked her more time in the principal’s office than in any of her classes and a permanent place at the bottom of the social hierarchy. Alex is desperate to find out what her visions mean and get rid of them.
It isn’t until she meets Porter, a stranger who knows more than should be possible about her, that she learns the truth: Her visions aren’t really visions. Alex is a Descender – capable of traveling back in time by accessing Limbo, the space between Life and Afterlife. Alex is one soul with fifty-six past lives, fifty-six histories.
Fifty-six lifetimes to explore: the prospect is irresistible to Alex, especially when the same mysterious boy with soulful blue eyes keeps showing up in each of them. But the more she descends, the more it becomes apparent that someone doesn’t want Alex to travel again. Ever.
And will stop at nothing to make this life her last.
SG: Hi, M.G.! Congrats on the release of THE FIFTY-SEVEN LIVES OF ALEX WAYFARE! Where did the idea for this story come from?
M.G.: I’ve been collecting story ideas since I could put pen to paper, and this particular main character came on the scene when I was 16 years old. Alex’s name was Susan back then (mostly because one of my favorite films at the time was The Parent Trap, the Hayley Mills version) and all I knew about this new character was that she kept getting randomly dropped into different time periods. I didn’t yet know why or how. I wrote a lot of scenes with her throughout the years, some in Puritanical New England, some in Victorian London. It wasn’t until I started watching Doctor Who that I realized Alex was a time traveler. After that detail came into play, everything clicked, and the story flowed from there.
SG: How did you come up with the title?
M.G.: Actually, my publisher, Strange Chemistry, came up with it. My working title was The Descenders, because that’s what the time travelers are called in the book. But I love this new title. I think it’s far more intriguing and mysterious.
SG: Is this your first book?
M.G.: This was my second novel, actually. The first novel I ever finished is in a drawer somewhere, and I might try to sell it one day. I’d love to see it in readers’ hands. I spent about six years revising that one single manuscript, which is where I honed my craft for 57 LIVES. While other authors wrote several books before they were published, I just kept shaping my first one over and over again. I guess it’s the same sort of learning process, although for me, I couldn’t seem to let those characters go or “cheat on them” with new characters. I still miss them and think of them fondly. 🙂
S.G: Do you outline? Use any visual plotting method?
M.G.: I do outline. I actually use the prompts from The 90-Day Novel by Alan Watt to “unlock” all the secrets of the story, then I plan it all out in 3 major acts. But I leave lots of room for changes. I don’t like to outline with strict boundaries. I still love it when my characters surprise me and take the story in a whole new direction. (Btw, I highly recommend The 90-Day Novel to any writer looking for a swift kick in the right direction.)
SG: What are your favorite revision tools?
M.G.: Besides Scrivener, my must-have revision tools have been peanut butter cookies (lots of them) and coffee (even more of that). My brain basically runs on sugar and caffeine at that point.
SG: Where do you write?
M.G.: I’m currently in the process of moving, but here’s a photo of the treadmill desk my husband built for me in my old writing room. I love this thing! Even though nothing beats a cushy recliner when you’re drafting, I like the discipline of the tread-desk. While I’m working on a manuscript, I post photos that inspire the story as well as outline post-its on the wall.
SG: Did you research much for this story?
M.G.: Oh, gosh yes. With time travel, you have to meticulously research each time period to get all the little details as accurate as possible. I worked my butt off to get it *just right* for the reader, and I hope I succeeded.
SG: How long did it take to write the first draft? Revisions?
M.G.: It took me three months to write the first draft. Again, I was using The 90-Day Novel, and I was determined to finish in 90 days. And I’m a fast reviser — probably because of all the sugar and caffeine. It took me one week to finish the final revisions for 57 LIVES. I’m pretty proud of that (but I’m still trying to catch up on sleep).
SG: And lastly, as this community is fearless, we’d like to know something you are afraid of and something you are not afraid of.
Afraid of: Falling and failure. The two Big Fs. I’m not afraid of heights, just the possibility of falling from them. And failure — ugh. Is there anything worse? I’m working on accepting that failure means progress. Failure leads to success. I have to remember this.
Not afraid of: Being myself. I used to. Oh, how I used to. But not anymore. I think something beautiful happens once you enter your 30s. You just don’t care what people think anymore. It’s so freeing and exciting. I only wish I’d entered that stage much earlier than my 30s. I may not have missed out on so many opportunities. So youngsters take note! Chuck those cares to the wind and BE YOURSELF.
SG: That’s great advice! Thanks so much, M.G.!
When she’s not writing, M.G. moonlights as a web designer and social media/creative director. She’s the current web ninja lurking behind the hugely popular website YABooksCentral.com, a social network for YA (and kids!) book lovers. THE FIFTY-SEVEN LIVES OF ALEX WAYFARE is her debut novel. M.G. lives nestled away in the Michigan pines, surrounded by good coffee and good books, with her husband and son and three furbabies. Say hello on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Goodreads, and Pinterest.
|Shannon Grogan teaches kindergarten by day, and writes at Starbucks while her kids are at ballet and baseball. If she can stay off Twitter and stay awake, she writes at night, in a tiny logging town near Seattle, Washington. Her debut, FROM WHERE I WATCH YOU, will be published by Soho Teen, Spring 2015.|