Today I’m very excited to be interviewing Valicity Garris Author of Cross Academy.
Welcome Valicity, please tell us a little about yourself and your novel.
Well … I’m a recent college graduate with a BA in psychology, which is weird because I’ve completely devoted myself to writing now—there’s just no time for psychology anymore. I’m also a youth pastor and a blogger.
Cross Academy … how do I even begin to tell anyone anything about this book? It’s a dark fantasy novel for young adults full of battle-scenes and the high emotions of the characters. There’s demonic warfare, good versus evil, and tons and tons of supernatural themes. It’s definitely something I’m proud to say I’ve written.
My faith and American comic books. I’m a huge fan of the Teen Titans series, kind of a ‘side show’ to the Justice League, where the teenage superheroes live in a giant T-shaped tower protecting the innocent citizens from the evildoers. One day I just thought, how cool would it be if that were a Christian show? Instead of living in a giant T tower, they could live in a giant cross-shaped tower. Instead of saving the citizens from evildoers they can save them from demons.
Cross Academy was born.
Of course I spent two years actually plotting and writing and another year editing and rewriting but that’s the long story made short.
What is your writing routine?
I write every day.
It’s not a set schedule from nine to five but I make sure I at least write a sentence or jot down an idea. Some writers are very relaxed, they can pour out pages and pages of pure awesomeness at a time and then rest for a day. I can’t. If I don’t push myself then nothing will ever get written, it’ll just stay in my head forever.
What did you most enjoy about creating your fantasy world?
Working out its history. Every place has a beginning, you know? Being the creator of that was awesome. I got to say when this happened and why and how that effects today. It was really cool to build an entire world from the ground up.
Did you have a favourite place you like to write, while you were creating your novel?
Probably my living room. I have a desk in my room that’s supposed to be like an office space but it’s cluttered with notes and sketches. Now I work in my living room in this giant, comfy rocking chair. I can just sit back and rock when I feel stumped or I can even recline and take a nap. It’s the perfect setup—though I may nap more than necessary.
Describe what your Muse looks like to you in three words.
I actually had to go Google what a ‘muse’ was before I could answer this question. That being said … My muse is Lit. On. Fire.
Ahaha, literally, a woman in flames. Whether she’s burning from passion or pain differs at times but that’s the image that pushes me. I want my work to spark a flame within someone, to inspire them as I have been by so many others.
What part of writing your novel did you most enjoy? E.g. First draft, research, editing…
I think I enjoyed the research very much. Since I incorporated so much of my faith I had to do a lot of biblical research. As a Christian that was natural for me to do, but it also surprised me by how easy it was to use religious themes in fantasy.
Cross Academy also uses aspects of the Native American culture. Since I’m half Native American I knew a lot about the traditions and the food already but I had to do extra research to get everything exactly right. It was a little nerve-wracking but it was well worth it. I had to represent my own culture and my own faith as accurately as possible. What a challenge!
If you could be one of your characters, which one would you be and why?
Oooh, that’s a great question. I would have to decide between Fox Fire and Lieutenant Diaz. I love them both so very much, they are characters dear to my heart. I would want to be Fox because she is the type of girl I’ve wanted to be; she’s strong, brave, and she’s devoted to her friends and family. But Lieutenant Diaz is such a dark person. He’s been through so much, I’d just love to see that world through his eyes. Even though I created him, I feel like he’s mysterious.
Are you a planner or discovery writer?
Definitely a planner. I have to lay things out, I have to know what I’m writing before I start to write. I’ll spend months preparing a single chapter before I actually get the thing written but it’ll be an awesome chapter I won’t ever have to change or rearrange again.
When I first started Cross Academy I was 19 and definitely a discovery writer. That being said, I ended up scrapping three different drafts, each over 20K words before laying out a plan and coming up with the story I’ve published today.
Which character did you like writing about the most? Why?
Can I choose more than one? Because I can’t have one without the others. Lieutenant Diaz, Izzy, and Major Marshall. Their backstories are so closely intertwined I just can’t separate them. We don’t know much about their relationship in this book but their history will be explained further as the series continues.
I loved writing about them because they weren’t the main characters. I was stuck with Fox Fire and her adventures and her development for most of the book but when I got to branch out with the other characters, I found myself creating so much history between them I could probably write a book specifically about those three alone. I think I liked them so much because I’m really not done developing them yet.
What’s your favourite subject to write about? Why?
I have a soft spot in my heart for all things demonic related. That sounds rather dark but I feel like dark fantasy and witchery have bad names and reputations. A lot of people shy away from anything with demons but I think if I just keep writing then maybe Cross Academy will be a breakthrough in that genre.
Who are your favourite Authors?
CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien. They’re great writers who really put Christian fantasy on the map.
What was the best advice you’ve ever had while writing your novels?
I heard a preacher say one time, ‘It’s always too early to give up.’ He wasn’t talking about writing but at that moment I was seriously contemplating whether it was worth it to keep devoting so much time to something that may or may not be successful. That one line kept me going until the end.
What projects are you working on next?
I’m writing the next part in the Cross Academy series plus something that’s just a simple YA fiction novel. It’s weird to not have action-sequences or demons running around but I think I’ve got the hang of this whole contemporary fiction thing.
Do you have any advice for fellow writers who maybe undertaking creating their first novel at this very moment?
DON’T RUSH! There is no award for the fastest written novel. No matter how awesome and unbelievably amazing your writing is, moving too fast will ruin even the best out there. Don’t be afraid to spend a year—or even two years—on one piece. Once it’s all over you’ll see the difference between your book and the one that was written in two months.
Thank-you Valicity for taking time to do this blog interview, it has been a great pleasure to hear about Cross Academy and your writing process. I wish you well with any writing projects you may undertake in the future.
If you would like to read more about Valicity Garris and her novels, check out the links below.