Friday, November 15, 2013
Happy Friday everyone! I've got a treat for you today. And interview with Stephanie Parent, indie author extraordinaire and blogger! She's so much fun and I recently read her Neima's Ark duology. I really enjoyed those book and now she's here to talk about them a little bit! First, book info:

Forty Days (Neima's Ark #1)
by Stephanie Parent
Released: 2.10.13
Pages: 123

   The entire village knows Neima’s grandfather is a madman. For years the old man has prophesied that a great flood is coming, a flood disastrous enough to blot out the entire earth. He’s even built an enormous ark that he claims will allow his family to survive the deluge. But no one believes the ravings of a lunatic…
   …until the rain starts. And doesn’t stop. Soon sixteen-year-old Neima finds her entire world transformed, her life and those of the people she loves in peril. Trapped on the ark with her grandfather Noah, the rest of her family, and a noisy, filthy, and hungry assortment of wild animals, will Neima find a way to survive?

Forty Nights (Neima's Ark #2)
by Stephanie Parent
Released: 10.9.13
Pages: 94
Neima, her family, and her grandfather Noah have found themselves trapped aboard an ark as a great flood destroys all life in the world. As their time aboard the ark lengthens, food begins to run out, wild animals grow restless, and family tensions become as much of a threat as the flood outside. In the second and final installment of Neima’s Ark, the stakes are higher, the conflicts are greater, and Neima finds herself facing a choice as impossible as the destruction all around her.
Forty Nights is a continuation of the story begun in Forty Days, and it’s recommended that you read Forty Days first for the best experience. Forty Nights does, however, contain a character guide to refresh readers’ memories. The Neima’s Ark series is a historical, feminist reimagining of the story of Noah’s Ark rather than a religiously oriented one, and the novels are best suited for readers who are comfortable with new interpretations of biblical stories.

And there you have it! Interested? Of course! You might like to know that FORTY DAYS is currently Free for download on most ebook sources including Amazon! So go snag that right now! And watch for my dual review of the books to come soon! Now if you want to know a little bit more about Stephanie and these books, keep reading for an awesome interview. Then you can enter for a giveaway down below.

Reimaginings and retells are becoming more and more prominent in the YA genre. What drew you to reimagine this well known biblical story?

Well, first of all I have to admit that this particular retelling was not my idea. It was actually suggested by my agent at the time, and she was inspired by a huge movie called Noah coming in 2014, starring Emma Watson and Russell Crowe. Our original plan was to try to sell my book on a partial manuscript and have it come out concurrently with the movie. Due to various reasons, that didn’t work out and I’ve ended up focusing on independent publishing for now (more about that below!).

However, even though the initial seed of the Noah’s Ark idea was planted by my agent, I was immediately intrigued by it. I’ve always been drawn to retellings—I previously wrote a Romeo and Juliet retelling—and I thought the disaster aspect of this story might have some broad YA appeal, while I personally was really excited about the animals. I love writing about animal-human relationships, and researching some of the animals that appear in this story was really fun!

Finally, while preparing to write Neima’s Ark, I found that I really, really love biblically inspired fiction, especially books that focus on the women’s roles we don’t get to see as much in the original stories. The historical realities of biblical times are absolutely fascinating, and books like The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman and Song of the Magdalene by Donna Jo Napoli helped to bolster my enthusiasm for the topic. In fact, I wouldn’t mind writing another biblically inspired story someday!

Despite clearly stating it as a reimagining, were there any challenges or doubts you faced when telling Neima’s story? Especially on a religious level?
Definitely! I was continually nervous about offending or turning off religious readers, while at the same time, I wanted non-religious readers to enjoy the story as well. Since I don’t come from a religious background myself, I didn’t really feel any personal guilt about re-imagining certain characters and situations in a less positive light, but I knew I ran the risk of upsetting others. At the same time, I didn’t want to go the other way and ignore the religious aspect of the story. Noah’s ark isn’t just a disaster story with a bunch of animals—at its heart, it’s about the nature of good and evil and the question of whether human evil can ever really be destroyed. And if you look back to the biblical tale, some of the conclusions it comes to might surprise you.

In your preface, you state the area now known as modern day Turkey as your base for the setting. Can you expand on the research and findings that factored into basing your story there?
Well, first of all I want to say that we can’t know for sure where this story would have taken place, so at some point, I just had to choose a plausible location and stick with it. In researching the story, I read other fictional takes that used more of a desert-like setting, one that probably corresponds to present-day Egypt or Israel. That said, I chose Turkey because the biblical “mountains of Ararat” where the ark landed may correspond to the real Mount Ararat in Turkey. In addition, two rivers where Adam’s descendants settled in Genesis, the Tigris and Euphrates, both have their source in Turkey.

In your books we see Noah portrayed as a prophetic madman, shall we say. What kinds of things factored into your creation of his character, in regards to the original narrative and otherwise?
It’s funny, but even though the Bible story doesn’t tell us how other people reacted to Noah building the ark, it seems a fairly pervasive idea that Noah would have been considered a madman by many of his contemporaries. I read as many different fictional versions of the Noah’s Ark story as I could while writing this book, and all of them portrayed Noah as a figure who was distrusted or even downright ridiculed by the people around him. I always imagined the story this way too—why would everyone believe one old man who claims the world is about to end?—and it definitely increases the tension in the first part of the story.

As for Noah’s character, the Bible does tell us that Noah is “righteous” and “blameless in his generation,” but it’s interesting to note that Noah apparently overindulged in wine later in his life. The Bible says that after the flood Noah cultivated a vineyard, and “one day he drank some wine he had made, and he became drunk and lay naked inside his tent.” This portrayal of Noah makes him seem, at least to my mind, perhaps a bit more flawed than some of the other biblical prophets.

Finally, I thought that calling Noah’s sanity into question was also a good way to make the religious elements of my story a bit more ambiguous. Noah turns out to be right about the flood, of course, but in my version of the story, we’re not so sure the reasoning behind his beliefs is sound. This allowed me to question Noah’s interpretation of certain events—for instance, God’s purpose in sending the flood—in my novel.

How did you choose the names for your characters?
Ooh, good question and complicated answer! All of the male members of Noah’s family took their names directly from the Bible story. I did change the spelling of Ham’s son’s name, Canaan, to Kenaan, since Canaan is also a place and I thought that spelling might be distracting. (Incidentally, the biblical Canaan is actually cursed for his father Ham’s actions after the flood. This gave me the idea to make Ham and Kenaan villains of a sort in my story.) Most of the women’s names came from Noah’s ark stories outside the Bible—see here. Neima is a Hebrew name meaning “strong,” while Shai means “gift.” Since Jorin and Derya aren’t part of Noah’s family, I decided to give them Turkish names instead of Hebrew ones. For them I just picked names I liked the sound of!

Any special inspiration for Neima’s character?
I did love historical fiction when I was younger, and I thought a lot about some of the historical-fiction heroines I had read about, since I wanted to make sure Neima wasn’t too modern in her thoughts and behavior. But I didn’t really have one special or particular inspiration in this case.

You have a few books under your wing now! Could you tell us a little bit about your journey to self-publication?
I’ve had two agents over the past several years and two different books on submission. But with all the changes occurring in the publishing industry right now, I just became really frustrated trying to fit into the traditional publishing world. If I had stayed with an agent and kept writing new books, I may have eventually written one that publishing executives believed had enough commercial appeal to make it worth buying. But I believed in the books I had already written, and I wasn’t willing to just shove them away in a drawer when I had another option. I also love the freedom and community of self-publishing, and for now I think my time is better spent writing and connecting with readers and other authors than pursuing traditional publication.

When did you first know you wanted to become a writer?
I’ve actually always been much more of a reader than a writer. Writing is really hard for me, and to be honest, if I had a full-time job that I enjoyed and that paid the bills, I probably wouldn’t write nearly as much. At the same time, reading has been a part of my identity for as long as I can remember, and I think I knew from the time I began to read on my own that books would play an important role in my life.

Any writing habits? 
Tons of snacks, mostly sweet, sugary tea and coffee drinks, and fruit smoothies are a must. Music tends to distract me but I like some noise, so I like to have TV shows I’ve seen a million times playing in the background. And I usually write at home just because I’m too lazy to lug my laptop around…

Any upcoming projects we can look forward too?
Right now I’m working on a dark, sexy adult book that I plan to publish under a pen name, but since I’m no good at keeping secrets, I’ll let everyone know it’s me! The pinterest board for it is here

Favorite quote from one of your books?
That’s a hard one! I really like this quote from the end of Forty Nights:
“We aren’t steady, yet, but that’s all right—I have learned to live in an unsteady world.”

Chocolate malt balls or sour gummy worms?
Chocolate, for sure!

Bilal or Enise?
No way—that’s like asking me to choose between my two dogs!

Day Bird or Night Owl?
Night owl, but only to stay home and read or write or fool around on the internet. I’m not much of a partier!

Plotter or Pantser?
Somewhere in between—I like to have as much of an idea of where I’m going as possible, but I only write it down if I’m forced to!
Stephanie has some awesome books already available! And you have a chance to win two of them RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW! Since the first book in her Neima's Ark duo (Forty Days) is FREE ON AMAZON, and you can pick that up, you can win ecopies of FORTY NIGHTS and her NA book PRECIOUS THINGS!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Thanks to you all for visitng and to Stephanie for letting me interview her! It was WAY fun! Leave some comment love for Stephanie and have a lovely weekend! XOXO,


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