Thursday, June 15, 2017

Terrence, Chase, and Akio

Questions about TERRENCE, CHASE, 
and AKIO:


1 - How come Terrence has a sister when the law forbids people from having children?

The first law forbade the upper class from having more than two children and the middle class from have more than one child. But at that time, the lower class wasn't limited on the amount of children they could have, only because the lower class was used as dirt-cheap labor, so restricting their numbers wouldn't have been profitable to the upper class. 

But six years prior to UNDER GROUND, a new law was passed: the Sterilization Law. People were told the law was meant to reduce the rates of poverty. But really, the law was passed because the state believed the lower class was consuming too many resources. 

Back then, Chase was nineteen years old and Terrence was sixteen years old. 
Terrence was sterilized at age eighteen as mandated per the law. 
In DANGEROUS GROUND, we will see how the law affected Chase's life. 

2- Why would they wait until the age of eighteen to sterilize people? 

That procedure can affect a man's growth and development. So I chose that age to justify how mature and manly Chase looks throughout the series despite the surgery.

3 - Is Terrence's boss Lance?

No. I mean, that would be interesting. 

But in UNDER GROUND, Thia makes it clear that Lance doesn't have any children yet. 
Also, though I am yet to really meet and understand Lance, I already know that cheating isn't part of his personality. 
He respects his wife even if he's not in love with her. 
Cecilia makes it clear that Mary (Lance's wife) has deep feelings for him, and Lance is probably aware of that. 
He's a good man, and I don't think he'd do anything to hurt his wife. 
Lance is selfless like Cecilia. He's not rebellious like Thia. His wife's well-being matters more to him that his own needs. 

4 - What made Chase break up with Terrence?

I can't reveal that. It's a spoiler. 
We can only assume Chase got terrified of being hurt again. 

5 - Why the cliffhanger?

I had no choice but to end Terrence's story on a cliffhanger. 
Terrence's story takes place during the same time frame as UNDER GROUND.
Basically, when Chase and Terrence start dating, Chi and Thia start dating as well, and Stephen and Tina start hooking up. 

The end of Terrence's story takes place shortly before the Underground attacks Camp 19, and then STANDING GROUND happens.

So I couldn't go further because any reader who has never read UG or SG would be spoiled about the camps and about what happens in SG. 

Also, I wanted Terrence's story to be a joyful one, even if it has its share of heartache. I didn't want to end the story on a break-up, or worse, on what happens in SG! :-(
Terrence deserved a story that would lift up its readers, the same way he tends to lift up other people. 

Also, I wrote his story after SG and HG. I needed an emotional break, and I wasn't ready to relive the events of SG yet. What happened in SG still gives me chills, and it's still hard for me to process and accept. Though I wrote that scene, I didn't do it because I wanted to; I did it because it was essential to the series. But it broke my heart, and I'm not over it yet. I don't know that I'll ever accept it. 
I just couldn't end Terrence's Story on that...It wasn't something I was ready to face again at that point, and it would have sent a negative message. I wanted Terrence's Story to be warm just like him. 

6 - Is Derek gonna get his butt kicked?

*smirks* What do you think? We're talking about Chase here...How do you think he's gonna react? 
Chase has a big heart, but I wouldn't want to be the one pissing him off, you know!

7 - Is Akio going to meet someone in the sequel?

Well, at this point, we don't even know if Akio is still who knows...

8 - Why isn't Akio's story a novel?

There are several reasons for that:

1: Most of Akio's story would have been about him training with the Underground. We have already seen that with Thia and Chi, and we will see that with Taylor and Kayla as well. There is only ever so much training I can write about in the series before it becomes tedious.

2: I didn't want to write about his time at Narumi's place because there are certain things going on between Narumi, Chase, and Harris that I didn't want to spoil. Some things are hinted at in Akio's story, but showing him living with Narumi would have spoiled certain parts of Chase's book as well as Narumi's story. It is not for Akio to tell Narumi's story. That one is hers to tell. She deserves that.

3: We already read about him and Brandon, and he made it clear his other boyfriends were jackasses too. Do you really want to read about Akio dating a bunch of assholes treating him like dung? Because honestly, that's not something I care to write about, and Akio deserves better.

4: Same thing, I wasn't going to make Akio suffer by writing any more scenes about him gushing over Terrence while holding a candle to Charrence's altar, you know. I love Akio, but what he feels for Terrence is nothing more than physical attraction and a deep crush. What Chase and Terrence have, though, goes way beyond that. But still, I didn't want to put Akio in a situation where he'd constantly be the third wheel. He deserves better than that.

So basically, I decided to only show the most essential points of his life: Him meeting his first love, him losing everything, him meeting the Underground, him meeting Terrence, and him being able to spend time working on cars. 
Akio's story ends a couple of months before they attack Camp 19, too, so adding any more scenes would have been redundant and boring, in my opinion. 

9 - What happened to Mariana?

I can't answer that. All I can say is that Chase's story is the most heartbreaking story in the series, along with Stephen's. His book is going to be a painful one to read, but at this point, I cannot change his past. It is a book that will be emotionally draining for me to write as well. Just be ready for some serious heartache. :-(

Thank you for reading. Let me know if you have any other questions. =p

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Creating Taylor Jones

Creating Taylor Jones

Many readers have asked me who my favorite character is or which character is the most like me.

Obviously, I don't have just one favorite character.

Though I love ALL my protagonists and hate ALL my antagonists, my favorite characters are:
1 - Stephen and Terrence
2 - Chi
3 - Taylor
4 - Chase
5 - Willow

I've explained many times why Stephen and Terrence are my favorites, but I haven't talked about Taylor much, mostly because his story isn't out yet and I don't want to spoil it with too many details.

Taylor is a character I love writing. He's honest and straightforward. He doesn't play games. He doesn't lie. What you see is what you get. Characters with the strongest personalities are the easiest for me to write, and those are Stephen and Taylor, who just write themselves...almost.

But the thing I love the most about Taylor is that he is the ultimate alpha male!

Often, alpha males are presented as jealous men who try to control their love interests and show their masculinity through abusive behavior. Those, to me, are not alpha males, but insecure little boys who cannot let women be independent and free.

It is time we stopped teaching women that raging jealousy is hot, that a man being overly possessive is a good thing, and that abuse is romantic. I write about the men I want to see in books and in life: Men of various orientations, men who are not scared of powerful women, men who know the meaning of respect. 

Taylor is the ultimate alpha male because of all that. He is a feminist to the bone. 
Kayla is the strongest female in the series, and she is the perfect love interest for Taylor because he isn't scared of strong, powerful women—quite the opposite. 

"He didn't have to leave," I protest when the door closes behind Taylor.
"Sure he did. I don't want him listening in on our conversation." She casts me a heartwarming smile and lets herself fall down on the couch. Then she pats the space next to her.
"Why not?" 
"Thia, I have a life besides him, you know. He's fine with that. I'm allowed some alone time with my friends." - Kayla 

This quote may make sense to us, but to men in Taylor's society, giving free will to a woman is not even a concept they understand. 

Someone once asked me why some of my male characters are feminists when they are raised in such a patriarchal society. 

The main reason for Taylor's feminism is his profound love for his sister Karen, who was gay and sold into marriage to a man in order to profit their parents in a society where status is everything and women are nothing. Can you imagine Taylor's heartache when he lost his sister to such an unfair system? How could he not be a feminist? How could he not want justice? 

"After a while, he proved to be such a big asset to the Underground that he was put in charge of the rebels in this area. He had to do terrible things to keep his position in the media too, but he never talks about that. Kayla told me never to raise the topic with him." 
- Chi

Unlike some other cis heterosexual men in his society, Taylor isn't scared of gay men either. His best friend is bisexual. And never has Chase's bisexuality threatened Taylor in his masculinity. He doesn't view Chase or Akio as less than men the way some insecure straight men do either.
Taylor couldn't care less who his male friends sleep with, and that's how it should be. 

All those factors make Taylor a strong male figure throughout the series. Those factors make him a strong alpha and one of my favorites. 

Readers often ask me if I create characters based on people I know. No, I don't. However, Taylor is very similar to my husband in that he is a good leader with a firm grip on his team.

Of course, like all the other characters in the series, Taylor has flaws. His biggest flaw being his anger. 

Most of my characters have hot tempers. Stephen, Chi, Chase, and Taylor all do. And that anger inside them comes from me. 
However, unlike the other characters in the series, Taylor knows how to take a deep breath and fuel his anger into fruitful actions. He has achieved so much because he knows how to make use of the deep-seated pain that fuels his heart and his profound need for justice in a world where there is none. And that is why he is a leader and the others are not. 
Stephen, Chi, and Chase all have a tendency for self-destruction. They rush into things recklessly while Taylor plans everything ahead. His quick rise as a rebel leader comes from his ability to focus and use his anger to help others.
I envy his ability to control himself even when rage starts boiling through his veins. 

It's harder for me to write sweet characters such as Willow and Terrence because I need to contain my cynicism while writing them. 
I envy Willow and Terrence their innocence and ability to love without restraints. Truly. 

But I understand and relate to my other characters' anger better. 
The anger in me comes from seeing the horrors done by humans onto other humans, from living in a region where the forests are filled with war trenches and each village has an American cemetery for those who lost their lives during WWI. 
And from seeing the consequences that Nazi camps had on my grandfather and his life. 

But remember that Taylor is merely human. He isn't perfect. He reacts and responds like a human being. He makes mistakes sometimes because he is profoundly human. There are times when emotions affect his judgment, too. Otherwise, he wouldn't be any better than characters like Fox, characters who have lost all sense of humanity.

I'm going to finish this with Taylor's playlist:

(Taylor's role as a rebel leader forces him to make decisions he doesn't always like)

(As a man living in a society that oppresses women, Taylor carries a lot of guilt, especially when he was raised by his own father that way)

(Taylor craving for his long-lost innocence)

(Though this song talks about the Berlin wall, I think it fits Taylor's need for change)

(Taylor's solitude as a rebel leader in charge of so many lives)

(Taylor's song for his sister Karen)

(Taylor's song for Kayla)

Let me know if you have any other questions about Taylor and Kayla. 

Thank you for reading.

Thursday, March 9, 2017



Thank you so much, Elle, for doing this interview!

Elle Middaugh lives in the Allegheny Mountains outside of Clearfield, Pennsylvania, with her wonderful husband and three beautiful children. She spends most of her time raising kids, writing stories, playing video games, reading, and attempting to keep a clean house.
She’s a proud Navy wife, a frazzle-brained mother, a fan of health and fitness, a lover of hot tea and iced tea, and a believer in happily ever afters.

1- Please, present your book in a few words:
Elemental Secrets follows a teenage girl named Valerie who discovers that there are Elementals (people who can control the classical elements: Earth, Fire, Water, Wind) hidden in plain sight all around her. When she learns their secret, she's sentenced to death. When she doesn't die, even more secrets arise...

2 - What is your favorite place to travel to? Which one of your characters would you take with you for the trip and why?
I actually haven’t done much travelling in my life lol I’m a bit of a homebody, I suppose. But if I could travel anywhere… I think I’d start with Australia! And if I had to pick a character to share it with, I’d choose Cade. Some people don’t like how broody and edgy he is, but I’m, like, half in love with him! Haha <3

3 - Who's your favorite character in your series and why?
Valerie. She’s the main character, the heroine. A lot of people don’t really like her, but she goes on a long journey of personal growth throughout this series (book 1 is the only one out yet, but you’ll see!). She changes and matures so much along the way, and I’ve really enjoyed getting to know the person she becomes.

4 - Who's your least favorite and why?
Hmm. Probably Chase. He shows up long enough to tempt Val and confuse her (turning the stereotypical love-triangle into a love-SQUARE! And then he moves right along… it was an important lesson for her, though. Beauty is only skin deep.

5 - What's your favorite food? Any food you hate?
Oh man. I used to say pizza instantaneously, but since having my third child, I haven’t cared for it as much. I’m totally into peanut butter and jellies! Lol I wish I wasn’t. I TRY to eat clean (we’ll say, cleanER). So mostly, I hate foods that are sugary – but only because they’re so damn delicious and I don’t want to want them! lol

6 - Do you fangirl? If yes, what or who do you fangirl over?
I think this is the part where I’m supposed to say which dude I obsess over… but, straight as I am, I tend to “fangirl” over my favorite authors (usually women lol). I find a favorite author and I interact with them in any way possible (but, like, in a super casual way. I might be obsessed with them, but I want us to feel on the same level, like they’re talking to a friend - totally normal lol).

7 - Who's your favorite author and why?
Sabaa Tahir! I fell completely in love with An Ember in the Ashes, and A Torch Against the Night just continued to fan the flames. I love that she’s so much like me, yet different. She’s American, but her family originally came from Pakistan. Just by being so incredibly awesome, she really motivated me to learn a bit about her culture. And that can’t be encouraged enough in times like these!

8- What are your goals for your series? What would you really like to see happen with it?
I mean, obviously I’d love for millions of people to read it and completely love it lol I really don’t think that’ll happen, but… Ultimately, I want the bad guys to lose; I want Val to be with the man she loves; I want some sort of peace between Humans and Elementals; and I want it all to mirror our world today. I want parallels to be drawn, and I want my version to somehow spark an awareness in the real world. I want people to seek change. But not just nationally – globally.

9 - Where do you come from? Is your background influencing your writing?
I live in a small town in the Pennsylvania Allegheny Mountains. I think it’s sheltered me, for sure. I don’t see hateful things happening every day, racist things, sexist things, etc. Sometimes I’m a bit naive. Sometimes I get confused about social issues. But I try to be a good person. I think that comes through in my characters.

10 - Between Voldermort, Magneto, and a super villain of your choice, who would win and why? Could they beat your characters, and why?
I am the worst at watching movies (and I’m not super into comics! Sorry). So Voldemort I understand, but he won’t win against most. He’s too weakened and too single-minded to think straight. Could he beat my characters? I’d say no lol they can control the elements! Cade would use the Earth to knock him down or burry him whole. Val could freeze his wand-wielding hand and then burn him to death (Val has two power slots, Fire and Water). Sienna or Holden could cause some freak tornado to pummel him with debris… I don’t know lol Voldemort has magic, but only what his spells allow. My guys have total control over our physical world. They’re pretty badass.

11 - Talk about something that's important to you. It can be anything.
How about the importance of being kind?

My family divvies up holidays (mom totally claimed Christmas, and that’s cool with me). I claimed Thanksgiving. It seems like (stereotypically) everyone hates thanksgiving. (The bird burns, everyone argues, shit gets broken, etc.). But at least for me, that’s not exactly how it goes. For me, people get together, they eat good food, they laugh, and they play games or watch movies – what’s not to love? Are there sometimes arguments? Yeah. But when you put certain people together, there’s bound to be a little friction.

My favorite tradition is going around the table before food and having every single person name one thing they’re thankful for. It could be as silly as, “I’m thankful that I got my socks to match today.” J I just like making them remember the whole point of the holiday. To be thankful. To realize what they’ve been blessed with. And then I hope they take those realizations out into the world and pay it forward by being kind to someone who might need a small blessing of their own.

I believe in the butterfly effect; we have no idea how wide the ripples of our actions spread, how one tiny action can completely alter the course of time. But if I’m going to affect someone’s entire life with one action, I’d want it to be an act of kindness. To change their life for the better. You never know what people are struggling with. Just be kind!

 Interact with Elle!