If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook or if you follow this blog, you know I’m a huge fan of supporting other authors, and you’re probably aware that I’ve already supported my good friend and author Jean M. Grant twice this year with two of her releases.
Now join me in welcoming her back to my blog for her third (and final) release of 2019. This lady has been working her tail off for sure, but I have never been happier to see it pay off.
Jean’s latest novel, Will Rise From Ashes, is her first foray into women’s fiction and it’s a gem in every way. I’ve read the first version and I’ve read the finished version, and this story just tugs at a mother’s heartstrings.
So, without further ado, let’s get into an interview with Jean.
LRS: Can you give us a quick synopsis of Will Rise From Ashes?
JMG: AJ Sinclair is a young widow, on a cross-country journey with her autistic/Asperger’s 9-year-old son in the wake of the Yellowstone supervolcano eruption. Her other younger son is missing after the eruption and she needs to find him. Along the way, her son and a stranger she meets show her a world that she’s almost forgotten…that living is more than mere survival.
LRS: I know you and your love of research. Tell me how you went about it in order to write this book.
JMG: Simply put, heaps of reading, exploring, and travel. My background is in science (microbiology, immunology, biology, and marine science—I spent a lot of time fine-tuning my interests in college and graduate school), and I love traveling and hiking. The idea of Will Rise from Ashes came from a bit of my own life (as a parent with an autistic child) and my love of nature…I asked myself what would happen if the Yellowstone supervolcano erupted? Volcanoes are a constant topic in our household. Bam! My story came.
Then, road trip time! I’d already visited the lovely national park in the corner of Wyoming as a child and took another trip this time with my family, 4 years ago. This highlight of our national park system did not let me down. I was walking on ground zero—research moments were everywhere! We also toured other geothermal wonders throughout the Pacific Northwest on that trip. The bright sapphire-blue Crater Lake was one of my favorites and meandering through the observation areas of Mount St. Helens gave me shivers. I returned home with piles of books and dug into the story. Along the way, I’d stop to dig deeper with research. And up front, I take careful character development into consideration. My stories tend to have journeys of the body and heart, and this one takes my characters from Maine to Colorado. Talk about a road trip. The experts say “write what you know” and for me that was science, journeys, and parenting. I hope my readers enjoy AJ and Will’s journey in Will Rise from Ashes as much as I do.
LRS: Any quick and easy facts you learned along the way?
JMG: This is where the scientist in me (I have degrees in Biology, Marine Science, and Microbiology) comes out! Yellowstone is a scientist’s Disney World.
How about a few Fun Facts about Yellowstone National Park?
- It became the first National Park in 1872. Over 5 million people visit it annual.
- Yellowstone is a hydrothermal wonderland with over 10,000 hydrothermal features: geysers, hot springs, mudpots, steam vents, and over 500 geysers.
- The park is the size of Delaware and Rhode Island combined, covering 2.2 million acres.
- Yellowstone is a supervolcano. Two massive magma bodies bubble beneath the park.
- There are over 20 supervolcanoes across the globe, Yellowstone being one of them.
- The park is not all geology wonderland…there are hundreds of unique bird, fish, and mammal species in this gem in northwest Wyoming. Some signatures: bears (black and brown/Grizzly), bison, and wolves. Because of extensive programs, endangered species now flourish in the park.
- Old Faithful has been very faithful, erupting approximately every 90 minutes.
- Sadly, human trash and pollution has caused many of the vibrant hot pools to lose their color over the years. However, Yellowstone has created innovated programs to manage waste and human impact.
- Yellowstone has had 3 [2 of them being “supervolcanic”] caldera-forming eruptions over the past 3 million years (2.1 million, 1.3 million, and 640,000 years ago, respectively). Will it erupt again? Yes. Soon, like tomorrow? Not likely. The last eruption: 174,000 years ago, with 60 smaller ones since.
- The VEI scale measures explosivity of volcanoes and runs from 0 to 8.
- Be safe and read danger signs! To date over 92 people have died in the park, mostly from falling into burning hot springs, off ledges, or tempting fate with a bison.
Where can you learn more? I have piles of geology, volcano, and Yellowstone books at home, but the USGS and Yellowstone National Park websites are great places to get accurate facts. Happy digging, my aspiring geologists!
LRS: Tell me about Will Rise From Ashes and your shift from historical romance into women’s fiction.
JMG: Will Rise from Ashes was by far my hardest book to write. For many reasons, some personal, some technical. I’d been writing romances with HEAs for so long, shifting to women’s fiction with grittier topics took some getting used to. The romantic in me though, did toss in a romance subplot, and I am a sucker for a happ(ier) ending.
A few more facts about this book:
- I began writing it in 2015, 4 years ago. The first draft took a year (while working part-time and around kids’ busy schedules). Editing took a few more years…
- It underwent at least 8 full-length revisions before I submitted to my editor at The Wild Rose Press. I’ve also written/edited the entire manuscript at least 20 times (that is 400 pages x 20 = 8,000 pages. It’s no wonder authors can be a little nutty!)
- It’s my first book written in both first person (AJ, the mother) and third person (Will, the son).
- My villain is a volcano!
- The book spans over a month of time and over 2,000 miles.
- My theme of heartache, healing, and hope dominates this book.
- It is the 7th book I’ve written, but 4th published. (Yeah, that’s some funny math. Hint: 3 books are now shoved in drawers as “practice” novels).
- The story tackles topics of widowhood, anxiety, autism, and redemption.
- I threw everything but the kitchen sink at AJ. I love an emotional journey, but I do enjoy lots of external conflict and roadblocks (teehee, in this case, literal roadblocks).
- Its title was changed from the original. And nope, I won’t tell you the first one, but it took quite some convincing from my editor to change it!
- This book underwent the most “killing my darlings” (aka scene slicing!) of all my books. All for the better, or course!
LRS: What are some of your favorite things from Will Rise From Ashes?
- Experimenting with point of view. I enjoyed writing from 9-year-old Will’s POV for some scenes. This was my first time writing in first person (AJ, the protagonist).
- The science. Researching (and traveling to) Yellowstone still makes me smile. I am a scientist, nature-lover, and traveler. Put all three together and I am a grinning fool!
- The physical journey. I have printed out maps from online stitched together with tape and folded in a drawer. My master map is marked up with plot points, dates/timelines, and places. I triple-checked it for accuracy each time I wrote another part of the story. The map still sits in my drawer with other plotting and writing pages/charts.
- Will’s resilience.
- AJ’s perseverance and growth/character arc.
- Reid’s gentle, wise nature.
- Harrison’s guiding presence in AJ’s life, even from beyond the grave.
- Scene? That’s always hard to choose. The romantic in me likes the camp-fire scenes between Reid and AJ. The mom in me likes the pizza shop scene. The HEA-phile in me likes the last scene.
- Writing a strong heroine, who is also emotionally wounded and finding herself while on a road to healing.
- And finally, that my editor at The Wild Rose Press totally “got” what I was going for with this story and is my biggest champion.
And no interview would be complete without including an excerpt from the book, right? Here’s one of my favorite passages from Will Rise From Ashes, when widowed A.J. and her son Will meet a hitchhiker on the road when their car has blown a tire…a hitchhiker they formerly passed instead of offering a ride.
Even from far away, I recognized the man’s plaid long-sleeved shirt and the large backpack, but now he was walking alongside a bike on his approach.
“Hey, look! It’s that guy you drove past this morning!”
I shuddered inwardly. Well, karma just bit me in the butt.
“How did he catch up with us?” Motherly instinct took over as I rose, my legs wobbly. “Will, stay there. Here, take this,” I said, handing him the tire iron.
“We already tried that, Mom.”
“Not for that, Will.”
He scratched his brown hair, which was overdue for a cut, and looked at me, confusion wrinkling his brow.
“Be my wizard, Will. It’s your sword.”
“Wizards have wands.”
The circuit connected. “Oh…yes, Mom, I’ll protect you!”
I smiled faintly. “Thank you, honey.” I didn’t want to explain further that it was me protecting him. I didn’t want to say that if something happened, to run and hide in the woods. Because he would run and hide. Then what? Who would come help?
I shoved my hand into my front jeans pocket to nestle my fingertips around the pocket knife I had given Harrison for our wedding anniversary. The man slowed his bicycle as he drew nearer. He gave me an understated, yet significant, nod. The nod of understanding, of kindness. I didn’t buy it.
“Hello, again,” he said.
Are you hooked? Do you just love Will? (I do!) You can get order a copy for yourself at any of these sites below!
And don’t forget a list of things you can do to help budding authors like Jean Grant!
More on Author Jean M. Grant below. Follow her on social media!
Jean’s background is in science and she draws from her interests in history, nature, and her family for inspiration. She writes historical and contemporary romances and women’s fiction. She also writes articles for family-oriented travel magazines. When she’s not writing or chasing children, she enjoys tending to her flower gardens, hiking, and doing just about anything in the outdoors.