Interview with YA author Katherine Nelson
Today we are talking with Katherine Nelson, author of Escape the Pain to Survive, which is a Christian YA novel she classifies as action/suspense with a hint of sci-fi and romance. It's the first book in The New Waiver trilogy.
How did you choose the title? It was a long process, knowing that there would be three books and wanting a pattern to follow for the titles. I knew the word "Pain" would appear in all three as it is not only a reoccurring theme in the story but also a means by which I believe we all grow whether physically, mentally, or emotionally. With that in mind, I felt the words "Escape" and "Survive" best described heroine Sam's situation physically and emotionally in the first book. Did you design the cover? It was a joint venture really. I gave my publisher the idea of a long road leading out into the untouched dessert wilderness and the catch phrase, "A chance for a future? Or a death trap?" I also gave them a photograph that I took while traveling through New Mexico several years ago in the same area where the story takes place. They handled the rest and pieced it all together with a little bit of adjusting at the end. How would you describe the book to someone in a text message? Escape the Pain to Survive is the first of three in The New Waiver trilogy about a secret military based program that's recruiting young people ages 15 to 17, particularly from troubled homes or traumatic pasts as it gives them the opportunity to sign their own waiver without parental consent. Who is your main character, and what problem does she face? My main character is a seventeen-year-old girl named Sam Jones. Escaping an abusive home, she seeks to find a second chance for a future, but soon finds that the program she signed up for is not looking so promising either. Even more, she seeks to find meaning and purpose in her life. What might draw someone to your character? She asks the hard questions in life and is determined to make a difference, but she also has many flaws, weaknesses, and struggles. She's not exceptionally beautiful, talented, or smart, but the struggles she's faced make her resilient and determined to become someone better. What prompted you to write this book? Two things. First, I was tired of looking for a good Christian action/suspense novel that was both realistic and also weaved the gospel message and scripture right into the text in the same way that we should apply it to our own lives in reality. One day I picked up my smartphone and decided to just write my own. Second, I wanted to create a story where the heroes and heroines are a broken group of young people who have had tough pasts and endured trauma. Far too often, I believe society puts people in a box of medical and psychological definitions, particularly our youth. I wanted to turn that logic around and show that the phrase "freedom in Christ" truly means freedom and a new start in which we can leave the past behind and become someone better. What did you bring to the book from your own life? Hmm, I'd have to say a lot. From the militaristic aspects of my life to my passion for fitness, I feel the whole book and trilogy bleeds through with small pieces of my life. I had an elaborate imaginary play world with my brother when I was growing up and I like to say writing brought it back to life as an adult. One of the most surprising things I brought from my own life are depictions of nightmares. I've never been a sound sleeper and always made friends with the night. Dreaming up nightmares for the story came a bit too natural! What makes your book stand out from other books like it? I think really the mixture of action, suspense, and even violence that you would expect more from a secular book and the biblical doctrine and passages that you often don't find in Christian books of the same genre. What is one thing you learned from writing this book? I learned that writing is an adventure and even more fun than reading when you let your imagination run wild and your story play out in front of you. About You When you were young, what did you want to be when you grew up? I wanted to join the military and serve and protect my country. Do you still want to be that? I'm quite content now as a law enforcement officer and part-time college instructor and CrossFit coach.
When did you know you wanted to be an author? I never really decided I wanted to be an author. It just happened the day I decided to pick up my smartphone and start writing. I honestly caught myself by surprise, especially since I was always better at math than English. Did anything unusual or funny happen on your journey to becoming an author? Not necessarily unusual, but definitely the most surprising thing was I learned a lot about myself. As I wrote the trilogy and each of my characters faced and worked through issues in their lives, I saw many things in my own life that I had never faced and conquered through Christ. It was amazing to see my personal transformation over the year span that I took to write it. Probably the funniest thing that happened was as I got deeper into my plot I began dreaming about it since often times I'd get my characters into a hopeless situation and needed to find a way out! Several portions were actually written when I first woke up after I figured things out in my sleep. What books have influenced you most? The Bible, of course, and Pilgrims Progress. What’s the most times you’ve read a book and why? Besides the Bible, Pilgrims Progress. I probably read it four or five times as a teen. I loved the transformation in Pilgrim/Christian's life and all the parallels it had to our spiritual walk. Honestly, it's the only book other than the Bible that interested me enough to read more than once! What are three unusual things about you your readers might not know?
Even though I have a Master's Degree in math, I hated it in high school. I literally started college at fifteen as a deal with my dad. He told me that if I took the one semester Pre-Calculus class he taught at the college in the fall, it would count as my year of math and I wouldn't have to do any in the spring. Five years later, I graduated with my bachelor's degree . . . in math of course!
I met my husband as a cadet in the Civil Air Patrol. I was the squadron commander, and he was my First Sgt. We were friends for four years before one day we actually decided to date. The rest is history!
I took two years of fencing lessons (yes . . . sword fighting) when I was a teenager. I even placed fourth in a Junior Olympic qualifier.
What’s the most adventurous thing you’ve ever done? I attended a mentally and physically rigorous week long survival course in New Mexico when I was eighteen and a cadet in the Civil Air Patrol. It was called Pararescue Orientation Course and was run by Air Force special forces members. We built parachute shelters to live in and learned survival skills such as fire building, mountain climbing, repelling, and land navigation. The best part . . . we lived off of MRE's (Meals Ready to Eat) for the entire week. Yum!!! Do you have life philosophy? Favorite verse? My life philosophy is to live life to the fullest by faith, with no regrets. I think it's a common philosophy in our world today minus the faith aspect, but really, we as Christians should live life to the fullest all the more knowing we're saved by grace and that we have the power through Christ to do all things. I choose not to live my life in regrets when He has forgiven my sins and given me the ability to learn from my mistakes and move forward to become someone better each and every day. I have many favorite verses, but my favorite all around is Philippians 4:13, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." What advice would you give a teen who wants to be a writer? Enjoy writing just like you would reading. Let your imagination run wild. Start with a character and a scene and let your story unfold as you write it. Always place yourself into the mind and heart of each and every one of your characters. Ask yourself how you would feel or react to the situation at hand if you had their life experiences and were in their place. Most of all, always have fun with it. You can't force a book. You have to dream it.
You can connect with Katherine on her web page or her