Hey, remember how a few days ago I (Alexandria) said there would be an interview coming that involved a super great author?
Well...HERE YOU GO!
After just recently reading and reviewing M. Liz Boyle's two titles within her YA series "Off The Itinerary," I couldn't simply not do an interview with her. (You can find my review for her series, here!)
I asked her several questions, attempting to dive deeper into her imagination, to see where she got her inspiration for the books and characters, and how she decided to incorporate her faith the way she did. Take a listen into our conversation (and if you tune in your eyes and ears, there might be a treat for you at the end! Giveaway, anyone? ;).
What was your initial inspiration for the books, and how did you go about coming up with the idea(s)?
Liz: Several years ago I read a book about some teenagers who were caught in a series of threatening situations in Africa. Shortly after finishing the novel I was making my children lunch and the following thought literally popped into my head: “They should write a book about some kids who get caught in an avalanche.” When the thought popped in my mind, I jotted down the idea. Then while my kids napped that day, I prayed that God would give me the ideas to write if I was the they who could write the story. That summer I wrote a ton during my kids’ naptime! I grew up enjoying survival stories, and had once hiked through the aftermath of an avalanche. I remember being in awe just seeing the leftovers from the forces of nature, and I realized that it had the potential to develop into a novel.
When it was time to begin Chased I wanted to challenge my five main characters in a new way. Obviously they’d battled nature in Avalanche, so I thought a relational issue would be interesting. One time my husband and I had an amazing opportunity to backpack in the Grand Canyon with a wonderful group. On the first day at 2 pm (the hottest, sunniest time of day) we met a couple who was woefully unprepared for the Canyon (they had little water, little food, no map, one of the two had a dangerously high heart rate, they had ignored the many signs that warn hikers not to try to hike to the bottom and back to the rim in the same day, and we were all on a trail that doesn’t even have backcountry rangers), so they really needed help. Thankfully our group was able to provide them water, shade, and a Send Help call from a satellite messenger. Part of our group went ahead to make our camp, while the rest of us waited with them until the rangers arrived to hike them out in the cool of night. That experience definitely impacted me. In one way, I was so thankful that we had been able to help them. In another way, I realized that we are all just a few bad decisions from being in a very dangerous situation, and any one of us could have just as easily wound up in their position. That humbling opportunity has given me much to ponder. As an author I recognized it as a good story prompt. Of course, unprepared hikers can inevitably become a risk to other hikers (by needing their supplies, etc), but in Chased, I decided to exaggerate that and have the recovered stranger become a risk to the five main characters by chasing them!
I loved the characters! I find it cool that you decided that the cast would be a mesh of two sibling groups, both male and female! What made you choose those dynamics?
Liz: I’m so glad that you loved the characters! Marlee was the first character I wrote. Since she has two sisters, I decided that two brothers would help balance the story, as well as allow for comical moments, like when Sawyer refers to the “Estrogen Herd,” or when Marlee says that normally they would be far enough away from the boys to not be able to smell them. I also wanted a blend of guys and girls to give the characters opportunities to show how Christians can interact with the opposite gender.
Marlee was such a great protagonist! I found her level headedness and peacemaker-type personality relatable. Do you relate to her in any way, or if not her, any of your other characters?
Liz: Marlee’s peacemaker ability was inspired by a childhood friend of mine who, like Marlee, is the middle of three girls and easily gets along with everyone. I think that Marlee is the cool kid who doesn’t realize how great she is, even though everyone else in the group gains so much from her. I thought the story and the other characters would benefit if the protagonist was usually level headed.
As far as who I relate to, I think Marlee is the mediator that I always wanted to be, so I try to be like her, but I don’t think it comes as naturally to me. As an eternal optimist, I think I have the happy-go-lucky and go-with-the-flow views of Lydie. I really like Ellie too, but I don’t see many similarities between myself and her character (other than being brunette, but her hair is more styled than mine!).
The faith elements in your books were refreshing to read. I love how the characters, in trying times and circumstances, always stopped to pray and talk to God, and reevaluate their decisions to do the right thing--all of these things led to their growth by the end. Has your own faith been stretched and deepened while writing these stories? If so, how?
Liz: This is an interesting question. Writing these characters has strengthened my faith, because like you said, their first response is often to turn to God. They are a memorable example of relying on God and praying about everything. Since it’s important to my characters to please God with their thoughts and actions, and I want to be like that too, writing them further inspires me! Additionally, I think my fans deserve to have an author who strives to grow in God’s way, so when I think of my readers across the country, I want to be my best for them as well.
What do you hope your readers will take away from your books? (I know I'll only go off my itinerary if God tells me to do so, haha!)
Liz: Often when I autograph a paperback for someone, I write “Adventure awaits. Go with God.” I think those five words summarize the takeaway for readers. Adventures can be found everywhere if we view life through that mindset. Many times adventures take shape in a way that we didn’t expect - or even want - but as long as we seek God and aim to bring Him glory, the experience will be worth the difficulties.
Liz is an author, the wife of a professional tree climber and the mom of three energetic and laundry-producing children. She received her Associate’s of Arts at the University of Sioux Falls, where she received the LAR Writing Award for her essay entitled, “My Real Life Mufasa.” Liz once spent a summer in Colorado teaching rock climbing, which she believes was a fantastic way to make money and memories. She resides with her family in Wisconsin, where they enjoy hiking and rock climbing. Liz and her husband have also backpacked in Colorado and the Grand Canyon, which have provided inspiration for her writing. She likes making adventurous stories to encourage others to find adventures and expand their comfort zones (though admittedly, she still needs lots of practice expanding her own comfort zone).
We are so excited to be giving away a paperback copy of both of Liz's books to one lucky winner!
Entering the Giveaway is simple!
Just comment below, answering our Giveaway question, before Monday, June fifteenth!
Today's Giveaway question: If you could travel anywhere in the world and have an adventure, where would you choose?