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Interview: March 16, 2017

Last year, readers were introduced to Gena Showalter's FIRSTLIFE, a book set in a world where life begins after death. The star of the book, Tenley "Ten" Lockwood, is only 17, but has spent the last year of her life in an insane asylum --- not because of a mental instability, but because she has refused to allow her parents to choose where she will live after she dies. You see, in the Everlife, your Firstlife is only a dress rehearsal for what comes after, and Ten is caught in the middle of a deadly battle for her soul. With two powerful, but deadly, realms fighting over her, Ten must stay alive long enough to make the right choice. Now, Showalter returns with LIFEBLOOD, the explosive sequel where we reunite with Ten, who must learn about her chosen realm from the ground up --- all while struggling to launch her first mission. In celebration of the release of LIFEBLOOD, Teen Board member Isabel C. had the chance to ask Gena a few questions about the Everlife series, her favorite characters, and where the series will go next. Read below to see her answers! In your Everlife series, life begins after death. While this is already a really unusual premise, what makes FIRSTLIFE and LIFEBLOOD even more interesting is that a person’s secondlife seems to hold more value than their firstlife. How did you come up with this idea?

Gena Showalter: All our lives, so many are told this is it, nothing is more important than what we do here and now, and that we shouldn’t waste our time. I absolutely agree that we shouldn’t waste our time, but in saying nothing is more important, so often what comes next is forgotten or neglected. My hope was simply to shine light on the idea that what we do here and now can affect the kind of life we’ll have after we die, because yes, I do believe there’s an afterlife.

TRC: One of the things that makes choosing a secondlife so difficult is that both the Troika and Myriad realms have good qualities along with the bad. What was your inspiration for each realm and why was it important to you that it was so difficult to choose between them?

GS: The entire Everlife series rests on the concept of good versus evil, light versus dark, kingdom versus kingdom. But who in their right mind would ever choose to live in the evil world? And yet, every day people make bad decisions that can ruin their lives. Right off the bat, I knew evil had to be seductive, and insidious, trying to pass itself off as good. On the other end of the spectrum, the light realm had to have its share of problems. Even good people make bad choices.

TRC: I love that Ten uses numbers to deal with what’s going on in her life and help make sense of it all. What inspired you to give Ten a love of numbers? Do you share her interest, or know someone who does?

GS: All my life I have sucked at math. Also known as “mathing” in my family. Writing about a girl who is obsessed with numbers and numerology was a serious challenge, and sometimes I wanted to slap myself for going there, but as Ten likes to say: No risk, no reward.

TRC: I have to say, I had a hard time deciding who my favorite character is! Archer is so sweet and loyal while Killian is irresistible and protective! If you had to choose, who is your favorite character to write about in the Everlife series?

GS: I love writing Killian. I’m actually writing the third book (EVERLIFE) right now, and for the first time, I’m giving readers a peek inside his thought processes, writing from his point of view (not the whole book, but certain scenes).  He is sexier --- uh, I mean more complicated --- than I ever realized.

TRC: Ten and Alice from your Zombieland series come from such different worlds. If you had to imagine a scenario in which they might meet, how do you think Ten and Alice might get along?

GS: I think they would be fast friends and give each other tips about how to win a battle. Despite the differences in their worlds, both girls are extremely loyal to the ones they love, hate lies and prefer blunt talk.  

TRC: Writers take inspiration from plenty of things --- I know that you took inspiration from Scripture. What about music? Are there songs that you attach to certain characters and do you listen to music when you write? If so, what?

GS: I love music. I think the song "Stand By Me" by Ben E. King perfectly encapsulates the Everlife series.

TRC: When did you know you wanted to be a writer? What advice do you have for young and aspiring writers?

GS: I was a young mother in my early twenties, and I desperately needed money. I’d dropped out of college several times, and had even completed my first semester of nursing school. Writing books was the only thing I could see myself doing long-term. I knew I’d regret it forever if I didn’t give this thing my all.

My best advice is write for an audience of one. You can’t please everyone. What one person loves, another will hate, and what one hates another will love. Write what you love, and your passion for it will shine through.

TRC: Out of everything you’ve written --- adult romance and YA --- which do you find is the easiest to write?  Or the most fun?

GS: I think I’m always in love with whatever I’m writing at the time. Basically, I’m living with the characters, chatting with them every day, and doing my best to torture them --- uh, help them find a happily ever after.

TRC: What were some of your favorite YA books (although they might not have been called young adult!) when you were growing up?

GS: The first young adult series I read was Sweet Valley High by Francine Pascal. They are the first books I read for fun. I was the slow kid in class, had trouble understanding the things I read, and it took me forever to get through a single passage. I was even held back in the third grade. Then I discovered this series, and I had to know more. I kept reading, kept getting better at it, faster, and soon had ideas of my own. 

TRC: Last of all, can you tell us anything about EVERLIFE (the final book in the series)? We’re seriously worried about a certain character’s fate!

GS: I’m working on it now, and things are heating up for Ten and Killian --- in more ways than one. Ten does choose who wins the Resurrection, and it complicates, well, everything. The war will finally come to a head.  Lives will be lost, and loyalties tested.