In this future forged by survivors of pandemics that wiped out 80 percent of the world's population, life is valued above all else. The government of "Life First" requires the mentally ill to be sterilized, outlaws abortions and sentences to death those who refuse to donate an organ when told.
Determined not to give up her kidney, Kelsey enlists the help of her boyfriend Luke and a dodgy doctor to escape. The trio must disable the tracking chip in her arm for her to flee undetected. If they fail, Kelsey will be stripped of everything.
Susan and mystery man Rob grow close as he tries to orchestrate her escape. When the duo discovers the truth behind Susan's captivity, they realize they must act quickly. Susan and Rob will need more than passion for each other and their wits to succeed. They will need help from old friends, including Kelsey Reed.
_In the previous book, Life First, Susan gave Kelsey a chance at a second life. But now will she get a chance at her own?
Tell me about yourself.
How long have you been writing? I’ve written ever since I was kid. Prior to writing novels, I was a journalist, starting way back in the late 1990s. I’ve worked at the Wichita Eagle and Kansas City Star. I’ve also worked for itty bitty publications like Solid Waste report (generally not feces; though my editor loved stories about waste runoff from chicken farms) and Education Technology News. I’ve written fiction on and off during my spare time, and committed to writing a novel for publication in 2012 and published in 2013.
What’s your story about?
The novels I’ve written are part of a trilogy, so you can ostensibly say it’s about Kelsey Reed. She’s the protagonist in book one, where we find her fleeing a forced kidney transplant. She lives in a dystopian future that’s survived a massive wipeout of people by disease and the survivors have the “Life First” mentality which is a Malcolm X on steroids philosophy of life by any means necessary, even taking someone else’s kidney. Life First, the first book in the series, follows Kelsey. Second Life, the second book in the series follows Kelsey and her friend Susan as they each face persecution at the hands of this dystopian government. The final book, Third Life: Taken, wraps the series up and we get some closure for Kelsey and Susan, but not without a lot of mayhem first.
What genre would you consider your book?
Life First is squarely dystopian, but it’s also thriller/suspense. Second Life is still in the dystopia arena, and has tons of suspense, but it also has a lot more romance. Third Life: Taken, is going to be more thriller/suspense. It takes place over six days and during that time, they have to rescue someone who has been kidnapped. So, it’s a very intense book.
Give me some insight into your main character.
Kelsey is a complex character, who is like an onion, tons of layers to peel back. When you first meet her, you’re not sure what exactly turned her against this societal organ donation law. But, as you see what society has done to the people in her lives, you realize that she’s not just some rebel without a cause. She’s got merit, and she’s got spunk, and you’ll find yourself saying, “run, Kelsey, run.”
What makes your book different from others in its genre?
I think the book has a lot of complex issues that make people think. The series is a litte different in that book 1 and book 2 switch main focus. But, I think, as a series, it all dovetails neatly in the final book, due out in June.
What inspired you to write your book?
Life First was inspired by a news story I saw about a woman, initially reported as mentally ill, who refused to have a c-section because she didn’t want to be gutted (or perhaps sliced open) like a pig. The baby died and there was a lot of outrage over the incident, with discussions of why she wasn’t forced to have the c-section. The case was tragic, yet it started me to thinking about people’s rights in general. Where does one person’s right to live allow someone to slice open somebody else’s body? Obviously, mother-child health is intricately related (just look at the childbirth mortality rates in third-world countries). However, I wondered what a society would look like if everyone was expected to be sliced open if it would save someone else’s life. So, that’s where Life First came from.
How did you come up with the title?
The title is the mantra of the fictional society depicted in the book. The society has survived an almost civilization-ending plague, rebuilt and decided to put life--as a concept, as a general ideal-- first, above everything else.
What’s your favorite part of it, without giving anything away of course?
One of my favorite parts of Life First is when we’re first introduced to holding facilities. If Kelsey can’t escape, she’s going to end up in one. The holding facilities are this society’s version of jail; they are exactly as they are labeled: a facility that holds people. Inmates are sentenced to death through life-giving, where all their organs are taken and donated to others. They’re held until they’re matched up with suitable recipients. So, my favorite line is when Kelsey says, “The hypocrisy alone would drive one mad, let alone the prospect of being the human parts drawer society reaches into to cure its neediest patients.”
Tell me about your writing process?
Sit down and write. (True fact: standing and writing just doesn’t work for me.) I’m not a heavy plotter. I like to think about what I plan to write that day before I sit down and do the writing, but sitting down (or standing up) and putting together an extensive outline is not me.
Are you a full-time writer?
I saw this internet meme the other day that had a picture of this shocked woman and said, “It’s the moment you realize being a stay-at-home mom means you never get to leave your job.” So, I laughed at the truth in that. So, I am a full-time mom and a full-time writer. However, my kids are both old enough that they’re in school during the day, so I’m able to write more now, than I was a couple of years ago, when I had a kid home with me, for most of the day.
What are your writing ambitions?
Really, just to write compelling stories that readers enjoy.
Are you self published or traditionally published? Do you wish you had gone about the process differently?
I’m self published. Given what I know now about traditional publishing contracts and the difficulty in getting one’s rights back because books, in this electronic age, never go out of print, I don’t have any regrets. I think one has to let go of the baggage that says, hey, you didn’t go through the gatekeeper, so you’re not legitimate. Publishing is not a country with borders, where you stand guards to shoot those trying to sneak across. It’s an open forum nowadays and the only people who matter in judging quality are readers.I was at a conference where I heard Jane Friedman, a digital publishing expert, speak. One of the most important things she said, in my opinion, was that publishers have no idea how to market to readers. Publishers’ clients have never been readers. They have always sold books to bookstores and libraries. Their efforts are focused on marketing to distributors, who they expect to do the job of selling the book. I think this is so important, because the one thing that I think a lot of authors who seek traditional publishing agreements expect is some great access to marketing, just because it’s part of a traditional house. But, that’s not going to come for the little guy.
If you could have dinner with any person dead or alive who would it be?
Is the person actually going to talk to me? My first thought was Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis. I liked that whole idea of Camelot and that time period in history, but Onassis was such a private person, it wouldn’t seem like it would be a really fruitful dinner. The other person I’m kinda interested in, just right now at this moment, because I just watched the most recent episode of Reign online, is Nostradamus. He seems like he’d be an interesting fellow to chat with. Though, my 21st Century French is awful, so my 16th century French is guaranteed to be atrocious; it’d probably be another disappointing conversation.
When you aren’t writing, what do you do for fun?
I love to roller skate. I haven’t been in too long, but it’s a great way to think and get exercise. I should really do it more now, while I’m still able. I’m not, by any means, old, but I fell down doing something about a year ago, and, I swear, the next day, I felt like I’d been beaten. Everything was sore. That’s when I realized, I’m too old to fall. As a kid, I just bounced back up, but the prospect of everything hurting the next day and for days, means if I take a tumble while skating, it’s going to seriously mar my attitude toward it.
Who is the most annoying character you've ever encountered in a book, on tv or in a movie? Sadly I’m a Jar Jar hater. While I try not to be a hater on most things, Star Wars’ Jar Jar Binks gets on my last nerve. I feel awful about it, too, because I love George Lucas (in a normal fan way; not a stalkerish, unhealthy, fanatic way). And based on what I’ve read, George loved Jar Jar and really took pride in creating this character, in bringing him to life. As a person who creates characters, I sympathize with the George, for having poured all this love and creative life into a character to have it pretty universally reviled. So, I don’t take joy in being a Jar Jar hater because I understand what it’s like to love a character and want others to love that character as much as you do. But, I don’t like Jar Jar.
If you were on death row, what would you choose for a final meal?
As I’m dying anyway, I’d go for an artery-clogging meal, one that might even induce a heart attack before they put me in the chair. So, really good Southern fried chicken wings, mashed potatoes and gravy, macaroni and cheese, collard greens, maybe green beans, biscuits, honey, and end it all with a nice peach cobbler.
If you knew you could get away with anything without consequence, what would you do?
I don’t know what I’d try to get away with, but we got asked this question in my freshman Intro to Psychology class in college and one person’s answer has always stuck with me: “Kick pigeons.” We had to write our answers on slips of paper and pass them forward; then the teacher randomly read a few. I remember thinking, that kick pigeons person has some issues.
What is your biggest regret in life?
This one has to do with child rearing and it was a huge mistake that I would encourage others not to make. It’s easily corrected, but if done wrong, it can ruin your life. I made the horrific mistake of introducing my son to the Star Wars films prior to introducing him to Star Trek. This one mistake haunts me to this day, as my 10-year-old believes Star Wars is better than Star Trek! If you’ve recovered from your faint, I’ll continue. If not, take a minute, have a few deep breaths, and get yourself together. Good now? Alright, it’s just a horrible mistake. I think you need to thoroughly ground your children in the awesomeness of James Tiberius Kirk and Mr. Spock (I’ll cut you if you call him Dr.) before introducing the Star Wars folks. The only Trek cartoons are awful, so there’s no competition in the cartoon world--Star Wars’ Clone Wars get a foothold and you’ll never get them back. I would suggest avoiding these cartoons at all costs and slowly introducing your children to the wonderful 60s episodes: maybe the Trouble with Tribbles or Mirror Mirror. (I just came up with these off the top of my head. Then I Googled it, and lo and behold, someone has done this work already and come up with the Top 10 Trek episodes for kids). So, seriously, don’t make my mistake. Having a smug ten year old tell you Star Trek is lame is like a dagger to the heart. I’m not saying Star Wars isn’t a fabulous story. I’m just saying, don’t hate JT Kirk and the crew.
If you could say anything to your readers, what would it be?
Avoid potholes and never eat yellow snow. Advice for life, folks. :) Also, I hope you enjoy my books.
Where can we find you?
Goodreads Page: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7111348.R_J_Crayton
Books already out
Four Mothers, May 1, 2014
Third Life: Taken, June 15, 2014