Hey everyone! I’m so excited to have Meredith McCardle, author of Blackout (January 13, 2015) here for an interview today! Here’s the official Goodreads excerpt for the book:
Seventeen-year-old Amanda Obermann (code name: Iris) has more on her mind than usual. As a member of a covert government organization called the Annum Guard, which travels through time to keep history on track, Iris has been getting some particularly stressful assignments. Plus, Jane Bonner, the Guard’s iron-fisted new leader, seems determined to make life as hard as possible. Thankfully, Iris has Abe (code name: Blue), her boyfriend and fellow Guardian, who listens to her vent—and helps her cope with her mentally ill mother’s increasingly erratic behavior.
When Guardians start to disappear on their assignments, Iris makes a terrifying discovery: a “blackout” squad is targeting anyone who gets in the way of a corrupt force that’s selling out both the Annum Guard’s missions and Guardian lives. Together, Iris and Blue must go undercover to untangle the Guard’s elaborate web of secrets and lies. But when Iris discovers that the terrible truth may involve her own father, a former Guardian undone by his own greed, she must decide how much she’s willing to risk to rescue her friends…and how dangerous the consequences will be for all of humanity.
A thrilling time-traveling adventure that spans from Abraham Lincoln’s assassination to the Cuban Missile Crisis and back to the present day, this pulse-pounding sequel to The Eighth Guardian reveals that playing with time can turn into a deadly game.
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Hope you guys enjoy the interview!
Question: Congrats on the release of Blackout! How does it feel, knowing people are going to be reading your book?
Answer: Honestly, I’m feeling very zen this time around. I know a lot of debut authors go through increasing levels of panic when their books are first released (heck, I know I did with my first book), but I think we all learn eventually to let it go. Once my book is out there in the world, it no longer belongs to me. It belongs to readers, as it should. All I can do is hope they like it or channel Taylor Swift and shake it off if they don’t.
Question: Blackout is your second book. Was the process for book two different from book one? Which lesson from book one helped you most with the process for book two?
Answer: SO DIFFERENT. I wrote the first book, The Eighth Guardian, as a standalone, but then the publisher liked it so much, they bought it as a series. I’ll be honest, it was a pretty big challenge to take a book I’d envisioned as a one-and-done and craft a sequel, all while on a tight deadline. But at the end of the day, it all came together.
I definitely learned a lot from the experience of writing book 1. I had a lot of starts and stops with that book because I had no idea who my main character, Iris, was when I first began writing. It wasn’t until I figured her out that the words finally flowed. So for Blackout, I focused on character character character and let the plot work itself out from there. It really helped.
Question: The Eighth Guardian and Blackout sound AMAZING! Where did you get the idea for them? Why time travel?
Answer: Thank you! The Eighth Guardian was inspired by a song, actually. I was driving and I had the Chill station on Sirius playing in my car. A song by Autechre called “Iris Was a Pupil” came on, and I became OBSESSED with the title. I started asking myself all sorts of questions—Who’s Iris? What’s she a pupil of? Why is she no longer a pupil? I immediately crafted a story in my head about a girl who’s at a secret government-run boarding school, and originally I had her leading a rebellion against the school establishment. But then a few days later, seemingly out of nowhere, the idea for time travel hit me, and I realized Iris’s experiences at school were just the beginning of the story. The tip of the iceberg. I ran with the idea and didn’t look back.
Question: Those covers are so amazing!! Can you explain what they represent (without spoilers)?
Answer: Thank you! The covers were both illustrated by the legendary Cliff Nielsen. I was blown away when I first heard he was designing them.
In both books, Iris projects back and forward in time, and the art director at Skyscape wanted to capture what that split second would look like—the moment right when she projects, hence the swirling, almost dream-like nature of the covers. I really love that both covers stay true to the plot of the books. In The Eighth Guardian, one of Iris’s first missions is the Boston Massacre, which is what’s featured on the cover. Blackout gives us two snapshots of missions Iris goes on. In one, she’s aboard a Civil-War era train, and in the other, she’s present for some very important happenings during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Question: If you lived in the world you created, what would happen to you on Testing Day? Would you have passed, like Amanda did? Would you be able to survive in your world?
Answer: Oh man, I probably would have failed miserably.
Okay, I take that back. I would have rocked the written test because I’m good at those, but I would have fallen apart during the practical challenges because I have a tendency to completely lose my head in a crisis. I’d like to think I’d be a good addition to Annum Guard because I’m very thorough, but I don’t know if I’d get past the entrance exam!
Question: If you could time travel, where/when would you go? Why?
Answer: Anywhere and everywhere! How’s that for an answer? But I think I’d start in the 1920s. I love the Jazz Age.
Question: According to your bio, you have degrees in magazine journalism and theater AND you went to law school. Did any of these areas of study help you in your pursuit of writing a book? Which helped the most? In what ways?
Answer: Oddly enough, I don’t think The Eighth Guardian or Blackout would exist if I hadn’t gone to law school. First, I went to law school in Boston, where the books are set. I like to think that the city and history of Boston is another character in the books, and that’s all thanks to the years I spent living there. And second, the analytical training I received in law school absolutely helped make me a better writer. I question everything! It really helps me dig deeper into my characters, to figure out their motivations.
Question: Craziest thing you’ve had to Google for a Work in Progress?
Answer: I did just read the entire Geneva Conventions a few weeks ago for my new WIP. Does that count? Or for The Eighth Guardian, I spent a few hours trying to figure out when trash cans were put in Boston Common. That was definitely a weird Google adventure!
Question: Are you working on Annum Guard #3? Or are they just a duology?
Answer: Hard at work on Annum Guard 3! Stay tuned for details!
Question: Do you ever think you’ll venture into other genres? Like contemporary or dystopian? Why or why not? When you aren’t writing, what do you enjoy doing?
Answer: I’m a fantasy writer at heart, but I have always and will always love historical. I have a few historical fantasies in a drawer, and I’m plotting out a straight historical now that’s set in the Jazz Age (hence my answer above)!
About the Author:
I grew up in South Florida dreaming up stories in my head and writing down the good ones. I attended the University of Florida and received degrees in both magazine journalism and theatre. In a moment of sheer practicality my senior year of college, I realized that journalism wasn’t my passion and that theatre was nothing more than a hobby, and I went to law school. After graduating from Boston University School of Law, I spent seven years working as a commercial litigator by day and toiling away as a writer by night. Following the birth of my first daughter in late 2009, I left the law behind to focus on my writing full-time.
I live in South Florida with my amazingly supportive husband, my two lovely young daughters and my hyperactive wheaten terrier.
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