The Exceptionals Exception

The author of The Exceptionals shares her journey from law school to fiction writing, and the strangest (most inspirational!) dream about a family of vampires…

Young Adult: When did you decide to start writing?
I’ve written for as long as I can remember. When I was in elementary school, I sat on my perch high up in our maple tree and wrote stories and poems. It has always been my dream to be a published author, but my father encouraged me to go to law school, so that I could support myself. I took his advice, and stopped writing anything except legal briefs and memos for several years. And then one night I had the strangest dream about a family of vampires. I just had to write it down. I finished it a year later, and sent it off to agents and publishers, certain I would realize my dream and become an author. Boy was I wrong. After Twilight, romance vampire stories were in demand, not middle-grade adventure ones. And then I wrote another middle-grade adventure novel, about a long lost Irish treasure. This one would certainly be published, I thought. Wrong again. And then I wrote The Exceptionals. I sent it out to only ten people; pretty certain it would not be published. A few weeks later I had an agent and a publisher!

YA: Tell us a little bit about your latest work.
 Growing up, my father often told me that we only use ten percent of our brainpower. I often wondered, can some people use more? What can they do? Did Einstein use more of his brain than most people – and what about mediums? This became the foundation for The Exceptionals: a school (Cambial Academy) for students who have “special” abilities. But clearly this sort of power comes with those who would abuse it; hence the struggle at the core of the book between good and evil. The protagonist is Claire Walker, a fifteen-year-old girl who must use her long-ignored ability to communicate with animals to unravel the mystery behind the disappearances of the most talented students at Cambial Academy – the exceptionals. Along the way she uncovers a chilling prophecy and meets a gorgeous but secretive boy – who may know more than he’s letting on.

YA: What are some of the qualities in your latest work that set it/you apart from what’s currently our there on the market?
EC: The Exceptionals is different from most fantasy novels because the powers come from the characters’ minds. They are not supernatural, or mutants. They can utilize a greater percentage of their brain than most people.

From the Book:
YA: What attracts you to the Young Adult genre specifically?
 Teenagers are more open-minded than most adults. I love their excitement and their willingness to believe in the unbelievable.  They are willing to take big leaps of faith. They want to be swept away in a story and fall in love with a character. I think it might be because they don’t know yet what life has in store for them, and the possibilities seem endless.

YA: Who would you count among your strongest influences for your latest work, and why?
 My mother, like many Irish people, was a great storyteller. She believed in fairies, leprechauns, angels and ghosts.  She never understood why some people have to see something to believe it.  She has been very influential to my writing, since the two most important words for any writer are “What if?” In fact, I am working on a middle-grade adventure novel right now based on Irish mythology and legend, including many of the stories she told me.

I am also influenced by many writers, including the immensely talented fantasy writers J.K. Rowling and J.R.R. Tolkien. I am also a huge fan of John Irving.

YA: Do you have pursuits outside of young adult fiction?
EC: I love to read, and to bake. I also love spending time with my family and friends, and taking long walks with my dog.

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