ABOUT THE BOOKChasing Freedom is a dystopia set in the U.S. a couple of decades from now. It is a realistic dystopia, in that it contains no apocalypse or supernatural threats. The only monsters are of the human variety, or rather the oppressive government has become a monster in itself. Everything from living arrangements to food to entertainment is highly regulated. Most people have accepted it, or are too busy just trying to survive day to day, but there are some free spirits who can’t help but challenge the system. My story follows characters from different walks of life and shows how individual choices can lead to profound changes in society.
INTERVIEW WITH MARINA FONTAINE
Marina, how did you get started writing?
I want this to be a warning to all the young people out there. “Writing bug” is not a myth. Unlike most writers, I spent most of my life without a creative bone in my body. But as it turned out, if you hang around writers long enough, you will catch it, and there is no cure. Something must have been brewing in my subconscious, because one day I heard about the Liberty Island flash fiction contest, and the next morning I woke up with characters in my head, demanding that I tell their story. Of course, no one warned me that once you start writing, you will not stop at just a piece of flash fiction, so it kind of escalated from there till I had a full novel.
What's your favorite thing about the writing process?
Being surprised. No matter how well I think I’ve thought a scene out in my head, once I sit down and start typing, the result is usually very different. The characters get ideas of their own, the setting shifts around—I just never know 100% where I will end up by the time it all plays out.
Do you have a writing routine?
More or less. With a day job and a family, it’s hard to stick to a precise routine. But my pattern from the beginning has been that I get my ideas and inspirations early in the morning, let them percolate throughout the day (don’t tell my day job boss!) and sit down to write when everyone is settled for the night. I don’t write to music, but I do have guinea pigs in my office so that’s my equivalent of white noise that some writers use!
What’s more important: characters or plot?
Characters, of course! As a reader, if I don’t connect with the characters, it’s very hard for me to fully immerse myself in the story. As a writer, I let my characters lead. I have a general concept and some plot turns along the way, but in the end, the characters have to perform. If they don’t (and I had this happen to me at least twice when writing Chasing Freedom), there’s usually a good reason, and the plot needs to reflect it. There’s no quicker way to yank a reader out of the story than to have a character do something just because the plot needs it.
Would you make a good character in a book?
I think so. I see myself as a quirky but helpful best friend. I’m not exciting enough to be a lead, but sometimes side characters get to have more fun anyway.
What do you like to do when there’s nothing to do?
Do you even have to ask? Read, of course! If I am truly stuck and don’t have any good reading material (for example, waiting on line at the store), nowadays I just think through the plot lines or scenes in my head. That’s one huge advantage of being a writer. No time is ever wasted. You can work on your creative ideas under any circumstances.
What’s your least favorite chore?
Cleaning. Unlike most other chores, there is no tangible end product. With cooking, there is a dish. With laundry or doing dishes, there is a pile of clean clothes or dishes. Cleaning leaves you with less dirt and clutter, and chances are you have to do it all over again very shortly.
Would you rather be a movie star, sports star, or rock star?
I love rock music, and I love to travel, so I would have to pick “rock star.”
If you could be any rock star, who would you want to be?
Hmm, off the top of my head I have to say John Bon Jovi. He’s talented, popular, and hasn’t let the fame ruin his life or turn him into a jerk.
Do you give your characters any of your bad traits?
My characters tend to not be very similar to me (which I suppose is for the best because that’s how they get to surprise me). But the weakness I share with some of my characters is over-thinking and always focusing on the worst-case scenario. In real life it can be quite paralyzing, especially when trying to do anything creative. On the other hand, if you are a rebel leader, maybe it’s not so bad since it reduces mistakes and keeps your people safe.
Have you ever killed off a character fictionally, as revenge for something someone did in real life?
No, but I’ve always wanted to do that. I hope I’ll get a chance in the future.
What’s your favorite song?
"Not Gonna Die Tonight" by Skillet.
What’s your favorite smell?
Lilacs. I associate lilacs with spring, which is my favorite season (I know you didn’t ask me about that. It’s my bonus answer.)
What’s your biggest pet peeve about writing?
It’s all-consuming. My brain is always working on something, which is great on one level (as I said before, no time is ever wasted) but it can get distracting, and it definitely interferes with sleep.
What would you do for a Klondike bar?
Eh. Not a whole lot. Magnum, on the other hand . . . Yeah, I could get in trouble for Magnum. I might sing karaoke of "My Heart Will Go On," as long as I can deny it later. But it has to be double chocolate or no deal.
What is your favorite movie?
Hard to say since I’m a huge movie fan. But if I had to pick one movie I could watch over and over, it’s Die Hard.
Do you have a favorite book?
Just like with movies, too many options. To choose just one, I have to go with a classic. Anthem by Ayn Rand.
If you had to choose a cliché about life, what would it be?
Everything happens for a reason.
What are you working on now?
I’m working on another dystopian story that may or may not become a full-blown novel. It’s more futuristic, with a “what if?” idea that came to me some time ago, but just recently crystallized into a story setup. Right now I’m just having fun with it and seeing where it goes. Someone famous said the first draft is just a story you tell yourself, so that’s what I’m doing.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Marina Fontaine describes herself as “Russian by birth, American by choice, and a hopeless book addict.” After years of reading and reviewing books, especially fantasy and what is now known as “soft” sci-fi, she mustered the courage to enter a flash fiction contest with a story that became an inspiration for Chasing Freedom. Marina lives in New Jersey (nowhere near the Shore, don’t get excited!) with her long-suffering husband, three children, and four guinea pigs. She works as an accountant by day and a writer by night. Aside from books, she loves hard rock music, action movies, and travel.
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