Laura Bickle, author of The Hallowed Ones and The Outside, was kind enough to do this interview for The (YA) Bookcase. She's written both adult and young adult novels, and I have fallen in love with her thriller plots and excellent writing. Enjoy!
Rachel: What gave you the idea to put your main character in an Amish community versus other religious affiliations?
Laura: I grew up not too far from a large Amish settlement - my parents would take me to visit on weekends when I was a little girl. I really admired the self-sufficiency of the Amish, how they remained separate from the modern world and kept very close to the earth for survival. When I was creating this series, I thought that they’d be uniquely-equipped to survive a large-scale disaster. The isolation became some interesting material to work with, as they know that something terrible has happened to the outside world in my story, but they don’t know what it is.
Rachel: Was there a purpose in having Alex so much older than Katie? Have you gotten any feedback from young adult readers that he’s too old, or that they like him being older because it’s different? (I personally love him as a character. I plan on studying anthropology in college, so he’s that much more awesome! Also, I love how Katie and him go back and forth with religion versus logic, because I think so many people struggle with that concept in today’s world.)
Laura: I haven’t heard from others about Alex’s age, though that was something that initially worried me. However, Katie is essentially an adult in her world – she’s actually old enough to be baptized in her church and to get married, so I felt her extra maturity would balance out the relationship.
I did want Katie and Alex to be very different, to approach life from very disparate philosophies. So the age issue just became another way to reflect that.
Rachel: Which are your favorite and least favorite kind of scenes to write?
Laura: My favorite scenes are fight scenes. Running! Weapons! Stabbing! Strategy! Escape! If I could write a whole book based on fight scenes, I’d be right on it.
My least favorite scenes involve sex. I would rather hide under a rock than write a sex scene, so I tend to leave that up to the reader’s imagination.
Rachel: Will this be a trilogy? If so, can you tell us anything about the third?
Laura: I was contracted for two books, so I think I said everything that I needed to say about Katie and her world in the two books. However, if a chance comes to do a third, I will definitely leap at it! I had a lot of fun looking at the world through her eyes.
Rachel: Of all the characters in the story, who is your favorite to write?
Laura: Definitely Katie. She’s so different from me, so much stronger and more serene. But I also love writing about the animals, about the horses and wolves and dogs.
Rachel: Did you have to do a lot of research for these novels because of all of the religion that’s mentioned?
Laura: Yes! There was a good deal of research involved. In addition to visiting the Amish settlement near where I live, I also did a good deal of reading…there are a lot of great books out there that look at the Plain way of life from a sociological perspective. National Geographic has also done a number of very good documentaries about the Amish.
I’m acutely conscious that I can’t know or understand everything about the Amish, never having lived in an Amish community. But I learned enough to develop an immense respect for the Amish way of life.
Rachel: Of all the things you put Katie through, which made you cringe the most? (me: snakes!)
Laura: Hee! I have heard a lot about the snakes from readers!
The most cringe-worthy thing for me to write, though, was when Katie had to put an end to one of her friends who was turning into a vampire. That was really difficult for her, and she struggled so much with the morality of that choice. It really changed her character and was one of the final pushes that sent her into adulthood in a more heroic role.
Rachel: How are your creatures different from other vampires/scary monsters in YA lit right now?
Laura: I loved writing Old World vampires who would burst into flame in sunlight and who have no ulterior designs upon humans beyond devouring them. Having some pure evil in a story was a blast to write.
Rachel: What is one thing no one on the Internet knows about you…yet?
Laura: Ohhh. Hmmm. One thing is that I’m on the quest to find the perfect Sunday brunch buffet in my hometown. There’s something about brunch that I just love…bacon, eggs, pancakes…omnom. And I’ve been dragging my poor husband along in a quest to find the most awesome breakfast around. We’ll probably have heart attacks at any moment.
Rachel: If you weren’t an author, what would you be?
Laura: In the past, I’ve worked in libraries and in criminal justice. But if I had it to do all over again…I’d go back to school to be a veterinarian. I love animals, and it would be wonderful to have a chance to make a difference in the lives of pets and their owners.
Thanks so much, Ms. Bickle! Happy reading!
Rachel, age 18