Hey everyone! Meet Abby J. Reed, a lovely YA/NA author with two current works in progress. She kindly agreed to talk today about her books 12 is Beauty and Red Blood, Red Planet, both of which I hope we'll see out in the world soon! There are also excerpts of these stories at the bottom of the post, so don't miss them! And, once you're done here, totally go find her on Twitter. She's a pleasure to follow.
A bit of navigation help here…
Alright, without further ado, let the interview begin!
You've currently got a New Adult sci-fi book in the works called Red Blood, Red Planet. What can you tell us about this story?
Gael is 22 and an amputee who built his own prosthetic leg. When he discovers a starship, he’s plopped in the middle of a three-way war. The Herons want him to fix the ship so they can end a blood feud, or else his family dies. The Eliks want him because the young woman helping him has body modification that’ll reveal their biggest secret. His own people want him because fixing the ship uncovers a lie in place for generations.
There’s metal angel wings, unstable minds, a pet cleaning bot, pain, themes of dreams and home, and hello—white dreads for hair—I’m so freaking excited about this one!
White dreads for hair? Cool! And yeah, it all sounds really exciting! So tell me, where did the inspiration for Red Blood, Red Planet come from?
Back in high school I attended a summer church camp with the theme XENOVIV, mainly because of a cute boy. XENOVIV itself doesn't mean anything, but it focused on the idea of being a foreigner in a strange land (Exodus 2:22 and 1 Peter 2:11-12, for those who want to know). Granted, I was a little more focused on said cute guy, but hey! something stuck. I wrote a short story about it in college, but I always knew the story was much bigger than those assigned twenty pages.
The amputee and body modification came from my own experiences. I struggle with chronic health issues where I’m constantly facing my own physical limitations. I can’t help but infuse some of that struggle, and frustration, into my characters.
How about your young adult sci-fi novel, 12 is Beauty. How would you describe it?
I'd describe it as a young woman’s search for strength and healing after a sexual assault. We’re flawed people. We don’t make the best decisions. (Especially without our morning cup of caffeine.) Sixteen year-old July reflects this. She’s looking for wholeness, but she’s searching in the wrong places.
What inspired you to create 12 is Beauty?
This initially sprouted from two short stories as well. I had finished watching some supposed-to-make-you-feel-good romantic Hollywood flick, but came away feeling really angry. What else was I supposed to feel after staring at (ahem) perfect boobs and butts for a whopping two hours? The short stories were my temper tantrum about how nobody should have the right to make us feel less beautiful.
Voilà. July was born.
I’m curious: why twelve and not ten or another number? Is there a special significance to this number for you or for the story?
In July’s world, each person is given a Number from 1-12 based on their physical beauty. 12 is the highest anyone can earn. Remember, I’ve been steeped in church tradition longer than a tea bag. The number twelve is significant in Biblical history. I like to think it was my subconscious working.
So what advice would you have for new writers?
They already know to read and write, so I’ll tell them to daydream. Get lost on a walk because you’re looking at funky cloud shapes. Sit by a river and watch the ducks. The majority of my ideas come when I’m “wasting time.” As artists, our brains need this space to play. Much of the time we’re so zeroed in on productivity we miss the warning signs of a mind screaming for creative oxygen.
I like that. So what types of stories do you enjoy most and why?
Because of my health, I really enjoy stories where protagonists have to fight through health problems. Whether Percy Jackson’s ADHD/dyslexia or Jig the goblin’s (Jim C. Hines) nearsightedness, Day’s tumor (Marie Lu’s Legend), even Harry Potter’s pain-causing scar. But in all of them, I like when they’re set elsewhere. I already know what the US in the present’s like. Show me something else.
Was there a book (or were there any books) that had an early influence on your decision to be a writer? That made you want to write?
No, but my mom bribed me to make sure I fell in love with reading and stories. When I was four, I got a quarter for every book I finished during one summer. But then she caught on to how fast I could read, and she dropped the price to a nickel. I still managed to earn my Barbie.
Nice! Have you ever encountered a book you thought you wouldn't enjoy too much, but that you ended up really liking? If so, what was it and what did you like about it?
Salvage by Alexandra Duncan. YA sci-fi. So different from anything I've read lately, and I’m a big sucker for linguistics. It’s like a linguistic chocolate cake melting in my mouth.
Oh, that's a great description. I'll have to look into that book! So if you could pick one book (or series) and be transported into that story, which would it be and why?
Right now, I’d have to say Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas. Just because I really do miss my muscles burning after a good workout, and being an assassin would be a cool way to feel that again. Maybe that's really morbid of me to say…
Haha, it's probably still true! So now how about some fun questions for you? Lightning round… go!
Ghirardelli triple chocolate fudge brownies. There is nothing too rich for me.
Where would you most like to live in the world? Why?
Somewhere I could have both the mountains and the beach and crisp autumn mornings all year ‘round. And while we’re dreaming, throw in somebody to clean my house so I live in cleanly comfort no matter the season.
Favorite time of day?
Morning. Hands down. Now that I’m married, morning before the hubster wakes up.
Worst pick-up line you’ve ever heard?
My problem is I’m so oblivious, I can never tell they’re pick-up lines. I look nice? Thanks! I got this dress from Target. Do I want coffee? Nah, never liked the taste. Do I come here often? You know, I had to get gas in the area so then I figured I’d run inside and grab this book and then I saw…
If you could have any superpower, which one would you choose?
I’ve always wanted to fly 🙂
Great responses! And yes, flying would be incredible…
Connect with Abby J. Reed
About Abby J. Reed
Abby J Reed writes Young and New Adult sci-fi novels that ask what if, whether set in a parallel world or in deep space. She snuck away from Wheaton College with an English and Writing Concentration degree and has a Certificate in Christian Formation and Soul Care from Denver Seminary.
Abby wrestles with Chronic Migraine and is an active member of the Art Students League of Denver, where she lives with her handsome husband. If her hands aren't on the keyboard, they are stained purple and blue with paint.
Excerpt from Red Blood, Red Planet
I land headfirst into a bush and when I drag myself out, lay on my back hyperventilating.
The girl has wings. Metal wings. I stare up at the sky through a gap in the trees. Stars. Bloody, bloody stars. I’ve never seen anything like it. How does a red-blood get metal wings?
She landed on a log. And, judging by the way her left arm and wing angle off to the side, the log got the best of her. Her ass is completely hanging out in the open.
But I’m with Tanya. So I can’t care.
My systematic body check:
1) Head—somewhat bruised and banged up, especially. But most importantly, face undamaged.
2) Upper body—unscathed, thanks to tunic and harness.
3) Extremities/prosthetic—scratched/bending right. No screws out of place. No hydraulic oil spilt.
I think I came away undamaged. I wrestle myself upright, march to her, and force her to sit upright on that uncovered ass.
“What. The hell. Was that?” Her head flops to the side. I take her jaw and force her to look at me. “What good is having wings if you don’t have any landing gear?”
“Never jumped from that high before. You so heavy.” Her eyes roll to the side. “Wasn't sure we make it.” Her head tips forward and I push it back.
“What the hell are you?”
She seems to focus on my face and gives a weak smile. “Skye.”
Fitting. Since she has metal wings. And my fingers got that itch when they want to caress something metallic, but judging by the sharp edges of her wings, doing so would be a bad idea.“Gael. But you didn’t answer my questions.” Do her wings respond to stimuli? Does that mean they’re organic? But they’re metal. How can something be both organic and metal?
She giggles. “Red-blood. I red-blood. Like red trees.” She gestures to the forest we crashed into and winces. “Arm hurts.”
“You probably did something to it.”
She giggles again.
A groan slips from between my teeth. This day keeps getting better and better. She probably has a concussion, too.
I loop my arms around her wings (stars, did you see the edges on those things? Talk about having a sharp point) to grip her by the armpits—she lets out a small yelp—and drag her over to a tall tree with lots of thick branches. I prop her up against the trunk. The way she just lies there giggling—ridiculous.
I get so close to her face her eyes cross. Or maybe they just do that anyway. “Stay.”
She just sits there.
Here’s the thing about tree-climbing. It looks impressive, but it sucks. Especially when your now traveling companion has wings and can foucking do all the work no problem if she didn’t have the half-assed idea of jumping off a cliff. Your hands hurt from all the bark and your face gets walloped with mahogany colored leaves because you basically have to climb it with one leg and your upper body. And then the trunk gets slimmer the further you go, and sure, even though you did the whole foucking cliff thing ten minutes ago, being off balance and swaying in the wind still isn't on your happy list. And when you do spot the compound, it’s still a solid day’s walk away. Which means you are still in green-blooc territory and are not out of danger yet. Which means when you do get back you’ll have six days to fix the ship.
I want to go home and cuddle with all the tech that needs fixing and forget about everything.
— Excerpt from Red Blood, Red Planet. Copyright Abby J. Reed.
Excerpt from 12 is Beauty
“Just missed your girlfriend.” Her dad wouldn’t be home yet. Since his big promotion didn’t occur until the day after tomorrow, he had a lot of loose ends to tie up. If he didn’t hold special privileges from working for City Hall, he would’ve been cited and thrown into prison for being out past curfew in a different zone.
“I didn’t come to see Day. I came to see you.” Carr said, his four fingers bowing out of his front jean’s pockets.
A small bubble of excitement propelled her onto the balls of her feet. “Something wrong? Wanna talk about it?” she said in a cheerful tone far from what she felt.
Dayvina’s words echoed throughout her body. So obvious.
Then other forbidden words floated to the surface. You’re not very pretty, are you? She sucked in a quiet breath and waited until the words and the memory of sticky, clammy hands returned to the crevices of her mind.
She shut the door and sat on the back porch, more like a single step, her favorite place to think. From here she had a good view of the skyscreen and of the alleyways stretching throughout the rest of the Burough like strips of cloths. During the day, if she squinted really hard, she could almost imagine mountains through the screen’s crossed wires.
But if the sky’s true colors couldn’t seep through, then there was no way for the mountains to. Anyway, she still liked to pretend.
They sat on the step together, one bun each hanging off on either side.
“Just like old times, huh?” she said. “Remember when we’d laugh about the stupid girls in your class and sit here for hours until my parents came home? And sometimes you’d stay for dinner? We’d talk about—“
“—I’m worried about Dayvina,” he said.
Apparently she had hopes about this conversation because they wilted. The last thing she wanted to talk about was Day. “Let’s talk about something else. How was work?”
“She hasn’t been herself lately. More fussy and irritable.”
July sighed. She pushed up her cheek with one fist and rested her elbow on her knee. One of the few times she had Carr to herself and Day still butted in.
“All of a sudden she’s worrying about what Number she’s going to receive. She never cared before. She always thought it was wrong. I was pretty nervous two days out when it was my turn. Do you think it’s the Numbering? I think it’s her Numbering.”
“Or PMS.” The blank skyscreen above was more interesting than him right now. How much longer would she have to endure this torturous conversation subject?
Giddiness flowed like river water through her torso. “Carr! Do you see that? Up there in the skyscreen. Not there, there. I think… I think there’s a tear in the sky!”
Almost in a direct line above them was a small rip in the screen. Cradled in the hole was a fleck of white. A small star.
— Excerpt from 12 is Beauty. Copyright Abby J. Reed.
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Alright everybody, I hope you enjoyed the interview with Abby J. Reed, the excerpts from her stories, and that you'll follow her online so that you can grab her books when they're available! Thank you so much for reading this post today!