Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Q & A with Lennie Stanfield | Author of the Zach and Grace Ann Novels

Author of the Zach and Grace Ann Novels
Lennie Stanfield is a small business owner living in Oklahoma with his family.  The desire to write a series of novels has long been a desire and an ambition.  With the ZACH AND GRACE ANN NOVELS, Lennie has found the outlet.  eBooks made all the difference as years of traditional publishing proved difficult and frustrating.  A friend ardently pushed Stanfield to look into eBook publishing.

Literary Juice: You are the author of One: A New Beginning and Halfway Home, part of the Zach and Grace Ann Series.  Can you share with us a little about this series and the inspiration behind writing these books? 

Lennie Stanfield: Science fiction is my favorite reading.  I love the imaginings of writers describing what none of us know in reality.  My favorite writers make the characters and worlds come to life.  My desire is to achieve that level of creativity with my own characters, Earthlings or otherwise.

One: A New Beginning sets the stage for the series.  Zach Manlin is a young man suddenly subjected to grievous loss and the discovery that will change his life.  In an eastern Tennessee cave, there is an accident: Zach’s father falls to his death.  The situation awakens a being long dormant upon the earth.  One, the creation of Cronan science, meets the young earth male known as Zachary Gene Manlin.  Interactions between Zach and One quickly evolve into a relationship.  Zach now lives two lives, which, for him, is difficult to deal with.  The large family of friends that surrounds Zach further complicates matters as he deals with his father’s funeral and the accompanying aftermath.  Grace Ann Ridgeway enters the story at this point.
The people and relationships fascinate One, as do the changes on Earth.  The interactions of Zach, Grace Ann and One with the worlds around them are the story.  One supplies unimagined opportunities and options that Zach and Grace Ann must consider.  The second book, Halfway Home, capitalizes on these opportunities and is the primer for [the] biggest adventure the young couple could imagine.

The relationships are a key driving force of the stories for me.  I want to demonstrate that people can stay true to themselves, their beliefs, and to one another, no matter the race of beings.

LJ: Who is your target audience for the Zach and Grace Ann Series?  What message do you hope to convey through these books? 

LS: I wrote the books with an adult audience in mind.  What I have discovered is that there is an appeal with a young adult audience.  The ‘growing up’ of Zach and Grace Ann is attractive to their character development.

In my writings, there is no cursing, gratuitous sex, or violence.  I have received criticism for this approach.  Living is hard enough, but there are people who live this way.  The character set that I use comprises these type individuals. 

Faith in God is an element that weaves consistently through the writings.  It is my belief that there is one and only one God.  What I muse over, however, is the possibility that He has created other life forms.  I explore this very specifically with the Cronan race and in Halfway Home, the return of the Martians to their home world.

The message the novels convey to my readers is that being true to yourself and your beliefs is living.  In the good times and the bad times, character is what defines us.  To that end, Zach and Grace Ann repeatedly discover that living is the journey

LJ: The intriguing character of One is defined as an entity who is “neither male nor female,” but someone who “simply is.”  How did you develop this character?  Also, you have described your faith as one of your interests woven into your story.  How has your faith influenced, or even helped to develop One’s character?       

LS: As I outlined my characters, I knew that One would be something different.  One is a constructed being of another world.  The technology is incredibly advanced compared to present day Earth.  While it is true that One has a hardware component, what separates One from computers or artificial intelligence is the concept of a soul. 

In Halfway Home, Zach and Grace Ann discover a component of One’s construction that is pivotal to One’s personality.  That discovery convinces Grace Ann that One has a soul.  In fact, she argues that One has evolved into a sentient, self-aware being.  This concept specifically I am evolving over the course of the series.

My desire for One was to be an equal part of the relationship with Zach and Grace Ann, individually and separately.  I wanted One to be so much more than robot or a benevolent super-being.  One has desires as well.  Very specifically, One desires to fill the emotional void that was severed in a tragedy eons ago on Earth.

LJ: The third book in your series, Generations, is scheduled to be released December 2013.  Can you give readers a little taste of what they can look forward to in the third book?      
LS: Generations is pushed back to first quarter 2014.  In Generations, Grace Ann’s parents, Marcus and Elizabeth Ridgeway, are integral to the story, as are the six Martian survivors.  There is so much happening in this book.  Telling each of the individual stories is challenging.  The overall story line is the terraforming of Mars by the Martians.  The characters meld into the plot to support the Martians even as elements of various governments attempt to interfere.  The big news is the arrival of the twins Grace Ann carries!  

                                                          Here is a small excerpt:

“Do you really think that this will work?”  Elizabeth asked.
“I do,” Zach answered.  “The fastest way for our two groups to understand each other and to communicate, let alone trust each other, is for One to be accepted by our new friends.  He can explain details that we can’t.  If Mena Arlay will allow One to scan them, we will know what they are thinking and wanting.”
Zach and Grace Ann sat on the couch next to Marcus and Elizabeth.  They watched on the large display as One moved through the barrier, where the atmosphere was to accommodate the six visitors.  “I hope that Mena Arlay is willing, I truly do, Zach,” Marcus commented.  “From their perspective, that small area could feel like a prison cell.  None of us wants them to feel as if they are being held against their will.”
On the bridge of the Renaissance, Renie, the four humans watched as One maneuvered behind the company of Martians.  The round blue orb that was the projection of One, floated at eye level to the Martians.  As a group, they turned to face the blue orb now in their space.  The humans had just transported out of the presence of the Martians, without any warning.  Zach had caught the others off guard with this move.  On the bridge, he had explained that he wanted to remain a mystery to their new friends until they were ready to interact.  Hand upon his chin and nodding his head, Marcus affirmed his agreement to Zach’s way of thinking.
Grace Ann thought silently to Renie.  The vessel responded by morphing a table up from the floor.  The time of day was late afternoon, Friday afternoon.  The family had been waiting expectantly for the waking of the six Martians.  The table completed resolution with three glasses, pitchers of water and tea, and, of course, a Dr. Pepper can for Zach.  He smiled and nudged his young wife with his elbow.  Along with the drinks, there was an assortment of bread and other items to create sandwiches.
“Going home to cook and clean is going to be very difficult from now on,” Elizabeth moaned.  For Elizabeth and Marcus the wonders of One’s world continued to amaze.  Unlike Zach, and their daughter, Grace Ann, they had not become familiar with all the workings, given their recent introduction.
Marcus and Zach were half watching the display while they made sandwiches.  One had not said anything.  The Martians simply stood in place.  The situation did not change for many minutes.  “One, what do you think is going on,” Zach asked aloud.
Before One responded, Marcus replied.  “This is a test of wills.  Our friends are not certain how to react to One, or us, given what happened in space.  From what Elizabeth and I understand of your interaction with Gantoo, there is baggage to deal with as well.”
“I concur with Marcus,” One offered in his spoken voice.  Though One remained with the Martians, his essence was all aware within this place.  “Not only is this situation a test of wills, but also a high degree of mistrust given the strained relationship of Mena Arlay and her father.  Perhaps we will one day learn the true nature of what happened.”  One became silent again.
There was no sound at all until Zach’s stomach let it be known that food was required.  Everyone laughed.  The tension seemed to melt away.  Deep under the ground, below the lake of this east Tennessee property, three races were meeting.  Only a few short months ago, this realm had been dark and silent as One was dormant.  Escaping from interaction to this far-flung place, half a world away from the submerged island where Malon lost his life.  The agonized cries of a young man, Zachary Manlin, awoke One.  James Manlin had lost his life in this very place, a fateful accident that was now the defining moment to all that was now happening.
Sandwiches made and drinks poured, the group of four settled back to observe the forward display.  Grace Ann focused on Zach; she ‘felt’ his excitement as well as an emotion she was still struggling to define.  To her, she thought that it was confusion.  Zach didn’t act confused however.  Since their joined training in the pods, Grace Ann’s perceptions and connection to Zach had manifested in her the ability to ‘feel’ Zach’s moods.  To her, his young and pregnant wife, it was exhilarating.  Zach stirred within her the strongest of emotions…love, complete and unconditional.
“What are you thinking, Zach?” she asked quietly at his ear.  Without turning, Zach surprised her with his answer.  “I’m wondering about our involvement with the Martians, now and in the future.  How is this going to affect Wyatt and Presley?”
Grace Ann gulped.  Zach wasn’t confused, he was contemplating, and he was right.  Grace Ann envisioned their life on the country homestead now that Zach had determined to farm and raise cattle as their source of income.  She knew that both of them could choose to forego any Earth-bound entanglements, but they so wanted a normal life.  As normal a life as possible with One in it, of course. 
“We’ll talk later,” Grace Ann replied.  Zach simply pushed himself more tightly against her.  Sipping at her water, Grace Ann struggled against her anxiety.  She had Zach, and One, and now her parents with her.  Once Mena Arlay began to communicate, they would all have a clearer picture of their futures.  As it stood, a small armada of automatons was unloading the great Martian vessel, tens of millions of miles away, in preparation to bring new life to the Martian home world.
Elizabeth watched the two of them from the other end of the silver couch.  She was so proud.  Her only child, now married and pregnant, had at times, frightened her.  Grace Ann’s determination to marry Zach and then his proposal, had hit Elizabeth hard.  Zach calmed her fears.  The young man had strength of character, and a powerful attentiveness to Grace Ann, that was unmistakable.  Soon, the twins that grew in her daughter would be her own grandchildren!
Marcus moved forward, catching Elizabeth’s attention.  On the display, Mena Arlay had taken a step forward.  She made the sign of greeting, and this time, gave a small bow toward One.  “Here we go,” Marcus whispered to no one in particular.
LJ: Have you learned anything surprising about yourself while writing these books? 

LS: Quite a bit, actually!  The most startling, however, is the depth of emotion that writing this series evokes in me.  I read the books often.  I am laughing and crying at the same points.  The characters are so real to me.  When a character passes away, for example, I am a wreck over it!  I’ve already said that life is hard.  The events cannot be perfect in the books or the realism would vanish.  Writing the hard parts, such as a death, is tough. 

On the cooler side, the characters surprise me.  I’ll be writing a scene and one of them will go off and do something that even surprises me.

LJ: How long does it take you to complete each book?  What challenges have you faced while writing The Zach and Grace Ann Series?  How did you overcome these challenges? 

LS: That is a tough question.  The first book took me over a year to write.  I then went through the publishing gauntlet for another year.  During that time, I made edits and improved the storyline.  This is when a friend introduced me to eBooks and pushed me to ‘go for it’.

The second book took me only four months.  I literally could not stop writing!  The story line with the Martians coming home was so much fun.  Of course, Zach, Grace Ann, and One are my friends and I wanted to see what life held for them.

Generations started very fast but has slowed down.  This book is my most difficult challenge.  Not only are there a million off-shoots, the increasing number and complexity of the characters can get overwhelming.  I’m much more careful to give the characters adequate time and space to grow.

I still have a business to run to keep food on the table.  I’m thankful that my family not only gives me space, but also helps with each book.

LJ: For aspiring authors interested in writing science fiction, are there any authors or specific sci-fi/fantasy books you would recommend in order to help these writers get their creative juices flowing?                 

LS: I love Larry Niven’s creative mind.  I found his work while I was in high school and could not put his books down.  

Jules Verne and H.G. Wells were so far ahead of their time.  These two authors had a window into the future that far surpassed others of their time.

I like Orson Scott Card.  It is amazing that it took Hollywood so long to get to Ender’s Game.

ISBN: 9781626752115
277pp; Kindle Price-$6.49
About this Book: The trip to the cave started out like so many before, Jim was giving Zach a hard time about being late. Jim Manlin, Zach’s dad and a widower of less than two years, liked to be on the road early. Their father and son trips started over a year ago as walks through the woods, hikes, and then 5K runs. They've spent a lot of time together filling the void since their lady had passed away. They had both discovered caving while on a hike near their home. A fissure in the ground was simply too much to pass up one afternoon...