Every week, Kali Ling fights to the death on national TV.
She’s died hundreds of times. And it never gets easier...
The RAGE tournaments—the Virtual Gaming League’s elite competition where the best gamers in the world compete in a no-holds-barred fight to the digital death. Every bloody kill is broadcast to millions. Every player is a modern gladiator—leading a life of ultimate fame, responsible only for entertaining the masses.
And though their weapons and armor are digital, the pain is real.
Chosen to be the first female captain in RAGE tournament history, Kali Ling is at the top of the world—until one of her teammates overdoses. Now, she must confront the truth about the tournament. Because it is much more than a game—and even in the real world, not everything is as it seems.
The VGL hides dark secrets. And the only way to change the rules is to fight from the inside...
“If anyone tells you that books about videogames can’t be considered good literature, hand them Holly Jennings’ ARENA”
—Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog
“Think Hunger Games meets Ready Player One. ARENA is serious nerdcore entertainment. Gamers, get ready to plug in!”
—Chloe Neill, New York Times Bestselling Author
Welcome Holly!1. Did you always know you wanted to be a writer or did you want to be something else?
The answer is both yes and no. I always wanted to pursue a few different career paths. A writer and a psychologist were my top choices. When I finished my undergrad degree in psychology, I realized I had to choose between going to grad school to complete my Ph.D. or finding a nice office job while I worked at night to become an author. I ended up choosing the latter, and it's worked out beautifully so far.
2. How long does it take you to write a book from start to finish?
This varies widely, from eight months to two years. I've always been working another job while writing books, so this slows me down sometimes. As I'm making the switch to fulltime writing, and as I become more experienced, I find I'm getting faster.
3. How do you come up with themes for your stories?
Most of the time they seem to natural grow out of the narrative. For example, in my debut novel ARENA, there are several occurrences of duality. The real world vs the virtual world, future vs past, chaos vs peace. I hadn't planned on creating a theme of duality, but once I noticed these subtle coincidences in the manuscript, I took hold and molded them into a theme. It feels more natural that way than to superimpose a theme into a story that might not fit otherwise.
4. Do you have a schedule of when you write?
I have a haphazard schedule for writing. I find it to be something I can fit in between other things. Instead of doing 1000 word plus crunches, I like to do a few hundred, walk away, come back, do a few more, rinse and repeat. I tend to be most creative at night, so I try to balance my day and get housework and other things done earlier on.
5. How are you able to balance other aspects of your life with your writing?
To-do lists go a long way for me. I usually won't let myself go to bed until everything is crossed off, even if that means I won't see my pillow until 3:30 AM.
That's what works for me, though. Most writers I speak with tell me their ways of balancing their time and staying motivated, and no two are the same. Some wake up early and write while others are still sleeping. Some need to get out of the house to avoid distractions. Younger parents utilize nap times. It all depends on your schedule and lifestyle.
6. What elements do you think make a great story line?
The writer's passion for the subject goes a long way. When the author loves what they're writing, researching and work seem like fun. It shows on the page. Tension is another important element for me, and a great main character to carry the story through to the end.
7. What was the hardest thing about writing a book?
Letting it go. When your first novel is about to be published, it can be horrifying to think that some people are going to rip it to shreds in their reviews. It's going to happen, and the best thing you can do is embrace the people who love your work and dedicate yourself to creating more for them.
8. How many books have you written so far? Do you have a favorite?
I've written two so far with two more in the works and several additional ones plotted out. My favorite changes all the time, and it's usually the book I'm not currently writing. "The grass is always greener" comes into play here. I always want to be working on the book I'm not working on.
9. Do you have a favorite character?
If you mean a favorite character that I've created, then I have several. When your stories and characters are so close to your heart, it's hard to pick just one. The main character in the current series I'm writing, Kali Ling, is always in my top three, however. She's what happened when I took the "strong female character" archetype and broke her out of the mold. She has a temper she can't always control and a faith she doesn't always understand. She's quick with her fists, and even quicker with her tongue. She'll fight someone twice her size and grin the entire time. She's always fun to write.
10. Where do you write?
All over the place! When I'm not at home, my laptop is usually hanging at my hip whenever I go. Coffee shops, doctor's offices, anywhere I can squeeze in some minutes of writing time.
11. When deciding on how to publish, what directed you to the route you took?
To test if I had any skills as a writer, I challenged myself to get one short story published by a pro level market. Within the year, I'd accomplished just that and got hooked on publishing. Right then, I knew I'd want to publish a novel traditionally. The rejections sting, but the acceptance makes it all worth it.
12. Have you gotten feedback from family about your book(s)? What do they think?
They've been really supportive, though it's a bit of a funny situation. The people in my family who like sci-fi don't really like to read, and the people who love to read don't like sci-fi. Still, they promote me wherever they go and I'm incredibly thankful for everything they do for me.
13. What kinds of things do you like to do outside of writing?
Mostly, I play video games (though my books are about video games, so now I get to call it "research"). I also enjoy reading blogs, watching documentaries, and spending time with my family.
14. What kinds of advice would you give to someone who wants to start writing?
Don’t quit. Writing is a marathon. Publishing is even more so.
Before I was published, I saw this mantra all the time and never truly believed it. But it's true. It's true. It's true. IT'S TRUE.
Just keep going. Just writing what you love and putting words on the page. You'll get there, eventually.
15. What is your favorite book? favorite author? Do you have an author that inspired/inspires you to write?
I don't really like picking favorite books because they change all the time. Two books have really stuck in my mind lately even though I read them over a year ago: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline and Love Interest by Cale Dietrich. (I got to read an early copy of Love Interest before it hits the shelves this May. If you enjoy LGBT themes and spoofs on YA tropes, you should check it out).
If I have to pick a favorite author, I'd say Damien Angelica Walters because I'll read anything she writes. Even poetry.
16. Do you have any go to people when writing a book that help you with your story lines as well as editing, beta reading and such?
It depends on the story. I've very lucky to have a wide range of writers and experts in my life. My writer friends and beta readers are everything from paramedics, army vets, musicians, geologists, pro gamers, and so on. Each area of expertise is invaluable, but not all are appropriate for every story. Plus, I don't like to bug the same people all the time. So, I try to mix it up depending on the story's subject matter.
17. Are you working on anything now?
Currently, the first two books in my Arena series are done, so I'm working on outlining more books in that world. I'm also working on a brand new series set in a slow-burn environmental apocalypse that I think will appeal to the same group of readers.
18. Tell us 5 things that make you smile
2. Quiet moments
4. Anything noire
5. New video game releases
19. Tell us 5 things that make you sad
2. No Wi-Fi
3. "Down for scheduled maintenance."
4. Feeling uncreative or unproductive
5. Alarm clocks
20. If you could travel anywhere in the world to visit a place so you could use it as a background for a book, where would it be?
I really like the west coast, from British Columbia down to the Mexican border. I set most of my books somewhere along this corridor. However, this does seem a little plain of an answer for "anywhere in the world." I guess I would chose Antarctica. As a sci-fi writer, I think it would give me a good idea about survival and isolation. Those are common themes in sci-fi, especially when dealing with space travel.
Thanks so much for stopping by today, Holly. It was great having you with us!
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