The Waterfall Traveler
Publication date: April 19th 2017
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
All eighteen-year-old Ri wants is to cure her adoptive father Samuel from his hallucination-inducing illness. Everyone in her village tells her it’s impossible. But when she meets two newcomers in the forest—a gruff rogue with a vendetta against the gods and a charming fugitive who saves her life—she’ll be torn away from Samuel and swept across the sea to an oppressive city governed by a ruthless tyrant. Once there, she’ll not only have to confront Samuel’s unlawful past, but a vicious evil that threatens all mankind.
In this tale of bravery, friendship, and unforeseen love, Ri risks it all to save those she cares for. But if she prevails, she’ll find the one thing she yearns for most—a cure for Samuel.
Today we welcome S.J. for an interview!
Did you always know you wanted to be a writer or did you want to be something else?
I always wanted to write, but I chose a different career path in my twenties. Like many writers, I have a “day job.” I’m currently the Manager of Digital Design Direction for a large company and oversee the design of apps, websites, and motion graphics that are viewed by millions of customers worldwide. I started writing four years ago—at first as a hobby before taking it more seriously. The Waterfall Traveler is my debut novel, and (I hope) the first of many stories to come.
How long does it take you to write a book from start to finish?
It took roughly three years to write The Waterfall Traveler. However, I learned a lot since then, not only in regards to how to construct a good story, but also how to have a better process. My goal is to complete my next book in 2018.
How do you come up with themes for your stories?
Story ideas and themes just pop into my head when I’m going for a walk, driving my car, taking a shower, etc. If the idea sticks with me for a while, I’ll explore it further by creating a rough outline. Afterward, I’ll share it with others to see if the topic/plot sounds interesting before hashing it out further.
Do you have a schedule of when you write?
Since I’m a working mom, time is limited. I write during my train commute to and from work each day. Occasionally, when my son naps I’ll write if the housework is done (which is usually never lol).
How are you able to balance other aspects of your life with your writing?
It’s a challenge. Sometimes, I’ll be far too tired to write on the train in the morning, and peruse Facebook or Pinterest instead. But I always remind myself to stay focused even if I only manage to write five sentences. At the end of the day, what’s really important to me is that I set a strong example for my son. I want him to have a role model who chases her dreams, who doesn’t give up, and that keeps moving forward despite challenges. That’s what motivates me to keep doing my best.
What elements do you think make a great story line?
Well-developed characters. If I’m not invested in the characters then everything else falls flat.
What was the hardest thing about writing a book?
How many books have you written so far? Do you have a favorite?
The Waterfall Traveler is my debut novel.
Do you have a favorite character?
It's a toss-up between Carter and Mallory. Carter is a womanizing con artist, but he changes drastically overtime, and the reader learns that there is much more depth to him. I enjoyed writing him as he has some great, witty lines throughout the book. Mallory, on the other hand, is a madman with a vendetta against the gods. When Ri first meets him, he is an uncaring jerk obsessed with revenge. However, once his past is revealed it humanizes him, and he becomes almost a mentor to Ri. He has bone-chilling lines throughout the story.
Where do you write?
Each morning and evening on the Chicago Red Line.
Have you gotten feedback from family about your book(s)? What do they think?
My family tells me they love the novel (but I’m sure they would say that even if it was terrible).
What kinds of things do you like to do outside of writing?
Spending time with my family and friends, pottery, gardening, and baking.
What kinds of advice would you give to someone who wants to start writing?
Don't doubt yourself and just write. Learn as much as you can from others by joining a critique group.
What is your favorite book? favorite author? Do you have an author that inspired/inspires you to write?
There’s so many, and I’m terrible at narrowing down lists. But a few of my favorite books include: True Grit by Charles Portis, Watership Down by Richard Adams, Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, and 1984 by George Orwell. Now that I'm a mom, I've been revisiting many of my childhood favorites as well, including: The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams, The Serendipity Book series by Stephen Cosgrove, Charlotte's Web by E.B. White, and Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak.
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?
Yes! I always read my rough drafts to my husband who is incredibly helpful. I also belong to an online writing group, and my critique partners have helped me so much.
Are you working on anything now?
I’m working on the second book in The Waterfall Traveler series.
Tell us 5 things that make you smile
My son, my husband, chocolate, summer, and chai lattes.
Tell us 5 things that make you sad
War, poverty, refugee children, illness, and homeless animals.
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’ve been very fortunate in that I’ve been able to travel to many places, however Norway, Morocco, New Zealand, and Croatia are still on my list.
Thanks so much for stopping by today, it's been great having you on the blog!
S.J. Lem is a digital art director gone writer in hopes of expanding her creative aspirations. Whether it’s introducing dimensional characters, crafting imaginative worlds, or transporting readers into high-stakes adventures, she strives to deliver an immersive experience.
She lives in Chicago with her husband and son. When not writing, she enjoys pottery, gardening, and volunteering. Connecting with readers and fellow writers is one of her greatest joys.
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