BOD Spotlight with A.S. Winchester
Interview by Angie Taylor
Welcome, A.S. Winchester—known as Addison Sharon Winchester to everyone at BOD—to this week’s ON THE BOD BLOG author spotlight interview! It’s a pleasure to get to know you.
Thank you! I’m really looking forward to the opportunity of sharing myself and my work with others.
For starters, can you tell us why you chose to be a writer and how long you’ve been writing?
I don’t think I ever chose to be a writer. The profession chose me when I was old enough to have an active imagination. I was the kid always telling stories and dragging people into typing up my work for me. I wrote my first full story when I was four years old, with the help of my mother and her typewriter. It was over ten pages long about a kitten getting stuck in a tree after being chased up there by wolves.
The idea to publish was something I always wanted to do, but was never sure I was good enough for. It wasn’t until I started sharing an early version of Terra: Genesis that I learned I had a story people wanted to read. The sheer number of people telling me to take it as far as I could pushed me onto the track I needed to self-publish my first book.
Is there one author who has inspired you the most, or is there one author with whom you’d love to go to lunch and ask a million questions about writing and life in general?
I would love to sit down with James Patterson and talk writing for hours. His series Maximum Ride had a big impact on Terra and my thought process. More than that, Patterson’s ability to cross genres and age groups intrigues me. It’s something I really wish I could sit down and discuss with him. He writes all the way from children’s books to adult books. I really never considered that to be something possible, and I would just love to pick his brain.
On that same note, your dystopian book, Terra: Genesis, reminded me of so many awesome dystopian books I’ve read, while at the same time being a unique story all its own. Can you tell us where you came up with the idea or how it morphed into existence?
Oh goodness… Terra: Genesis actually started as a first person, short story, romance. I have always been good at creating flawed and in depth characters as well as creating chemistry between characters. I always believed I should stick to something like chick lits and romance, but the sheer lack of “action” bored me. As a result, I started Terra (as it was once called) as a romance between Cala and Liam. However, the more I worked with Cala and the Program, the more the romance became a subplot. I became intrigued by the science fiction/dystopian world and desperately needed something more from it. After playing with the plot, it went from a first person, short story, romance to a third person, dystopian, six book series. I haven’t looked back since.
I especially loved the scientific/medical world in Terra: Genesis, and I’d love to know more about the process of developing a character who’s a cyborg. Can you expand on how Cala/Aleka came to be?
Honestly, I wanted initial shock value. When I created the first draft, I only sent out right up until Cala is blown up and that was it. The response was explosive (no pun intended) and exactly what I wanted. However, in choosing to blow her up, I had to figure out how to bring her back. I didn’t want it to just be that she survived magically. I wanted to traumatize her, change her, and make her something that would allow me to play with the universal question of ‘what makes us human’ and thus she became a cyborg. I strongly hold to the theory that I should push my characters to their breaking point and then see what they do. Will they break or will they persevere?
Aleka… Aleka was an experiment in and of herself for me. I absolutely love psychology and am extremely fascinated by how horribly it’s depicted in the media. I wanted to do something with psychology and Cala, because after everything she has been through, she was bound to have psychiatric problems.
Dissociative Identity Disorder is typically not portrayed correctly and I wanted to take the chance to portray it how I understand it. I was hoping to show how it can manifest and be in someone who has experienced severe trauma. However, I also understood I was taking a huge risk with her. Cala as a cyborg was a risk because she is so different, but Aleka… she’s unorthodox, violent, and unhinged. I fully expected people to not like what I did with her. But surprisingly she’s been the most demanded and quoted character.
One of my favorite parts of your book is when Aleka is first introduced. She’s terrifying, powerful, and has the ability to completely suck readers into the story. Was it hard/scary/fun creating such a character?
Aleka is absolutely terrifying to write. I spend my life focusing on the beauty and the positive in the world, but to get inside her head requires something very dark and scary. It’s always exhausting writing her. She makes me question everything about myself, my morals, and half the time I’m left feeling nauseous. I love it because I know her saying things like, “The best way to a man’s heart is through his ribcage” as she tears out a man’s heart, is a complete shock, but it leaves me feeling off.
I found it particularly interesting how you slipped in the issue of mental illness into Terra: Genesis is such a non-invasive/discussable way. What attracted you to want to address this issue?
Mental illness is a huge part of my life. I actually have PTSD, which has led to me having severe social anxiety, insomnia, night terrors, and adjustment anxiety disorder (severe anxiety brought on by little changes). I’ve struggled with severe depression, self-injury, and have attempted suicide.
Up until the last few years, I felt it was something I needed to hide and be ashamed of because that’s how the world around me has made me feel. But that’s just the thing… it’s not something I need to shy from.
I have PTSD from circumstances outside of my control as a child and it’s not something I should be afraid to talk about.
It severely bothers me how much stigma is attached to mental illness these days, yet so many people struggle with it. I wanted to put my own foot in the door and make it a thing in the Terraverse as a way to open people up. It worked. Through social media, especially Instagram, I’ve connected with a lot of young writers who struggle with mental illness, and I’ve given them someone to talk to who understands. As I said, I love helping people. And knowing I can help someone stay away from the ledge, brings me a sense of peace.
What attracts you to writing/reading dystopian works? In what ways do dystopian stories speak to readers, or what do you see is their relevance for today’s society and readers as a whole?
I believe dystopian stories reflect the fears of current society. I love the fact that dystopian stories look at our current society and accelerate some aspect of it into a possible end line. Terraverse wasn’t something I just magically made up. I spent a long time looking at population trends in relation to death trends, resource usage, planetary responses to people, current technology, and the fear of how little we actually take care of our planet.
That’s where it started… we aren’t taking care of the Earth. And then dystopian stories are the big “what if”? What if we don’t reverse what we’re doing? What happens to the planet? What happens to us as a species? They allow us to look down a path of a possible future and truly reflect on what is happening now, what footprint we’re leaving, and even what can we do to prevent it.
Now, can you tell us a little more about you? What other responsibilities/hobbies do you have, or how do you spend your time when you’re not writing?
I have cats… three of them. All of them are just about a year old and I’m owned by my cats. I wish I was joking. They’re like dogs in cat bodies and just want to be loved on as much as possible. Even as we speak, my big guy Falke is pawing his way up my back and meowing for attention. Anyway, I’m only recently starting to work through my social anxiety so I’m a massive homebody. I love to sit at home watching Netflix, reading, and there is almost always a cat on me or next to me. I also work full time as a nanny and occasionally take on work doing photography. I do enjoy the occasional adventure to the zoo, museums, arboretums, or just getting out in nature to take photos.
What’s your favorite book series of all time? Do you read books more than once or are you a one-time-read kind of girl?
This is a loaded question… I’d have to go with Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Olympian’s series. I absolutely love the story by how the series started and I’m a sucker for Greek Mythology. I sway between being a one-time reader and a read many times girl. It really just depends on what the book is. I have a huge collection of books so I can always go back to one if I want or have them around for my future children to delve in if they want.
Do you have any funny or unique quirks/routines that help in your writing process? For example: listening to music vs. absolute silence, or eating/chewing gum vs. your favorite drink?
I always have to have music playing. I can’t have silence or else I overthink everything and anything possible. Music helps to direct me, but I’m so very awkward when I write. I’m a visualizer so as I go I’m picturing things that my characters are seeing and experiencing. I tend to look around, wave my arms, move, and so on as I would think my characters would react. I sometimes forget where I am. It’s why I very rarely write in public. I turn into the odd girl, waving madly with headphones in, sitting in the corner of Starbucks, that everyone stares at for small periods of times. I get very into my writing.
If you could go and do anything for one day, where would you go, with whom, and why?
This may sound ridiculous, but I think you caught me at a time where I’m homesick for my family in Tennessee. I’d love to go down to Newport where my family is, laugh with my brother and sister, spend hours talking to my mom, and just relax in the mountains. It’d be nice to sit and watch the sunset on the porch swing with my baby sister and her dog, Holly. It’s been forever since I have been able to go home.
And last but not least, how did you hear about BOD, when did you join, and what do you think makes BOD so fabulous?
Oy vey… I know I was in the group earlier last year and I want to say someone added me, but I’ve spent so much time around that I honestly feel like it’s been years. It’s like meeting someone and you feel like you’ve known them for a lifetime. I love BOD for its quirky people. Everyone has something they love within the dystopian world and that brings everyone together to support each other. The posts always intrigue me and the communication between people is impressive. We’re a family and I’m honored to be a part of it.
Well, thank you. It’s been such a pleasure to get to know you. And thank you for sharing your talent with us.
ABOUT A.S. WINCHESTER
Hello! My name is A.S. Winchester, but you can call me Addison or Addie if you would like. Winchester works too–people seem to get a kick out of call me by my last name. I’m a self-published author with my first book, “Terra: Genesis”, having been released July 28, 2015. I love all things writing and reading related with a special love for dystopian worlds and the science fiction genre. I’m an artsy and creative ambivert with a love for helping people. I work full time as a nanny and freelance in the writing field as I continue to build on the world of Terra and dabble in a number of other works I intend to one day publish.