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Interview with Merri Halma

She was raised in Central Washington. She always had an active imagination so writing came naturally to her. She is now living in Idaho with her husband, son, and two felines. She is the author of five books, the Indigo Travelers Series, Lynx on Fire, a companion novel to the Indigo Travelers series, and Haunting of Powell Hall, a paranormal/romance novella.

Q.1 Tell us something about yourself not many people know?
I had a hard time learning in school due to learning challenges that my school district could not diagnose at the time. I knew I had a form of dyslexia and processing disorders. Recently I learned I have had dysgraphia, too. Despite these challenges, I have learned to compensate so it has not hindered my ability to write. It just takes me longer to finish and a good editor who can help me polish my work.

Q.2 Do you have any upcoming books?
Yes, I do. My next book is Ian Temple and the Search for the Wisdom Trees, an Indigo Travelers Companion Novel (the second of 3). 13-year-old Ian Temple hears the calls of the trees and has been searching for them since before he can remember. There are shadow entities who are seeking to prevent him from finding them, though. Meanwhile, Lynx, the werecat shapeshifter, has noticed Ian in parts of the Lucky Peak State Park that only magical animals and people can access. Lynx has taken an interest in protecting him from the shadow entities. I am still writing it. I hope it will be out this summer.

Q.3 When did you decide to write An Indigo Traveler’s Companion series?
A. It was a natural progression. I realized Lynx had his own story to tell because he avoids exploring who he really is. As a shapeshifter, he hides his true form. He needed to also uncover the fire his original human caregiver saved him from.

I also had another seed of an idea to explore with Ian Temple and the idea that trees beckon someone to draw near. I got the idea for that from a Moody Blues song, Tuesday Afternoon. But Ian won’t be with the main teens from the Indigo Travelers series, but they will be working with him, teaching him what they have learned. Lynx appoints himself as Ian’s protector.

The third companion novel will be called Teachings of Albagoth, which will cover the basic lessons that Albagoth, the Creators of All Worlds, teach on worlds like Cur√°.

Q.4 How do you come up with the name of your books?
. The titles usually come from the subject of the book. The main characters are Indigo teens who go to other worlds, so they are traveling through portals, learning about themselves, assisting the world they are visiting, and going back to the world of origin afterward.

Q.5 If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Believe in yourself and embrace your heart’s urging to be a writer. Release the fear, study English, writing, and literature, learn all you can about writing, and do not let the nay-sayers control your goals.

Q.6 How do you select the name of your characters?
I consider what they mean and their purpose. Originally, Milo was the bully in the very first drafts of Indigo Travelers, but he became the best friend and adopted brother. I usually study the baby name dictionary to weigh what the name means and how it feels for the characters in question.

Q.7 What do you find difficult about writing Metaphysical Fiction?
It came naturally to me because I have been studying metaphysics since 1993/1994. I meditate and have learned how to explore different paths to learn more about myself. Through my spiritual journeys from Christianity to metaphysics, I have learned all paths are connected. There is no one way to believe. Though, some people need to believe only one way is correct, and that is acceptable for them. It is my wish that we all learn to accept each other where they are in their spiritual path and not encourage to draw someone away from that.

I see the spiritual study as more about going within oneself, learning to accept who we are as a person as we travel on this Earth school. That doesn’t mean there is not a spiritual force that is larger than us, but that Spiritual force works with us as we embrace our challenges, picking ourselves up when we fail and continuing on.

Q.8 How long does it take you to write a book?
It usually takes me a year or two, depending on how the draft is feeling to me. The current work in progress, Ian Temple and the Search for the Wisdom Trees started back in 2014 and I couldn’t get it right, so I put it aside and worked on other books. I kept going back to it and doing more research about Banyan Trees and the myths or folklore that surrounded them. I am currently on the tenth (give or take) draft of it and think I have it right. I am concerned, though, because I decided Ian needs to be of Indian descent and his parents (spoiler alert) were wood sprites or Tarradonnas (fae) who were changed to be human to bring Ian into the world. Their world of origin is named Arbor, and was like India, with some changes. I am concerned about portraying Ian in a way that is true to the Indian people here in America.

Q.9 What were your feelings when your novel was accepted/when you first saw the cover of the finished product?
I was excited when an artist got the cover correct and accurately portrayed the book and its plot. Though, each of my covers I would love to see some minor changes. For example, Lynx is a Main Coon cat, even though he is a shapeshifter. The artist still did a great job with it and potential readers love the cover.

Q.10 Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
I cannot imagine a future where I would not write. I have tried to. Writing has been a part of my life since I was 11.

Q.11 Do you have any unique and quirky writing habits?
Quirky writing habits? Well, trying to write with a cat sitting on my lap and at the same time trying to keep him from climbing on my keyboard is one. One of my cats has even tried to follow the cursor on the screen to catch it but gave up. When that did not work, he went after my fingers. I ended up putting him down, which he did not like, either. Though, that is not a habit, per se.

Q.12 Do you believe in writer’s block? If yes, how do you deal with it?
I think writer’s block is more about fear of not being good enough or that a writer is bored with how that draft is going. Usually, when I am feeling blocked, I take a break - walk away from what I am doing and get back to it either that same day or the next day.

Q.13 How many books have you written? Which one is your favorite?
I have written probably ten books. And published about six or so. GoodReads lists one of my books that have been removed from the market and the original cover of Indigo Travelers and the Dragon’s Blood Sword. In truth, that version also should not be displayed because I purchased a new ISBN for it after the second or newest cover and retitled it.

Q.14 What is your favorite book from other authors and why?
My favorite author is Brandon Sanderson and I enjoy all of his books in the Stormlight Archives, Mistborn trilogies, the Alloy series, Skyward series, and Elantris. I have not read his latest one because my son is still reading it. I also need to read his other middle-grade/YA books. I enjoy Sanderson’s books because his characters pop off the page and dance in front of my eyes and in my imagination.

Q.15 How do your family/friends feel about your book or writing venture in general?
Most of the people I went to school with support what I am doing. Some of them have purchased my books and tell others about them. My husband supports me but wishes they would sell better so he could retire early. My son is a supporter- though he grew up with me telling him stories from my imagination and I encouraged him to make up his own stories, too.

Q.16 How do you develop your plots and characters? Do you use any set formula?
I don’t use a formula. I usually spend time talking to them and hoping they help me to bring out who they are and go from there. Each character has a certain amount of surprises in store for me. Lynx especially surprised me by showing up in Lost Murdoc Princess because I had not planned on him being in that book.

Q.17 What advice do you have for aspiring authors?
Keep your eyes on your goals. Find writers and authors who will encourage you to develop your skills and do not let nay-sayers control you.

Q.18 What is the most difficult thing about writing characters of the opposite sex?
I usually write from the point of view of a male teenager. I prefer it because it feels natural to me. Most of my teens are still trying to figure out who they are, navigate what their parents want from them and how to avoid the bullies at the same time do well in their classes. Girls are still a minor nuisance to them. In Xander Veh’s (first book in Indigo Travelers series) case, he liked Sarah Johnson and did not expect her to return his feelings.

I think the most difficult part of writing from a teen boy's perspective is trying to figure out how he would treat his parents and how much he would stand up for himself. In Ian’s case, I have to take into consideration both of his parents work full time and he is left alone, yet his folks depend on him to do the shopping and cooking because he doesn’t have any sisters. At the same time, he feels the weight of the Banyan trees calling him and the threats of the shadow entities. He also sees the American teens his age being able to do what they want with no demands made on them. Ian decides he must buck the demands his parents put on him to be who needs to be-and he isn’t interested in blending in with the other kids in school, especially with those making fun of his Hindi ways and the stories he writes about. He isn’t a good student, so his parents already are disappointed in him. But his parents don’t fit in, either.

Q.19 Who designed your book covers?
A. Cynthia Martinez
did the covers for the first four books of the Indigo Travelers Series and Angela Matlashevsky did the cover for Haunting of Powell Hall. Ian Temple’s cover will be done by another graphic artist.

Q.20 Share the experience of your journey so far?
The road has been difficult but rewarding. The best part is meeting potential readers and attending comic cons. I also enjoy writing and working with editors and other writers.

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