I am thrilled to have Lisa Ann O'Kane on the blog today! Besides being a former zookeeper and having a million other awesome jobs, Lisa is the author of ESSENCE, which releases from Strange Chemistry Books on June 3rd! I am fortunate enough to have the opportunity to pick this lovely woman's brain regarding her debut novel. It's a good one, guys!
What is ESSENCE about?
I’m sure most people are familiar with ESSENCE’s back-of-the-book blurb by now, so I will give you a slightly different spin on what I believe readers can expect from it:
ESSENCE is a coming-of-age story about a sixteen year-old girl who escapes from a controlling cult and flees to a new Community that values abundance over neutrality, excess over sparseness. It is set in Yosemite National Park, and it includes adrenaline-fueled adventures, shooting stars and dark secrets lying just beneath the surface.
You’ve mentioned in previous interviews that ESSENCE was inspired by your own stay in Yosemite National Park. What about being in that setting triggered the first ideas for the book?
Simply put, Yosemite National Park is one of the most awe-inspiring and gorgeous places I have ever been in my life. I also like how isolated it is. I rarely left the park the entire summer I lived there, and when I did, I often found the outside world jarring and a little too stressful for my liking.
Yosemite’s landscape certainly inspired my story, but the other park employees who also lived there were even more inspiring to me. Some were there because they loved the place, others were there for the money, and still others were there because they felt like they had to run away from something.
The dynamic of so many people mixed together planted the seeds for many of ESSENCE’s characters’ interactions. I feel like these interpersonal relationships are my very favorite part of the story.
Tell us about your protagonist. What kind of person is she?
Autumn was a very interesting character for me to write, because she grew up believing she needed to repress her emotions or risk literally dropping dead at any moment. During ESSENCE, she is presented with the opportunity to not only begin embracing her emotions, but to amplify them by pushing herself further than she’s ever believed possible.
Naturally, Autumn doesn’t always handle her transition with grace. She already possesses a bit of a rebellious streak, so when she is faced with complete and total freedom, she does what most sixteen year-old girls would do: she makes a few questionable decisions.
I drew inspiration for Autumn’s actions from an exaggerated version of the Amish tradition of Rumspringa, and I purposefully allowed her to be flawed and a little bit adrift as she tried to figure out who she was. I felt this was more authentic than white washing her, and it certainly made her more dynamic and interesting for me to write.
Who is your favorite supporting character in ESSENCE?
This is a really hard question, but I think I’m going to have to go with Cody, one of the Community kids who helps convince Autumn to leave the Centrist Movement. He is physically intimidating, but he is probably the softest, sweetest character in the entire novel.
He is also the most loyal. His dedication to his girlfriend, his friends and, ultimately, his way of life is admirable. He also makes a powerful choice near the end of the novel that even I didn’t see coming.
I hope you dig him as much as I do!
What’s one of your favorite lines from the novel?
Easy! Here it is:
Jett’s hand clasped mine. “Autumn,” she said. “You may think we’re wrong about Essences, but we just may be right. And your brother’s death will be meaningless if you don’t have the courage to find out.”
Autumn and Katniss get into a fight. Who wins? ;)
Hahaha, Katniss. Hands-down!
Autumn is determined, but her survival skills leave much to be desired. Also, she’s scared of pretty much everything. She suffers from both claustrophobia and acrophobia, she half-believes in the Boogeyman… She’s even a little uncomfortable around horses!
Where can we purchase the book, and are you doing any signings around its release?
Essence will be released as a Strange Chemistry eBook on Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, and Kobo.com.
Want to see more of Lisa Ann O’Kane? Behold her linkage: