Innocence meets tragedy and romance meets conviction in Maria T. Henriksen’s new novel, Not Again. This faith-based YA page-turner is set in the 1980s and will not only resonate with today’s teens dealing with seemingly insurmountable challenges but also with middle-aged women who weathered similar storms in their youth and, despite scars, emerged with a deeper understanding of their own beliefs and strengths.
Interviewer: Christina Hamlett
Q: Tell us about your journey as a writer and who/what inspired you to try your hand at a novel.
A: Ever since I was in third grade I wanted to write. My teacher showed the class laminated books that previous students wrote and illustrated. I couldn’t resist the urge to create something original myself, so I wrote and illustrated books and comic strips. The desire to create a story or artwork never left. No matter what job or stage of my life I was in, I found myself involved in some creative process whether it was taking photographs or scrapbooking. I even got excited when a professor in college assigned a huge term paper. I cheered while everyone else groaned.
Q: You describe Not Again as a YA edgy Christian romance. That’s quite a mix of genres! What’s the story behind its development?
A: I wanted to write what I liked to read and at the time it was convenient for me to read young adult novels since I had access to them as a substitute teacher. However, those novels lacked the kind of romance that I like to read to about, so I incorporated romance as part of the driving force behind the main character’s transformation. The edgy part is where it gets sticky, perhaps controversial. My novel is realistic to the point that the descriptions make you feel like you’re experiencing life along with the main character and it tackles real life issues. I make no apologies about that and many have found my writing to be gripping.
Teens today are exposed to all kinds of things online and in real life. Ignoring these realities doesn’t make it go away. Instead, my intent is to address these issues head on, all of it, including the good, the bad and the ugly. Not Again offers alternate ways to approach these real challenges. The novel was God inspired and through the obedience to Christ, Not Again has the potential to transform many lives.
Q: What types of books were you reading when you were the same age as your heroine?
A: I was not fond of reading at all when I was a teenager. In fact, almost any kind of reading made me fall asleep. It was especially embarrassing my freshman year in high school when I was too tired from reading the long questions and even longer multiple-choice answers that I fell asleep and awoke with drool on my arm.There was one time, however, that I did read for leisure. I was enthralled by the novel, The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton and to this day it is one of my favorite books.
Q: What governed your decision to set the plot in the 1980s rather than the present day?
A: The 80s was such a simpler time. There weren’t any distractions as there are today like cell phones, the internet, social media… Also, I was a teenager back then and was able to channel my experiences, thoughts and feelings of that time and use them as a springboard to create an original story line.
Q: What are some of the themes you tackle in Not Again and how will these resonate with today’s teens?
A: As an educator, it is important to me to incorporate teachable moments in a relatable and entertaining manner. Being exposed to teens every day, I witness first-hand how they deal with the same centuries-old topics such as bullying, self-image, friendship, romance, conviction, faith, courage, trust. These are some of the topics that are addressed in Not Again and it approaches each of them in a positive, refreshing and sometimes witty manner.
Q: In what ways are you similar to your main character, Christina? In what ways are you different?
A: Christina is kind of my alter-ego, but she’s prettier, taller, thinner, smarter, more athletic and more talented. You get the picture.
Q: If Hollywood came calling for a movie or television series, who would comprise your dream cast?
A: This cast of characters is based on the age of each actor’s performance in said production.
Christina De Rosa – Victoria Justice (Tori Vega in Victorious)
Avery Evans – Zac Efron (Troy Bolton in High School Musical)
Katie – Peyton List (Emma Ross in Jessie)
Morgan Ricci – Bella Thorne (CeCe Jones in Shake It UP)
Paul Martin – Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy in Harry Potter)
Joey – Noah Centineo (Peter in To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before)
Mindy – Camilla Mendes (Veronica Lodge in Riverdale)
Miss Brenda – Octavia Spencer (The Help, Hidden Figures, The Shack)
Q: Many of today’s authors are going the way of self-publishing. Was this your original intent with Not Again or had you tried the agent/traditional publisher route first?
A: Traditional publishing never appealed to me. With the advent of self-publishing, writers have control over every aspect of their writing. It’s not that I’m a control freak by any means. However, having the freedom to create my own cover with photos that I took is very rewarding. I even wrote the song and took the photographs and video that are featured in my book trailer.
Q: What have you learned about self-publishing that you didn’t know when you started?
A: I didn’t realize how challenging, technical and involved self-publishing is. As a self-published author you either need to figure out how to do something or farm it out. Paying someone to do aspects of publishing is very costly. It can be expensive if you do certain aspects yourself too because you need equipment, software, training. I find all of that to be very overwhelming. Nonetheless, I forged through and was able to produce a quality product.
Q: What would readers be the most surprised to learn about you?
A: As much as I treasure my time alone weaving stories, I thrive on interacting with people and getting to know them on a deeper level.
Q: What brings you the most joy about writing and publishing?
A: I absolutely loved writing my novel. Being able to put in writing what is playing around in my brain is extremely rewarding. As far as the publishing part, to be able to say that I’m a published author is very satisfying. My greatest joy is yet to be realized. I look forward to the day when a person’s life is forever transformed from reading Not Again.
Q: And the most stress?
A: The amount of work that is involved in writing and publishing is very stressful. It’s never ending, overwhelming, and costs a ton of money. Also, it’s very challenging to find competent, reliable persons of integrity to perform services that you can’t do or don’t want to do.
Q: Best advice to an aspiring author?
A: Be prepared to spend an exorbitant amount of time and money on your work. If you aren’t willing to make that commitment, then don’t even bother. You should be consistent, disciplined and willing to learn and do more than you would ever fathom. Always get referrals if you are outsourcing a task and follow a certain protocol to make sure you are compatible with your service providers. Even though I did that, I still had more than my share of grievances that continue to plague me to this very day.
Q: What’s next on your plate?
A: I plan on developing an ecommerce website where you can purchase an autographed copy of Not Again along with themed accessories and swag as well as complete my sequel to Not Again.
Q: Where can readers learn more about you?
A: I start my day off by posting morning blessings or inspirational posts on social media; FB, Instagram and Twitter. Reading the scriptures and looking at the accompanied pictures fills the spirit. For inspirational and Christian content, you’re welcome to follow me. It’s a great way to start the day! Your support is greatly appreciated. Here are my social media links.
I started a fabulous FB group. It’s my way of giving back to the writing and Christian communities. We feature Motivation Monday, Transformational Tuesday, Wellness Wednesday, Thankful Thursday, Funny Friday, Sovereign Saturday, Scripture Sunday, heartfelt topics and so much more! I would love for you to be a part of this warm, caring community. If you would like to be a member of this amazing group, check it out at www.facebook.com/groups/292254218386413. Traditionally, my monthly blog/newsletter featured photos and stories written by me about my life or loved ones or as they relate to my novel. Moving forward, I will be mixing it up by showcasing authors and their writings as well as having guest writers contribute to the blog.
Q: Anything else you’d like to add?
A: I have yet to find my target niche – teens.
These are teens who:
1.) are believers in Christ
2.) once followed the straight and narrow path but went astray
3.) are searching for a meaningful way of life that speaks to them on a level beyond their understanding.
With the support of my readers, friends and fellow authors, I hope to find these teens and help to enrich their lives. Let’s make this world a better place one reader at a time!