Meet Carol Riggs, Author of The Lying Planet

lyingplanet_200x300_finalToday I am launching what I hope will be the first of  many interviews that will provide you with a peek into some of my writer friends’ lives. Today, I’d like to introduce my long-time conference roomie, Carol Riggs, and her newest novel, The Lying Planet, which releases September 19!

Carol: Thanks, Debby, for inviting me here on your blog!

Debby and I met at an Oregon SCBWI retreat many years ago, and we’ve been event roommates ever since. We share a love of fantasy and other speculative genres. We support each other’s writing along with enjoying a great friendship.

I’m an author of young adult novels who lives in southern Oregon, USA. My books include The Body Institute, Bottled, and my September 19 release, The Lying Planet. Hobbies (besides writing): reading, drawing and painting, writing conferences, walking with my husband, and enjoying music and dance of all kinds.


Promise City. That’s the colony I’ve been aiming for all my life on the planet Liberty. The only thing standing in my way? The Machine. On my eighteenth birthday, this mysterious, octopus-like device will scan my brain and Test my deeds. Good thing I’ve been focusing on being Jay Lawton, hard worker and rule follower, my whole life. Freedom is just beyond my fingertips.

Or so I thought. Two weeks before my Testing with the Machine, I’ve stumbled upon a new reality. The truth. In a single sleepless night, everything I thought I knew about the adults in our colony changes. And the only one who’s totally on my side is the clever, beautiful rebel, Peyton. Together we have to convince the others to sabotage their Testings before it’s too late.

Before the ceremonies are over and the hunting begins.

Debby: I think it’s really interesting to get a peek at the roots of a story. What was your inspiration for Lying Planet?

Carol: This story was born one night in 2010 as I was lying in bed trying to go to sleep, and I thought I heard a noise out in the living room. It was probably our “haunted refrigerator” as we called it—that thing made more noises than a backfiring old jalopy. Whatever it was, my mind started spinning scenarios about What If. I figured this could be the initial pivotal moment of a YA novel, the story about a teen lying in the darkness of his room, and hearing… something. And getting up to investigate.

Debby: Describe your novel in 5 words:

Carol: Terrible secrets. The Machine. Banishment.

Debby: What themes play an important role in your novel?

Carol: I explore integrity and courage, with a splash of romance. Betrayal also factors in.

Debby: Who is your favorite character in this story?

Carol: Jay, the main character; he’s a conflicted hero who desperately wants to protect his friends and two little sisters, but hates how he is forced to go about doing it.

Debby: What was the hardest scene to write?

Carol: The ending scenes, because they involve battles, fighting, death, and other more gritty things that I usually tend to shy away from.

Debby: What scene did you most enjoy writing?

Carol: Jay in the hay barn of the cattle compound with a friend or two. Fun, flirty romance and goofing around.

Debby: Speculative Fiction requires strong worldbuilding. Tell us a bit about the world you created for this novel.

Carol: The planet Liberty has a 26-hour day where noon and midnight occur at 13:00. It has two moons; their magnetic pull causes the water from the underground tables to rise every night for an hour starting at 1:00 am, which irrigates the yards and gardens. It never, ever rains. There are 8 days in a week, Monday through Restday.

Twenty-five years ago Liberty had a war. Now most of the planet is bombed out and covered with deadly genomide dust, which clings to skin and sifts into lungs causing chemical burns and mass killings. The few exceptions are Jay’s colony of Sanctuary, along with the other safe zone colonies of Refuge and Fort Hope.

Turning 18 is a big deal in this colony. There’s a Machine that Tests the teens on graduation day. If they score high, they get rewards like a wristcomm or a hover vehicle. If they score low, they’re branded with a “B” on their foreheads and banished to the outer zones. That’s great motivation to work hard and obey all the strict rules in the safe zones.

Foods include greshfruit, which is a sweet fruit like an apple only softer like a nectarine.

Animals include vermal, similar to coyotes, but more bulky and powerful, and worrels, turkey-like creatures with shimmery bronze wings.

Debby: What is it about this novel that has turned out to be the most meaningful to you?

Carol: The value of not giving up on a story if you really believe in it. Sometimes you can dig out old manuscripts that were shelved and breathe new life into them. In the case of The Lying Planet, it started out as post-apocalyptic dystopian, and in 2015 I changed the genre to science fiction—and I’m really glad I did. I also plowed through numerous revisions with my excellent editor at Entangled Teen, and although it was challenging, I think it’s a much better story for it.

Debby: Describe your early life as a reader/writer.

Carol: I mostly devoured Nancy Drew books, sucked in by the mystery genre, and in retrospect, I think I admired how confident and smart she was as a character. Even today, I love inserting secrets or mystery elements into my own novels. I didn’t read anything more “literate” until my sophomore year of high school, where I had two great English teachers and I fell in love with Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes and William Golding’s Lord of the Flies. Great stuff! That’s when I also began writing, myself.

Debby: Describe your “Literate Lifestyle” now.

Carol: I used to say I could never read a book while writing one of my own, but now that I’m published and had two novels release in 2016 with overlapping revisions for my editors, I squish in reading whenever I can. I read for pleasure, but also for “research,” to check out the latest in other young adult novels. I wrote one middle grade (ages 8-12) novel last year and had fun with it, but mostly I stick to YA.

Debby: What are you presently working on? What’s next for you?

Carol: I’m writing the final scenes of a fantasy novel that’s a retelling of a rather obscure French fairy tale. I’ve always wanted to do a retelling, and I’m having a blast putting my own creative twist on it. It’s taking on a life of its own.

Debby: How can readers help get the word out about The Lying Planet?

Carol: Reviewing on Goodreads or Amazon is extremely helpful no matter what the rating is, because it shows that people are reading the book; people are generally wary of trying things no one else has. Also, with Amazon’s analytics, having a certain number of reviews enables the book to get mentioned in the “also viewed” or “also purchased this item” areas on the site.

Any form of social media is good for a shout out, whether Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, emailing or talking to friends, etc. Sharing links to my website or bookseller sites works well. Word of mouth is a great way to spread news!

Debby: Thanks so much, Carol, for visiting with my readers here on Literate Lives.

  • You can learn more about Carol and her books on her website.
  • You can follow Carol on Facebook and Twitter.
  • And if you want to be one of the first people to read The Lying Planet, you can reserve your copy here

My Much Belated November Reading List

Byzantium by Giles MorganDue to a bad case of “The Descent into Darkness” when daylight saving’s time ended, the only reading I really did in November was finish the books I started to reading in October. They are:

    • Byzantium: Capital of an Ancient Empire by Giles Morgan–an interesting overview of the Byzantine Empire. I read this as research for a new novel idea
  • The Ends of the Earth by T. Davis Bunn–a novel of romance and adventure, and the early Byzantine Empire. This was a novel I started, but through no fault of the author, I could not read until nearly the end of the month. (Did I mention “The Descent into Darkness”? Yeah. Sometimes it blots out my desire to read. What do I do instead? Work, sleep, stare, and add to my boards on Pinterest until, eventually I get hungry for books again.
  • The Wizard Heir by Cinda Williams Chima–book 2 in The The Wizard Heir by Cinda Williams ChimaHeir series, just as gripping as the first. This is the book I read at school–in the morning and in the afternoon for our sustained silent reading time at the beginning of each session. Fifteen minutes were never enough. I had to bring it home to finish over Thanksgiving break.

And for this month? I’ve moved on the third book in Chima’s series, The Dragon Heir, and am enjoying some sweet little Christmas novels at home.

How about you? What does your December reading look like?


Motivation for Writers: Wonderful Words Describing Why I Write

Writing Yesterday morning, as I was reading some of the blogs I follow, I came across this post, “Some Thoughts on Hope, Cynicism, and the Stories We Tell Ourselves,” on Brain Pickings, which is excellent reading, in and of itself.

However, I was most moved by portions of a  quote shared from William Faulkner’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech, moved enough to seek out the speech in its entirety. After discussing the world-wide angst triggered by the development of the atomic bomb and the cold war, Faulkner says:

I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance. The poet’s, the writer’s, duty is to write about these things. It is his privilege to help man endure by lifting his head, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past. The poet’s voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars, to help him endure and prevail.

Such beautiful, ringing, and inspiring words! I wish I’d written them. I long to write words like them, to tell stories that do exactly what Faulkner is charging the artists of the world to do.

As a children’s and YA author, I love that one of the trademarks of our corner of the literary world is that we not only try to write true, to write real–even in the fantasy realms, but we also strive to leave our readers with hope.

As a follower of Jesus Christ, as a lover of people in all our wide variety of lives, and hopes and dreams, as someone who appreciates the goodness we are capable of doing and the beauty we are able to create, I am committed to bring my readers a vision of hope.

What motivates the writer in you?

Best Book of March–Jennifer Donnelly’s “Revolution”

rev_coverIt has recently come to my attention–ie. I discovered the book sitting under a half-eaten, one pound box of Sees candy and an 2″ by 3″ acrylic box full of multi-colored standard sized paper clips–that when I returned home from spring break, I had forgotten to update my book list with the best book I read all the month of March: Jennifer Donnelly‘s Revolution.

I first encountered this book while shelving returns in the high school library where I worked. I immediately added it to what has already becoming a voluminous “Roberts’ Books I Want to Read” list. When I returned to work in September, now full-time at a different location, the Downtown Learning Center, I was delighted to find the book was on our shelves, too! However, I was in the middle of reading something else and figured I’d check Revolution out next.

Unfortunately, by the time I finished whatever it was I was engrossed in, a student had checked out Revolution. Phooey! I started reading something else, figuring when she turned in the book I’d check it our right away.

However, the school I work in is a GED center. Thus, our students graduate whenever they complete their last test. The reader of Revolution? She graduated in October, and evidently not finished with the book, it graduated with her.

Finally, this March, I got my hands on Revolution. As soon as I  began reading, I was hooked. This is a fabulous novel whose story follows the lives of two characters–Andi, in modern times and Alexandrine, a young woman who lived during the run-up to and aftermath of the French revolution. I’m not giving away anything. This information can be found in the front blurb.

Initially, being a historical fiction lover, I was a teeny-weeny bit disappointed that the first third of the novel was set in modern times. However, it was gripping, and I almost immediately cared about the main character and what she was dealing with in her life, so I was in no way reluctant to push on.

The second third of Revolution alternates back and forth between Andi and Alexandrine, and you grow to empathise with  the 18th century French girl as well. And the last third of the novel immerses Andi in Alexandrine’s world. The structure fascinated me, because as a writer, I have been drawn to ideas for novels that spanned two worlds or two time frames and had never  considered this kind of structure for executing them.

This novel is gripping–stay up way too late reading at night and hitting snooze multiple times each morning until the absolute last-minute to get up for work–gripping. I most definitely recommend you go acquire a copy of it now.

Why Read Young Adult Fiction: Wonderful Words!


Today’s quote comes from an article written by Alyssa Rosenberg, “From ‘Harry Potter’ to ‘Twilight,’ The Enduring Draw of Young Adult Fiction,” that I read last spring on the Rosenberg says:

Young adult fiction offers a promise to all of us that there is no suffering that’s not worth it, no agony that goes unrewarded down the line.

Have you read any young adult fiction lately? Who are your favorite authors and what are your favorite books?

Best Book(s) of March

At last! My reading rate has picked up. Due to recent stressors, it had dropped off in late January. This month, however not only do I have a selection of books to choose from I want to talk about a few of them.

First, the best read of March goes to Liz Curtis Higgs’ novels Here Burns my Candle, and Mine is the Night. They are companion novels and the second book picked up so closely to where the last left off, they were like reading a single continuous story, an excellent continuous story. Set in Scotland during the time of Bonny Prince Charley’s uprising of 1745, it focuses on a Scottish family and all they go through as a result. These books kept me up way too late reading many a night until I finished them.

In addition to Higgs, I read a YA novel by Veronica Bennett titled AngelMonster. It is a re-imagining of the romance and marriage of Mary Shelley and Percy Bysshe Shelley. The novel was gripping. It traced not only the course of their relationship but the imagined roots of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. It is important to note that this book is not a biography—although it concerns me that young readers might consider it as such, in spite of the Author’s Note at the end. Bennett bases the novel on the major events of the Shelleys’ lives together, but tells it in first person, in Mary’s voice and creates a fictional version of her inner life. In addition, although stating that she wanted the novel to highlight the literary achievement of young Mary, the novel delays the completion of Frankenstein until after Percy’s death. Laying these concerns aside, however, I must say it was a fascinating read and I would recommend it for both older teens and adults.

What have you been reading this month?

Best Book of August

It’s the end of August and I’ve only finished reading two books! In my defense they were both very long, and I’m reading two others as well which I just haven’t finished.

So—drum roll, please—the best book I’ve read this month was Alison Croggon’s The Crow. I tell you, this series has me by the throat!

Although The Crow features a different set of protagonists from the previous two novels, I loved these characters just as much, and their story is gripping.

If you haven’t checked out Croggon’s “Books of Pelinor,” I recommend you get to it. Start with The Naming. You’ll be caught up with me in no time!

Agent Quest Part 3: A New Vision

Last week I was away at the Oregon Christian Writers Conference where I had lots of opportunities to take some excellent classes and pitch a few editors and agents. I made some good contacts, was invited by several agents and editors to send them my novel, The Swallow’s Spring. However, the most remarkable thing that happened was the new vision I gained for my writing career.

I have been a member of The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and publishing in the field of juvenile fiction for over a decade. I like this little pond. I have many friends here. And so I have kept hoping that I could make The Swallow’s Spring fly as a young adult novel.

Now a part of me has been suspecting for some years, thus my involvement with Oregon Christian Writers, that perhaps The Swallow’s Spring is really a work of adult historical fantasy. After all, in the second book the heroine does get married and deals with issues of marriage and fidelity into the third and final novel. (I know, at this point a few of you readers are thinking, “Duh, Debby. That doesn’t sound like YA to me.”)

Consider me a little slow on the uptake, or more accurately—a chicken. I like my little SCBWI and OCW pools. The water is warm. They’re comfortable. There’s lots of other friendly fish. However, after talking to agents and authors over these past few weeks I have to finally admit the truth. I write fiction for grown ups. Yikes!

So, while I came home with submission invitations to follow up on, I also came home with a new mindset to absorb. And you know what? I think I like it. I’m actually feeling excited. I think I’m ready to stretch my wings. (And just to confirm it a whole new novel with a twenty-something protagonist downloaded itself while I was in the shower Sunday morning. How cool is that!)

So I admit it. The Swallow’s Spring  is a work of adult historical fantasy, and so are its sequels. So is Crown, the working title of the novel I am eager to get to revising this fall.

However, I still have a little YA in my pocket—Set in Stone, the other novel I shopped around is a young YA or older middle grade novel, and it got some invitations this month. And Sleeper—a novel I’ve got drafted and awaiting revision, and Lillianna—my intended NaNoWriMo project for this year are definitely YA’s.

This is exciting! I need to sit down and get writing.

Best Book of February 2011

Another month has passed. I am very behind in my writing and organizational goals. The month has included lots of unplanned events. (I spent the first two weeks of February at my Mom’s in California, then ten more days in the second half of the month.) Not much writing or revising got done, nor any cooking or cleaning. However, two train trips and two flights provided lots of time to read. (Alas, even still, I’m woefully behind with my periodicals.)

So, with all my to-ing and fro-ing, what was my favorite of the books I read this month?

It remains The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak. I blogged about it’s impact on me in the Feb. 23 post, “Beauty and Fragility: The Intersection of Life and Literature.” In addition to its unique narrator, beautiful prose, and thought-provoking content, I really appreciated the glimpse the novel provided into the lives of Germans in Nazi Germany during World War II. I was deeply moved by the characters—just common people caught in a nightmare. It is a powerful novel (categorized as Young Adult). I highly recommend it.

Check Out

Jill Williamson, Christie Award winning author of By Darkness Hid, was at the Oregon Christian Writer’s Conference this month and taught a two-part workshop on “Creating Realistic Speculative Fiction.” In the workshop she explored various ways of generating ideas, developing a premise, creating characters, and working within a 3-Act story structure, then she shared her own process of world-building for her award-winning novel and its sequels.

In addition, I learned about Williamson’s website, Novel Teen,, which is dedicated to reviewing clean teen fiction and discussing topics related to reading and writing.

On just one visit I saw several books I want to add to my “books I want to read” list, and read two interesting articles on Truth in writing and how teens can encourage younger siblings to read by reading aloud to them. Both of which I would recommend.

I know Novel Teen is a site I will enjoy revisiting. If you are a teen or the parent of a teen reader, you might want to check it out too.