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Life First is a dystopian thriller. Is it available as an ebook and in print.

R J Crayton grew up in Illinois and now lives in a Maryland suburb of Washington, DC. She describes herself as a fiction writer by day and a ninja mom by night. Crayton tells me a ninja mom is the same as a regular mom, only by adding the word ninja, it explicitly reveals the stealth and awesomeness required for the job.

Before having children, Crayton was a journalist. She’s worked at the Wichita Eagle and the Kansas City Star, and along with Solid Waste Report and Education Technology News. Life First is her first published novel. You may visit her blog here.

Q. R J, you call Life First a dystopian thriller. What kind of world does Kelsey Reed face?

A. Her world is one that has survived a massive pandemic where 80 percent of the population was wiped out. Life is valued above all else, and preservation of human life as a whole, is what the government strives to do. Therefore, when a person needs their life saved by something that you can do without–a kidney–you’re expected to give it.

Q. What makes her interesting? Does she have any special talents that will help her in her battle to survive? What makes her tick?

A. Kelsey is a kindergarten teacher, and comes from a somewhat privileged background, having grown up the daughter of a state congressman. She’s smart, kind-hearted, strong-willed and loyal. She’s not the type you’d peg as a lawbreaker, and until the previous few years, she would have been OK with donating an organ to a stranger. However, she’s learned some things she didn’t know and witnessed some things that have led her to be vehemently opposed to mandatory donation. The reader learns what those things are as the book progresses, and I think that’s part of the fun of how the novel unfolds.

Q. One of the things that seems popular with authors today is naming the actor they’d cast in the leading role if their novels were made into movies. Which actor would you pick to play Kelsey and why. Also, if there is a love interest, who would fill that role for you?

A. I have no clue who I’d pick to play Kelsey. I’ve thought about the question before, but in my own mind, there isn’t an actress I know who fits that mold. I think I’d like an actress who is likeable, down-to-earth and thoughtful, someone like Jennifer Garner. My character is 23, so Garner isn’t in the right age range. But, I’d like someone awesome like her.  I’d be open to a newcomer, someone who would wow everyone and really just be this role (I remember seeing Ed Norton in his first film, Primal Fear, and feeling like he was such as awesome actor who just owned that role. I feel like my Kelsey is out there waiting to be discovered, sorta like Norton before Primal Fear.) I also have no clue who would play Luke, Kelsey’s boyfriend.

Q. What about bad guys? Is there anything you’d like to share about them?

A. The bad guys in this book are not the center of attention, and they’re also not “bad guys” in the sense that I think of the typical bad guy. They’re actions wouldn’t be considered universally bad (like murder or kidnapping). They’re more like Lt. Gerard, the law enforcer chasing innocent doctor Richard Kimble in the Fugitive television series/movie; or Javert, the police officer chasing Jean Val Jean in Les Miserable. They’re just guys doing their job. And their job puts them at odds with the main character.

Q. Your blog says your novel has gone readioactive. Can you explain for us, please?

A. Yes. My book has joined the Readioactive Book share program. The program aims to spread books combining old and new technology. Books are tagged with a QR code and then sent out into big cities with readers and instructions. Readers can scan the QR code,  post on Twitter or Facebook about the books, and when they finish, pass on the book to a ne reader to do the same.

Q. With your background in journalism, do you think your work experience helped or hindered you when you turned to writing fiction?

A. I think it helped. In journalism, we make the distinction between news and features. News writing is about giving the most important details upfront, in an inverted pyramid style of writing: who, where, what, when and why. With feature writing, however, the goal is to tell a story. It’s a story that isn’t any different from any other kind of storyteller. Novels give you much more ink than any print publication would allow, so I enjoy that aspect. However, having been edited professionally–and by some good editors–I know that I have to self edit and can’t self indulge. And the best thing about novel writing, as opposed to journalism, is you get to answer all the unknown questions yourself. In journalism, if you sit down to write your story and realize there’s information you don’t have, you must call your source back and try to get answers (the optimal word being try; the source might not be in; they may be in and not forthcoming; or they may not know and pass you on to someone else where you have to try again). But, with novels if you realize there is more you need to know, you just have to imagine up an answer.

Q. I assume you’re a fan of thrillers. Is there any particular author who has inspired you?

A. I read a lot of different writers, and I’m inspired by good stories. I  used to read a lot of James Patterson, who’s turned his thriller formula into a factory. I think Harlan Coben does a great job crafting a story. Not too long ago, I read an awesome novel by S.J. Watson, Before I Go to Sleep.It was so suspenseful and so well done that I was completely shocked and awed when I came to the end.

Q. Do you have any other points you’d like to share with our readers?

A. Just to keep reading. Too many people say they just don’t have time to sit down with a book. And even my husband, who used to read books on his subway ride to and from work, has started reading news sites on that journey (he got a smart phone).  I’m not suggesting we should be ignorant of the world’s events, but putting the world aside for a bit to delve into a good book should be a part of everyone’s day. (I won’t even self-servingly suggest Life First as that good book to make part of your day.