Sunday, December 31, 2017

0 Stephen Wallenfels, author of BAD CALL, on putting yourself in the way of luck

How can it be the last day of 2017? Do you have big plans to ring in the New Year tonight?

Since much of the country is ridiculously cold right now, it's appropriate that we're talking about BAD CALL because the characters have to survive an unexpected snowstorm, among other things. We're thrilled to have Stephen Wallenfels here today to share more his latest novel. 

Stephen, what is your favorite thing about BAD CALL?

I love Yosemite National Park. I hiked there, climbed there, even dropped out of college to work there. I flipped hamburgers and made towering soft-serve ice cream cones much to the annoyance of the manager. I lived out of bounds in a lean-to, and in an employee tent village. So while researching and writing the book, I was able to imagine myself back in one of my favorite places on this planet.

What was your inspiration for writing BAD CALL?

I had a personal “close encounter” with an ax while backpacking with friends in Yosemite. It was completely by accident and all that happened to me was some skin shaved off my nose. But if my reactions had been a split-second slower, or I had stood a few inches closer, I might not be writing this sentence today. After that trip I always wondered what would have happened if this trip went “worst case scenario”. How would my friends have reacted? Under stress people do crazy things, so I thought it would make a good book.

What scene was really hard for you to write and why, and is that the one of which you are most proud? Or is there another scene you particularly love?

The hardest scene to write was the one where Colin (Q) finds out that his father died and he had to fly back to Vermont. It was a critical scene because I had to catch his emotions, and at the same time show how deep the friendship was with Ceo. My father is alive and well, but while writing it I had to imagine him as...gone. That wasn’t easy. I also had to imagine flying home to my mother, who died while I was writing the book, and that was very hard. One of my favorite lines is in the scene with Q and Ceo at the beach and Ceo tells him, “Next time your father dies, call me first.” I smiled when Ceo “spoke” those words to me and I wrote them down.

What book or books would most resonate with readers who love your book--or visa versa?

Hmmm...that’s a tough one. I love survival books, and thrillers so combining them is like reading heaven for me. One of my formative books during my early high school years was My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George. Then came Deliverance by James Dickey, and Hatchet, by Gary Paulson. Another great survival book, but in a wilderness of a different kind, is Winter’s Bone, by Daniel Woodrell. It is hard for me to imagine a better book.

How long did you work on BAD CALL?

I wrote 90% of it when I was a junior in college, so let’s call that nine months. But when I revisited the text many, many years later, I (figuratively) tossed it and began all over again. It took me about ten months to get it done.

What did this book teach you about writing or about yourself?

This was my second novel, the first being POD which was YA scifi. I love to write about real people and what they do when placed in extraordinary situations. My goal this time around was to explore friendships, what they mean and how the bonds of those friendships stretch, break, and hopefully heal. To do that well, I had to dig deep into myself as a person, and what it means to be a friend.

What do you hope readers will take away from BAD CALL?

For one, I hope all readers take the time to fill out wilderness permits when they go backpacking. That they venture into the woods with the right equipment and make sure someone knows where they are going and when to expect them back. As far as a takeaway regarding the theme—know that friendship is a precious and even fragile thing, and if you’re not careful, one tiny miscalculation can escalate into something bad that changes everything.

How long or hard was your road to publication? How many books did you write before this one, and how many never got published?

That road is long and very rocky. I wrote freelance for a fitness trade journal (CBI) for many years (10+ years), and was grateful for the opportunity. During that time I published a few short stories but nothing that set the literary world on fire. I sold POD (YA scifi) in 2009 to and was very fortunate to have the amazing Stephen Roxburgh as my first editor. I wrote the sequel, Monolith, and it remains on my computer to this day. I sold Bad Call in 2015 to Disney/Hyperion, and another YA survival thriller to the same publisher, Deadfall, due out (hopefully) in late 2018.

Was there an AHA! moment along your road to publication where something suddenly sank in and you felt you had the key to writing a novel? What was it?

I’m going to give you three: 1) I had to dedicate myself to the craft, learn all I could, and write every day. 2) I went to a Highlights Foundation “whole novel workshop” to figure out what was wrong with my writing (I tried and failed for 5 years to get an agent!) – and found out that my novel was filled with “psychic distance” which killed tension. And 3) My biggest AHA was that writing subtext is the key to writing characters with depth.

What's your writing ritual like? Do you listen to music? Work at home or at a coffee shop or the library, etc?

I have a full-time job, so I get up between 3am and 3:30am, every single day. That has become so ingrained into my DNA that it will take gene therapy (or death) to make it stop. My preference is to write in my home office where there are no distractions. For each novel I write there is a theme song, as if it were playing in the opening scene of the movie. For Bad Call, that song was “These Old Wheels” by Mandolin Orange. It’s a song I thought Cory would listen to. I sure did!

What advice would you most like to pass along to other writers?

Read a lot, figure out what you like and why, then make the magic happen for yourself. Write often and above all else, don’t let the slings and arrows of rejection shoot down your dreams. Believe in yourself and it will happen. What I like to say is, “Put yourself in the way of luck.” Oh, and get in a critique group! My critique group is awesome and they keep hope alive.

What are you working on now?

Another survival thriller about a woman that witnesses a murder in the mountains outside Durango, then is captured by the murders and taken to a...well, I should probably stop there!


Bad Call
by Stephen Wallenfels
Released 12/19/2017

It was supposed to be epic.

During a late-night poker game, tennis teammates Colin, Ceo, Grahame, and Rhody make a pact to go on a camping trip in Yosemite National Park. And poker vows can’t be broken.

So the first sign that they should ditch the plan is when Rhody backs out. The next is when Ceo replaces him with Ellie, a girl Grahame and Colin have never even heard of. And then there’s the forest fire at their intended campsite.
But instead of bailing, they decide to take the treacherous Snow Creek Falls Trail to the top of Yosemite Valley. From there, the bad decisions really pile up.

A freak storm is threatening snow, their Craigslist tent is a piece of junk, and Grahame is pretty sure there’s a bear on the prowl. On top of that, the guys have some serious baggage (and that’s not including the ridiculously heavy ax that Grahame insisted on packing) and Ellie can’t figure out what their deal is.

And then one of them doesn’t make it back to the tent.
Desperate to survive while piecing together what happened, the remaining hikers must decide who to trust in this riveting, witty, and truly unforgettable psychological thriller that reveals how one small mistake can have chilling consequences.

Purchase Bad Call at Amazon
Purchase Bad Call at IndieBound
View Bad Call on Goodreads


Stephen Wallenfels lives in Washington state with his wife. His day job is the creative director and IT manager at a large health club, but he has held the following jobs in no specific order: apple picker, onion topper, omelette chef, grill cook, legal gofer, ESL teacher, school custodian, freelance journalist, tennis instructor, soccer coach, graphic designer, and his favorite of all, novelist. Stephen has lived in igloos, lean-to's, slept under bushes and in trees. His passions are family, hiking, cooking, reading, movies, climate change, and especially writing.

Have you had a chance to read BAD CALL yet? Do you use subtext to add depth to characters? Do you make magic happen for yourself when you write? Share your thoughts about the interview in the comments!

All of us at AYAP wish you all a very Happy New Year! Here's to an amazing 2018 filled with wonderful books!

Happy Reading,

Jocelyn, Halli, Martina, Charlotte, Anisaa, Erin, Susan, Shelly, Kelly, Laura, Emily, and Lori Ann

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