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Interview with Marissa Shrock

Marissa Shrock is a writer and language arts teacher who enjoys working with her fun seventh grade students. She claims "It took five years before I became the clichéd English teacher harboring secret dreams of being published. After dabbling in writing during my summer breaks, I decided I’d better learn the craft of writing because being a teacher does not prepare one for becoming a writer." Marissa took classes with the Christian Writers Guild, read books about writing, attended conferences, and began writing her first novel.

Marissa, I think it’s safe for me to say that books have been a huge part of your life for a long time. According to your website, you said growing up you not only devoured books but you asked for them on your birthday and Christmas every year – and your idea of playing outside as a kid was swinging on the swing set while reading. And I’m sure this absolute love for reading translated into a passion for writing. How did that transition happen? Did you want to be a writer from an early age or did it develop later on?
One of my friends from elementary school told me recently that I once informed her I wanted to be a writer. I didn't remember that conversation, but I'm sure it's true! Yet, I chose to be a teacher and never planned on being a writer.

My twenties didn't turn out quite like I'd imagined. I thought I'd get married and have children, and when this didn't happen, it was painful. I had to rely on God and through this, I believe God led me to use my time to write. Seven years ago I decided to study the craft by taking Christian Writers Guild classes. I had hopes of someday writing novels. I think I always had a hidden desire to write. I just needed to get serious, use my time, and learn how.

Which authors have inspired you the most on your writing journey?
L.M. Montgomery is one of my favorite authors. Growing up, I read the Anne of Green Gables series over and over. The Blue Castle is my favorite Montgomery novel, however.

I've learned a great deal from James Scott Bell's writing books and novels, and DiAnn Mills was an excellent mentor during my time in the Craftsman class.

What draws you to a write a particular novel – a character, a theme or fact, etc.?
If the concept interests me, then I want to write and discover what's going to happen. I also have to have a concept I'm willing to live with for a long time.

How did the idea for your debut novel, The First Principle, develop? Did it stem from another book idea? Or from a life event or dream perhaps?
Every year I require my students to write persuasive essays, and they have to take a position on a controversial issue. Abortion is always the most popular topic, and the majority of students write passionate pro-life arguments.

One day around the time I was teaching persuasive essays, I was brainstorming novel ideas by playing the what-if game. I wondered what would happen if teenage girls were required by law to have abortions just because they're underage. The idea intrigued me, so I developed it more. Then, I created the society that would pass and enforce such a law.

Since you are a teacher of teenagers, I think I can definitely see why you might be involved with young adult fiction. Did you consider other genres of fiction or even nonfiction? Or was it always young adult fiction that was on your heart and mind?
I never really considered non-fiction because I knew wanted to write novels. I enjoy suspense, and that might be something I explore in the future. Right now the story ideas I'm most excited about are all in the young adult genre, and there's plenty of opportunity to add suspense to those stories.

On this note, are your students some of your biggest fans or critics? Are there any amusing or perhaps emotional instances that have happened regarding your writing and your students?
My students are some of my biggest fans. Many of them are very eager to read my novel. When they first learned I had a novel that was going to be published, they were so excited that they started trying to guess all of the characters and began calling dibs on parts--just in case the book is ever made into a movie.

According to your website, you like baking, entertaining, playing golf and traveling. How have these things influenced your writing or possibly future novels? Do you think you’ll incorporate them in your writing?
I've incorporated golf. I've written a novel with a main character who begins having visions one day while she's playing golf with her grandpa. She later learns these visions are a sign that she has time travel abilities and is needed in a time travel, crime-fighting organization.

I think it's definitely possible that I'll incorporate more of my interests into my writing. Especially the travel because it will give me an excuse to take a trip. For research, of course.

What has surprised you the most about the writer’s journey—publication, representation, platform building, the writing itself? How have you adapted or coped with it?
I don't think I ever would've guessed all that a novel (and the author) goes through before it reaches its final version. Publication isn't a quick process, but that has some advantages because it has given me time to prepare. I cope with the challenges by remembering God is in control and thinking about his past faithfulness.

If you could rewind time to when you began your pursuit of publication, what would you tell yourself?
Start studying marketing as soon as you can.

If you lived in a dystopian-type world like your debut novel’s heroine, Vivica, do you think you’d be the one leading a revolution, complying with the orders or possibly more in the middle of the two? Why?
If I lived in a corrupt and oppressive society like the one I created in my story, I'm not sure I'd be a leader the revolution. But I'd be fighting along with the Emancipation Warriors who are battling for religious freedom and the principles of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Along with my Christian faith, these are concepts that are important to me, and I believe they're worth fighting for.

Any parting words?
Thanks for interviewing me. I enjoyed sharing with you!

Thank you so much for sharing with us, Marissa.

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