[RAVENOUS]: Tell me about Steel Roots series, what inspired you to write it?
[MULVIHILL]: Steel Roots is about a young girl named AB’Gale (Abby) whose father works for the railroad and disappears one day. Suddenly Abby loses her home and is thrown in a workinhouse. She must escape with the help from her new found friends, and try and find her father using a map given to her by a mysterious hobo.
The idea of this story came to me in a conglomeration of things. I remember I was riding with some friends of mine to MystiCon in Roanoke, VA. We had driven from Mississippi and were almost to the convention when we got stuck in traffic. I watched a train go by and saw the open boxcars and thought about how fun it might be to be riding in one. Suddenly the idea of the story just came to me about a young girl train hopping. Stephen Zimmer of Seventh Star Press was at the convention and had read my first novel and asked me if I has any other stories. I told him about the idea and said to put it in a proposal and send it to him. The rest is history.
[RAVENOUS]: What was the best and worst part writing Steel Roots series?
[MULVIHILL]: The best part of writing this story is riding the trains across America. The research I have done the things I have learned. The worst part of this series is that at some point the story will be over and I am not sure I can part with the characters.
[RAVENOUS]: Which character of the series do you most relate to?
[MULVIHILL]: The character I relate the most to is the main character AB’Gale (Abby). The story is told by Abby as she experiences it in first person and I am taken on the adventure with her. It’s very personal to me because there are things from my childhood incorporated into the story like the train whistle and the farm. Though my grandparent did not really live on a farm they did have chickens and a garden and fruit trees on the back 40.
[RAVENOUS]: How do you get to know your characters?
[MULVIHILL]: Most of the characters in the story are based off of real people. The girls that Abby is friends with are actually my daughters and their friends and a few other people I know. Because I know all these people it’s very easy to write them. I am a people watcher and I observe and listen to how people interact with each other and build upon my characters and their conversations.
[RAVENOUS]: Any special scenes you loved, but had to edit out of this series?
[MULVIHILL]: I don’t believe I’ve ever had to cut any scenes from the story all my scenes have pretty much stayed in the books. I have such a wonderful editor that she doesn’t try and change the story just helps me make it flow.
[RAVENOUS]: What is your writing kryptonite and how do you overcome it?
[MULVIHILL]: I have visual dyslexia which make it hard for me to read and even harder to write. For instance I read sentences backwards, or I misname items like a cup when I want to say glass. I recognize the item but mix up the proper name. I also have trouble with direction so I’m not very good with geography. However, over the years I have learned to master it for the most part. Sometime when I get tired it really comes out.
[RAVENOUS]: Where do you see your series going in the next few years?
[MULVIHILL]: I am working on the fourth book of this series and getting into a revolution but I would love to do some side stories of some of the other characters. For instance, Tommy in the first books has an adventure when he and Freckles take the children rescued from the Trolls back home. Tommy becomes a great troll hunter. What about Julius, Charlotte and Liza? What were they doing on a steamship going down the Mississippi river? So many questions that I really feel we need to find out.
[RAVENOUS]: What messages do you hope readers will take from your series?
[MULVIHILL]: I don’t intentionally put messages or lessons in my stories but I suppose they organically come about. If there is a message in the story I believe it would be gaining empowerment from ones struggles and finding oneself. I also hope that the value of friendship, love and family is a strong message because no matter who you are you don’t have to do everything on your own.
[RAVENOUS]: What was your writing process with this series? Did you research, set aside time each day, or write whenever inspired?
[MULVIHILL]: As I mentioned before I do a lot of research especially train routes that existed in American during the industrial revolution era. I have a day job as well as a family so I tend to stay up late at night writing and on the weekends. I pretty much squeeze my writing in whenever I can.
[RAVENOUS]: In 3-5 words, how would you sum up the Steel Roots series?
[MULVIHILL]: Train hopping heart stopping adventure!
[RAVENOUS]: If you could assign a theme song to the Steel Roots series, what would it be?
[MULVIHILL]: “Home” by Phillip Phillips or “Hey Ho” by the Lumineers.
[RAVENOUS]: What is your favorite word?
[MULVIHILL]: “Pumquat” which is a word I use in the story. Some friends of mine made the word up when writing a story about me. They did this because I didn’t show up for writing class one night. It’s kind of like if you fall asleep at a party and people decorate your face. I use the word as a polite word for calling someone a dimwit or stupid. Abby calls a boy in the story a Pumquat because he is younger than her and trying to flirt with her and steal a kiss. She does not appreciate it.
[RAVENOUS]: What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?
[MULVIHILL]: “Lair of the White Worm” by Bram Stoker. The book never really caught on after Dracula and the movie was pretty bad. I think it’s a very good book and a great read.
[RAVENOUS]: If you could name a drink (virgin or alcoholic) after your series, what would call it?
[MULVIHILL]: “Sassy Pants” Sarsaparilla and sloe gin, (substitute maraschino cherry juice instead of sloe gin for a virgin drink).
About the author: A California native born in Hollywood, J.L. Mulvihill has made Mississippi her home for the past seventeen years. Her debut novel was the young adult title The Lost Daughter of Easa, an engaging fantasy novel bordering on science-fiction with a dash of Steampunk, published through Dark Oak Press in 2011. The sequel to this novel is presently in the works.
Her Most recent novel, The Boxcar Baby of the Steel Roots series, was released in July 2013 through Seventh Star Press. Steel Roots is a young adult series based in the Steampunk genre and engages the reader into a train hopping heart stopping adventure across America. Book 2, Crossings released December of 2014.
She is also the co-editor of Southern Haunts; The Spirits That Walk Among Us which includes a short story of her own called Bath 10, and a fictional thriller involving a real haunted place. Her poem, The Demon of the Old Natchez Trace, debuts in Southern Haunts part 2, Devils in the Darkness.
J.L. also has several short fiction pieces in publication, is very active with the writing community, and is the events coordinator for the Mississippi Chapter of Imagicopter known as the Magnolia-Tower. She is also a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), Gulf Coast Writers Association (GCWA), The Mississippi Writers Guild (MWG), as well as the Clinton Ink-Slingers Writing Group.
Find the Steel Roots Series: