Author: Audra Middleton
Genre: Humorous Paranormal Thriller
Length: 178 pages approx
Publisher: Burst Books ( a division of Champagne Books)
Supernatural abilities haunt her. Brainiac students taunt her. The FBI “Freak Squad” wants her. Will she abandon her extra sensory talents in favor of freedom, or will she hone them to help catch crooks?
Former army brat, Ainsley Benton, may have finally found her place in this world, and it’s among the freaks. This small town art teacher has the ability to see, hear, and feel what other people are experiencing, and now the FBI’s freak squad wants to use her “human bug” abilities to catch bad guys. Despite her fear of commitment, failure, and responsibility, Ainsley temporarily agrees to join this team of misfits, and ends up risking her life to investigate a conspiracy that may only be one of her schizophrenic coworker’s paranoid delusions.
Review: I actually really enjoyed this book. I’ve read books and seen movies where characters have the ability to enter someone else’s body, thus becoming privy to their thoughts and being able to control them. However, I had never heard of this character’s particular ability — being able to send her blood into people to read their feelings and their mind (an ability she inherited from her mother). The only thing close to that I have come across was Dr. Who and Avatar: The Last Airbender. But even then they were controlling the OTHER person’s blood (and body) — not sending theirs in to hijack the person’s mind. Pretty interesting concept. As you can imagine, the FBI thought so as well. So, despite Aisnley’s efforts to keep her ability a secret they find out (rule #1 if you have a blood-related superability you are trying to hide — don’t donate blood). They track Ainsley down and convince her to join their crime-fighting squad by using her ability to track down the bad guys. . And she’s not the only one they have recruited — all with supernatural abilities of their own. The Freak Squad.
One thing I really enjoyed about this book is getting to know the other characters. Ainsley is a likable character with her sense of humor and her understandable insecurities. However, you also get to know about her comrades and might find yourself attached to them. It’s a nice blend of character development and action. I can’t wait to see what happens in the next book in the series.
Single Mommy Warrior: Where did the idea for “The Hitchhiker” come from?
Audra: Growing up, my family always had an appreciation for conspiracy theories and liked to watch The Twilight Zone. Seeds were planted early for this one. Also, I taught junior high at one point, so that’s where the education angle to my story came from.
SMW: How and why did you start writing?
Audra: I’ve always been a daydreamer, and at the encouragement of teachers, I began writing them down. I stopped writing once I graduated from college, until some friends of mine found out I liked to write and began relentlessly encouraging me to start it up again. The result was my first novel. We all need cheerleaders in our lives.
SMW: Is there a character in “The Hitchhiker” who you can relate to? If so, how?Is there a character in “The Hitchhiker” who you can relate to? If so, how?
Audra: I am sarcastic and often indecisive and neurotic like Ainsley.
SMW: Is there anything in “The Hitchhiker” that you wish you had written differently?
Audra: I love my quirky little story as it is, but there are added pressures to series writing that sometimes make me wish I had kept it as a stand-alone.
SMW: Did “The Hitchhiker” turn out the way you initially planned it or did it transform as you wrote it?
Audra: I’m definitely more of a pantser than a planner. I started with a rough idea of my conspiracy storyline, and then these characters showed up and took over. I was never really sure where they were going to take me, but I definitely enjoyed the ride.
SMW: What books changed your life and why?
Audra: There were a couple inspirational texts that influenced my life along the way, but Ramona the Brave is the fictional book that stands out in my mind. When I read this book as a child, I knew someone understood me. Beverly Cleary knew how infuriating it was that the blond Susies of the world received undeserved attention. She understood that sometimes I lost my cool over the injustice of it all, scrunching up that copycat owl, running for the hills like the world was out to get me. It was like she was in my head. She KNEW me. It means the world to an eight-year-old to know that you are understood.
SMW: What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Audra: Keep writing, get input from others, and be willing to make changes to your work, but only if it doesn’t alter your voice or your message.
SMW: What is your writing process?
Audra: It starts with a daydream. If I like my characters and I have a loose concept for a storyline, I start writing it down. I usually skip around a bit, throwing down scenes as they come to me and filling in the blanks later. That’s the tough part, filling in the blanks. Once I’ve got a complete draft and have gotten some helpful input from others, the fun part begins – tinkering with it until I think it’s ready to submit. It’s not a methodical process, but it works for me.
SMW: Are you currently working on anything else?
Audra: I am polishing up a romantic comedy and have started pecking away at the third and final book in my fantasy series. I also have a good start on the sequel to Hitchhiker. The ideas keep coming; I’m just trying to keep up.
SMW: If you could only listen to one album for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Audra: I could listen to the Foo Fighters greatest hits on an endless loop and be a happy camper. Anything from the Beatles would be all right by me as well.
SMW: Thank you for taking the time to share all of this with us. Loved the book and can’t wait to read more.
Audra: Thanks so much for having me!
Audra’s love of writing began in the third grade, when she was chosen to go to a young author’s conference based on her story, “The Dragon Cookie,” which is about a giant cookie that comes to life. She continued writing, and was sometimes asked to write stories for friends as birthday gifts.
Audra went to college thinking she would go into journalism, but opted to go into publishing instead, and even took an internship at Yale University Press. She married right after college and was unable to find a publishing job where they were living in Seattle. Audra took an office job. After helping put her husband through law school, she went back to school and got her teaching degree. Audra enjoyed teaching, but once her oldest was born, she chose to stay home. At the encouragement of friends she started writing again, the result being her first novel, Watcher, which was released in January of 2013.
Audra and her husband now live in a small town in Eastern Washington with their three boys. They also have a black Lab named Benji who eats shoes, gophers and packages left on her front porch (thanks Fed-Ex). She recently went back to work as a Kindergarten teacher, but she still writes, dabbles in on-line shopping and plays Texas Hold ‘Em with her friends as often she can.
Web page/blog – http://www.audramiddleton.com
Facebook page – http://www.facebook.com/AudraMiddletonAuthor