Monday, July 28, 2014

Interview with R.J. Crayton, author of Life First

 I am pleased to welcome RJ Crayton, author of Life First, a dystopian thriller!

1. Hello, and welcome to my blog! To start off with, what made you decide to take the plunge into the world of publishing?

I’ve always enjoyed writing. I started writing novels in my teens (though I never quite finished one). So the idea of writing a book was never daunting to me. When I finished college, I went into journalism, so I was always writing in that line of work. When the trade publisher I was working for went under, I decided to seriously sit down and write a novel. The first novel I completed, Dark Visions, was never published. Then, I wrote a second novel, which is the first book in my Life First series. Life First was published last year.

2. Tell me about your book.

Life First is a dystopian thriller set in a future helmed by the 20 percent of the population that didn’t die in the mass pandemics that wiped out the other 80 percent. They’re very much about preserving human life, first and foremost. To that end, if there is a member of society that would die without getting a kidney transplant, society demands a kidney from one of it’s healthy members. The protagonist isn’t quite on board with this, and tries to flee. The book follows her journey and has some surprising twists and turns along the way.

3. What, if anything, inspired you to write this?

I’d seen a news story about a woman who refused to have  a cesarean section because she didn’t want to be “gutted like a pig” and her baby died. So, along with this story came a lot of quotes about what people have the right to do or not do in such a situation, and whether the hospital should have gone against the woman’s will and done the surgery anyway. While it became a story because of the tragedy of the baby’s death, I found myself fascinated with the issues of will surrounding the case. At what point does a society tell someone they need to have surgery, to be sliced open (like or unlike a pig), so that someone else can live? Certainly, the health connection between mother and child is unique, but I Iiked extrapolating the question across the greater society. This broader question started me on the path to Life First.

4. Do you have a favorite author? If so, how would you say they've influenced your work?

As a parent, I don’t really like questions involving who’s my favorite, and tend not to answer them. :) In terms of literature, I feel a bit the same, in that there are really great authors out there who I enjoy reading. I think I learn a little bit from every author whose book I couldn't put down. The authors I like most are masters at keeping me guessing. I like to be surprised in a book. Not a surprise for the sake of having a surprise, but something that makes sense and furthers the story. I find Harlan Coben really good at that. There was this great little book by SJ Watson (Before I Go to Sleep) that just blew me away because of the slow, intriguing information drip, and the bombshell at the end. My book is dystopia, so obviously I like that type of writing and enjoy today’s big hitters, including Veronica Roth’s Divergent series, Suzanne Collin’s Hunger Games series or Marie Lu’s Legend series.  

5. How long have you known you wanted to write?

Since I was a child. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing something or creating some story.

6. What do you do when you're not writing?

I’m debating whether to tell you the truth here. When I saw that question, the first thing that popped into my head, was, “kidnapping, murder and mayhem.” I don’t (so go on about your business NSA) -- I only kidnap, murder and cause mayhem in my writing.  Though that would be a much more interesting answer than the truth. I mainly mom (yes, I’m using mom as a verb; I prefer it to mother). I’ve got two kids, 7 and 10, and it’s summer, and they’re not doing tons of camp, so I’ve been doing way more momming lately than when they’re in school. But, it’s fun momming, because summer gives you a chance to go whole hog on any activity. In addition to momming, I read, see movies, watch television, all the usual suspects. I’ve been trying to get out and exercise more so I stay in shape. Writing is a very sedentary lifestyle.

7. What is the name of your next book, and when will it be coming out?

The next book out is Third Life: Taken. It’s the third book in the Life First series, so we still see Kelsey, my protagonist from Life First. It comes out Sept. 10, and I’m really looking forward to that.

Off beat questions

1. Your books are described as suspenseful. Have you ever dealt with anything suspenseful in your life that you'd like to share?  

 A good writer can make anything suspenseful, but I haven’t had anything particularly tragic or perilous happen to me that would be good fodder for suspense. The closest would be my second pregnancy, where I suffered pre-eclampsia, which is a pregnancy disorder that can turn fatal. But, pre-eclampsia goes away when you give birth and I was far enough along that they induced labor and I gave birth. Had it happened earlier in my pregnancy, it would have been harrowing. Because the only cure for pre-eclampsia is birth, suffering it when a child isn't ready to be birthed is very difficult. I was very lucky, in that sense. Having pre-eclampsia isn't great, but if you have to have it, having it at that stage of my pregnancy was much better than having it earlier.

2. If you weren't an author, what career would you most likely choose?

Prior to being an author I was a journalist, so that’s the career. If it had to have nothing to do with writing, I’d be a brain surgeon. OK, maybe not a brain surgeon, but medicine was something I considered, until I realized I didn’t like all the blood. I also am not particularly fond of hanging around sick people, so that’s probably why the medicine thing didn’t work out for me.


Strong-willed Kelsey Reed must escape tonight or tomorrow her government will take her kidney and give it to someone else.

In this future forged by survivors of pandemics that wiped out 80 percent of the world's population, life is valued above all else. The mentally ill are sterilized, abortions are illegal and those who refuse to donate an organ when told are sentenced to death.

Determined not to give up her kidney or die, Kelsey enlists the help of her boyfriend Luke and a dodgy doctor to escape. The trio must disable the tracking chip in her arm for her to flee undetected. If they fail, Kelsey will be stripped of everything.

Author Bio

R.J. Crayton grew up in Illinois and now lives in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, DC. She is the author of the Life First series of novels, which includes Life First and Second Life. Prior to writing fiction, Crayton was a journalist, writing for newspapers, including the Wichita Eagle and Kansas City Star. Crayton also worked for several trade publications, including Solid Waste Report, Education Technology News, and Campus Crime. Her first novels were published in 2013. Four Mothers, a short story collection, was published in June 2014. The third novel in the Life First series will be released in August 2014. Crayton is a monthly contributor to the Indies Unlimited ( blog and a regular contributor to the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies blog ( When she's not writing, Crayton spends her time being a ninja mom (stealthy and ultra cool, like moms should be) to her son and daughter. You can find out more about her at

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