Interview with Jeff O’Handley, Author of Powerless

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What’s the story behind the story? What inspired you to write Powerless?

I had the first flash for this story while driving to pick up my daughter at her friend’s house—during a hurricane. The road crossed a small stream, and the stream was absolutely boiling through the culvert below. An image popped into my head of the road being completely flooded and I thought, “What if I couldn’t get my daughter back?” The first thought after that was, “That would be horrible!” The next was, “That would make a great story!”

At the time I had this idea I was working on something else, and so I would occasionally think about it, and it just didn’t work. ‘Family trying to get their daughter back during a crisis’ didn’t do it for me. One day I found myself wondering what was happening in the other house, the one with the extra kid in the crisis, and that was it. That was the story I wanted to tell. It seemed much more interesting, and things took off from there.

If you had to pick theme songs for the main characters of Powerless, what would they be?

Oh, no! I’m terrible with this sort of question! I never really have character-specific songs or music in mind. I also can’t tell you who I think should play my characters if my books ever become movies or TV shows!

What’s your favorite genre to read? Is it the same as your favorite genre to write?

I tend toward literary fiction, though I’m less attracted to genre than I am to subject, if that makes sense. I’ll read just about anything if it sounds interesting to me, though I guess I favor character-driven stories. As far as what I write, I’ve long struggled with categorizing it. There’s a bit of a speculative or post-apocalyptic slant to “Powerless”, but I’ve also written coming-of-age, family drama and what I think of as “economic fiction.” Style-wise, I shade toward literary.

What books are on your TBR pile right now?

Things we do in the Dark, Jennifer Hillier; Doc Down Under, Francis Nolan, MD; Fairy Tale, Stephen King; Last Bid for a Dying Earth, Mike Wyant, Jr.

What scene in your book was your favorite to write?

Can I do this without spoilers? Probably my favorite scene(s) was the lead up to a monster fight between Kevin and Monica Barton. At that point, I could see far enough ahead in the story to know that I needed a certain something to happen, but I had no idea how I was going to make it happen. There’s volatility, cluelessness, and child-like innocence involved, and a key moment hinges on a verbal slip-up.

I really enjoyed exploring the range of emotions in the characters in that scene. I sat on the edge of my seat when I wrote it, and I hope readers respond the same way.

Do you have any quirky writing habits? (lucky mugs, cats on laps, etc.)

I don’t have any real superstitions or anything. I listen to music as I write and will sometimes find myself typing in time to the tune or doing little keyboard flourishes along with the music. It probably looks funny.

Do you have a motto, quote, or philosophy you live by?

Be kind. It’s not always easy, and I have a penchant for sarcasm, which is not an especially “kind” form of humor. I try to remember that the people I encounter have their own lives outside of where our paths cross and that I have no idea what’s happening with them.

If you could choose one thing for readers to remember after reading your book, what would it be?

While Powerless is not really “about” this, I would say we should all remember that so much of our world is built upon very complex, interconnected technologies that are also very fragile. I think people who read and enjoy this book will never look at a power failure in quite the same way!


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