Saturday, 14 February 2015


Title: Life First
Series: Life First
Author: R.J. Crayton
Release Date: 15th January 2014

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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 government of "Life First" requires the mentally ill to be sterilized, outlaws abortions and sentences to death those who refuse to donate an organ when told.

Determined not to give up her kidney, 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.


Title: Second Life
Series: Life First
Author: R.J. Crayton
Release Date: 15th January 2014

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Susan Harper is being held captive by her government in this romantic thriller, Second Life. As the normally feisty Susan’s hopes of freedom dwindle, a mysterious stranger sneaks into her room and promises to help her. 

Susan and mystery man Rob grow close as he tries to orchestrate her escape. When the duo discovers the truth behind Susan’s captivity, they realize she is in grave danger, and they must act quickly. Susan and Rob will need more than passion for each other and their wits to succeed. They will need help from old friends, including Kelsey Reed. 

In the previous book, Life First, Susan gave Kelsey a chance at a second life. But now will she get a chance at her own?

Goodreads Link


Title: Third Life Taken
Series: Life First
Author: R.J. Crayton
Release Date: 10th September 2014

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When Kelsey Reed fled her country to escape a forced kidney transplant, she was sure she’d never return. However, when her brother-in-law shows up on her doorstep, things change. Kelsey is ecstatic to see Greg, until he does something that changes everything.

Forced to head back to the nation that tried to kill her, Kelsey will need the help of her husband Luke, and friends Susan and Rob to escape this new nightmare.

Goodreads Link


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

Did you always want to be a writer? If not what did you want to be?  
For most of my life I’ve wanted to be a writer. There were times when I toyed with becoming a doctor, but I realized I hated the sight of blood and generally panicked when wounded or diseased people came near me. I’m so glad there are doctors out there who are good at that, but you should really be glad I’m not a doctor. I’ve always enjoyed writing, and started my career as a journalist. I worked for the Kansas City Star, where I started off as a general assignment reporter who also had the Library beat (yes, the library had it’s own beat in KCMO--Missouri, not KCK--Kansas). After my children were born, I transitioned to fiction writing.

What is the name of your latest book, and if you had to summarise it in less than 20 words what would you say? 
My latest book is a short story collection called Four Mothers. The short summary is simple: Sometimes, a mother’s flaws are dangerous. Four stories. Four mothers. Four crises. One great read.

What can we expect from you in the future?  ie More books of the same genre? Books of a different genre? 
My first two books are part of the Life First series. They are set in a dystopian future where life is valued above all else. As such, society demands you donate body parts on demand, if needed by another citizen.  Kelsey Reed, the main character of Life First, doesn’t want to give up her kidney. She’s got a lot of reasons for wanting to buck the system, and they all emerge as the book goes on. The next thing I’ll be putting out will be the finale to the series, Third Life: Taken.  A pivotal character is kidnapped in this book, and we get to wrap up the series. (At least, we wrap up this part of the series. I was having so much fun I actually started writing a prequel to Life First, but it’s on the backburner as I finish up more pressing projects). while finishing up the Third Life edits, cover, etc., I’m trying to complete a Young Adult paranormal book called Scented. I don’t want to say too much about it until I’ve gotten Third Life published, but I think people will really enjoy Scented.  Also, now that I’ve been publishing for about a year now, I’ve decided to do some Advance Review Copy (ARC) giveaways. So, if people are interested in getting a free ARC of either Third Life or Scented, they should subscribe to my mailing list ( I’ll be explaining how the giveaways will work in my next newsletter (I send out a newsletter once a month).

Do you have a favourite out of the books you have written? If so why is it your favourite?
 I think whatever I’m working on at the moment is my favorite. I’m writing Scented right now, so I’m loving it at times. But, I’m editing Third Life, so I’ve got a hint of writing going on with that, so I like it, too, at the moment.  I’m sure when I finish these two, I’ll be most in love with the thing I’m next working on.

Do you have a favourite character from your books? and why are they your favourite? 
My favorite character is generally the one I’m having the most fun writing at the time. So it changes. Sometimes it’s Kelsey, other times it’s Susans. At the moment, it’s probably Dr. Grant. I had an idea for a prequel that focuses on Dr. Grant,  who features prominently in all three books. I’ve written a little of the prequel just to help flush out the idea of it, but haven’t written much. However, I’m really looking forward to exploring Dr. Grant because he’s so complex. He’s not a good guy, and yet in many ways, he does good things.

What was the toughest/best review you have ever had?
I think one of the best reviews I ever received was from The reviewer said Life First “gripped you like King Kong and would not let go until you had finished the book.” One of the worst was when a reviewer called my main character “incredibly stupid.” I try to remember the good ones and forget the bad ones. You’re never going to please everyone. So, unless the bad reviews are pointing out material flaws (like the book is filled with typos; or some factual error like saying China is part of the African continent--just an example, I did not make such an error), then it’s not worth getting ultra upset about. Now, that attitude is easier to write than to effect, but I’m doing my best at adopting it.

How do you come up with characters names and place names in your books? 
It depends. If it’s set in a real city and I know the place, I’ll just use place names. For character names, it depends. With Life First, I wanted the main character to have a name that meant strong. Chelsea is what popped up, but given that my main character was the daughter of the governor of a near-Southern state, it seemed that would be a bad fit because people would associate it with real-world figures. So, I went with a variation of the name, so as to retain the meaning. For Kelsey’s father, I had more an idea of who he was before I knew too much about him. I wanted a character who was honest, strong and filled with integrity. In thinking about those qualities, a former colleague popped into my head: Lewis Diuguid (pronounced DoGood). So, I thought, what a great name, and if I actually used the pronounced name, it would be perfect. This is  a guy who does good. Well, DoGood as a name in a book seemed a bit much, so I ended up keeping Lewis, because I thought Lewis was a really stand up guy. In the end, I went with the last name Reed. Why Reed. No idea. It just popped into my head. And frankly, that’s how I come up with most of my names. But, occasionally, I’ll do some deep thoughts to come up with character names.  In the book Scented, which is a work in progress, I wanted the main character to seem like an average guy, but be a little bit different. So, I named him Bryan. The name is normal, but the slight variation in spelling implies he’s not quite the norm, which is quite true.

Do you basic plot/plan for your book, before you actually begin writing it out? Or do you let the writing flow and see where it takes the story? 
I generally know how I want the story to begin and end, with a couple of key plot points that I know I want to happen. The rest, I leave up to the writing process. The idea of planning out everything that happens in a detailed outline is a bit daunting to me. However, everyday before I writer, I tend to plan out what scenes I want to write for that day. I think planning is necessary to be efficient as a writer. I think plotters just feel the need to do a lot more planning than those who just sit and write (often referred to as pansters).

What do you think makes a book a really good/bestseller ? 
What makes a bestseller is a book that connects with readers. Readers have to fall in love with and feel completely invested in the characters and the story.  There’s never been a best seller that a core group of readers hasn’t been passionate about. How do you get that passion? I wish I knew. All writers and publishers wish they knew. But there’s no magic formula for it, so as writers we have to write characters and stories we  feel connected to, and hope that others do, too.

What do you do to unwind and relax? Do you have a hobby? 
To relax, I do the normal stuff people do: read a book, watch TV (loving the short run of 24; love Jack Bauer), an I roller skate occasionally. Love skating, though I don’t get out to do it often enough.

Do you think books transfer to movies well? Which is you favourite/worst  book to movie transfer?
 I think if the people involved in the project “get” the book and stay true to it’s essence and feel, it works as a movie. Great examples of this are the Harry Potter movies, which were really good, and captured the essence, but had no way of capturing all the intricacies of the books. The Hunger Games did a pretty good job on the film version. Interestingly, people I know who hadn’t read the book were a little stumped by Rue’s importance in the film. (Spoiler Ahead!) They were of the impression that Katniss (the main character) only knew Rue for a few minutes before she died, so why was Katniss so affected by Rue’s death. However, book readers know that Katniss spent chapters with Rue, and that Katniss thought she should protect Rue, because Rue was similar to Katniss’s own sister, Prim. That bond was really built up in the book, so much so that I transferred that bond to the movie. But, people who hadn’t read the book seemed to think Rue’s death was overplayed. I’m not a fan of movies that substantially change the ending of a book. The Time Traveler’s Wife (Audrey Niffenegger) and  My Sister’s Keeper (Jodi Picoult) films both changed the endings, to some fan backlash. So, I think if you’re going to base a movie on a book and court those fans to come see it, you need to be true to that book and those fans. Obviously changes are necessary to translate a book to screen, but you have to find that right mix. It’s probably much easier said than done, as no one intends to make a movie based on a book that will alienate fans of the books.

Do you think ebooks will ever totally replace printed books? 
No, I don’t think so. They’ve done studies that show children, to learn certain motor and relational thinking skills, need physical objects. So, they need blocks to build with, and I think they still need books to hold and touch and read (or be read to). Adults, I think, are more likely to enjoy mainly digital books, especially older people who need large print titles. The ability to change font size is important as our eyes age. That said, I still think there is going to be room for print, and a desire for print in some circumstances. While we’ve gone completely digital with our photographs, at the end of each year (really, the beginning of the following year), I compile our favorite pictures and upload them as a photo book that I have printed and shipped to me. So, when my kids go look at photos, they don’t go to the computer. They go grab the photo books from previous years.  We have both, but sometimes it’s nice to have paper.

Do you have a treasured book from your childhood? If yes, what is it?
 I actually loved a little book called Stop That Ball by Mike McClintock. He also wrote the book, A Fly Went by, which is still in print. Stop That Ball is not, and I wanted to get it to read to my children when they were little, because I remembered loving that book so much. Only, I couldn’t find it, but when I was home visiting my parents, I found our copy on the shelf (it was printed in 1968; so it was probably my brother’s first). My mom said I could have it, so it’s in my house now and I read it to the kids occasionally. Unfortunately, the binding is starting to go. If McClintock’s estate is out there and has the rights, this would be a great book to republish via a Print-on-Demand service. I know I’d buy a copy.

What piece of advice would you give to a new writer? 
It’s the most basic advice you can give: write. You only improve at the craft by doing it. Of course, new writers need to read, too. But, in terms of being an author, you’ve got to put butt in chair and pound out the words. This can be hard, especially if you’re working fulltime at another job. But, it’s the only way to succeed. As they say, the journey of a thousand miles begins with that first step. A book is written the same way, one word at a time.

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