There are only two kinds of people left on the earth: Donors and Recipients.
Sixteen-year-old Aston Vazeto hates the idea of selling her blood for money and is determined to be the first Donor in New World history to never donate.
But after a suspicious accident at her father’s power plant leaves her family diving deeper into poverty, Aston has no other choice except to enter the annual blood auctions, where Recipients bid on the richest blood. With the highest test results ever seen, Aston’s blood becomes the most sought-after in history, and will likely bring a large price at auctions.
When her friends are caught tampering with their donations, they are arrested and tortured. Knowing she puts her family’s safety and income at risk Aston takes advantage of an opportunity to escape donation facility drugs meant to keep Donors complacent. Free to feel and free to love she is caught between Gannet, a kind facility technician, and Marcus, a sarcastic rebel like herself. Dancing at Blood Auction Balls and kissing a donor in coat closets under the stairs has Aston confused between joining the uprising she hears rumors about or merely following the life her blood was meant to lead.
I grew up with a pretty normal childhood, running barefoot in the Appalachian mountains, playing with turtles and innocently killing them by leaving them on their backs so I could play house with them again the next day. I don’t think I always dreamed of being an author. It was just something I did. I made up stories about my dead turtles. I named my fingers and let them battle out family feuds. I wrote about myself in my journal when what I wished would happen was better than what actually did (sorry, Mom for the scare. I still promise I never really snuck over to a party and kissed my brothers friend). What a wonderful surprise when something “I just did” suddenly became something others enjoyed. I’m so forever grateful to my publisher for giving me a chance to share my not-so-normal stories with the whole world.
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What is something unique/quirky about you?
I can whistle like a cricket? Lol.
Tell us something really interesting that’s happened to you!
I was born with a blood disorder called polycythemia which means my blood is too thick. It’s possibly why I’m so fascinated by blood. I’ve never been able to donate blood or plasma. I found out recently I also have a blood disorder called Von Willebrands, which means I bleed easily so maybe that balances out the thick blood, I don’t know. When I was born doctors wanted to do a complete blood transfusion. My dad refused, and a team of nurses stayed with me overnight. Somehow things worked out, and now here I am writing books about donors and blood banks.
Where were you born/grew up at?
A tiny town in the Appalachian Mountains called Low Moor, VA
What kind of world ruler would you be?
Probably a very inconsistent one. I’m no good at keeping up with schedules or routines. I’m a “live by the seat of my pants” kind of person, and it drives my husband crazy. But we get a lot of things done and have a ton of amazing adventures.
What are you passionate about these days?
Right now I’m super into magic books. I just finished a contemporary magic book and then watched the Witcher on Netflix. Now I want to write a full-on dark fantasy novel.
What do you do to unwind and relax?
We may have just moved solely for the purpose of having a bigger bathtub. A hot bath with a fun Netflix show or good book is my favorite thing to do.
How to find time to write as a parent?
I think I’ve gotten really good at just zoning things out. Daniel Tiger no longer phases me. I also am a crossing guard, so five times a day I get to sit in my car, watch for kids coming to cross the road, and think all about my books. I’d say about 40% of my books are written on my phone in the car.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
When I wrote my first book. I typed “The End” and felt so much accomplishment. Writing a novel was so exhilarating and exciting to know all the in’s and outs and the behind-the-scenes parts of a story was so much more fun than reading. I got addicted pretty quickly. I wrote five full-length novels, six picture books, 3 short stories (one that won Silver Honorable Mention in the Writers of the Future contest), and won a few flash fiction contests all in the first two years after writing that first book. I’ve discovered that writing is everything that has made me weird my whole life. Now in the writing world I’m suddenly completely normal.
Do you have a favorite movie?
“While You Were Sleeping” is one of my all time favorite movies, but “Labyrinth” is a close second. If I could combine those two that’d be a super cool story.
Which of your novels can you imagine made into a movie?
All of them. This dystopian I think would be a cool Netflix series. After everything we’re going through now with COVID-19, my story is super relevant.
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
Oh that’s a hard one. I love frogs, and collect little trinkets of them, but I don’t know if I’d consider myself one. I also love owls. I collect those too. As a writer I’m probably something that hibernates. Like a bear. Mostly because I can’t stay consistent with my writing. I’ll go weeks without turning my computer on and then sit down and write 40,000 words in a week.
What inspired you to write this book?
Well first off, like I said, I’ve always had a fascination with blood and donations, since it’s something I have no experience in. But the idea for this specific story started when my husband decided to donate plasma one year in order to have a little extra Christmas money. He saw other fellow teachers there, and it made me a little sad that they were making so little that they had to risk their health in order to afford things for their families. And then he got sick, and my husband never gets sick. Anyone who’s ever been in a plasma facility knows what I’m talking about when I say they’re a little trippy. Poster children on every wall and weird messages talking about how your donations save people are all over the place. The idea of a society separated by the need for blood formed, and the donors were patterned off my poor husband who gave so much for us to have a great Christmas one year.
What can we expect from you in the future?
I have lots of ideas all over the place, but something that seems to stay consistent is my angsty romance that I just can’t get enough of. I am querying a science fiction suicide story right now that has a lot of magical realism, and I’m sending in book two of this series to my editor next week. Lots of exciting things happening that I’m super stoked about.
Do you have any “side stories” about the characters?
Yeah. Originally the best friend, Lazuli ( pronounced La – zoo- ligh) wasn’t supposed to be a main part of the story. As it evolved, though, she became a huge component to several plot points and subplots. I have lots of small stories that were her version of the story that I’ll probably put up somewhere sometime for fun.
Can you tell us a little bit about the characters in Blood Numbers?
Oh man, I really got to know and love these characters. It’s weird when critique partners would give suggestions, and I knew my fake people so well I could say “nah, they would never say that.”
My main character is Aston. She’s a 16 year old donor who, as the fourth daughter of a man who wanted sons, was raised with strong opinions about their government. She is an artist. She’s impulsive and very naïve. She’s a bit selfish but has good intentions which is part of her story arc. She doesn’t want to admit it but she has a thing for her technician, Gannet. He’s got a pretty face but is clearly a robot to the system because of the drugs given to donors. When Aston finds a way to avoid the drugs, she doesn’t think she could ever be with someone so robotically happy all the time. Which is what makes Marcus so appealing even if a bit annoying. He’s rugged and sickly but free to do as he pleases. His determination and zeal draws her in even though her parents would never approve of a low-numbered sickly donor.
How did you come up with the concept and characters for the book?
I knew I wanted a society divided by blood, the infected on one side of the wall that bid on healthy donors’ blood in order to be cured, and donors on the other side who are so poor they’re willing to donate themselves to death. But the idea for the characters came actually from watching Aladdin with my kids. Telling too much about that though would give too much away so you’ll have to just read the book:) * wink wink*
Where did you come up with the names in the story?
My husband is a birder. I think without realizing it I patterned Aston’s father after my husband. I love the kind of Dad he is and he loves birds, so I put a lot of the names of birds that we joked about naming our kids. Gannets are sea birds; Lazuli Buntings are beautiful blue birds, and Aston- well that’s not a bird. I actually took a job working at an apartment complex called “The Aston” the day I started plotting the concept in my head. It only seemed fitting.
What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
The surprises. I always knew the basic skeleton of the story. I knew I needed to get from one plot point to the next, but the way I would get there sometimes was so exciting. “Yes, a ball! And at the ball there will be this crazy awesome thing that happens that leads us right to this ridiculous conflict!”
How did you come up with the title of your first novel?
Um, my husband, the Biologist, helped me come up with it, but I always thought it sounded kinda cheesy. I originally wanted Book One to be called “Donors”, and Book Two would be “Recipients”, and who knows what Book Three would be. But my husband kept insisting and then my critique group too. Then when the publisher took over they also agreed that they liked it more.
Who designed your book covers?
Ashley Litersky with Immortal Works Press.
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Actually, yeah there’s a couple things. Now that I’m writing the third book there are a few ideas that come up that would have been really cool to put some foreshadowing about in book one.
Are your characters based off real people or did they all come entirely from your imagination?
Aston calls her mother Mam and she is sort of the villain of book one. It was actually one of the characters that was the most fun to write. I kept having to call my own Mom though and make sure she knew I wasn’t writing about her, haha. I knew she would be concerned about what others thought about my relationship with her and so let me take this opportunity to say: my mom is one of my best friends. Mam however is an awfully nasty product of the system. She is patterned after the mother in Pride and Prejudice. I took all the rude and awful things about Mrs. Bennet and magnified them. She was the one voice in my head that was louder and more obnoxious sounding than Aston’s.
What is your favorite part of this book and why?
Weirdly enough it’s a torture scene. It’s a moment when Aston learns to have compassion on her own mother from seeing another mom get tortured. It helps her understand a little about why her mom is the way she is, and I cried through the whole thing. Mrs. Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, after all, was only trying to get her girls married in a society where that was the only prospect they had. Would she have been a different kind of mother if they lived today where girls are free to grow up and be astronauts and presidents of companies?
If you could spend time with a character from your book whom would it be? And what would you do during that day?
I actually found Gannet to be a much more interesting character than I originally realized. He felt so mysterious even to me. I think I’d pick him and want him to just show me his childhood home and tell me about his story. He’s one I’d love to write a backstory for as well even though I know the basics of it in my head.
Do your characters seem to hijack the story or do you feel like you have the reigns of the story?
I have the reins but my characters definitely are vocal. Most of the time they were the ones leading from plot point to plot point. Lazuli wasn’t really unpredictable but just kept popping up as the solution to certain plot predicaments. She was somehow always the answer for how to answer certain needs for conflict. I put the poor girl through a lot, the poor thing.
Convince us why you feel your book is a must read.
One of the things that makes my book super interesting now is how relevant it is to our times. A society that recovers from biological warfare after viruses spread through and killed a third of the earth population? A new government that separates and quarantines society based on health? A system that is organized to take plasma from the recovered and inject it into the sick in order to save them? This is what we are experiencing now with COVID-19! The American Red Cross has agreed to team up with me and I’m holding a national blood drive on May the 4th and will be at the Provo Utah Library to help American Red Cross! They are asking for anyone who has recovered from COVID-19 to please donate plasma. The very first patient that received this treatment recovered in record time. It’s so crazy to read headlines that I made up in my novel. Even if you haven’t had COVID-19 please consider donating blood. The American Red Cross helps save lives everyday but their blood bank has dwindled significantly with the shut down. Use the link redcrossblood.org and enter your zip code to find your nearest blood drive. Using hashtag: #BloodNumbersDrive share a picture proving your donation whether a sticker saying you gave blood or a picture of you donating on any social media and be entered for extra chances to win Blood Numbers t-shirts, tattoos, and pens.
What did you edit out of this book?
There was a dream sequence that gives a huge foreshadowing of the end but the editor didn’t think it was super necessary. I love reading that kind of thing the second time through though once you know the ending and can say “Oh my gosh it totally told me right here and I didn’t even notice!”
Is there a writer which brain you would love to pick for advice? Who would that be and why?
Stephenie Meyer. I know she gets a lot of flak in the writing world, but no matter what you want to say about her writing she is an amazing story teller. She’s also who really opened up the world to this idea of stay-at-home moms turned authors. I remember years ago listening to her say in an interview that if you have an idea just write it. She is a big inspiration to me.
Fun Facts/Behind the Scenes/Did You Know?’-type tidbits about book or the writing process of the book.
A vertical transfer virus is what I based my virus off of. It is technically a thing in biology but has never really occurred yet. It’s when a virus is passed down from mother to child. It’s, in the simplest of terms, making cancer a virus. So not only can you catch it if someone sneezes on you but then once you have it, it attaches to your DNA and you can pass it on to your posterity as well. Writing the backstory about the virus and the wars was actually more exciting than I thought it would be. The first draft version of the story didn’t have a whole lot about that. Originally I wanted it to be more about the romance but, then a reader mentioned that she was up late telling her husband about my book and all he had questions about were the wars. How did they get that way? What is the virus and why is it scary? It helped me realize I needed more about the details of their world and went back to the drawing board.