The Things They’ve Taken
By: Katie McElhenney
Publication Date: May 1st, 2017
All Lo Campbell wants is to be a normal teenager—to go to one high school, live in one place, and have one real friend. Instead, she travels the country with her mother, chasing the unknown, the what else that’s out there…
Until one day, the what else chases back.
Determined to rescue her mom from whatever supernatural being took her, Lo will need more help than a badly dressed demon obsessed with country music. She’s going to need a Tracker—and lucky for her, she finds one. Shaw is strong, good-looking, possibly available, and utterly infuriating. Sure, he may have secrets, and his help costs more than a brand-new car, but she’ll have to deal with him if she wants to find her mother—and get her home alive.
1) If you emptied out your purse, wallet, desk drawer, pockets, backpack, beach bag, saddle bag, or fanny pack, what would we find?
Like Allison Reynolds in The Breakfast Club, my bag is always full of stuff (cause “you never know when you need to jet…”). This is actually a habit I picked up living in Brooklyn, NY. Before that my car served as my off-site walk-in-closet. But living in the city I needed to always have the essentials with me. These include: a book, a sweater (I’m ALWAYS cold), gum/gum wrappers, wallet, keys, 3 pounds of loose change, more chapstick than is ever humanly necessary, pens and index cards, a protein bar, and a small rock I picked up on a hike with my brother.
2) What is your writing process? Are you a plotter or a panster?
I tend to have scenes in my head that I want to write. I don’t typically plot out exactly how the characters get there which can sometimes be fun and other times be very trying.
3) What is your number one writing tip?
Community! Writing can be so solitary. Finding a group of people who will commiserate with you when you’re frustrated and will celebrate with you when you have a breakthrough makes all the difference. I’ve also found that learning to give and receive critiques has made me a much better writer. Try looking on sites like Meetup.com or your local library for groups meeting in your area!
4) Describe you book in 5 words or less
Supernatural romance road trip adventure!
5) Discuss how the cover and/or title relate to your book, be it themes, a certain scene, a recurring element of the story, or how it captures the essence of the story in general.
I am head over heels in love with the cover! Water and the moon are central to the plot of The Things They’ve Taken and the images nail that. The colors are beautiful too. They’re moody and dark, but there are pops of lightness. It’s a great metaphor for the story—even in the darkest times there’s hope.
The title plays on the idea that in this book, no deed (good or bad) comes without a price. Throughout the story Lo is constantly needing to make promises and barter with the kind of creatures who would never think to do a thing for anyone else just out of the goodness of their cold hearts.
6) A book goes through a lot of different versions and rounds of editing before it’s complete. What are some “fun facts” or behind the scenes info you can share about the characters from your book or the world you created for it that may or may not have made it to the final draft of the book?
- The Things They’ve Taken was not the original title. The working title was I’ve Got These Little Things which is one of my favorite Pasty Cline songs.
- I wrote a prologue for the story which included short vignettes showing glimpses into Lo and her mother’s deteriorating relationship. Feedback I received was that it made her mom too unlikeable. This begged the question, why set off to find a person you might be better off without? I scrapped it.
- Shaw’s character was originally named Mick!
- The first draft of the book really didn’t have the added plot of tension between Lo and her best friend, Farrell. There were a few phone conversations but it was only on rewrite that their relationship gained a much-needed layer.
- Shaw’s character is inspired by Joel from the videogame The Last of Us.
7) Who was your favorite character to write and who gave you the most trouble? If you could ask one of your characters one question what would it be?
My absolute favorite character to write is the demon Rashkur. He ends up with some of the best lines in the book. The one-two punch of southern charm and supernatural sass makes him a fiend you kind of want as your friend (just don’t forget the teeth and claws lurking under those rhinestones).
The character who gave me the most trouble was Lo’s mother. The Things They’ve Taken centers on rescuing her so she isn’t physically present throughout the story. Figuring out ways to show who she is to Lo and why she’s worth saving without having her there to interact with the other characters was an interesting challenge.
8) What scene from the book are you most proud of (because of how you handled the atmosphere, characters, dialogue, etc)? Is there a scene that you had difficulty with and just had to “power through” to finish the book? Or a scene that made you very emotional?
Without spoiling anything, I have to say the scene towards the end of the book when Lo meets the water sprite is something I’m really proud of. I consider it a “movie moment”—when I fantasize about my book being turned into a movie this part would look so cool!
The scenes that were the trickiest for me were the ones involving anything steamy between Lo and Shaw. The writing of them wasn’t too difficult (I’m a hopeless romantic down to my bones) but knowing that I would need to read them aloud to my writing group the next week gave me all the awkward feelings.
9) What are the top five things we should know as a reader before starting THE THINGS THEY’VE TAKEN? (about the main character, their love interest, the antagonist, their world/home town, etc)
- The supernatural world is all around us. All you have to do is look to find it.
- The absence of one person, one time DOES true loss make.
- Don’t judge Shaw too harshly. We’re all fighting battles, whether our scars are visible or not.
- When it comes to love, sometimes the slow burn makes the biggest fire in the end.
- Lo is just an ordinary person faced with extraordinary things. You never know what you’re capable of until you’re tested.
10) What is next for you? What are your currently working on?
I have several projects currently in the works. I am actively writing the next book in the Lo series as well as a separate historical fiction YA novel. There are several adult-level short stories hanging out in my project folder along with notes for a nonfiction children’s book collaboration. It’s going to be a busy summer!
Katie McElhenney was born in Philadelphia into a big family of curious kids and patient adults. A voracious reader and unapologetic daydreamer, she knew she wanted to become a writer someday. With the support of an amazing family, great friends, and some truly spectacular teachers she has written short stories, poems, and novels. A solar-powered human, she now lives in Los Angeles and uses the great weather for year-round trips to the beach and long runs (where the best inspiration happens). Find out more about her at katiemcelhenney.com
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Disclaimer: The synopsis and cover picture were pulled from the book’s Goodreads page. Neither belong to us. The author image, info, giveaway, and more were provided by YAReads Book Tours.