Where did the idea for this story come from?
In 2005, I became friends with a man who practiced energy healing, channeling, and yoga. We bonded over talking about writing, since he wrote science fiction and nonfiction relating to the metaphysical practices he did and I wrote young adult urban fantasy. As our friendship progressed, he began teaching me some of the skills he had. We also talked a lot about things I'd experienced in my life, which I won't go into except to say there were a lot of negative events. He firmly believed in demons, angels, beings of light, and so forth, so we talked a good bit about those as well. Over time, we talked about things and I saw and experienced things that really didn't seem to have a logical explanation, though they definitely could be explained by metaphysical means.
Those things, plus my negative experiences and my friend's help in finally working through them, formed the framework for Connection and the rest of the Reality Shift series. Although I was in my mid-30s at the time and my friend was in his late 20s, I chose to make the characters teenagers because I hoped that kids might recognize themselves in Shanna's struggles and seek help if they're living in an abusive home, experiencing bullying, and so forth, rather than living with it for decades as I did.
Connection and the rest of the series is in equal parts a story about Shanna and Jonah dealing with demons, malevolent dead spirits, and an entity that might vaporize our Universe; and about Shanna, with Jonah's help and support, dealing with her own personal demons as a victim of physical and emotional abuse at home and bullying at school. The story in Connection continues through what's potentially a ten-book series (book 2 is due out in October 2010, and book 3 in March 2011), and focuses as much on Shanna's personal journey as on the demon-banishing and so forth that she and Jonah do together.
How did your characters come to life?
They pretty much came to me fully formed and alive. Shanna Bailey, the narrator of Connection, is heavily autobiographical, though I've hopefully made her more likeable than I was at age 14 and I mercifully didn't go through as much as Shanna does. As I worked on the first drafts of Connection and the rest of the series, I learned more about Shanna and about myself, and that made it into the books.
Jonah Leighton is based almost entirely on the friend I mentioned, though I did change some aspects of his personality to make him more accessible to readers. I had a better grasp on his character than on Shanna's at first, because I was emotionally a little too close to Shanna and had to give myself some distance. Jonah became a composite of my friend as he was and of the friend/partner I wanted.