Debbie Zaken, Author Spotlight

Author Spotlight

Since Skye Reilly can remember, she has been looking up to the stars. With high school graduation upon her, her telescope in one hand and her college acceptance letter in the other, she has life as meticulously mapped out as her star chart. That is, until the Celeians arrive and she meets Ethan, an alluring alien. Ethan collides into her like an asteroid, causing a gravitational shift in Skye’s trajectory and hurling her life into a cataclysmic collision course of interplanetary proportions.

The Celeians promise many things. An end to disease, global warming, and famine. The knowledge to help humankind. Despite the suspicions surrounding the intriguing aliens and rising anti-alien protests, Skye gives Ethan her trust, and eventually her heart. The very heart he could stop with a lethal electrifying touch of his hand.
When the Magistrate, a council of alien leaders, threatens to put an end to their interspecies relationship, following her heart could cost Skye her life and the lives of everyone she loves.
Not even light can escape the pull of a black hole.

Hello book lovers! Today is a day where I will be writing another author spotlight for a well-accomplished author whose work I have loved. As you know book lovers I love learning about authors and the inspiration behind their work, it fascinates me and adds to the depth of the book because the reader will be able to better understand it. That is how the author spotlights were created because I soon discovered that you lovely readers ALSO love learning about author’s, so I am excited to tell you a little bit more about author Debbie Zaken whose book Colliding Skies thrilled me from beginning to end. I personally would recommend this book to all of those that love science fiction but really the book can be read by anybody as it is flawlessly written and highly enjoyable. With today’s author spotlight for Debbie Zaken, a biography of the author and an interview between us both will be shared, and I hope that you book lovers enjoy reading it! To kick this off here is an author bio about the wonderful Debbie Zaken!

Debbie Zaken is an award-winning Young Adult author. Her debut novel, Colliding Skies, is the first in a YA sci-fi series from Oftomes Publishing. It received the 2018 Best Book Award for YA from American Book Fest. Born in Miami, Debbie grew up in Guatemala and is fluent in English, Spanish and Hebrew. She currently resides with her husband and her two fabulously trilingual and adorable girls in South Florida.

Now, how wonderful does Debbie Zaken sound?! The author is a truly exceptional writer and I hope that you lovely readers have a read of the author’s work because you will not regret it! Please see below an interview between us both, I hope that you enjoy the author’s answers to my questions, they are incredible and provide some great advice too!

Thank you for joining us today at Red Headed Book Lover! Please tell us more about yourself

Hi! My name is Debbie Zaken and I’m the author of the award-winning YA Sci-fi, Colliding Skies. I was born in Miami, but grew up in Guatemala. I have lived in 3 different countries and I’m fully trilingual. (I speak Spanish, Hebrew and English.)  I currently live in South Florida with my husband and two adorable girls.

Could you please tell us readers about your book and what inspired you to write your book?

Astronomy geek, Skye Reilly, is only months away from graduating high school and pursuing her dream of an Astrophysics major. Her life is as meticulously mapped out as her star chart. But when the Celeians arrive and she meets Ethan, an alluring alien, her perfectly planned life is hurled into a cataclysmic collision course of interplanetary proportions.

Music has always been an important part of my life. As an author, music fuels my writing. Almost every scene I write has a song associated with it. It’s not so much that I look for songs to match a specific scene. It’s more that certain songs will inspire entire scenes. So a song will prompt a scene in my head and once it’s there, I’ll play it over and over, until I can see it clearly, down to the characters’ dialogue. That is how the premise for Colliding Skies came to me. I was in my car listening to a specific song one morning and the idea just popped into my head. It was like an entire music video played in my mind while I drove. I played the song on repeat the entire way and by the time I got to work that morning, I had the basic premise of the book fleshed out. I went home that night and wrote a brief outline. After that, music became my go to for inspiration. I even had the song titles for each chapter on my outline. The full playlist for Colliding Skies is on my website (

What would your advice be for aspiring writers?

One of the things I found most helpful in my path to publication was finding my tribe. Connecting with other writers, exchanging works, getting feedback and support. All that really helped me get to where I am now. Join a critique group, whether in person or online, find critique partners. It is really helpful to find people who will give you critical feedback on your writing. I truly believe that makes all the difference.

In your opinion, what is the most important thing about a book? 

My favorite books are the ones that pull me in to the world that the author has created almost from the beginning. Books that make me loose myself in them and forget about where I am or everything else around me. Those stories that come to live in front of my eyes (or my imagination, really).

One of the job hazards of being an author and editor, is that I read with a very critical eye for plot structure, pacing, and grammar. It’s hard for me to shut that part of my brain down. So a book has to be so well written that I become absorbed in the story and forget everything else.

It’s hard for me to point out one thing that is most important about a book. There are a lot of elements that go into creating a captivating story. Character depth and development, pacing, world-building, all of these are important. But I think it all boils down to plot. All these elements have to come together around an engaging plot. You may have the most well-developed characters, or incredible world-building, or lovely prose. But if the plot falls flat, then I typically lose interest. However, on the flip side, you can have an action-packed, rock-solid plot, but if the characters feel like one dimensional talking heads, then you also lost me.

I guess it’s the perfect combination of all these elements that makes for an amazing story. It’s hard to define, but you know it when you see it. You feel it when you pick up a book and that magic happens.

What is your writing process like?

Messy. Very, very mess. Just kidding. (More or less.) I’m a combination of a plotter and a pantser, or a planters. I start with a very basic three-act outline (beginning, middle, end). As the idea develops, I create a loose chapter by chapter outline. But I don’t always have everything figured out, and often have gaps in between chapters that I fill in as I go along. As I start writing a first draft, I tweak and change the outline as needed. The outline for me is a flexible document that I use to avoid getting lost. It doesn’t always work that way. There are plenty of times that an idea will come to me and it will take me completely off course from the outline. But then, I go back to my outline and adapt it to the new changes.

What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

Research is one of my favorite parts of writing a book. I research all kinds of things while I’m writing, depending on the story. For Colliding Skies, I did a lot of research on astronomy and space, military, government. Since the story takes place in Washington D.C., I researched the setting a lot as well. For my new WIP, I’ve researched everything from money laundering to the history of drug cartels. Researching and drafting usually go hand in hand for me. I research things as I need to while writing the first drafts.

Do you have a set schedule for writing, or do you only write when you feel inspired?

When I started writing, I had two very little kids and a full time job. That meant that my writing time was mainly at night after the kids had gone to sleep. Because of my busy schedule, I learned to write whenever I could. During my kids’ nap time, my lunch hour, whenever. I’m very consistent about writing. I usually write every day. But I’m pretty flexible when it comes to time and place. I can write anywhere as long as I have my laptop with me. I’m currently working part-time, which leaves me more time during the day to write. Although, I find that my better writing still happens at night.

Do you read much and if so who are your favorite authors?

I’ve been a huge reader since I can remember. Throughout my life, I’ve read all kinds of genres, mainly classic literature and Latin American literature. One of my all-time favorite books is Love in the Times of the Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I read very little Young Adult literature when I was a teen myself. But I think this was because YA back then was far from what it is today. Maybe with the exception of books like The Outsiders or Lord of the Flies, I found Young Adult fiction back in those days kind of uneventful. Today, my favorite genre to read is Young Adult. I find that the Young Adult literature that is being published now, especially in the last decade, really pushes the boundaries and explores themes in greater depth that adult novels. Young Adult literature experiments and question. It’s not afraid to call BS on things. And yet, somehow it still leaves readers with hope for the future. Some of my favorite YA authors are Tahereh Mafi, Neil Shusterman, Leigh Bardugo, and Michael Grant.

Lastly, when can we readers expect to read more wonderful books from you?  

I am currently working on the sequel to my YA Sci-fi, Colliding Skies, due to come out in 2019. I also have a different YA project that I am working on that I’m hoping to shop around soon. It’s a diverse (Own Voices) Young Adult Contemporary about a teenage girl from Mexico living in the US.  I’m hoping to get back to working on it once I’m finished with the sequel to Colliding Skies.

Its official book lovers, I am obsessed with Debbie Zaken! If you have liked what you have read about the author and are interested in learning more about Debbie Zaken, then please do have a browse of the links below and be sure to have a read of the preview too! You will not regret it.

Goodbye for now book lovers,

Amazon U.S. – Amazon U.K. – Goodreads

Debbie Zaken: Barnes & Noble – Facebook – Instagram – Twitter – Website

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Debbie Zaken

I really enjoyed doing this interview. Thank you so much!

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