Photo by Elisabeth Arin

Local Author Heather Marie Flies by the Seat of Her Pants with Her Debut Novel

Sacramento author Heather Marie is having one hell of a year. On Aug. 25, 2014, just three months after Cosmopolitan named her as one of “5 Latina Young Adult Authors You Need on Your Radar,” she’ll herald the release of her debut novel, The Gateway Through Which They Came via Curiosity Quills Press (who, incidentally, just signed on for a sequel). She even enlisted the special effects skills of friend Nicole Chilelli of Vicious Vanity FX (and winner of Season 3 of SyFy Channel’s Face Off), to create a chilling book trailer that was released prior to the novel’s debut.

Focusing on 17-year-old Aiden Ortiz, a human gateway for the recently deceased to pass through to the other side, The Gateway Through Which They Came is a supernatural Young Adult thriller that catapults the reader onto the battlefield of the war between good and evil from the very first pages. A curse following a harrowing encounter with a Bleeder (his term for the deceased who seek out his gateway services) has begun to well up a monster inside Aiden he never knew existed, and his search for a friend who mysteriously disappeared is leading him to a darker, evil entity that is ready to unleash certain chaos and death. A series of gripping twists and turns guides the novel, which the author has cleverly peppered with spot-on, witty teen boy-isms and shimmers of young love. Submerge spoke to Heather Marie just before the day of the big debut.

I tore through the book in a day! The whole time I was reading it, I was thinking, how did she come up with this? Where did it come from?
I’ve always been into the supernatural stuff. I’ve always believed in it, so I guess I should start there. I think this also happens when I have a weekend full of [Travel Channel’s] Ghost Adventures. (And I mention Ghost Adventures in so many interviews, my husband is like, “Seriously you should go on Ghost Adventures you promote them so much.”) But seriously, I think it was a weekend of back-to-back Ghost Adventures and I came up with this idea about this kid who was a gateway for the dead. And how interesting would it be? Because people always mention the pearly gates. And I’m like, “Yeah that’s cool and everything, but what if it was a person?”

How long did it take to flesh out the idea?
I’m what they consider a pantser, which means basically I don’t outline, I just kind of wing it. So when I started writing that book, it was during the NaNo project—during November the goal is to write a novel in a month. I didn’t even have time to think about specifics, I just had to get the words out during this project. It’s weird when I start writing, because I don’t outline, the images and the people and the dialog all just come naturally to me like I’m watching a movie in my head. So it just flows.

That seems like a pretty incredible gift.
[Laughs.] A lot of people say that. They’re like, “How do you just do that?” But all my books have been that way. This is the first one that actually made it; I’ve written several before this. But it’s always been that way, where I almost know the characters so well in my mind that I can just start writing that day and come up with three or four different chapters in a day that just seem so natural.

Does it surprise you? Do things take turns that you’re not even aware of?
Yes, especially with Gateway! With all the different twists and turns, I was like, “Wow, I totally didn’t know that was going to happen!” And when I wrote the second book, because I just got signed on with that one, I totally winged it. I had no idea where I was going with it, but I was just going to let it happen.

You mentioned that you’ve written books in the past. Is this something you always saw yourself doing?
Yeah, absolutely. I read a lot of books as a kid, and I knew the idea of being an author was something that I would love. I love words, I love writing. Even stupid journals, I just felt like I needed to get the words out, you know? I mean, I had all kinds of blogs as a teenager. They’re very angst-y, but… [Laughs.]

I’d be concerned if they weren’t!
Oh my god, I was so emo! But yeah, I always knew. But I was afraid, because I didn’t know what it took to be an author, you know? It just seemed so impossible. And then when I started to actually get into writing novels, I was just like, “Wow this is going to be a lot harder than I thought.” And I didn’t even go to college, so I thought for certain that it would never happen.

Were you writing at the same time you were a hairstylist and makeup artist?
I let that take over my whole world, the whole hairstyling and makeup thing for so long, that I lost my passion for writing. I felt pressured into doing something I didn’t really love. And so, it wasn’t until years later, when I was just so… I wasn’t miserable where I was working… But for my passion? I was miserable. Because I knew I wanted to do something more. I started writing probably that last year or two that I was a hairstylist. It consumed me. I took my computer to work, I was working on it between clients and on my lunch break, and I think that’s when my friends were like, “She might be kind of serious about this.”

This doesn’t happen to me all the time, but it did with Gateway: sometimes I can read a book and immediately see it as a movie. Is that something you would pursue?
Absolutely. I think just doing the trailer and working with Nicole on that, and seeing characters brought to life, was just…whoa. It was insane to see it. But to see it on film! I knew that I wanted to do a book trailer because I wanted to see it in a cinematic way. I wanted to see if it could be captured on film and possibly be a movie. Everybody who watches it is like, dude. It needs to be a movie.

The Gateway Through Which They Came is available now. Pick up a copy (if you dare!) and head to the launch party at the Roseville Barnes & Noble on Saturday, Aug. 30, from 1 to 3 p.m. For more information, visit