Author Interview: Debbie Zaken

For my first author interview, I’m getting to know the award-winning author of YA sci-fi novel, Colliding Skies.

Share a favorite scene from your book!

Why do you like it so much?

The scene I chose from Colliding Skies isn’t a major scene in the book. But it’s a funny scene and one that I like a lot. It shows the absurdity and hilarity of Skye’s parents trying to deal with the fact that of her dating an extraterrestrial and him coming over to dinner to meet them as if he were just another boy. I think many times in YA, the parents are conveniently absent from the story for whatever reason. In Colliding Skies, I really wanted to keep the parents present and involved and show their reaction. At the end of this scene, I think you can tell that this dinner is going to be a disaster.

“Brilliant pacing, sizzling romance, and a story line I absolutely devoured!” Victoria Scott, author of Fire and Flood.

front cover

This is one of my favorite scenes too! I literally laughed out loud when I got to Ethan’s part, and it made me love him so much more. -J 

With nothing to do but drink her wine and stare at Dad, Mom kept drumming her perfectly manicured nails on the granite counter. He, meanwhile, focused on chopping the remaining vegetables with a tense look on his face. A heavy silence fell over the room.

Ethan was right. They’re so not ready for this.

This dinner was starting to look like a bad idea by the minute. Dad had finished the salad—maybe the only thing Ethan would eat, if he’d eat at all—when he picked up a bottle of dressing.

“Wait, Dad. I don’t think Ethan will eat that if it has dressing on it.”

He stared at me, as many sparks shooting from his eyes as Mom. She threw her hands in the air.

“I can’t do this, John. This is ridiculous. I can’t pretend this is okay.”


Dad shot me a look of warning and I shut up.

“I know, honey. But he’ll be here soon. Let’s just get through tonight.” That may have been what came out of his mouth, but the look on his face said: Remember, this was your idea.

“Fine.” Mom took a large gulp of wine and turned to me. “But one more word from you and it’ll be the McDonalds drive thru for dinner.”

Chase walked into the kitchen, clueless to the little scene that had taken place. “McDonalds for dinner? Finally something good to eat in this house.”

Mom glared at him. Fortunately for Chase, the doorbell rang before anyone could respond.

I hesitated, hoping Ethan’s superhuman hearing had picked up on the heated conversation, and he’d decided to stick to sneaking me out once my parents were asleep. But when nobody answered the door, he rang the bell again.

“Well, aren’t you going to get that?” Mom snapped at me.

Oh, come on Ethan! Can’t mind reading be one of those super cool skills of yours?

“You should probably be the one to answer,” Dad said to me, half a smile crossing his lips. “Don’t worry about the food. If he doesn’t like it, there’s plenty of grass for him to graze on in the yard.”

I gnawed the inside of my cheek, glaring at Dad. “He is not a barnyard animal.” I’d heard the comparisons about the Celeians eating only hay like cows. I’d even seen a hashtag trending that morning about the Celeian diet or lack thereof, since no one had ever seen them eat anything.

I went to the door, hoping that if Ethan had heard anything of the ridiculous conversation, it wasn’t that last part. But of course, the smirk on his perfect face told me that’s exactly what he’d heard and that he found it all very amusing.

“Good evening,” he murmured. “Or should I say moo?”

I pressed my lips together. “I’m sorry about that. They’re not handling this very well.”

“It is going to be an interesting evening.” He chuckled and stepped into the foyer.



Who is your absolute favorite original character? Why them?

It’s probably odd not to choose one of your main characters as your favorite character. And I do love Skye, my main character in Colliding Skies. But in full disclosure, my favorite character in Colliding Skies is Taylor, Skye’s initial love interest. One of the things I find the most interesting about this is that Taylor started out as a very minor character in my initial draft. I didn’t think he’d be in more than maybe one chapter. But the moment I wrote him into a scene, he came to life on the page in a way that I really wasn’t expecting. He was so witty, charming, and all-around sexy, that I became captivated by him.  He also changed the initial direction of the story. It really was like he made an appearance in the story and I just couldn’t ignore him. I had to see where he was taking me. The scenes with him sparkle with electricity and are still some of my favorite scenes. No spoilers for Colliding Skies or the sequel, but he is still my favorite character to write.

That’s super interesting! I hope to see him more in book 2 😉

Colliding Skies purchase link

Where do you usually find the books you read?

Book stores, thrift stores, or online? What genres do you like?

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. 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 YA. 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. YA 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. Those are the books I enjoy the most and it’s what I hope to do with my own books.

My go-to places for finding books are either the library, online, or large retail book stores. Unfortunately, we don’t have a lot of indie book stores in my area. But there is one I go to every now and then.


Tell us a little about where you’re located. Have you always lived there?

I live in South Florida, and although I was born in Miami, I grew up in Guatemala. After I graduated high school, I moved to Israel and went to university there. It was some years later that my husband and I moved to South Florida. I feel very lucky to have lived in various countries and to be trilingual. Beyond the ability to speak three languages fluently, I feel like it’s given me a very different perspective on life and opened up my mind to many things.


You have a Saturday morning completely to yourself. No chores, duties, kids, or other disturbances. How do you spend it?

A Saturday morning all to myself? That’s basically unheard of in my world right now. But I guess if I did have one, I would sit down with a cup of coffee and a yummy breakfast or maybe meet a friend for breakfast and maybe a pedicure. Then I’d probably go home and do some reading or spend some time writing. Maybe after that I’d take a nap and either continue writing on watch something on Netflix. It sounds super boring as I write it. But, for me, it would be the perfect way to spend the day.

It doesn’t sound boring to me. It sounds heavenly! And almost exactly how I would spend mine hahaha


Why did you start writing?

I discovered I loved writing stories in 2nd grade. My teacher would give us funny writing prompts and I loved it. I continued writing until my early teens and then just stopped, probably because I felt self-conscious about it. I was always an avid reader, though. It was rare that I wasn’t enwrapped in a book. It was probably only a matter of time before the stories that played in my head found their way to the page. But it wasn’t until many years later, that I started seriously writing.

I’d just had my second baby when the premise for Colliding Skies, my first book, popped into my head, and wouldn’t go away. I kept thinking about these characters and their story. Finally, I told a friend about it who gave me the kick in the pants I needed to stop thinking about it and start writing the darn story. Pretty soon after, I realized writing wasn’t just a hobby for me. It was something I seriously wanted to pursue as a career.


Tell us about your writing process. Where do you start?

What do you struggle with?

I’m a combination of a plotter and a pantser, or a plantser. 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.

I shall henceforth be known as a plantser. 😉

What do I struggle with? In all honesty, I enjoy the editing and revising part of writing much more than I enjoy writing first drafts. I think that’s because I have a difficult time giving myself permission for the writing to just plain suck, for the story to have large plot holes, to turn off my inner editor. It’s hard for me to let go, stop trying to polish it, and move on with the story to get to that first completed draft. It’s something I continuously struggle with.

I think one of the things that have helped keep me motivated as I go through the process of writing the sequel to Colliding Skies is hearing from actual readers. Readers have been amazing at tagging me on good reviews, either on Twitter or Instagram. It’s pretty cool to get a Tweet out of nowhere with someone telling you how much they enjoyed your book or a picture of your book out in the world. Nothing is as motivating as knowing there are people out there excitedly waiting for you to finish your next book. These are rare moments and I try to hold on to them and go back to them whenever I’m feeling like I want to throw my laptop through the window.


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. Not even light can escape the pull of a black hole.


I asked a dozen readers what they wanted to know about authors, and almost all of them replied “What inspired them to write their story?”  Care to share?

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 (Starlight by Muse) 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 (


I really enjoyed getting to know Debbie more than the little we’ve chatted in the past. Her book was featured in January’s book box from Pixie Forest Publishing and I really enjoyed it. I hope you check it out and give her a follow on a social site or two! Read her bio and see her links below. 


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.

Colliding Skies purchase link

Colliding Skies is on sale through March in honor of its book anniversary. You can download it on Amazon for only $0.99! Don’t miss this awesome sale.



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