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SunLit Interviews

How losing friends to death led two former corporate types to shape a young adult novel

Jim and Stephanie Kroepfl lamented all the lost human potential that died with their friends, which led them to write a story about preserving those qualities. They also watched a lot of "The Big Bang Theory."

Jim and Stephanie Kroepfl are a husband-and-wife team who write Young Adult novels and stories of mystery and adventure from their cabin in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. Their stories and articles have been published in literary journals in the U.S. and England. Jim and Stephanie are world travelers who seek out crop circles, obscure historical sites and mysterious ruins. When not writing, Jim is a musician and Stephanie is an artist. You can find them at www.jimandstephbooks.com

The following is an interview with Jim and Stephanie Kroepfl.

UNDERWRITTEN BY

Each week, The Colorado Sun and Colorado Humanities & Center For The Book feature an excerpt from a Colorado book and an interview with the author. Explore the SunLit archives at coloradosun.com/sunlit.


What inspired you to write this book?

Friends of all ages recently died, and we kept thinking about what these people could have accomplished if they had more time to live in a healthy body. We became fascinated with the idea of how to prevent the loss of years of accumulated knowledge, especially for those who are trying to accomplish things that will change the world for the better. These thoughts led to the question: If you were a young person and given the chance to merge consciousnesses with one of society’s greatest minds–someone who might really advance society—would you take that risk? 

Authors Stephanie and Jim Kroepfl. (Provided by John Williams Photography)

Place this excerpt in context. How does it fit into the book as a whole and why did you select it?

Orfyn, an orphan, is a gifted street artist who dreams of having his work displayed in galleries and museums, although he can’t imagine how that would ever really happen. Then, a secret corporation offers him the opportunity to be mentored by a master painter. This chapter is the point where Orfyn must decide if he’s willing to be part of a risky experiment in exchange for the chance to follow the path to greatness. In screenplays this is called Plot Point One, when the protagonist has to make an irreversible decision that changes everything. It is one of the most important parts of any story. We selected this excerpt because it’s a good illustration that there are times when one decision truly can alter the direction of the rest of our lives … so choose wisely. 

Tell us about creating this book: any research and travel you might have done, any other influences on which you drew?

Most of the story takes place in upstate New York in a stately old boarding school that has been turned into a society-advancing secret laboratory. We went through hundreds of photos of private schools that are now for sale. The thought of buying one of these buildings, and living in it, gives an author a strange mix of excitement and nightmares. 

We wrote this book while changing our lives. We had just left corporate life and moved to a tiny Colorado mountain town to commit ourselves to the craft of writing. This inspirational place helped us re-discover the stories we loved and why we loved them, and it led us to write for young people. 

“Merged” by Jim and Stephanie Kroepfl.

What were the biggest challenges you faced, or surprises you encountered in completing this book?

Our biggest challenge was nailing the voice of Lake. She’s a precocious 16-year-old with a keen ability for chemistry. She’s torn between living in a predictable, stable environment and pursuing an unquenchable goal to make a difference. We needed her voice to reflect her brilliance without making her off-putting. We began to realize that we know a lot of very smart people who have their own very unique personalities, which helped a lot. Also, our publisher recommended that we watch a lot of “The Big Bang Theory” episodes to study how their quirky characters remain likeable. 

Walk us through your writing process: Where and when do you write? What time of day? Do you listen to music, need quiet? 

We plot together, typically by walking around the lake with our dog, and try to think well ahead of our plotlines since we write the first draft simultaneously. Then, we go to it. Stephanie likes to write in the mornings with a dog on her lap, and Jim writes in coffee shops in the afternoon. But then there’s revisions, new plotlines, and new dimensions to the characters. Every minute is awesome because there’s nothing more fun than being surprised by something creative that you couldn’t have come up with in all those hours you were plotting.

What’s your next project?

We just submitted the sequel to “Merged” involving topical issues that hadn’t been unfolding when we plotted the novel, but have come to dominate everybody’s everyday life since then. So, we anticipate the next six months to involve lots of editing. But during this time, we’ll also plot out two story ideas to see which one excites us the most for our next YA novel. One is a dystopian adventure novel, and another is a contemporary novel with lots of humor.

Buy “Merged” through BookBar.
Read an excerpt from the book.

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