Today marks the blog’s 7th birthday! 😀 It seems like forever ago when I signed up for a free WordPress account – and to be honest, I had no idea what I was doing back then when it came to blogging. But since then, this site has evolved so much, and I’ve learned a lot and become a better writer because of it. And now, it’s time to celebrate this special birthday with a post that YOU, the readers, voted for.
Last month, readers selected an interview with yours truly as this year’s blogoversary post. I admit that I was a little nervous about this – but I’m an introvert. Of course, I would be nervous about being interviewed. This turned out to be a lot of fun, though, and I thank everyone who submitted questions. Enjoy!
On Writing In General
When did you start writing?
I started writing when I was 7 years old. I already loved reading and coloring, so it wasn’t long before I started putting words to paper. I still remember sitting at the kitchen table with crayons, sketch pads, and lined paper; and writing stories about talking animals, strange places, and (of all things) eating pineapple pancakes on a Hawaiian beach. And I had never been to Hawaii before. Go figure, huh?
What was the first story you remember writing?
I mentioned a few of my very first story ideas above. But when I was 13, I started writing (and never finished) what would have been my first true novel. It was basically Beauty and the Beast with vampires instead of a beast, and set in modern times. (No, it wasn’t influenced by the Twilight series, if anyone is wondering.)
Where do you get inspiration for your stories?
I get story ideas from just about everywhere. My current WIP (The Keeper’s Curse) was inspired by the first film of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit Trilogy and the thrill on going on a quest, encountering danger, and not being the same person when you return home. I’ve also gotten other story ideas from places I’ve visited, artwork, nature, music, dancing – like I said, from just about everywhere. And, having a happy, open, and grateful attitude makes it possible to find inspiration wherever you go.
When did you know writing was what you wanted to do in life?
I think my inner child always knew I was meant to be a writer. I’ve done so many different kinds of writing (novels, poetry, journalism) that I guess it shouldn’t surprise me. (Fun Fact: I originally went to college to be a journalist, but that never panned out.)
But when did I know I wanted to be a novelist? About 3 months into writing the first draft of The Keeper’s Curse. That was when I realized that working on the story was more fun, challenging, and fulfilling than anything else I had done before. There was no turning back after that!
Do you think you’ll keep writing YA exclusively? Or do you have some ideas or plans for novels for the adult audience too?
I absolutely plan on writing adult fantasy as well! That’s why I call myself a fantasy writer, not a YA fantasy writer. It just so happens that my current WIP is a better fit for the YA market. Check out the answer to the next question if you’d like to see a couple of my adult fantasy ideas.
What do you see yourself writing in 5 or 6 years from now?
I have a hard time answering questions like “What do you see yourself doing in 5 years?” It’s not that I don’t know what I want to do; it’s more like I’m a “here and now” person. Long-term planning isn’t one of my strengths. I only know what I can do right now in order to work toward my goals, and adjust that approach as time goes on.
That being said, I have LOTS of story ideas. The clearest of them is a YA contemporary fantasy with merfolk that’s set on Cape Cod (hence my upcoming market research project on mermaid novels). That could be what I’m working on in 5 or 6 year’s time. Here are other possibilities (though these aren’t my only ideas):
- An epic fantasy for adults that pits a man in his early 20s against his father
- A contemporary YA retelling of The Nutcracker
- At least one novel from the perspective of Nomaro, one of two protagonists in a novella I’m planning to write when on “beta-reading break” from TKC (most likely for adults)
- A dark steampunk-ish fantasy set on an archipelago (not sure which “age group” it’s for yet)
If you could have the career of any author, past or present, whose career would you steal?
It’s a lofty choice, but I have to go with Ursula K. Le Guin. Take a look at her back catalog, and you’ll find not only fantasy and science fiction novels, but poetry, short stories, essays… She’s one of the most versatile writers out there. The quality of her writing is second-to-none, too. Her prose is lyrical, concise, and precise; and it flows as smoothly and effortlessly as a stream. Between those two aspects the longevity of her career, and the respect she receives (and deserves to receive) from the SF&F community – I don’t want to steal Ursula’s career from her, but I hope I can achieve one like hers in those ways.
On My Current WIP, The Keeper’s Curse
What led to your decision to write The Keeper’s Curse now, rather than writing any of your other story ideas first?
Actually, I was entertaining another story idea when the spark for TKC came along. The thing is, I was still in “exploration mode” with that one. I knew what kind of fantasy elements I wanted and some bits about the protagonist, but I had no clue what the story was about. With TKC, though, almost everything – the world, the magic, the characters, the plot – was vividly clear from the get-go. So, I took that clarity as a sign that I needed to get on TKC while it was strong and fresh with me, and give the other idea time to grow.
Are there any publishers in particular that you hope might publish The Keeper’s Curse?
I’d be thrilled if Tor / Tor Teen wanted to publish TKC. That’s one of the BIG publishing houses for fantasy and science fiction in North America. However, I’m also a believer in finding the right home for your writing, the right team of people who understand and support your vision and will help you take it to the next level. I don’t know which publisher that might be – and I’ve got plenty other steps in the writing process to take care of first (finishing edits, beta-reading, querying, etc.). So, I want to keep an open mind about my options and not count my chickens before they hatch.
Will The Keeper’s Curse have a sequel?
Maybe… or maybe not. 😉 That will depend on a number of things. Agents typically suggest that a writer’s query letter should state that the book works as a standalone but has series potential. I’ve read this advice online, then had it confirmed in person at last year’s Writer’s Digest Conference. So, while I already know what Eva encounters after TKC and how she continues to grow from there, I also have to be mindful of how I present TKC to prospective agents and publishers.
What or whom do you hope will have your readers most excited, intrigued, or impressed with in The Keeper’s Curse?
Oh, gosh. I don’t know… I just hope people like it! But I also hope readers will be happy that it’s a YA fantasy that “does its own thing” by putting fantasy elements, plot, and characters first instead of following popular tropes or cliches. I also hope they’re moved by Eva’s journey from who she is at the beginning of TKC to who she is at the end.
What is the first book you remember reading?
I read the Little Golden Books with my parents when I was little, like Good Night, Little Bear and Roly Poly Puppy. Do they count? 🙂 I also remember reading an anthology of Greek mythology written for kids, as well as Shel Silverstein’s A Light in the Attic and Where the Sidewalk Ends (pictured right), which were poetry books for children.
What is it about fairy / Fey stories that fascinate you?
I wouldn’t say I’m fascinated with fairy or Fey stories. It’s more like I’m catching up on them because I’ve written my own story with fairy characters, and I want to be familiar with what’s already out there in case people ask for comparisons. This “catching up” is part of a market research project I’ve talked about here and there on the blog, as well as this #5onFri post for DIY MFA.
That said, I do find fairies enchanting. I don’t have a favorite “type” of fairy – though when I was little, I wanted to fly like winged fairies could. 🙂 I just love their beauty and the air of magic and mystery around them. They’re an enigma, and one of my favorite fantastical creatures.
A lot of fairy artwork captures those aspects much better than I can describe in words. Some of my favorites were drawn by Jessica Galbreth (click here and here for examples galore). If you like what you see in those links, then check out Jessica’s website for more of her gorgeous creations.
On Life & Other Things
What is the first tea you remember drinking?
The first tea I remember drinking was bagged, decaffeinated black tea. I think I was 7 or 8, and I don’t remember which brand it was (probably Red Rose, Salada, or Lipton). But I’d never had it before, and I asked Mom if I could try a cup. It didn’t leave much of an impression on me, so I didn’t have it again for a long time.
But the first tea I loved, and the one that sparked my tea craze as an adult? Teavana’s ToLife® (pictured right), a blend of silver needle white tea, jasmine pearls, rooibos, and fruit and floral accents. I tried it at a friend’s house one night… and ohhhhhh my goodness. Bright, fragrant, and sweet without being too fruity – I had never tasted anything quite like it before. That prompted me to ask what else my friend kept in her tea shelf.
Unfortunately, ToLife® isn’t available from Teavana’s website right now. (I hope they haven’t discontinued it!) But if you want to know more about it, you can check out this review I wrote for A Bibliophile’s Reverie a couple years ago.
What non-writing / reading activities do you do to de-stress and relax? You mentioned in your bio that you cook, do yoga, etc. Could you be more specific?
It’s weird, because after my day job, writing / editing, and reading, I don’t have much time for other hobbies. This is especially true now that I’ve altered my writing routine so I can work on the WIP on weeknights. But when I do have downtime, I might do one of the following:
- 30 minutes to 1 hour of yoga, usually at home with new age or relaxing music playing.
- Color. Right now I’m working on The Big Book of Mandalas Coloring Book for Inner Peace and Inspiration (read more about it here), and each page takes between 30 to 60 minutes to finish. I put on one of my relaxing music CDs, take out my colored pencils, and let the world fall away for a while. It’s fulfilling to see how beautiful each one turns out when I’m done.
- Go for a walk. I spend my lunch breaks walking (30 to 45 minutes), and have gotten back into the habit of walking first thing on weekend mornings (close to 1 hour). Not only is it great exercise, but I use it as a chance to clear my mind and observe nature. My brain also likes to use walks as “random story or blog idea generation” time.
- Meditate. I don’t always remember to do this… But I *try* to spend 5 or 10 minutes before I go to bed, and simply be quiet and still.
I don’t cook as much as I used to because of my new writing schedule. But I like making things for friends and family to try, and always offer to bring something homemade to parties. My favorite meals to cook for guests include chicken parmesan, honey-glazed or balsamic-glazed salmon, and my own twist on homemade macaroni and cheese. I’ve also been told I make a mean Greek pasta salad.
I also love baking, especially desserts. Nothing fancy, but if it looks yummy, I’ll try it. People often ask for my chocolate chip cookies, cream cheese brownies, and S’mores bars. I also bake mini pumpkin breads for family and co-workers around Christmastime.
Last but not least, I enjoy spending time with friends and family. It doesn’t matter if we go out to eat, take a day trip somewhere, or just hang out at someone’s house. I simply like being with people when we can work it into our busy schedules.
If you lived in Harry Potter’s world, what Hogwarts house would you be sorted into? And, what would your Patronus be?
My Hogwarts house would be Ravenclaw! It’s the one that fits me best. I was diligent and academically motivated all the way through college. Plus, Ravenclaws are known for “studious” hobbies and other quirks; and my reading and writing habits, eclectic tastes in movies and music, and love of fantasy would fit that criteria.
As for a Patronus… that’s tough. The animal that results from a Patronus charm often reflects your personality or is one you share a deep affinity with. There are several animals (including insects) I feel that way about: owls, hummingbirds, butterflies, dragonflies, and dolphins. Maybe my Patronus would be one of those, but I’m not sure which one reflects me best.
If you could pass on three pieces of advice to your self 5 years ago, what would they be?
- Do what makes you happy. Don’t let other people tell you what you should do with your life. Because most of the time, what they want you to do – and who they want you to be – won’t bring you happiness or fulfillment.
- Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself. It’s OK to do what you believe is right for you and speak your truth. You can’t control about how other people will react – and for someone like you who worries about what others think of you, I know how hard that can be. All you can control is your approach to the situation, your choice of words, and your tone of voice.
- Be yourself. You don’t need to be perfect, because no one can achieve perfection. Just be who you are – wonderful, beautiful, creative, genuine, lovable you. That is all you and anyone else will want you to be.
That concludes this blogoversary interview! Thanks again for all of your questions, and I hope you enjoyed getting to know me a little more. 🙂