Tag Archives: interview

Author Spotlight: Sandy Hall

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Sandy Hall is a teen librarian from New Jersey where she was born and raised. She has a BA in Communication and a Master of Library and Information Science from Rutgers University. When she isn’t writing, or teen librarian-ing, she enjoys reading, slot machines, marathoning TV shows, and long scrolls through Tumblr. A Little Something Different is her first novel.

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The Poetics Project: Describe your novel in ten words or less.

Sandy Hall: A girl meets boy story told from everyone else’s perspective.

TPP: What inspired you to write A Little Something Different?

SH: I was inspired by the Swoon Reads website. I’d been working on a completely different book, that had no romance in it. Then I saw an article about Swoon and I decided to try my hand at writing teen romance.

TPP: What was the most difficult aspect of writing your novel?

SH: Editing! Without a doubt. The writing comes easy, it’s the re-writing and editing that’s tough for me.

Author Spotlight: Emylia Hall

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Emylia Hall was born in 1978 and grew up in the Devon countryside, the daughter of an English artist and a Hungarian quilt-maker. After studying at York University and in Lausanne, Switzerland, Emylia spent five years working in a London ad agency, before moving to the French Alps. It was there that she began to write. Emylia now lives in Bristol with her husband, also an author. Her first novel, The Book of Summers, was a Richard and Judy Summer Book Club pick in 2012. It’s published by Headline in the UK, MIRA in the US and Canada, and has been translated into eight languages. Her second novel, A Heart Bent Out of Shape (or The Swiss Affair, in the US) was published in February 2014. Emylia’s writing and short fiction has appeared in a variety of publications, including ELLE magazine, the Book Slam anthology Too Much Too Young, and broadcast on BBC Radio 6 Music. She is currently at work on her third novel.

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The Poetics Project: Describe your book in ten words or less.

Emylia Hall: Love, loss, friendship, self-discovery—all in a year abroad.

TPP: What inspired you to write The Swiss Affair?

EH: When I was nineteen I spent a year studying in the beautiful and glamorous Swiss city of Lausanne. While I’d travelled fairly extensively with my family, it was my first time living in another country. I fell in love with my new lifestyle, and the extraordinary sense of freedom and possibility that came with it. I was inspired to capture that golden year abroad, but I wanted to add a darker edge, to see what happened when I took a perfect experience in a perfect setting, and then added an extremely imperfect sequence of events. While the novel has romantic love at its heart, it’s also something of a love letter to Lausanne, a city that means a lot to me.

Author Spotlight: M.G. Buehrlen

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When she’s not writing, M.G. Buehrlen moonlights as a web designer and social media/creative director. She’s the current web ninja lurking behind the hugely popular website YABooksCentral.com, a social network for YA (and kids!) book lovers. The 57 Lives of Alex Wayfare is her debut novel. M.G. lives nestled away in Michigan pines, surrounded by good coffee and good books, with her husband and son and three furbabies. Say hello on Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr. Keep reading for a snippet from The 57 Lives of Alex Wayfare.

The Poetics Project: Describe your book in ten words or less.

M.G. Buehrlen: Time travel, reincarnation, betrayal, corruption, first kisses, lies, lies, lies.

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TPP: What inspired you to write The 57 Lives of Alex Wayfare?

M.G.: I’ve been a huge fan of time travel books, films, and TV shows since I was a kid, but I noticed a major lack in female time travelers. Once I paired the idea of a female time traveler with my love of history, Alex Wayfare sprang into existence.

Author Spotlight: Leslye Walton

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A few weeks ago, while in Seattle for the AWP conference, I had the immense pleasure of meeting the very talented Leslye Walton. She was gracious to take time out of her busy schedule to meet with me at Victrola Coffee Roasters, a coffee shop a few blocks from the convention center. I had a great time chatting with her and want to thank her for her kindness. For me, meeting authors is like meeting celebrities, I get nervous and anxious that I’m going to do or say something stupid. But from the moment I recognized Leslye and started to talk to her, I felt at ease. She reminded me a lot of the people I surround myself with—basically she’s not afraid to be herself.

Leslye Walton was born in the Pacific Northwest. Perhaps because of this, Leslye has developed a strange kinship with the daffodil—she too can only achieve beauty after a long, cold sulk in the rain. Her debut novel, The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender—out March 25th, 2014 from Candlewick Press—was inspired by a particularly long sulk in a particularly cold rainstorm spent pondering the logic, or rather, lack thereof, in love. Leslye has an MA in writing and lives in Seattle, Washington. When she’s not writing, she teaches middle school students how to read and write, and most importantly, how to be kind to each other, even on days when they really don’t feel like it. She is currently working on her next novel.

The Poetics Project: Describe your book in ten words or less.

Leslye Walton: Abstractly I would say “Love makes us such fools.” Normally, “A girl with wings wants to be an ordinary girl.”

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TPP: What inspired you to write The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender?

LW: The idea actually came from a song on the Garden State soundtrack. It’s called “I Just Don’t Think I’ll Ever Get Over You” by Colin Hay. I was driving home—I was doing my student teaching at the time—I was listening to this song and I suddenly had this character, Viviane Lavender, who loves Jack Griffith her entire life. I pulled over, wrote the short story quickly, edited it, revised it, and then submitted it to get into the graduate program at Portland State University. At that point I thought I was done with it.

By the time I actually started school I had all these other characters—Wilhelmina, Gabe, Milan, and some other characters that actually got cut. I had the idea that I was going to write this sort of historical fiction. Around November, I was home for Thanksgiving and was playing with the idea of introducing characters through photographs. I was looking through old photos at my parents’ house. I have a younger sister. When she was about eleven years old, she was tall, all limbs and all teeth. She always ran around with her arms at her side, and it drove my dad crazy because she would be screaming too. There’s a photograph with her wearing one of my dad’s long, white t-shirts running around like that with her mouth open and the shirt billowing out behind her. In that second I wrote “as if she had wings” but I thought to myself “no, this character has wings.”

Then I didn’t know what I was writing anymore because I was writing historical fiction about a girl with wings. After that I didn’t write for a while. I read a lot of magical realism mostly because I was being told that I was writing magical realism and I didn’t really know what that meant. So I read a lot of Isabella Allende, Alice Hoffman—I was a huge fan of hers when I was a teenager—and Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

One morning I woke up and immediately Emilienne’s whole family was there waiting for me to tell her story. I sat down and wrote it really fast in about 45 minutes—those chapters haven’t really changed at all. I really love creating characters and had to kill off a couple, I think there were seven siblings in the beginning. But once her whole family was there, I knew where the story was going to go.

Author Spotlight: Kathryn Craft

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Kathryn Craft writes stories that seek beauty and meaning at the edge of darkness. Her debut novel, The Art of Falling, is now available. The Philadelphia dance world in which the story is set serves as a harsh microcosm of our society, with its celebrity-driven expectations of women’s bodies. Every page of the novel is infused with a dancer’s heightened awareness of the human body and its movement. As a former modern dancer, choreographer, and nineteen-year dance critic, Kathryn knows this world. Her interest in body image is personal and life-long but she researched the issue more academically while obtaining a masters in Health and Physical Education from Miami University, Ohio.

The Poetics Project: Describe your book in ten words or less.

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Kathryn Craft: A dancer seeks beauty and meaning despite her body’s betrayal.

TPP: How has your life as a former dancer, choreographer, and critic influenced The Art of Falling? Are there any specific scenes in the novel that were directly or indirectly influenced by your former life?

KC: My background in dance primed my story mind for art. I think of sentences as impetus, pulse, destination. Tension on a page is like a diagonal pass across the stage—a longer path to get from back to front, yes, but one with shadows and partial truths, requiring twists to address the audience. And just as posed dancers never stop moving, but continue to channel energy through their muscles and beyond their fingertips, so a final, well-chosen word can resonate beyond the period at the end of the sentence and into the space beyond. My work as a dance critic not only influenced my ability to evoke movement through prose, but also informed my process by bestowing the patience I needed to fully develop this story before putting it into the world. Books can be re-read, and while I wanted to layer in the depth that would render a second read rewarding, I didn’t want to count on such diligence. In dance you have one chance to make a strong impression, and my developed critical skills encouraged me to continue making the infinitesimal small choices needed to improve the story until it caught the eye of an agent and publisher. The scene in the novel that most directly draws on all of my dance experience is at the end, when I choreographed a dance in my mind, entered my protagonist’s sensory experience while performing it, then stepped back to review it as a critic. That was fun!

TPP: What do you want your readers to take away from your book?

KC: That our individuality is a composite of mind, body, and spirit, and that sometimes one of those will create challenges for the other. But you need convince these aspects of self to play for the same team—a contest between them cannot be won, and will indeed hold you back. No matter the medium, we must be fearlessly, fiercely, and fully ourselves to make our truest and most valuable contributions to humankind.

Author Spotlight: Kim Fu

Author Spotlight Kim Fu 
Kim Fu’s debut novel, For Today I Am A Boy, was released earlier this month by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Fu’s book features Peter Huang, an American born to Chinese immigrants. Peter, who grew up with three sisters, is the only son in his family—meant to follow in his father’s footsteps and to embody his father’s ideals of masculinity. The problem? Peter believes that he’s a girl. For Today I Am A Boy has already been selected by Barnes & Noble for their 2014 Great New Writers program. Below is an interview with the author about her writing process and this stellar debut.

The Poetics Project: For Today I Am A Boy discusses topics like gender identity and cultural values. How did you approach these topics in your writing? Especially the topic of gender. Where did you start researching?

Kim Fu: Most of the research happened before I started writing. My sources fell into one of two categories. One was memoir and fiction written about trans individuals, and their stories were really unique and specific to their experience. The other type of stories that you find are long-form journalism articles and scientific studies, but those have their own set of problems because they are trying to draw these broad conclusions. […] It was important for me to read all of that and absorb it by osmosis, but I had to sort of put it out of my mind as I was writing and just write a character that felt real and true to me.

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TPP: Because gender identity is a hot topic right now, did you worry that there would be a negative reaction to the book? In another interview you’ve done, you mentioned that you grew up in a neighborhood with many conservative, Chinese immigrants.

KF: I didn’t worry about my family and friends so much. I more worried about how the LGBT community itself or writers in that community would react. I’m really interested to see that conversation and how it progresses, because I feel like there is a kind of judgement of my book that only they can do—and I think that’s fair and I’m open to that—and also because there is so much violence perpetuated against transgender individuals. The community is more attuned–they are going to watch it very closely. And that does keep me up at night, but it was still the book I had to write. The reaction of people from my generation in the community has actually been very positive. I have read that I spoke to their experiences, and I appreciated that. I hope that has a ripple effect on the older generation—where they feel validated—or that it’s interesting that these are the experiences of their children.

How to Write About a Place You’ve Never Been

Setting is something that I’ve always struggled with. With fiction, the world in which you are writing about doesn’t have to exist in real life. You can make up anything you want. The hard part is simply remembering to draw a map. When the characters in your story live in the real world, however, like San Francisco, for instance, it’s important to get the setting down right. People travel there from around the world. The Golden Gate Bridge and trolley cars have become iconic. But if you yourself have never been, how do you write about a place effectively?

For one, you could book a flight to San Francisco, take lots of pictures while you’re there, and plenty of notes too, but not all writers are in a position to do so. What really helps a writer develop a realistic, detailed setting is research. There are plenty of websites and tools out there to help with your research:

#1 Google Earth

Google Earth is available to download for free. You can search almost anywhere in the world, and view detailed satellite images to get an idea of the landscape of the setting you are writing about. You can change the angle as well. Maybe your character is on an airplane, descending into an airport, and you want to see what an aerial view looks like. Or maybe your character is standing on a street, walking into a bookstore, and you want to see what the outside of the building looks like. Google Earth can help with that (and so can Google Maps).

#2 Lonely Planet

Lonely Planet is an online travel guide. About five seconds before typing this, I went to their website and typed in “Thailand,” because, for the purposes of this post, that is where my fictional character in my fictional novel goes for two weeks in summer. From there, I found things for my fictional character to do while in Thailand, like visit the Elephant Nature Park, where my character meets this Elephant named Lucky (pictured below). Lucky is blind in both eyes (which symbolizes something–I haven’t quite gotten that far in the fictional development of my fictional novel). I have never been to Thailand, but by using Lonely Planet, I can search and be directed to websites and photos that give me enough details to describe, in this case, the elephants and the sanctuary that they live in accurately. Travel blogs are also good sources for this kind of information.

Isn't she just the cutest?
Isn’t she just the cutest?

Dan Hogan Author Profile

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Dan Hogan and wife, Sophie Mae

Published Poet Profile: Dan Hogan
Interview by: Amanda Riggle

Dan Hogan is a part-time English teacher at Cal State Fullerton, Irvine Valley College, and Norco College. In addition to being an amazing teacher, Dan has recently had his work published in Cal State Fullerton’s literary journal DASH – due out in May of 2013. His original haiku was about a double-parking incident and will be available for everyone to read once DASH releases their current issue. For more info on DASH, visit their website WWW.DashLiteraryJournal.Com. We had the pleasure to interview Dan via-email and below is what he had to say. He’s a smart man, talented man, so you should totally read this and be inspired.

The Poetics Project: Dan, what inspired you to write this piece? Did someone double park next to you and block you in?

Dan: I live at an apartment complex with two really narrow spots right next to the dumpster. I work so late that often those are the two spaces that are open. Most of the time, people with their gargantuan sport utility vehicles can’t fit in the spots, and it’s kind of an art to squeeze in there. But sometimes people just give up and park across both spots. Or worse, they park with one tire into the other spot making it impossible to park there. Such a pain. The nearest spot from there is about two hundred yards away, and at 1 am after grading all night at a coffee shop, it’s a real pain. So I wrote it one night because I always feel like writing notes and leaving them on the windshield, but this time I didn’t.