Tuesday, October 25, 2011

My First Author Interview

I was blessed recently to be interviewed for the first time by a fellow inkpopper/blogger. I thought Raven did such an amazing job with the questions that I've posted the interview here for you guys. Hope you enjoy!

Interview with Author Amy Machelle
 by Raven Paramour
Amy Machelle is a first grade teacher who uses writing to escape her hectic days of tying shoelaces, opening ketchup packets, and begging children to please use tissues instead of their sleeves. While writing has always been a hobby for her, it swiftly turned into an obsession during Fall of 2009. That’s when she began work on her young adult debut novel, Saving Elizabeth. She uploaded the first half of the novel to Inkpop.com in March of 2010. It was a huge success, and by June of that year it had been voted a top 5 pick, winning a review from one of the HarperCollins editors. Once Amy received the critique, she eited the manuscript according to the review, and then went to work querying agents. Like most writers, she dreamt of one day having her work published, but after several rejections she quickly realized the disheartening statistics were true. Literary agencies typically reject 99.5% of all submissions they receive. That means agencies who get close to 500 queries a month only invite around 50 of those querying authors to send proposals for review. Out of those fifty, it’s estimated only one, sometimes two manuscripts are ready to be presented to publishers.
Even with the odds stacked against her, Amy determined to have her work published. After months of searching for agents, emailing them, and patiently waiting for replies, the polite rejection letters began to pile up. Although some might have considered self publishing, Amy had her heart set on traditional publishing, and didn’t let the rejections get her down.  After her 15th rejection letter, Amy found Tell Tale Publishing, a publisher that accepts unsolicited manuscripts. To her delight, she got a response from Patricia Lazarus, the editor of their Thistle young adult imprint. Patricia expressed interest in Saving Elizabeth and ultimately offered Amy a publishing contract. Allow me to introduce the lovely, Amy Machelle.

Amy: Thank you so much for having me, Raven! I’m so excited to be here!
Raven: Could you please tell us a bit about yourself?
Amy: Sure! I’d be glad to, although, I’m afraid I’m not too interesting. I’m your run-of-the-mill 29 year old  wife, mother, and teacher. I just also happen to write. When I’m not having tea parties with my little girl, expanding the minds of seven year olds, or writing about demonic forces, you can find me curled up on the couch with a good book. I enjoy going to the theater with my hubby, rolling the windows of my Jeep down on the way home from work, and turning my radio up too loud. I’m also addicted to all things chocolate.   
Raven: How did you find Inkpop? Did you hear about it from a friend or was it an accidental discovery?
Amy: It was actually an accidental discovery. I was searching online, prematurely, for publishing options when I ran across Inkpop’s sister site, Authonomy. I uploaded a couple of chapters of Saving Elizabeth there, but quickly learned it wasn’t for me. I noticed that several of Authonomy’s members also had their work uploaded to Inkpop, so I decided to check it out. Saving Elizabeth was a perfect fit, and it quickly found a large fan base with Inkpop’s young adult community.
Raven: So Amy, what inspired you to write Saving Elizabeth?
Amy: My husband is a youth pastor, and the Twilight craze hit his youth group pretty hard, so much so that the girls started to bring their copies of Twilight to church instead of their Bibles. They were seriously reading it during church services. I couldn’t imagine what in the world would have them so captivated, so I bought all of the books and read them for myself. I finished the entire series in two weeks, and decided to search our local Christian bookstores for Christian young adult fiction that would capture them like Twilight, but reinforce much of what my husband was teaching them during youth group. I came up empty handed. The Christian book stores weren’t offering young adults much in the way of fiction. As a matter of fact, their young adult sections were minute in comparison to their adult sections. That’s when I made it my mission to write something that would appeal to the younger generation. 
Raven: Upon reading Saving Elizabeth, I got a feeling that this was based off something in reality. What I mean by that is did you ever struggle with your faith like Elizabeth? Or rather, do you know someone like her?
Amy: We’re only human, and I think we all struggle with our faith from time to time. I’m no exception. I’ve not struggled as greatly as Elizabeth, but there are times when I’ve asked God why certain things have happened in my life. Luckily, He’s God, and He’s big enough to handle my occasional doubts.  He’s great at reminding me He’s always been there for me, and always will be.
Raven: From previous conversations, you said that you planned on writing a sequel for Saving Elizabeth. When did it come to you to write a sequel?
Amy: The thought of a sequel was always in the back of my mind, but it was definite during the completion of the last couple of chapters of Saving Elizabeth that the story would continue. Elizabeth isn’t finished telling her story yet, and I’m okay with that.
Raven: Each writer has a unique style of writing a novel. Some listen to music, some work in complete silence, or some might watch movies or read books for inspiration. Did you ever come up with a playlist/soundtrack for Saving Elizabeth?
Amy: I have to write in silence. I’ve tried to be the cool author who listens to music during writing, but it just doesn’t work for me. My husband swears I have a touch of ADHD. I do, however, listen to music between chapters. It just helps prepare me emotionally for what I’m about to write. The songs I listen to are specific to certain events in the story and are varied. At the beginning of Saving Elizabeth, I listened to Casting Crowns’ Somewhere in the Middle. For me, it just summed up how Elizabeth felt. In the middle of the novel when Elizabeth began to display her anger, I listened to a lot of Evanescence. Toward the end, it was A Fine Frenzy. I won’t tell you which song by them. I don’t want to give away too much. I’ll let you see if you can figure it out. ;o)
Raven: Did you do any outlines for Saving Elizabeth or did you allow the story to write itself?
Amy: I’m a complete pantster. There were no outlines. The story just evolved.
Raven: Since Saving Elizabeth has religious undertones, how do you plan on addressing any issues that might come up?
Amy: This is something I’ve thought about a lot, and I’m prepared for backlash. It’s going to hurt, but I stand by my writing 100%. Saving Elizabeth sheds light on the spiritual realm and the battle between good and evil that I believe takes place for us every day. There’s also a message of grace and redemption that I think the world desperately needs to hear. If someone lets the fiction aspect of the story overshadow that, then they’ve missed the point altogether. I realize that some of the things I’ve portrayed in the novel might be controversial, especially within the Christian community, but if people can’t separate fiction from truth, then they should stick to nonfiction. 
Raven: If Saving Elizabeth was made into a movie within six months from now, who would you want to be in the movie?
Amy: Oh, no! You’ve asked the one question I can’t answer completely! My friends and I have talked about this several times, and we can never agree. For Elizabeth, I think I’d pick Nina Dobrev from The Vampire Diaries. For Melissa, it would have to be Julianne Moore. I’d pick Alec Baldwin for Sam, and I might choose Alexander Ludwig for Riel. That one is still up in the air, and don’t ask me who I’d choose for Brad or Lucifer. I have no idea!!!!
Raven: On your blog, you said that the photographer Alex Stoddard had a picture called “The Forgotten Housewife” really resembled the internal struggles that Elizabeth went through in the story. Are there any other photos and or images that really connected to you or to Saving Elizabeth?
Amy: Alex Stoddard is AMAZING, and many of his photographs really spoke to me during the writing of this novel. His photograph entitled, Arrival reminds me of Riel. Your Turn With God reminds me of the point in the novel where Elizabeth talks to God for the first time since her father’s death. There are many. Check out Alex’s work! It’s awesome!
Raven: You have written a short story for Beyond the Diaper Bag which is a collection of humorous stores, inspirational moments, and helpful tips from real moms. May I ask how many children do you have?
Amy: If you don’t count the seventeen kids I mother/teach every day in my classroom, then I only have one little girl. She just turned 4 and she’s absolutely amazing! J
Raven: Have you been working on Saving Sarah? An idea was posted on your blog called Saving Sarah. Is it related to the Saving Elizabeth series or is a different concept?
Amy: I was toying with that idea before I really dove into edits for Saving Elizabeth. It would also deal with spiritual warfare. The idea is still there, but Saving Elizabeth’s sequel is my first priority at the moment.   
Raven: I recall that you dreamed Saving Elizabeth being published by Zondervan, a division of HarperCollins. Do you still want to be published by Zondervan at some point?
Amy: That was my dream as a young writer without a completed novel under my belt. I was very na├»ve about the publishing world at the time and didn’t realize how complicated it all was. I couldn’t be happier with where Saving Elizabeth ended up. It’s my baby, and I feel it’s in great hands with Tell Tale Publishing. Could Zondervan, or any other publishing company be in my future? Who knows? For now, I’m just enjoying the present, and I’m loving every minute of it!
Raven: If you could meet any character from Saving Elizabeth, who would it be?
Amy: I’d want to meet Elizabeth! There’s no doubt.
Raven: What do you want the readers to get out of reading Saving Elizabeth? Is there anything that you like to tell them?
Amy: I think I’d just like to ask them to be open minded. This is more than just another paranormal romance novel. This is a coming to faith story. It’s a lesson in realizing we all have a greater purpose here on this earth. It’s a reminder that our past doesn’t define us. There are many lessons to be learned, but if you’re not open minded and ready to evaluate your own life, then you won’t fully benefit from all Elizabeth’s story has to offer.
Raven: How does the editing process go when a book is getting published? And how much is changed from the original manuscript?
Amy: I’ve been through two rounds of content edits so far with Saving Elizabeth. They were very similar to the reviews that HC gives on Inkpop, only much more detailed. The first round was a six page document sent from my editor. I was pretty bummed about it until I talked with another first time author who received eight pages from her editor, and told me to count my blessings. They were all about making the story tighter, deleting unnecessary back story, and making the characters more believable. We added a couple of scenes that I’m in love with, and changed the ending drastically. John Osborne once said asking an author what he thinks about criticism is like asking a lamppost what it thinks about dogs. That’s pretty accurate, but it’s all worth it when you read through the final product.
Raven: I saw the book cover design for Saving Elizabeth. Is it what you wanted? And how much say could you have? There are horror stories of first time authors unable to give any feedback in what they envisioned.
Amy: I didn’t have a specific cover in mind for Saving Elizabeth. I knew there were a few things that I absolutely didn’t want on the cover, and the wonderful people at Tell Tale took that into mind. I love the cover and couldn’t be happier with it.
Pop Questions 
Raven: If you could meet any author dead or alive, who would it be and why?
Amy: I really wanted to meet Ted Dekker, and I was blessed to be able to recently.
Raven: What are you looking for in a story?
Amy: It has to be a page turner. I want to lose a night of sleep reading an entire novel
because it leaves me dangling on a cliff at the end of each chapter.
Raven: If you could be any paranormal creature what would it be?
Amy: Mermaid
Raven: If you could travel to any place in the world where would it be?
Amy: Africa
Raven: What’s your favorite childhood book?
Amy: The Giver by Lois Lowry
Raven: What is your favorite movie?
Amy: Dirty Dancing, The Wizard of  Oz, Titanic, Chicago, Hairspray, and Footloose. 
Raven: What books have you read recently?
Amy: The Help, Forbidden, Adam

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