I am happy to welcome A. Grey to this week's Friday Feature. I stopped over at her blog a while back, and became instantly enamored with her funny blog posts. She is open and honest and boy, does she know how to tell a story! Make sure to click over and check it out (after reading through the interview and leaving her a question in the comments, of course).
Here's a glimpse: A. Grey is 29. She was raised running barefoot in the mountains and hollows (pronounced holler) with her identical twin sister and has been writing since she learned how to hold a pen. Her days are spent throwing hay bales, driving tractors, riding horses and working on an all-girl staffed farm. Her favorite word is indomitable and she prefers to hear women use it in three word sentences that begin with 'I am'.
Welcome, A. Grey. What are you currently working on?
Right now my two main WIPs are a retelling of Beauty and the Beast titled 'Thornbriar', and an urban fantasy titled 'I'll Love You Forever'. Both are YA. Thornbriar was born out of my love for the story of Beauty and the Beast, but also my frustrations with Beauty's perfection and the fact that the Beast (in almost every rendition of the story) is reduced to 'Mr. Perfect' by the end. In 'Thornbriar', Beauty is a haughty, egotistical young Lady sold into marriage with the Beast King by her father for a hefty profit. But there is more to the kingdom of Althea than any outsider could suspect. There is a curse and breaking it might well bring about the downfall of the entire kingdom.
'I'll Love You Forever' was a story that just flew into my head one day. It follows eighteen year old Perla as she struggles against a growing apathy towards the world around her brought on by the drunken, careless acts of a driver which left her father dead and her younger stepbrother in a coma. Although Perla's best friend Niamh tries to help her and warns Perla that her flippant remarks can hurt people or cause even worse trouble, Perla just doesn't care anymore. But when she promises to love a total stranger forever if he can make her brother wake up and recover, Perla finds out how right Niamh was. Trapped in a world parallel to her own, bound to the Goblin King by her brash vow and condemned to try and breech the massive Labyrinth that confines him and his minions Perla has no choice but to care what happens. If she succeeds in rescuing the Goblin King, her little brother will get his life back. But if she fails, they'll both die.
What stage are you at, currently, in your journey toward publication?
At this point I'm shopping a YA titled 'Evernow' to prospective agents. I've had two requests for fulls. One of those ended in a pass, but the agent was very supportive and felt the manuscript is destined to both land me an agent and get published. That was great to hear, even if I was getting a pass. I haven't heard back from the other agent who requested a full yet, which I'm hoping is a good thing. I have several other queries out and I'm trying not to obsessively check my email. I think the only thing that has surprised me about this stage is how stressful it's been. It brings home to me how serious I am about my own success.
What made you start to write seriously?
Oddly enough, for me, writing has always been very serious. Not in the way of becoming a 'successful writer' but because writing is something fundamentally necessary for me to be happy. I wrote on and off as a child but began writing long, complicated stories when I was fourteen. The point at which it became something I knew I couldn't live without was when my father gave me a 'nice' Papermate pen when I was fifteen. It's been nothing but stacks of paper and ink-stained fingers since then.
If you had to pick a favorite blog, what would it be?
One? ONE? Had to like my hand was going to get cut off if I didn't pick JUST ONE? *sigh* I'm going to go with Kristin Cashore's This Is My Secret. This is because I've learned so much, about Kristin, about writing, about the process of publication, about the planet, about EVERYTHING from her blog. It's a font of knowledge, a plethora of lessons about what it is to write and to be a writer. I can say easily that I wouldn't be where I am with my own writing if not for Kristin's graciously giving nature in her blog. Recently she has disabled comments on her blog (a temporary setting) so that she can focus on her current writing project and not be drawn into interacting with her blog readers, but I still recommend This Is My Secret to anyone interested in writing, just as I'd recommend Kristin's books 'Graceling' and 'Fire' to anyone who loves to read!
What is your favorite blog post that you have written?
I think I have to say it was one called Gutter Maintenance. It still makes me laugh now, which is always a good thing.
What online resource have you found most helpful?
Does Blogger count? Because thus far I've met a lot of great people, learned a lot of great, important things (still learning) and been given some awesome opportunities, all through Blogger. Agent Query is a close second.
What has been your biggest trial in writing?
Just in the writing process itself? Technology! Without a doubt! I write longhand and love it. I don't even mind transcribing it to the computer because that's when I do my first big overhaul edit. But formatting, and manipulating the computer files? Not so much... Luckily my sister's hubby, code name Chucky Duck, is willing to constantly rescue me. Well, and commas. I stick them everywhere. I embarrass myself with my commas.
What tricks have you acquired to make you write or create when you don’t feel up to writing?
One trick I've nailed is that when I don't feel up to writing, I don't write. Instead, I edit. I fool myself into it by insisting that I'll just 'read this one section' (I go for something I've finished or something other than my main WIP) and once I start reading I inevitably start tweaking things and before I know it, I've gotten a bunch of 'boring' stuff done. I started doing this when I started looking at my writing as a business of sorts. I don't think you have to create every day if you don't 'feel' it. I actually passed up a full scholarship to an art college because they were so focused on 'produce, produce, produce'. Most of my friends who went to similar colleges burned out because of that commercial drive. But I DO believe that you have to do something every day to further your progress in some way. If you can't do that before you've landed and agent or publishing contract, how will you be able to afterwards?
Tell us about a book that has impacted your writing life.
The most profound would be Dragons of Autumn Twilight, along with the rest of the Dragonlance trilogy all by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. They were the first books whose characters really took me with them on their adventures. They were the books that made me want other people to know MY characters that way. Right on top of the Dragonlance trilogy, and too close not to mention, is Villains by Necessity, by Eve Forward. This was the first book that made me sob for love of one of the characters, and tremble with fear of what might happen to him in the coming pages. I want people to cry for my characters. I want to move the 'here and now' with my writing.
What is your practical goal with your writing? Do you have a reach-for-the-stars goal that you would like to share?
My practical goal is to be successfully published. And by successful I mean successful enough that I can continue to be published for as long as I write. I don't need to be the next Stephen King, or randomly and wildly popular Stephenie Meyers. But it'd be nice to make enough to live quietly on. My reach-for-the-stars goal is to change people with my writing. If I find out some day that the course of a person's life was changed because of the way one of my books made them feel about themselves (obviously in a good way) that would be the ultimate. To think that something I wrote inspired them, or gave them strength or a sense of being. That'd be IT.
So far, what has been the best part of your writing experience?
Meeting people and finding out, after thinking of myself as 'weird' my whole life, and then trying to 'fit in' when I started writing for fear of being dismissed, that weird is good in the writing world, and that people like you just fine that way.
If you could be a character in a book, and live within their world, what character would you be?
Actually, I think I'd choose to be a character from one of my own manuscripts named Pony. She has this gregarious nature, and yet an assertive authority. She's very comfortable being loved by all her friends and family, never met a stranger and is a good judge of people. She can be fiercely protective and openly affectionate, sometimes at the same moment.
And, just because I’m curious, coffee or tea?
Oooh. Both! I love a good cup of joe, straight black and strong. Occasionally I'll go for a white chocolate mocha with hazelnut. But black's my go to. I do, however, adore tea as well. Usually when I eat out I'll have hot tea, and when it comes to writing in stints I drink tea more than coffee because I'm already amped up with the writing, so the tea smooths my energy transfer to the paper rather than making me jittery. But I have been known to sit into the wee hours with the coffee pot beside me...
A. Grey, Thanks for the insightful answers! Everyone, make her feel welcome by leaving a question in the comments--she'll be stopping by to answer them.