Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Book Tour: Emily's House

About the Author:

Natalie Wright spent her formative years growing up on a farm in Ohio. It was a fertile environment for an active imagination and an inquisitive mind. She is, however, a city girl at heart and enjoys traveling and experiencing oceans and cities worldwide. Natalie now finds inspiration in the desert environment of her home in Tucson, Arizona where she lives with her husband, daughter and her dog Molly.

Fourteen-year-old Emily Adams is flunking math - and life. But Emily has a secret, one that she has kept even from her best friends. Soon the ancient legacy coursing through her veins will force her secret to be revealed. Dormant for over a thousand years, an evil has arisen and this time, it will destroy anyone - or anything - that stands in its way.

Three teens embark on a dangerous journey and risk everything. For Emily, the fate of her friends - and her world - lies in her hands.

In a place where anything is possible, will Emily finds the skills - and courage -she needs to save the world from darkness?

Emily's House is a tale that blends Celtic mysticism, spirituality and ancient secrets with science and modern technology. Travel with Emily as she unlocks the secrets of her Celtic ancestors on a mystical journey to the inner house and beyond.

I'd like to welcome a talented author to our hot seat today. Natalie, how about you get comfortable so we can learn more about you. Let's start off with the basics.

Tell us about yourself?
I’m mother to a wonderful daughter who is in 3rd grade. I’ve been married for 23 years now to my high school love (yes, it’s true). We share our home with my 13-year-old dog Molly who is my faithful writing companion.

In my “day job” I’m a lawyer and divorce mediator. I’ve done that for about 17 years now. I work part-time so that allows me to have at least half of my working hours for writing and everything associated with that.

I live in the high desert mountain foothills of Tucson, Arizona. I enjoy mountains and hikes in the desert but I also love the ocean. One of my dreams is to live, at least part of the year, in Hawaii. I enjoy traveling and won a trip to Ireland in 2010 (where I got to do research on Emilys House!) and I plan to do more European travel (France and Switzerland in 2013).

When I’m not writing, I’m usually reading something or watching movies. I devour all media and I’ve become obsessed with my new iPhone ; )

Tell us your latest news?

I have lots of projects going on! My next novel is the first in a 3-book YA Science Fiction series. It should be out in May, 2012. The working title is H.A.L.F. (an acronym for Human Alien Life Form). H.A.L.F. will appeal to X-Files fans – it’s got that government conspiracy, danger, search for the truth thing going on but with teens (the characters are 16-17) instead of adults. In the series I’ll explore whether a teenage alien-human hybrid can be a sexy, potential love partner!

I published my first novel, Emilys House, in November, 2011. The second book in the series, Emilys Trial, should be out in the Fall of 2012.

And my blog continues to evolve. I now have “Manic Mondays,” “Writer-Chat Wednesday” and “Video Book Review Fridays.” So on Mondays I write about whatever random topic occurs and then the rest of the week is about my passion for all things bookish and the people who make the reads I love.

When and why did you begin writing?

When I was a child, I told everyone that I was going to be a writer when I grew up. I wrote stories, poems and journaled daily all through high school. I went to young writer’s conferences and was the editor of our school’s literary journal. But after college I went to law school – my attempt to have a career that would pay the bills. The problem was that I didn’t enjoy the practice of law very much and there was no time or energy left for creativity.

But when my daughter was born in 2002, it sparked something in my. It was like my own renaissance. I began to paint and draw. To write poetry. Then in 2007 I had an idea – a vision – that grew into the seeds of a story. The story wouldn’t let me go so it was like I had to write. I began with a little snippet and then I added more. It took me almost three full years from the fire of the idea to a first draft and another year after that to polish it to publishable quality. That first story is Emilys House and it grew from a tiny seed to what will be a three-book series.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I started to write again in 2007 but I didn’t consider myself a serious writer. Then I went to a SCBWI Writer’s Convention in LA in the summer of 2009. It was at that convention that I truly committed to being a writer. It went from being a hobby that I did when I felt like it to being a vocation. You don’t have to be published to be a writer but you do have to write.

How can we find you?

So now that we know where you're hiding ;), let's take a moment and focus on your novel.

Tell me a little about your book.

Emilys House is a YA Fantasy/Sci-Fi book about a 14-year-old girl, Emily Adams. It’s a hero quest so when it starts out, Emily is not hero material. But she has some special abilities (that she has kept secret) and she gets the “hero’s call” and she’s off. Over the course of the book she and her two friends travel to Ireland, she goes to another dimension, and she travels through time. It has a story within-a-story as the reader learns, along with Emily, about Emily’s ancient Celtic ancestor, Saorla, who was the last High Priestess of the Order of Brighid. The book is a fast-paced adventure but interwoven in it are ideas about pre-Christian Celtic mythology, spirituality and other big-picture questions.

What do you hope readers will take from your writing?

I hope readers will have a fun ride of a read. I spend a lot of time on character creation so I hope that readers enjoy the characters – both the “good guys” and the “bad guys.” I work hard to get inside the head of the characters and I especially enjoy finding out what makes the antagonist character(s) tick. I also try to keep the action going so that readers get a page-turning story with great character development.

While my books are action packed, I interweave layers for readers who like to “peel the onion.” It’s subtle, but there. For readers who like to read books that provoke thought or spark ideas, I hope that those readers will find enjoyment in my writing as well.

How much is your protagonist like you? How different?

In most respects, Emily and I are nothing alike. Her mother died when she was seven; mine is still very much alive. She grew up in a house with an abusive aunt; my household was not abusive. Emily has special powers – I wish I had her abilities!

But Emily and I are quite a bit alike in our inner workings – our motivations in life. In Emilys House, one of Emily’s core motivations is her desire to fit in – to be accepted. And I can relate to that idea and recall vividly in my earlier years feeling like I didn’t belong and wanting so badly to fit in with the “in” crowd. I wasn’t bullied or put down or abused or anything – it was internal for me. I think, talking to lots of people over the years, that this is a common feeling for people, especially in the teen years. Most of us want to just belong – to feel like there’s a place for us.

Emily’s special powers are amazing but when the story starts anyway, she’d gladly give up her special abilities in exchange for the feelings of belonging and acceptance.

What kind of research did you do for this type of story?

I did SO MUCH research for Emilys House! First, I knew nothing about pre-Christian Celtic Ireland or Celtic lore/mythology. I read many books about Ireland, about the Celts and Celtic beliefs/spirituality.

But the story also includes some science, particularly particle physics. I love learning about science but I’m NOT a scientist. I read a book by Don Lincoln about the Large Hadron Collider at CERN and I contacted him and he wrote back. We talked and he put me into contact with a physicist at the University of Arizona (in my hometown). I had a meeting with that physicist too. I read at least four books on physics and I’d like to say I understand it but I still don’t totally get it! But many of those ideas and things I learned became part of the “soup” and made it into Emilys House.

But the absolute BEST PART of the research was going to Ireland. I won the trip (you can read about that here, http://bit.ly/yhSu5y). Isn’t that cool?! I had wanted to go to Ireland for over a year to do research but I couldn’t afford the trip. I won the trip and got to go in September, 2010 and was able to visit all of the places mentioned in Emilys House. When I got back from Ireland I re-wrote a large portion of the book and added some things directly inspired by my trip (like the traipsing across the Irish countryside on foot and encountering sheep poop in copious quantities!).

I really enjoy doing research for my books. I’m interested in just about everything and read constantly, fiction and non-fiction. So you just never know what will inspire a story or what you can use somewhere.

What about your book makes it special?

One comment I’ve gotten pretty consistently from readers and reviewers is that Emilys House isn’t like anything else they’ve read. I’m not 100% sure what they mean by that (hopefully it’s a good thing ;-) But I think what makes it a bit different is that while it follows the arc of a classic hero quest (unlikely hero gets the call to action, leaves their prior life behind, goes on a journey and meets a “master,” gets a magical object and saves the day), Emily’s quest melds unlikely things together. Ancient Celtic myth with science fiction. Old and new. Spirituality and rationalism. And while it’s a fantasy, Emily is very much a modern teen in our world.

Incidentally, I wrote Emilys House with the “door closed” (as Stephen King says), meaning I had no input from other writers or critique group partners or editors or teachers. I wrote straight from my heart what came to me. It’s pure Natalie.

I of course got lots of input and had editors work with me on Emilys House after I had the first draft done. But the story structure, the characters, the themes – those are all me.

Since writing the first draft of Emilys House, I’ve learned so much about craft, read and studied more novels, gotten input into my writing from other writers and editors, etc. My writing is growing and changing. I’m not sure I’ll write another book quite like Emilys House again.

Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?

My favorite author right now is Suzanne Collins, author of the amazing Hunger Games. My writing changed after reading that series and it’s the first series I really fell in love with, even more than Harry Potter. Suzanne’s writing represents what I strive for in my own writing.

On the one hand, the Hunger Games is a fun, page-turning read – commercial fiction at its best. Suzanne created a truly unique future world that is frightening but also feels plausible. She created a totally awesome, kick-ass female protagonist in Katniss. And she has the love triangle thing going – always fun.

But the Hunger Games is also thought-provoking. There’s more to it than just the cool costumes they wear for the arena and the danger. Suzanne Collins writes in such a way that her thought-provoking ideas are woven so seamlessly into her writing that you never get a peak of the “wizard behind the curtain.” Suzanne Collins as the author doesn’t poke her head in. It’s all characters and setting and story.

Suzanne Collins’ writing is delicious and she is my current writing hero.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

If you have not yet gotten to the end of the first novel, I say “just do it.” I lingered over finishing the first draft of my first novel and finally went on my own self-imposed retreat to a hotel in another town and holed up and got to the end. It is so important to just get to the end, even if it sucks and you later cut much of it or have to re-work it. You can’t re-write a blank page.

Fear can paralyze us. The only way to conquer the fear of failure is to just do it.

I’ve now got three manuscripts under my belt (two in revision stage). It gets easier after the first one.

The other thing I’d say is if you have been sending queries for years now and still haven’t gotten a publishing contract (I know thousands of writers in this camp and it’s growing daily as publishers choose fewer and fewer titles to publish), then consider self-publishing. There is no reason that perfectly good stories that are polished and ready to go should sit in a computer file. You cannot build a readership without a book! In the two to five years that it would have taken me to get Emilys House from manuscript, to contract, to print, I’ll have put out no less than three novels (probably quite a bit more than that) and built a relationship with readers who are attracted to my work. I don’t see any reason for writers to spin their wheels anymore querying themselves silly for years when they can self-publish and get their work out to the reader. And by self-publish, I don’t mean just get to the end of the first draft and upload it onto Smashwords. I believe that self-published books should be given the same care as a traditionally published book (editors, line edits, cover designer, beta readers, etc.). Writers can produce wonderful books that readers love without publishing houses. If writing is your passion, you owe it to the world to send your best words out into it.


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1 comment:

  1. What a great interview. Lovely lady and all the best to her success.
    I had to laugh when I read she got back into the creative process after the birth of her daughter. She felt 'inspired' That's how it was for me, also.
    Again, all the best and I will look out for the book here in the UK.