This is my first author interview! I very recently did a book review of “Tarnished are the Stars,” which you can find here. The author of this book has agreed to do an interview with me as well! I hope you enjoy:
Q: When did you first decide you wanted to become a writer?
A: I’ve always liked telling stories. I used to tell my mom bedtime stories when I was little, so it was never a question of wanting to be a storyteller or not, but I do remember the moment I realized that “author” was a job and it was something I could do. I was probably about twelve or thirteen, and I found the blog of–at the time unpublished–Marie Lu. She had all these blog posts and tutorials about how to get a literary agent and her progress on her books and I remember thinking wow, so that’s a thing people actually do. Before that, I always thought authors were sort of mythical like it wasn’t something real people became, but here was this person (pretty yount at the time, herself) who was doing the thing and succeeding! That was the first time I put the pieces together and realized it was something I could really pursue.Tarnished are the Stars is such a unique book, very different from anything I’ve ever read. How did you come up with the idea? If I’m being honest, the answer here is that I don’t really remember. I was in college and I was trying to convince my writing professor to let me write a novel for some writing 400 level credits. I put together a whole proposal with essentially a lesson plan for myself and goalposts for writing the book and it was perhaps the most extra thing I’ve ever done. Part of that was showing her I had an idea for a book that was worth writing and that I had a plan for it and thus… Tarnished was born. It looked a lot different back then (hardly anything was the same, honestly, not even the title) and it was a mishmash of genres and themes I thought might be marketable at the time. I didn’t get to do the independent study course, but I did write the book, and as I wrote it, the themes and elements changed to match up with things I was interested in exploring.
Q: Are your characters based off of anyone? (Anna, Eliza, Nathaniel, anyone else?)
A: They’re not really based on anyone as a whole. There are little things that I gave each character from within myself, but it sounds terrible if I say they’re based on me haha! But it’s true–Anna is angry at systems of government, like me; Eliza is analytical and a little flamboyant, like me; and Nathaniel is on a journey to self acceptance and found family, like me as I was working on the book. I didn’t do any of this on purpose, but I think it’s the symptom of writing a book while you’re going through a big change personally. There are always pieces of ourselves that slip into the stories we tell.
Q: What did you learn while writing Tarnished? How did you grow as an author and a person while writing it?
A: Phew! Well, I learned a lot, especially about myself. When I started writing Tarnished, I thought I was 100% totally straight. I didn’t think there was an alternative other than 100% totally gay. And what a world of different identities are out there!! Writing Tarnished forced me to confront my own identity, but also joining the writing community online opened me up to so many words for identities I didn’t know existed. I found my own labels in much the same way that Nathaniel does in the book, and I’ll always be grateful that I got to go through that experience at the same time as my fictional character.
Q: What inspired you to write this book? Is there anything that you hoped to accomplish by sharing this book with the world?
A: I had a lot of intentions with Tarnished–I wanted to explore questions about identity, friendship, healthcare, corruption, environmentalism etc. I didn’t want to say just one thing, and I wanted to question more than I wanted to say. I always enjoy when books make me think about my preconceptions or assumptions and force me to examine them myself. I wanted people to walk away from Tarnished questioning the role of government and healthcare, questioning the limitations of gatekeeping identities, and hopefully questioning what the future might look like and how we can actually shape that rather than wait for it to arrive.
Q: What was something that helped you get through writing this book–a specific food, a pet, anything that helped?
A: I’ll be honest… I’m not necessarily the healthiest about my work/life balance when it comes to writing. I’m very Capricorn about it all–I make a plan, and then I execute it. I’m not particularly kind to myself about my deadlines, and I tend to overwork myself pretty badly. It’s not a good thing and it’s something I’m working on personally. What got me through writing this book were the people in my life who supported me through it and took care of me when I wasn’t taking care of myself. Writing a book is stressful, and I’m working on catastrophizing it less and finding healthier writing habits, but in the meantime I’m enormously grateful to the people who believed in me and reminded me to do important things like eat meals and sleep.
Q: What is some advice that you wish to share with aspiring authors?
A: Advice is a weird thing–I’ve gotten a lot of it over the years and most of it has been pretty hit or miss. My advice is a little meta but… don’t take all advice. Not everything will work for every author. If advice works for you, great! Take it! But don’t feel like you have to take on every piece of advice you hear. A lot of it will be contradictory or for very specific situations. Basically, advice isn’t one-size-fits-all and it will serve you well to find what works for you and roll with that.
Q: You went through pitchwars with this book. What was that like and is there anything you want to tell people who are preparing to submit their manuscripts for this year’s pitchwars?
A: PitchWars was the most stressful experience of my life. When I talk about times of writing stress or killer deadlines, I’m talking about my time in PitchWars. It was an incredibly valuable experience and I learned a lot, but I also sacrificed my personal health to meet an arbitrary deadline that in the long run didn’t end up mattering. So here’s my advice to anyone submitting to PitchWars: PitchWars is just one way to get into publishing. Most people–even PW alums–get their agents by regular old querying. If you don’t get in, that doesn’t mean you won’t get an agent or a book deal. If you do get in, it doesn’t mean you will. Take PitchWars as a way to grow as a writer and to find a community, but remember that publishing is a long road and PitchWars might just be one step of many. It’s just one opportunity. There will be others. Whether you get accepted or rejected, be kind to yourself!
What did you think of this interview? Did you enjoy it? Do you want to read Tarnished are the Stars? Tell me what you think in the comments!