Today I bring you another Chat With Me Thursday, this time with author of Emerge: The Awakening, Melissa A. Craven! I wrote a review of her book earlier this month and if you read it, you can tell that I thought it was absolutely wonderful and I was very happy when she agreed to do this interview with me!
1. Can you tell me a bit about yourself?
I grew up near Atlanta, Georgia, but I've always moved around a lot and I mean, a lot! At this point, I'm a Nomad so I wouldn't expect me to stay put anywhere indefinitely. I tend to do things the hard way because I'm stubborn and I don't like doing things just because that's the way everyone else does it. I think it's very important to make decisions that make sense for me so I really tend to deviate from that traditional life checklist (college, job, marriage, house, kids ...)
2. When did you decide that you wanted to be a writer?
Um ... probably when I was about ten chapters into Emerge. It was something I started on a whim that I never thought I'd actually finish. The night I started writing Emerge, I'd had a conversation with a co-worker about the serious lack of good reading material at the time. He just looked at me and said, "you're smart, why don't you write something yourself and stop complaining about it?" The first words out of my mouth were, "I can't do that!" And I absolutely hate those words. After he left, I had a conversation with myself and decided I could do it if I really wanted to. That's how it started and I quickly fell in love with writing.
3. How did you find the publishing process? Was it easier or more difficult than you originally thought?
I was very naive about the whole thing in the beginning. The publishing world can be extremely confusing, but once I figured out the right course for my book, I felt much more confidant. I set out to pursue the "traditional" publishing route, but I only submitted a few query letters to agents before I decided the whole process involved way too much red tape for me. I'm a huge supporter of indie authors, but it can be a very lonely and intimidating process. You just have to take one thing at a time and educate yourself on the right way of doing it. In my humble opinion there is a huge difference between self-publishing and being a true indie author.
4. Who was the most difficult character to write in Emerge?
Allie. There were several things I wanted to accomplish with her character, but mostly I wanted her to be real. I wanted her to struggle with insecurities the way we all do, but at the same time, I wanted her to grow into her confidence. I wanted her to be a great example of a strong independent young woman, but I also wanted her have moments where she was vulnerable and uncertain because no one is strong 100% of the time. Shaping her character is sometimes a difficult balancing act. And Aidan is a similar challenge.
5. Who was the most fun?
Without a doubt, Darius is the most fun because I really never know what he's going to do or what's going to come out of his mouth next. He's that character that just came out of nowhere and did his own thing. He was never supposed to be anything more than one of Aidan's many brothers, but no one ever told him that. He likes to do his own thing so I'm certain we'll see more of him throughout the series.
6.If you could go back and change anything about your book, would you?
Not a thing. I absolutely love the way it came together. Emerge starts at a slow boil and continues to simmer through the world building and backstories before it explodes. I set out to write a much more complex story than we usually see in YA and I know that will not appeal to every reader. My readers are super excited about this series and I want them to know that everything we learned in book one is vital to the series in some way or another. Especially the history of the Immortals--that story definitely isn't over yet. But I do get a lot of requests for a family tree to help keep track of all the characters and their family connections, which you can expect to see on my website, hopefully sometime this fall.
7. Do the reviews you get affect you?
Most of my reviews are extremely positive and hugely motivating so I try to stay focused on that, but sometimes a comment here or there really stings. I'd be lying if I said it didn't. But I also think having a variety of ratings is very important for the success of any book. That more than anything gives potential readers a realistic view of what to expect when they buy a book. When I'm checking out a new author, I always look at the bad reviews first. I know the book is good when even the bad reviews have something positive to say.
8. How did you come up with the plot for Emerge?
Well, it just kind of developed and morphed into what it is. I made the decision to write a book before I actually thought about what kind of story it would be. I knew I wanted to do something different and I decided early on that my characters would be young Immortals with cool powers and that their parents would have interesting histories. I also knew that beneath all the supernatural elements, I wanted to represent gender equality. So often in YA, strong female characters overshadow their male counterparts. And vice versa. I wanted to create a dynamic of mutual respect and strength among all my characters. Over the years, Emerge has gone through many different phases and it's light years away from my original draft, but those core elements have always remained the same.
9. How long did Emerge take you to write?
Way too long! If you want to know the best way to NOT write a book, I'm your girl. From the first attempt to the final draft, it took about five years. Some of that time was me walking away from it for several months at a time, but I always came back to it because I could not get the story out of my mind and I knew I had to finish it. When I finally had a very long, very rough draft, and I was dedicated to finishing it, it took about two years.
10. Are any of your characters based in any way on people you know?
A few of my characters have been inspired by people I know, but as that character develops and the story progresses, they definitely take on a life of their own.
11. Overall, how are you enjoying the experience of being a writer?
I love it. I feel like I have the best job in the world and there are days where I have to pinch myself because I'm not sure I should be having such a good time at work. I'm blessed to be able to do the thing I love most in the world.
12. Who are some of your favourite authors?
I'm going to reveal my inner dork and admit that my love for epic fantasy began long before Game of Thrones made it cool. The Demon cycle by Peter V. Brett is one of my favorites. But I'm a YA girl at heart. One of my goals this year is to add all the best examples of strong female MCs to my recommended reading list on my website (which is currently under construction.) Kayla Howarth's, The Institute series will probably be the first on that list. I'm not a fan of Dystopian, but she does an incredible job with her MC, Allira. She and Allie would definitely be friends.
13. Any advice for aspiring authors?
1.) Ask for help. Looking back over my own experience, I should have sought the advice of other writers and readers long before I finally did. Writing a book is like building a house. It takes a team of skilled individuals to create a set of construction documents and see it though from the foundation to placing the very last window. No one person can do it all. It's the same with a book. It takes more than just one author with a good idea to tell a great story, and editing is the most vital part of that process. Educate yourself on what the editing process actually entails because it's so much more than fixing typos and using correct grammar. It continually astounds me how many authors don't realize that.
2.) Don't listen to all the noise. This is a weird time in the world of publishing and everyone has an opinion about how and when authors should promote their books. Some of it is great advice, but take it all with a grain of salt. Keep your head down and write a good book because nothing else matters if your product isn't the best it can be. Write a good book and all that other stuff will fall into place.