Before sharing today's post with you, I'd just like to share some exciting news and celebrate a big moment: we have officially hit one hundred followers! The big 100! This is huge for me, and I'm just blown away. I'd do a great big celebratory 100-related giveaway, but with everything I already have lined up for our party, that's just not possible. Still, I want to say: Thank you all so much! You, my lovely readers, are the reason I've stuck to blogging even when my schedule gets crazy or I wonder why I'd ever start writing. Now, on with the show!
Today I've invited a favorite blogger and fellow homeschooler, Rachel Coker, to talk about her life as an actual published teenager. She's the author of Interrupted and Chasing Jupiter, both historical young adult novels, and blogs at rachelcoker.com.
How long were you writing before Interrupted?
Believe it or not, I actually hadn’t done that much writing before Interrupted. That was the first full-length novel I ever wrote, and I wrote it when I was thirteen/fourteen years old. I started writing when I was twelve, I think. I know I was in sixth grade. But all I’d ever written before Interrupted were short stories and one short novella.
That's a rather unusual story! Most writers spend years practicing... but then, there are those writers like you for whom God has other plans. ;)
Why did you start writing? Have you always wanted to be a writer?
The first ever fiction story I wrote was for a school assignment! I’m homeschooled, and we’d never really done any fiction writing, so when I was in sixth grade my mom made me write a short fiction story. It came to me so naturally—we were both really surprised! After that, she hired a writing tutor to help me develop my gift for fiction, and I wrote a lot of short stories. I loved writing, and always thought it would be amazing to be an author one day, but I never actually thought I would be a published author at sixteen. I’m continually surprised at that fact.
Who or what has had the most influence on you as a writer?
My own life. As a teenage girl, it’s so easy to think of things to write about. I’m constantly growing and learning new things, and always riding that rollercoaster of emotions that comes along with being a teenager. It’s easy to know how my characters would think or react to things. And it’s given me a real passion to write for other young people
As a teen writer myself, I can definitely relate to that. However, I've never been very good at research (it's fun but I always miss/forget something!) so it's a good thing I have a very unique teen life to draw from. Which reminds me...
How much research do you put into your books? How do you do your research, especially since your books are set in the past?
Do you base events or people in your books off of your life, or your friends' and family's lives? I used to do this constantly, but have recently gone in very opposite directions with my stories.
It depends. Usually if I’m going to base a book of something real, it will come from my own life. I wrote Interrupted shortly after I had an uncle pass away from a brain tumor, the same disease Allie’s mother dies of. And the plot of Chasing Jupiter was based off of a conversation I had with an autistic boy at my church. But the book I’m writing right now (shhhh---not telling you anything!) is actually based off my grandfather’s life. So it’s definitely different and exciting to be doing that.
What do you do when you're not writing?
Ha! I feel like I’m constantly doing other things and only occasionally have time to write! Let’s see… Trying to pass my senior year of high school. Teaching piano. Running my own photography business. Attending Bible studies. Going to the movies with friends. Waking up at 7 AM to make oatmeal. Normal stuff. ;)
What's your favorite book or author?
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson and Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. Those are the two best books and most talented authors I have ever read.
I've read Bridge to Terabithia - it's a very good quality, literary book, but not my personal favorite. As for Gone With the Wind... well, I hate it when others judge a book by its movie, so I shouldn't either. But I will say I loved the movie!
What was the biggest obstacle to getting published - was it your age or something else? - and how did you overcome it?
I don’t think it was my age. My publishers were actually very excited about my age and situation, so that was a real blessing for me. I think it was more getting over my own reservations about being published. I hated thinking about everyone in my community talking about me and reading my book and making judgments. I’m a very private person when it comes to talking about my writing career around friends, and I didn’t want to feel awkward about it around them. I was afraid that people—friends, peers, guys—would treat me differently if they thought I was some kind of snooty author. For the most part, that’s not been true. But it was still difficult to overcome my fears in those areas.
I'm not even published or anything, and there are people who have treated me differently when they find out I'm a writer. Honestly, it doesn't make any sense to me! But then there are others who still see you for who you are, not what you do, and that makes them all the more special in your life.
What is your writing process? Do you write regularly at certain times or just when inspiration hits?
I write so sporadically, it’s not even funny. I’ll go weeks without writing anything, then sit down and write ten thousand words in one day. My books have to be fifty thousand words, so that’s a pretty big chunk!
Hey, that's NaNo length! :)
What keeps you motivated?
Remembering that there are people looking up to me for advice and inspiration. It keeps things in perspective. Even on those days that I’m feeling pretty crummy and uninspired, all I have to do is read a few of the emails and letters I’ve gotten from readers and it makes me want to go whip out another book for them. Everyone’s been so supportive of me—I feel so blessed! Also, remembering that I’m writing for God’s glory, not mine. It humbles me to think of all the ways He’s used Interrupted to minister in people’s lives, and I wish that for all my future books.
Are there any books you wish you'd written?
I mentioned Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson. I really wish I’d written that book. It has such a powerful message to kids about being true to yourself and the best friend possible. Plus, I love books that teach children how to deal with grief and tragedy in a healthy way. So many kids go through the most terrible things—death, cancer, abuse—without knowing that there are other people out there who they can talk to. Books like Bridge to Terabithia teach children that it’s okay to be sad sometimes, but that you can grow stronger because of your pain. I just love that.
I've read it, but I know some of my lovely readers haven't, so tell us in your words: what is Interrupted about?
Interrupted is a historical fiction novel set in the 1940’s. It’s about a girl named Allie Everly whose mother passes away from a brain tumor. Allie’s sent across the country to live with an adopted mom, but she absolutely hates it. She really holds on to her grief and sadness and lashes out at everyone around her. But in time, and with the help of a childhood sweetheart, she learns to open her heart to love, faith, and family—even if it’s not the family she’s originally planned on.
What inspired your book?
I mentioned earlier that I started writing Interrupted after my uncle passed away from a brain tumor when I was thirteen. I’m very close to his two daughters, my cousins, and it was the most painful thing ever to see them suffering. I didn’t understand why God would let him die, and my faith was very shaken during that time. So I started writing about this character that acted a lot like me, and thought along some of the same lines. But as the story progressed, God really used it to minister to my own heart and heal me from my own bitterness. So it’s a very special book for me, in a lot of ways.
Do you have any advice for other aspiring authors?
Write about what makes you happy! If a story and its characters are close to your heart, then it will just feel right. The writing will flow naturally. You won’t feel pressured to make this better or to change that. I almost envy those of you who don’t have the stress of book contracts weighing you down. Because you don’t have to worry about what anyone else thinks. You can just be true to yourself and write about whatever you want. Always hold on to that freeness, and don’t let anyone take it away from you. Write for God’s glory and your own enjoyment, and embrace every minute of it!
Thanks for stopping by, Rachel! My lovely readers, stay tuned for more author interviews during the party, as well as my review - and a giveaway! - of Interrupted in early January.