"A life lived in fear is a life half-lived." ~Spanish Proverb
Monday, January 23, 2012
A Weekly Adventure Interview with author A.G. Howard
Introducing: A.G. Howard
A.G. Howard writes YA and adult literary fantasies with a romantic slant, and is represented by Jenny Bent of The Bent Agency. She is also a ridiculously cool lady that always makes me smile, and one of my favorite interviews that I've done so far. [She is also part of a group of writers I talk to regularly on Twitter along with the earlier interviewed Kerri Maniscalco.]
Kind enough to let me interview her about her upcoming release "SPLINTERED" - I give you A.G. Howard.
Weekly Adventure: What is your genre of choice, and why?
A.G. Howard: Well, I used to fancy myself an adult romance writer, until I realized I wasn’t writing romance at all. My stuff had too much world building, and never followed the expected romance formula, even when I tried. It just wasn’t in my voice. Sadly, this self-realization severed my contract with my first agent. If you’d like details how that all played out, here’s a guest post I did on a friend’s blog about leaving my first agent. The book that won my second agent is a YA, and I plan to write that genre for a while. But I’d like to still get my adult fantasies out there, to have both an adult and YA audience that can cross over. It’s a win-win, expanding my readership, and feeding my eclectic muse. I’ve always been drawn to fantasy/paranormal, but that is my one and only constant. Other than that, I like to spread my wings, and having books in both the YA and adult markets will allow me that freedom. And this time around, I have an incredible agent who is rather eclectic herself, so the odds are in my favor. ;)
WA: How many books have you published? (self or otherwise)
AGH: SPLINTERED will be my first! :) And I’m very excited.
WA: Tell me about SPLINTERED, and what inspired you to write it.
AGH: I love this question, because each author's process is different. I'm a visual writer, so I'll see something intriguing that spurs a story idea--whether it be a live scene, a picture, a movie, or even an unusual arrangement of words. It was a given that I would one day see something which would ignite the spark for an Alice in Wonderland adaptation, considering I'm a huge fan of Lewis Carroll's genius. The idea came to me when I went to see the Tim Burton & Disney Alice movie. The cinematography was so vivid and evocative that I didn't want to leave the setting when it was over. So I started playing out Wonderland continuations and scenarios in my mind. I decided to write a follow-up story about the world, making things a little darker and a little funkier, but I needed it to be contemporary and different than it had ever been done. Then I saw the book Alice I Have Been and everything clicked into place. I could have my contemporary heroine be a descendant of Alice Liddell, the girl who actually inspired Carroll to write his story to begin with! Once that fell into my lap, I started the process of writing.
WA: When will I be able to I buy copies of your work?
AGH: It’s all kind of confusing, because in the beginning, I was scheduled to come out in Spring 2012. The seasons are strange in publishing. Winter doesn’t even start until April. Anyway, my editor emailed shortly after they bought the bookand said that after circulating the manuscript at a sale’s meeting and getting some great feedback from book buyers, the suggestion was proposed to make it a January 2013 release. January, though late in the season, is actually a Fall 2012 month. So, for clarity, SPLINTERED's official release date is January 2013 (a full six months earlier than originally planned, which has made for some tough edit deadlines), but the book will now be available for preorder and in the Fall 2012 catalogues.
WA: What are you reading right now?
AGH: SCRIPPED by my dear friend K.V. Taylor. Here’s the GoodRead’s linkage:http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/12401393-scripped. It’s a dark and violent Appalachian faerie story. Like me, KV loves all things fae. And as a bonus, she actually grew up in the mountains, so she ROX the setting. And boy, can she ever write a tortured soul!
WA: What keeps you going on those days when writing gets hard? (like a favorite quote or a personal motto)
WA: What advice to you have for other writers out there?
AGH: Be persistent and flexible. The most important thing you can do is believe in your work and stay true to your voice and vision. The very elements in my writing that caused me to part ways with my first agent caught the eyes of the three new agents who each offered me representation. I knew all along I didn't want to compromise that part of who I was, so I didn't bend on it. Boy, am I glad I listened to my gut, even if it was hard and scary at the time. Oh, and of course, never give up, never surrender. :)
WA: What cautions do you have?
AGH: This applies to critiquer, agent, and editor feedback: Know the difference between pride and vision. In other words, if people are telling you to change something in your book that you love, stand back and ask yourself why you love it. Is it personal to you? Something that other people, including your readers one day, are likely not to connect with? Or is it something integral to the characters in your story. Something that’s a part of them? That’s the difference between pride and vision. Pride applies to the glory it brings you. Vision applies to the glory it brings your characters. Never make changes that will compromise your character’s voice which ultimately IS your book’s vision. But be humble enough to let go of pride if it will make your character’s voice stronger and your book a more solid read.
WA: Do you work on more than one project at a time?
AGH: If I do, they’re in two different stages of completion. I can edit and work on a new book at the same time. But I honestly don’t think I could work on two different WIPs at the same time. Then again, one thing I’ve learned in this biz, never say never. We’ll see what the future holds. I’m always up for a challenge.
WA: Do you have a process? Where do you get your ideas from? What inspires you?
AGH: Some writers are inspired by newspaper articles, current events, etc..., and then craft detailed plots before they even research or write. As for me, I'm mainly an organic writer. My muse is inspired through visual stimuli—like I said before. I'll see something intriguing that will spur a story idea. Next, I have to motivate and get to know my main characters (I even find head shots of them for visualization). After that, I research, which always births a very sparse skeleton plot. I often end up veering off of my original plot. That's what's nice about having it be vague. You're free to let your characters feel their way through the story.
WA: If you could do it all over, is there anything you would change about finding an agent and finally publishing?
AGH: Only some of the mistakes I made in the earliest stages, which can be found here. All said and done, my experience so far, even having a first agent that didn’t quite fit me, was kismet. I learned so much from her. Mainly about how to have a professional and friendly rapport; how to be flexible during rewrites; and last but not least, what I will not bend on. I found my true voice through her, and will be eternally grateful. I had to go through that, to become the writer I am today. Every writer’s journey is unique and necessary.
WA: What has been your toughest criticism? What has been your greatest compliment?
AGH: Interesting question, because they’re one and the same. My lush, descriptive writing. It’s both my greatest strength, and my Achilles heel. As you know, it’s all subjective in this business. It’s all in who you ask.
WA: Who is your greatest influence(s)
AGH: Oh, my gosh. Too many to mention. The Bible very early on … I think I have Psalms to blame for my descriptive and poetic writing style. HEH; Charlotte Bronte, Ann Rice, Neil Gaiman and Alice Hoffman are my four favorite writers.
WA: Who are your favorite people to follow on Twitter?
AGH: I suck at choosing favorites. I love all my tweeps.
WA: Do you have any other passions besides writing?
AGH: Family, friends, rollerblading, mountain-biking, snow skiing, gardening, and family vacations that at any given time might include an impromptu side trip to an 18th century graveyard or a condemned schoolhouse for photo ops.
WA: When did you know you wanted to write?
AGH: The writing bug didn't bite me as a child, as it does a lot of authors. Sure, I dabbled in goofy "stories". I wrote them with map colors and kept them stashed under my bed. But I never took the ability too seriously. Not until years later, after I'd married, had two children, and lost my grandfather to brain cancer. The night he died, I sat down and wrote a two page tribute to him and his life that was later used for his eulogy. In all honesty, I hold him up as my inspiration, as the end of his journey was to be the beginning of mine.
WA: Do you have a day job?
AGH: I used to work in a middle school library, but now I’m a full time writer. And I LOVE it.
WA: Final question, why do you write?
AGH: Because breathing life into my characters makes every breath of my own that much sweeter.
More about A.G. Howard:
She and her agent recently sold SPLINTERED, an eerie and whimsical YA Alice in Wonderland spin-off, to Amulet. SPLINTERED is scheduled to hit shelves January 2013, but will be available for pre-order in the fall 2012 season.