Thursday, May 13, 2010

Interview with Joelle Anthony

Today's interview is with Joelle Anthony, debut author of Restoring Harmony.

The year is 2041, and for sixteen year old Molly McClure, her life now is pretty much the same as it’s always been. She was only six when The Collapse of ’31 happened, ending life as the world’s population had known it. Sporadic electricity, bicycles, horses, solar powered tractors, sewing, cooking and farm work are all Molly’s ever really known, so she doesn’t waste a lot of energy worrying about what things used to be like. Life after The Collapse is just normal for her. At least until she finds herself forced to leave the comfort of her home and small island in British Columbia to travel down to Oregon.

Will a farm girl like Molly survive in this upturned world? Will she be able to return with her grandpa in time for him to help her ailing mother? And just how much will she have to compromise to succeed in getting back to British Columbia with her grandparents?

I'm really loving the sound of this book. Sounds like an interesting twist on the post-apocalypse theme, right? Plus Joelle is plain awesome. When I asked her for an interview, she sent me some sweet swag. I couldn't resist a photo shoot (see image on left.) Is her cover gorgeous, or what?

Anyway, enough of what I think. Let's here what Joelle has to say...

Hey Joëlle. So excited to have you here! Tell us a little about yourself as a writer. Do you outline, or wing it? Do you write daily, or in snatches?

Thanks for having me. I’m not that big on outlining, but my agent thinks it’s an excellent idea and he’s subtly tried to get me to start. Actually he was only subtle until I said “I can’t do that” in a whiny voice. Then he made me do it and gave me feedback which turned out to be great! If you know you have a smart agent, then just listen to him. Seriously. It can save you a lot of time.

When I’m working on a project, I generally write Monday through Friday, for about four to six hours each day. And then I think about it the rest of my waking hours! It’s not unusual for me to take a month off at a time though in between projects. I like to do lots of other things like read and cook too.

Subtle, I love that! Okay. So when – and why - did you begin writing?

I suppose I wrote as a child because I liked books so much. Honestly, in my family, there are two things you could grow up to be that would give you the highest status possible in everyone’s eyes. A writer or a professional baseball player. I love baseball, but I’m more of a spectator. Go Cubs!

As an adult I started writing because my degree was in theatre and I couldn’t figure out how to be an actress without leaving the house (yep…I’m a homebody), and so writing seemed like the natural choice. My mother writes too, so I could get all the tips I needed from her, plus lots of free office supplies.

What was it liked getting published? What was your publishing journey?

Well, I’m answering this before my book is out, but I can tell you a bit about the journey. It was fun, exciting, and often scary. For some reason, it seems like there’s all this info about how to get an agent and/or sell your book, but once you’ve crossed that line, there’s nothing. It’s like you’re expected to suddenly know what comes next and how to do it. I was very lucky in that I have a wonderful agent and that I have made some great friends online like Coe Booth and Sara Zarr. They both answered my desperate emails that said things like, “I just got the final round of edits! What do I do? How perfect does it have to be? Are there chances to make more changes?”

These are all things writers should feel comfortable asking their editor or their agent, and I totally was, but it was nice to get the insight from other writers too. I have a couple of friends that are still looking for that book deal, but I’m excited because when they get it, I’ll be able to pass on what I’ve learned so far.

What inspired you to write Restoring Harmony?

My husband and I were here on our honeymoon in the Gulf Islands in British Columbia (we still lived in the U.S. then, but we live in BC now) and while we were waiting around for our lunch, my husband saw an excerpt from James Kuntsler’s book THE LONG EMERGENCY tacked to a bulletin board. To keep this as brief as I can, Kuntsler (and many, many others) are predicting that the end of oil will come in our lifetime and it will be followed by a long transition period – a time of upheaval and unrest.

I wasn’t that interested in writing about the actual end of oil, but the transition idea sparked Restoring Harmony. I usually come up with a “what if?” question and then wait for a character to reveal themselves and tell me his or her story. For this, I thought, “What if a girl lived during this transition period and she had to make a trip?” It pretty much came from that, although there were many, many more drafts of Restoring Harmony than I ever hope to have to write for one book again. I was still learning how to craft a novel, so that’s the biggest reason it took so many drafts.

Tell me one thing I wouldn’t know about Restoring Harmony by reading the blurb.

In a way, I guess you won’t even know this after you read the book, but there is a fiddle tune in the book called Brianna’s Reel and all the rest of the music in the book are real songs and tunes, but Brianna’s Reel is fiction. Or it was…However, the wonderful fiddler, Sarah Tradewell (, who happens to look exactly like my main character, Molly, wrote me a tune and called it Brianna’s Reel just to go with the book! You can hear it on my website.

Name a character you like particularly, and why.

I love Randall. He’s one of the men in The Organization (the crime group that keeps things running). I find him interesting because he doesn’t want to just be a thug so he goes out of his way to act almost like a stereotypical mobster, which I find kind of funny. This idea amuses me – him trying to look like an old-time gangster because he thinks they were classy and not just brutes.

Here on Headdesk, I have a minor obsession with the rules of writing. Is there any particular rule you write by?

My obsessive rule is not so much with writing as with email. I can’t stand it when people don’t capitalize or use punctuation. Especially other writers. Email is such a great opportunity to practice writing well! I’m also not fond of text message substitutions like “u” for you. Although LOL doesn’t bother me. And my favourite shorthand is which stands for “grin” or for “big grin.” I use them all the time, but I sometimes wonder if anyone knows why!

If knew you a teenager who aspired to be a novelist, what would you say to them?

I have recently had lunch with a teenager who aspires to be a novelist. The most important thing I can tell any writer is to read. Read. Read. Read. And then read some more. One thing that new writers sometimes tend to think is that if they read, they will inadvertently write something similar or borrow too much from what they’re reading.

I think there are probably a lot of successful writers who will tell you that looking back at their first tries at writing books they find they are often quite similar to something they love to read. This idea scares people away from reading – like they’re afraid to copy on accident, but I think it’s all part of the process. When you’re done, let it sit. Edit it. Polish it. Send it out if that’s what you want to do, but don’t tinker with it forever. Start something new right away because whether you’re a teen or an eighty year old, you’re probably not going to sell your first novel anyway. I have seven old novels in the drawer.

What’s next for Joelle Anthony?

I have sold a second book to Putnam, called THE RIGHT AND THE REAL. THE RIGHT AND THE REAL follows a seventeen-year-old whose father throws her out of the house when she refuses to join the cult he’s gotten involved with, forcing her to survive on her own; but when Dad finds himself in danger, she comes to the rescue armed with her newly acquired street smarts. Hopefully, by the time this posts the book will be done and I’ll be well on to something else!

How have you grown as a writer, and how do you hope to see yourself grow in the future?

I believe that before the process of getting my agent and landing the deal with Putnam, I often sold myself short as a writer. I knew I had a certain amount of talent and voice was my strong point, but I tried to write safely. For example, my characters all did things I already knew a lot about (theatre, baseball, martial arts). I didn’t want to do any research and maybe mess up.

With Restoring Harmony, there are a zillion things in it that I didn’t know anything about when I started: the possible end of oil, gardening, sewing, fiddle playing… The thing is, it wasn’t until I tried to write a hard story that I rallied and found out I was a better writer than I’d hoped. And also, while we all try to write accurate books, nobody’s perfect. Isn’t better to write something worth reading that maybe has a tiny error in it than to play it safe? Plus, I found out there are all kinds of people along the way, editors, copyeditors, proofreaders, my critique group, who have my back so I don’t have to worry about being perfect all the time. My goal now is to always challenge myself and forget about playing it safe. Although, I do believe simplicity is good!

Love this answer! Thanks, Joelle, for coming and sharing. Best of luck!

Joëlle currently lives on a tiny island in British Columbia with her musician husband, Victor Anthony. As for the future, their only plan is to avoid real jobs, write and play guitar in front of the wood stove, and live happily ever after. She's the author of Restoring Harmony, published Summer 2010 from Putnam. To learn more about Joëlle, you can visit her website and blog.


Arnold said...

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


Kim said...

I'm so glad RESTORING HARMONY is finally out! What a cool day for Joelle--and a cool day for YA readers, too! Great interview.

Creative A said...

Hey Alena. Thanks for the comment! It's always awesome to know people are out there reading. Glad you enjoy it :)

Thanks Kim! I'm excited for Joelle too; her book looks like a blast, and I'm hoping to get my hands on a copy.

Alexa said...

Lovely interview, great questions and answers! Congratulations Joelle!

Dork Vader said...

Oooo! That sounds like something I would love! I'll be sure to pick up a copy from somewhere the next chance I get.

Also! Sorry I've not been commenting! May was a very crazy month for me, so I'm just getting caught up in blog-reading :D

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