How About This Presents Athena Rose
Interviewing a New Brunswick based author
We occasionally publish interviews with authors and other creative folks in How About This newsletters. Today we’re publishing an interview with New Brunswick (Canada) writer Athena Rose, author of the novel Heir of the Moon. We sent her a set of ten questions and we’re pleased to publish her responses. Enjoy!
What do you want to be when you grow up? and has that changed?
First and foremost, I want to be a mom when I grow up, but the runner-up on my list of dreams is to write lots of books. (It has always been this way.) I want to be able to give my kids decent literature that will do for them what books have done for me. I want my stories to make young minds think and learn. And not just fluffy "whipping cream" subjects that are light and sweet. My goal is to make heavy subjects easy to digest, both for children and for adults. I hope that by using relatable characters and scenarios (even if they are fantasy) my writing will be both enlightening and entertaining.
What's the story of your first published work?
It all starts with a word, or sometimes a phrase. My phrase was (drumroll please)... "Once upon a time". Funny, I know. Very traditional. But growing up, I had always heard the phrase, and I thought that it was drab and overused. I always wanted to get to the story, but then one day I realized that, in that oh-so-common-phrase, "time" wasn't just something to be read on the face of a clock. "Time" could be a year, the reign of a king, or the entire Third Age in which Frodo lived. So I found a notebook, and wrote, "Once upon a time..."
That was only the beginning. I'm afraid that was the easiest part, and I didn't even know it, so I didn't savour it. I wrote the story, mixing in my knowledge of fantasy and of reality, parts being a product of my imagination, and other parts being my own life story. When I wrote the last word, I thought I was done, so I read it to my eager siblings. The more I read, the more I saw what needed to be changed, and after that first reading, I hid my story away for some time. I thought it was quite bad.
But it kept calling me to finish it, and I couldn't resist. I put the story onto a Word document, and changed the story over and over again. I would read my brother a sentence, then call my sister over and read her a recently revised paragraph. I would ask Mama to read a chapter, and once, I deleted a whole entire chapter. I tell people I revised the story 13 times, but I didn't actually count. It was probably more.
The part that I found most difficult (emotionally) was publishing. I didn't know how much bare heart and soul I had put into that manuscript, until I submitted it to a publisher. And then I felt like I was giving a part of myself away. It hurt, but it was also good. It was balm to me, to have a professional say, "I really liked the part where..." Not only had they read it, but they also took time to say, "Hey, you did this well!".
It took longer than I thought it would to publish. I chose to self-publish, and I didn't have internet at the time, so every time I was somewhere with WiFi, I was sure to be working on my book. Having no internet slowed me down quite a bit, and in the end, I think it was about six months before I got that glorious email saying I was a published author. I remember that I was speechless when I read those words, I was so happy.
Then came the marketing. I guess it’s not fair for me to say that publishing was the hardest part, because in reality, I have found that promoting my own product is really hard. (I’ll use this as my segue.)
What did you do to promote your first book?
I did very little. I think I was afraid of what people would say. I mean, a book is your heart and soul, and to willingly bare that to the general public, and then potentially be told that it was awful... I was not crazy about the idea of going though all that. At first, my only promotion was word of mouth. Then a few local stores offered to carry it, and a local radio offered me an ad.
I aim to be more willing to promote myself with the next book. It might be a little easier, because I have a few friends helping me with the proofreading, and some illustrations. That way I will feel like I'm not only promoting myself, but also people I love. I hope that I get up the courage to figure out social media (something I usually stay away from) and I hope I am willing to walk into bookstores to negotiate.
What’s one thing people don’t understand about authors?
We are writers. We write because that is how we communicate best with ourselves and with the world. We do not like to talk, much less about ourselves. So, for heaven’s sake, don’t ask us to step out of our front door and sell the work of our own hands. That makes us very uncomfortable, and then nothing comes out naturally and it sounds awkward and over all quite terrible. We don't make good sales people.
(I feel that I speak for many writers, but if you are a writer and do not feel this way, I apologize for putting words in your mouth!)
Do you prefer pen and paper or keyboard?
Generally, I prefer pen and paper. There's more texture and a whole lot more character to a story when it comes from the tip of a pen. When something comes from a pen, you have more of a direct link to the emotions of the writer, for often the handwriting will give clues as to how the piece is supposed to be read. If the ink is bold, the writer was likely feeling the anger of the character in question, and if the writing is smooth and small, the writer was probably relaxed and in their "happy place".
However, the keyboard can keep up much better with one's thoughts, which has its perks. And the keyboard has this lovely little additive called "autocorrect" which can save an author many an embarrassment!
The way that I feel I write best is to put the rough draft on paper, and then transfer the story onto the laptop and do all the revisions with the keyboard.
Do you do any writing exercises to further your skills?
Currently, I am not participating in any recognized/formal workshops etc., but it is something I am interested in for the future. As of right now, I go to the "Greats", as I like to call them; the classics. I like to believe that if I read enough of the Greats, I will one day be able to write a Great, which would make me incandescently happy.
I also have a few "writing" books, namely, "Breathing Life into your Characters" by Rachel Ballon, and "A Little Book of Language" by David Crystal, both of which I would highly recommend to anyone who likes to understand words. Both of those books take on a difficult chore (the former takes on the matter of the written word, and the latter takes on spoken word) and both authors break down their respective subjects into chapters that feel "bite-size" to the point of being able to flip open the book and read any random chapter, and it still makes sense and is fascinating.
Do you feel like your education helped motivate you to write?
Funny you ask, because I was actually homeschooled. I definitely feel like homeschooling helped motivate me to write, partly because it gave me so much time to write. You see, homeschoolers are free to do their studies as slow or as fast as they like. I did my studies quickly, and then had lots of time to work on my book. It was a lovely set up! Now, I am still living at home, and helping around the house, including helping some of my siblings write their own stories.
Do you have plans for future written works?
Most certainly! I'm always storing up ideas in my head, or making notes on whatever is available for future references. I have noticed, however, that I write better when I can go outside and hear Nature talking to me, which means that hard-core story-building gets left alone till summer. I do write what I believe is called "flash-fiction", in the winter, the stories being quite short. But it is my desire to write novels.
To be honest, yesterday I was so frustrated with winter and my inability to write, that I promised myself I would do no creative writing for a week. As fate would have it, I was on my way out the door for a walk when I made that rash decision, and all through my walk, I conjured up an amazing first chapter for a novel I plan to write some day. When I got home, I threw myself into a book to ignore the temptation to break my self-made pact.
Any favorite authors who particularly inspired you?
I never felt like there was a particular author who inspired me to write Heir of the Moon, but looking back, I may have been wrong. Surely Narnia was in the back of my head as I wrote of the girl who found a way into a magical world, or maybe I thought of Cinderella, when the girl was brought into the palace. But I do not clearly remember. What I do know is that since then, I have been heavily influenced by authors such as Charlotte Bronte, Howard Pyle, and J.R.R. Tolkien. References to those author's works show up in my own so frequently that I find myself rewriting things not because they were badly written, but because they lacked originality.
Pretend you wake up one morning to find the internet destroyed. What would you do?
At first, I would assume the situation was temporary, and be mildly frustrated, but then I would probably go make coffee. As the day progressed, I would probably become more frustrated, but I would take it as a sign from God that I needed to spend more time with my siblings!
Once I found out that it was permanent (provided it was permanent) I would go to town and buy one of those stamp dispensers and get back to snail mail. (I really only use the internet for communication purposes.) I'd probably also find a thrift store and get a stack of CDs, because I love music, and I would quickly tire of the CDs I currently own!
Thanks again to Athena Rose for agreeing to this interview!