Author Interview with Abby Jones
May 16, 2014 2 Comments
Heading into May and we are realizing that the school year is quickly coming to a close. It seems appropriate that this month I bring you an interview with Abby Jones, author of Middle Grade and ‘Tween stories.
So let’s begin…
1. Let’s get to know you a bit. Where are you from, and what genre do you write?
I’m from the great state of Texas! I’ve lived here since 1995 and don’t plan on every leaving. I write children’s stories for 3-5 year olds, tweens, and fairy tales for young adults. I have a total of 14 nieces and nephews, so I try to write things most of them would enjoy reading.
2. With all the risks and uncertainty around publishing, what was it that drew you to a career in writing?
Not to date myself, *cough cough* but when I started writing there was no uncertainty around writing. Self publishing wasn’t an option. Writing classes and groups spent much of their time discussing how to submit your work and what publishers were looking for. I knew many authors with piles of rejection letters. So, when I started, what drew me was the need for self expression. I spent much of my teen years searching for a way to capture the beauty I saw in the world around me. I tried music, photography, painting and drawing. None of them expressed what I was trying to express. My boyfriend started writing short stories after he read Lord of the Rings, and I joined him. Up till then, I avoided writing with a passion. I hated all things grammar and spelling related how could I possibly want to write? When I set pen to page in my very early twenties, it was magic. For the first time in my life, I communicated what I needed to communicate. It’s been an interesting 10+ years since then, but I think I would write if no one ever read a word I wrote. It’s the only form of self-expression which seems to be able to capture what’s in my head.
3. With YA and NA so popular, why choose to write for a younger age group? What attracts you to write for children?
I figure, like most writers, that I’m on some FBI list somewhere because I would check out piles of children’s books and serial killer books from the library at the same time. Gotta be on a list, right? I had always planned to write children’s stories at some point cataloging my own amazing and often silly childhood with my four siblings, but avoided YA anything. My sisters and brothers started having kids, so writing stuff for them to read seemed natural. Writing YA came about a bit differently. I have spent the last 8-9 years writing some very dark urban fantasy only three people I knew could stomach. I couldn’t figure out how to change the stories to make them more readable. I want to write stories about monsters being saved. I want to write stories that will encourage people to keep at the fight and not lose hope even in the darkest of times. It’s hard to do that when only three people will read them. Since I couldn’t figure out how to change them, I took my husband and Madeleine L’Engle’s advice, “You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.” So I switched to YA, moved the world I had created into the future, and added a little steampunk for fun. I hope to change the books I’ve already written to YA at some time. My inspiration comes more from the likes of Tolkien and Lewis than the modern vampire crazy. Since I still balk at telling people I write YA, I generally describe myself as a fairy tale writer.
4. Do you find it difficult to switch back and forth between children’s, MG, and YA?
I haven’t found it too difficult yet because they’re all so different. My children’s stories are usually less than 2000 words with a quickly resolved plot involving my nieces and nephews. My MG story, featured as a series on my blog, is about my two older nieces who are spies. Again, very different than the children’s stories. My YA or NA fairy tales are darker, deeper, and set in a fantastical world with magic, epic battles, and the like. I generally feature my children and MG stories on my blog, while my fairy tale is going through the normal novel writing process and should be four books long when it’s all said and done. So far, my feed back on all the stories is positive, my readership has grown, and my writing group is very excited about my fairy tale.
5. What things influence your writing? Have you ever written them into a story?
The main influence in my writing is the Bible. As a Christian, I’m constantly striving to write stories from a Biblical world view. This means good vs. evil, hope in the darkness, and the salvation of sinners. The salvation of sinners tends to show up in my writing frequently. I love nothing better than to create a monster and save him. Redemption, the undeserved rescue, makes for powerful heroes. The next main influence in my writing is the idea of warriors. I love cheesy action flicks, war movies, and epic stories. I love men who fight against the darkness with brave women at their sides. I love the idea of the brotherhoods formed in combat. A fair amount of my time is spent reading modern military non-fictions. I try to weave what I learn into my YA stories in the hope that it gives them a realistic ring. My protagonist is loosely based on what I’ve learned about men who become Navy Seals. The other influence isLord of the Rings. Because of it, I will probably never write something non-fantastical except for my children stories. I also tend to enjoy verbose descriptions due to Tolkien’s inspiration.
6. Let’s talk a little about your latest project. What is the title and what is it about?
My latest project is a fairy tale called Icicle Rain. It is about a boy named Jonah and the coming war he is caught up in. So far it looks like it will be about four books long. This first book is my “apocalypse” book. Everything you hope isn’t going to happen happens to all the people you hope it isn’t going to happen to. 🙂 I tend to be a pantser and this is a new world for me, with new characters, so I can’t quite pin the story down to a single sentence just yet. A whole new plot line joined the fray a few weeks ago. Until I can figure out the bigger part they play, I’m at a loss for the over all point. Not to worry, I’m a pro at sorting these things out and hope to have the whole plot tied up into one sentence in a few months. Right now it might be something along the lines of: While trying to stop the skirmish, Jonah finds himself in a war. Or, Adults who overlook children are doomed to be stopped by them. Yep, not sure yet. But, it’s set in far in the future when the world is ruled by Guardians and has a bit of a steampunk flare.
7. Your series sounds intense, are you ever concerned that your books might be too frightening or intense for your reader’s age?
I don’t worry about them being too dark for a few reasons. First, Hunger Games. Enough said. Second, I was reading Jurassic Park by the time I was 14 years old. This won’t be nearly that violent. It will be dark and intense, but I hope to make it something a young adult can handle. I also don’t think it really helps kids to sugar coat everything. They need to know about evil and sad things because they’re going to have to face them in this life. I would rather they be prepared than surprised.
8. Writing a series myself, and I understand the problems that can arise with continuity between books, as a ‘panster’ has this affected your writing process?
This is my second series written as a pantser. I don’t know that the first will ever see the light of day, but I do hope to get this one published. The first way being a pantser affects me is note taking. I tend to outline as I go along, not before I write. Because I want this to be a series I’m taking lots and lots of notes so I have everything I need for the next book. I’m also keeping my eyes and ears open for things which will subtly impact the rest of the story so I don’t miss threads. And the biggest way it affects me is that I won’t publish until all the books are written. This gives me the freedom to go back and fix things as I need to and then I can control when their published.
9. Have you ever thought about giving up? If you did, what changed your mind?
I don’t think I’ve ever seriously thought about giving up. I’ve had to make some tough decision about when and how to fit my writing in my life. Other times I’ve had to stop writing for a few weeks due to life situations like moving or when we were in the process of selling our business. But, even during those times, I had a story or two in my head just waiting to come out. I’ve picked up books that were so well written it made me wonder what gave me the idea that I can write. That’s a little harder for me to work through. When that happens, I go back to what I love about the stories I tell: the sense of redemption, hope in the darkness, and undeserved rescue. I may not be Tolkien or Gaiman, but I don’t have to be. I just need to write my stories and not worry about how they stack up to brilliant writers. I also try to learn as much as I can from any book that hooks me.
10. Is there a genre that you would like to write? Something you would find a challenge?
I would like to try my hand at writing a mystery along the lines of Sherlock Homes, but I’ve always found the idea very overwhelming. Trying to work the clues in so that they tantalize the reader and keep them guessing right to the very end all while having it make sense seems mind boggling. As a pantser, I think this would also be a little hard. There would have to be some element of outlining from the get go to make sure everything came together correctly. Someday, I’d like to try my hand at it.