Thursday, 5 March 2009

Happy Release Day + Author Chat with Angela Morrison

Happy release day to two amazing books...

TAKEN BY STORM by Angela Morrison


JUST ONE WISH by Janette Rallison

Congratulations to our both authors. Wish you best luck with your children *grins*. For those fans who haven't got their hands on either of these, rush to the nearest bookstore and snatch your own copies!!!

Anywho on this special occasion I'm bringing you some more fun. A chat with Angela Morrison. I was lucky enough to have interviewed her two weeks ago. Enjoy the interview okay? I hope you'll find out what you want to know about her ^^

-Taken by storm is your debut novel. How does it feel having your book published? Did you do anything crazy/out of mind when you first knew the book would come out?
It feels GREAT! AMAZING! FANTASTIC! You wouldn't believe how difficult it is to break into the real world of editors and agents and published books. I marketed TAKEN BY STORM for almost four years after I finished my MFA. I have a huge file of rejection letters.

TAKEN BY STORM is the first novel I ever wrote. So many first novels end up abandoned in a drawer or a box under the bed. I believed in this story and Michael and Leesie, so I didn't want that to happen to it. I kept revising it and sending it back out. I got close a several times, but never sold it.

A couple things happened that changed all that. First, Stephanie Meyer came along with TWILIGHT and single-handedly transformed and enlarged the YA market. Then, I met my editor, Lexa Hillyer, at SCBWI's Sequester north of Paris. She's a young, beautiful poet and author in her own right and an extraordinary editor. I rewrote Michael's opening dive log journal entry specifically so she'd fall in love with him. It worked!

She called and offered me a two book contract. I was shocked. She'd hinted they wanted to acquire TAKEN BY STORM, but I never dreamed they'd sign me for two books. That doesn't happen a lot if you don't have an agent. I was in Switzerland at the time. I emailed all my writer friends and mentors, family, etc. By the time I'd spread the word, the shock was worn off, and I was dancing.

-The story behind the story...I heard the book was inspired by by an accident, is that true?
Yeah. That's true. Several years ago, my husband and I were scuba diving off the coast of Cozumel, Mexico. Halfway through the trip the weather turned nasty. Dark skies. Rain. We still dove. Darker than usual, but nothing stops divers. In between dives, we huddled on the boat getting rained on. To the south of us, a thick band of wicked clouds blocked up the sky. A newsy guy informed us our rain and those clouds were what was left of a hurricane that had just hit Belize. He told us the hurricane had capsized a boatload of divers and most of them drowned. None of us believed him. Divers don't drown. He insisted--and he was right. A large live aboard yacht docked in what they thought was a safe port. They were wrong.
Over the next several months, I followed the story closely. I found news articles on the Internet and watched the memorial grown on the website of the dive club who hard charter the boat and lost so many. I felt a kinship with those dead divers. The clouds that killed them rained on me, too.

I began asking myself, "what if?" What if the only survivor of a similar fictional accident was a guy whose parents drowned? How did he survive? What happened to him after? Who would he live with now? Where would he go?

And, most important, who would love him?

-Is telling the story through chats, poems and dive logs fun? I though it was so original.
Thank you. It is a fun way to organize a novel. It's also quite challenging. When I started writing TAKEN BY STORM, it was a dual-first person he said/she said. Leesie and Michael would wake me up in the middle of the night chatting. I would scribble it down and transcribe it in the morning. At first, I incorporated the chats into the narration like you would dialogue. Then I got the idea that Michael's entries would be cool if he wrote them in his dive log. One editor at another publisher liked that a lot, but she and her boss didn't like Leesie. They had me rewrite the whole novel entirely from Michael's point of view--a couple of different ways. That didn't really work, either.

When that editor broke my heart and walked away from the project--I did all this revising pre-contract, I felt TAKEN BY STORM was broken. I set aside the book I was writing at the time and decided I was going to reshape TAKEN BY STORM how I wanted it. I had the chats. Easy to pull them out as transcripts. Lots of fun to write more. I had Michael's dive logs. I knew they were my gems--the best stuff I had. But what to do with Leesie? She was a poet. There was already one poem in the novel. Why not more? Why not "Leesie's Most Private Chapbook?" It all jelled together. I loved it.

I'm so pleased Lexa loved it enough to buy it, Razorbill loved it enough to publish it, and so many of you readers love it, too.

-Out of all religion, why did you choose Mormon?
That's an easy one. Writer's are told to write what you know. I'm a Mormon. That's what I know. It's really hard to write about a faithful character without confusing people or making it really didactic. I had a lot of good feedback from mentors and critique friends. I rewrote it over and over and over until I finally got the right tone. I wanted to show an authentic, faithful Mormon girl's life--her strengths, her weaknesses, her challenges. Michael helped me test her. Turn her world upside down and see if she can swim. I think Leesie did all right. And learned a lot along the way.

-Michael in the story is obsessed with diving. You dive too right? Did it help much
with the story?
I do dive. I wouldn't have written this novel without my background in scuba. I had loads
diving scenes in the original manuscript I sent to Lexa. She helped me cut them back to a more reasonable level. I'm thinking about posting some of the "cut scenes" on my website.

-Our female lead Leesie has to make such a hard decision between love and faith.
you ever find yourself in her position? What did you do?
Oooh. Good question. True confessions. When I was in high school, I did fall quite in love with a blonde Baptist boy from Tacoma who I met at a high school fiction writing workshop. We lived on opposite sides of Washington state. Only got to go out on a real date once. Wrote lots of letters. He got nervous and dumped me, so I didn't have much of a decision to make. He chose his faith over me--no contest.

I did have to choose between love and college, though. Towards the end of my senior year, I started going out with the most gorgeous Mormon boy I've ever known. We met at a church dance in Spokane. I was never quite sure why he liked me, but he did. He wasn't stuck up like good-looking guys tend to be. Just really sweet. We had a great time all summer. We both knew I was leaving for school at the end of it. He was staying home to work with his dad and save money for his mission. (Faithful Mormon guys go on missions for the church when they are 19, devote two years of their life to service and pay for it themselves.) It was way harder to let go at the end of the summer than either of us thought it would be. We kept in touch. I saw him again a couple of times before he left on his mission. I wrote to him until I met my husband. And then I lost track of him. Kind of sad.

Those relationships we have as teens are so formative--really shape you on a very intimate level. I find it fascinating. I suppose that's why I keep writing about it. In the end, I was blessed to choose love and faith. The two go together really well.

-Let's talk about your other books. Rumor has it that you're working on three different stories. Tell us about them. When will they come out?
Ah, you are so sweet. My second novel for Razorbill is called SING ME TO SLEEP and will be out about a year from now. SING stars Beth, an ugly duckling singer who gets a massive makeover when she ousts the soloist in her competitive girls' choir. Beth's great performance lands the choir a place in the Choral Olympics where, Derek, a mysterious star of a neighboring boys' choir, sweeps her off her feet. She gets home to find the sweet boy who has always been her friend now wants to be more than that. Beth is committed to Derek, but she's torn. He's hiding something scary, and she can't get behind his perfect facade. Derek composes and Beth writes lyrics so my editor asked me to sprinkle lyrics all through the book. That was quite a challenge. Get your tissue box ready. This one is really emotional.

I also have a heartbreaking historical love story, THE COLLIER LAD'S LASS, and a middle grade time slip adventure for boys, THE TIME ASSASSIN, that I haven't sold yet.

-Why did you write for teen? Any YA novels you would recommend?
I'm still trying to figure out why I write for teens. When I finally got serious with my writing--I was in a masters degree program and had to produce--I had a houseful of teen boys. Now my daughter and I are really close. She's away at BYU, but every time I talk to her she gives me ideas. I used her choir back in Canada for SING ME TO SLEEP. Guess I'm kind of a stage mom.

YA novels I recommend? Hmmm. I'll try not to overload you. I'm a huge TWILIGHT fan like everyone else. Edward is so addictive. It's quite amazing. Even here in Singapore the bookstores have Stephanie's books piled high.

I learned more from Markus Zusak and his novel, THE BOOK THIEF, than almost any other writer I've heard speak or studied. I tell everyone I meet to read it. When I want to get tuned up as a writer, I read it again.

Another YA novelist I adore is Martine Leavitt. KETURAH AND LORD DEATH and THE DOLLMAGE are my favorites.

My poetry mentor from Vermont College, Ron Koertge, writes the most amazing YA. Look him up and read all his books.

I think all teens should read Chaim Potok. My favorite was MY NAME IS ASHER LEV.

There is so much YA out there now that sometimes we overlook the groundbreaking pioneers. Norma Fox Mazer. SILVER and AFTER THE RAIN. You can keep reading her forever. I also adore Katherine Paterson. She writes with so much faith and meaning. Most readers know her from grade school--THE BRIDGE TO TEREBITHIA, but many of her novels are YA--JACOB HAVE I LOVED, or my favorite, OF NIGHTINGALES THAT WEEP.

Some of my classmates have written incredible novels. Check out SHIFTY by Lynn Hazen and Ellen Yeoman's RUBBER HOUSES.

For classic YA fantasy, you can't get better than Susan Fletcher--another one of my mentors. Speaking fantasy, I also love Ursula Le Guin and Mary Stewart.

-If you were not to be a author, we would have a...
Really frustrated cranky mom. Actually, I wanted to be an editor. But I wanted to be a mom more. And now I want to write more.

-When you're not writing or reading, you will..
SLEEP! Can you tell I've been way too busy? I love to swim, scuba dive, sing in a choir, and dance. I also watch way too much TV. When we moved to Singapore, I somehow missed an entire season of "Dancing with the Stars." I'm not sure how I'll ever get over that. One reason I can't wait to move back to the U.S. is we be able to vote for American Idol next season.

-A little game fun for, this or that
Hardcover or paperback? paperback
Cake or icecream? cake, but not happily. I can't eat dairy. I miss ice cream the most.
Myspace or Facebook? Facebook
Cat or dog? cat, dogs are so high maintenance
Jeans or khakis? jeans

-Lastly, what would you love to say to the readers today?
Wow. That's quite a question. As an author, though, I try to speak to readers through my story. Let them draw their own conclusions. Find their own truths in the experience. So, I guess, "keep reading," is what I really want to say.

I've ranted plenty on my website, though. So if readers want to get in my head, check it out at

Thanks Angela so much for this interview. This is my first so if I made any mistakes, forgive me. I promise to come back with cooler ones<3


Brigita said...

Great interview. It's always nice to hear from first time writers because they're so full of enthusiasm and so excited about getting published. Well done! I'm looking forward to your next intervie.

Steph Su said...

Hehe, no mistakes, Thao! I loved it, and enjoyed learning about Angela and her book. This one is snugly on my wishlist.

Lynn E. Hazen said...

Great interview and congratulations to Angela on her launch of TAKEN BY STORM!

Bee said...

This was a wonderful interview -- full of all sorts of meaty information. I really appreciate the book recommendations, and I'm intrigued with the book now. I think that my teenaged daughter would really like it; and I might borrow it, too!

Anonymous said...

Great questions--Read this book and am still thinking about it!

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