I'm switching the order here, folks. The awesome debut author Christine Johnson will be my next interview. This week I am featuring Heidi Ayarbe author of 2008's FREEZE FRAME and the forthcoming COMPROMISED. Heidi joins us to talk about her books, her philosophy of writing and a few random thoughts about American Idol (a guilty pleasure I share ).
Heidi is another of my long-time critique-mates (since 2005- wow) and I have had the great joy in witnessing her rise as a successful author of YA fiction. Aside from being a truly original voice and gifted writer, Heidi is almost pathologically generous of spirit. She feels everyone's pain, which could be why her books never fail to move me to tears. Even after I've read them six times. Go out and read them all. You will be changed.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m a daughter, sister, *favorite* aunt, wife, mother, and YA author. (I’m really good at being an aunt! ) Other people may call me other things, but we’ll just leave it as is.
Tell us about your forthcoming May release, COMPROMISED.
Maya’s always lived a life of science based on procedures after her father’s arrest, Maya is sent to live in Kids Place, a group home, while waiting for foster family placement . She makes a plan to escape – in search of an aunt Maya’s never met and is joined by Nicole (Cappy), a street smart illiterate kleptomaniac. The two are joined by Klondike, a burn victim who suffers from Tourette’s. The unlikely trio sets forth to face life on the streets.
..and your previous release, FREEZE FRAME...
No matter how many times Kyle re-writes the scene, he can't get it right. He tries it in the style of Hitchcock, Tarantino, Lynch -- all his favorite directors -- but regardless of the style, he can't remember what happened that day in the shed. The day that Jason died. And until he can, there's one question that keeps haunting Kyle: Did he kill his best friend on purpose?
...and your next year's release, THE DOUBTING.
I’m on final revisions stage of THE DOUBTING about a high school soccer star who suffers from OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) and has spent his life hiding it from everyone he knows. The novel has been a challenge because it all takes place over the course of a weekend – a weekend when everything comes crashing down in his life and he has to come to terms with the fact he has this disorder.
Any hints of what your fourth book will be? (pushy, aren't I?)
I’m really excited about the little seed of an idea I have … But I’m a bit superstitious and never tell anybody (except for my agent) what I “might” be working on.
Do you feel being an American native residing primarily in Colombia affects your writing about contemporary American teens, either adversely or positively?
Well, we don’t have Cheerios here which is a travesty. That alone must have some kind of adverse effect. Let’s call it, “The Cheerios Effect.”
That said, in all honesty, I don’t think living abroad has affected my writing for American teens at all. You had a great interview with an author who said something to the effect of, “We never get over middle school.” (I believe that was the magnificent Anne Spollen). Much of my writing comes from my experiences growing up as a teen in Carson City, Nevada (where Freeze Frame and The Doubting take place). I always draw from that world to write. And from Colombia, I draw on the texture, smells, and colors of a world that’s very different from the one in which I was raised to help remind me of the details of Nevada. (It’s ALL about the details in this business!)
What it does effect, though, is the ability to promote my books in the States. As you can imagine selling books written in English about American teens doesn’t really draw in the Colombian buyer.
At the end of the day, it all boils down to the Cheerios deficit.
What inspires you?
Challenges. Tackling something that I think I can’t. For some reason I have stories that I want to tell. I don’t know why they’re here with me, but I need to get them out on the paper. Plus, having a deadline is a great inspiration. J
What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
LOVE words. Read. Read, read, read, read, read. Write what you love – don’t write for the market. Share your writing with competent, supportive, critical readers and LISTEN. Listen to ideas. Filter the information and revise. Revise, revise, revise, revise … And keep at it. There’re so many wonderful opportunities for writers out there, and I really believe that this is a tortoise/hare business. Right now, though, it’s tough to break in – even tougher than a few years ago. So make sure your first draft is as perfect as can be. Be market savvy. Know what’s out there similar to yours and find a way to makes yours stand out. Then read some more.
What kind of books would you like to see more of on the shelves?
Maybe the question could be what would I like to see “less” of on the shelves. Last year almost 300,000 books were published in the USA. THAT’S MADNESS. That said, within that deluge of words and pages, there’s so much amazingness out there. SO MUCH! I can’t wait to see “more” of something I never expected, like last year’s brilliant surprise, giving us a modern-day Don Quijote on acid (Libba Bray’s Going Bovine) for instance.
Tell us something we may not know about Heidi Ayarbe.
I have a crush on one of this year’s American Idol contestants. This makes me a “cougar.” Gack! Okay. Other than that, which might not be the most appropriate fact for your interview, let me see … I’m actually a really private person, I guess, and don’t feel comfortable with people knowing too much about me. For this reason, I will not disclose the name of my secret crush.
Heidi, thank you so much for dropping by. As evident in your answers, you are made of awesome and so are your books. Love you, lady!