Today I’m interviewing fellow Turquoise Morning Press author and Australian, Ingrid Alexandra, about her debut novel, paranormal young adult GIFTED.
Gifted came out on 27 December. Did you squee more that day, or on Christmas morning when you saw Santa had been?
That question made me giggle. Of course I ‘squee-ed’ more on December 27th! It felt like all my Christmases had come at once, if you’ll pardon the cliché! But I was pretty stoked seeing Santa had been, too. 😉
How would Lucy, your main character, describe her greatest strength and her greatest weakness? And would you agree with her?
That’s an interesting question. Strangely enough, Lucy’s greatest weakness was what eventually became her greatest strength. Lucy lacked self-belief and allowed herself to be governed by fear. It was overcoming that fear and believing in herself that became her greatest strength. Sorry, you asked what Lucy would say. Well, I think that’s what she’d say – and I’d agree with her. 😉
And what about Heath Stone? (What a great name, by the way.)
Thank you! Heath’s weakness, by his own admission, was Lucy. But that’s secondary to the real issue. On a deeper level, Heath was afraid to pursue something he believed would be too complicated and potentially dangerous. But he grew to understand that the greatest things in life often require the greatest risks and so, similarly to Lucy I suppose, the characteristics that could be construed as weaknesses were, in the end, transformed to strengths. Both characters had the courage to overcome adversity, to challenge their innermost fears and take a flying leap of faith in to the unknown!
Tell us about Duruga. Did you create it for your story?
I’m so glad you asked! Duruga is a place close to my heart. Although I won’t reveal the ‘real’ location, I will say that the descriptions in the novel are based on a real place where I am privileged to spend much of my leisure time. It really is a little piece of paradise!
Music seems to have played a strong role in your life. Do you think that has affected the story you wrote?
You’ve done your homework! 😉 (I didn’t get a cyberstalking award during PitchWars for nothing!) I had to think about that question quite a bit, actually. I suppose, indirectly, my love of music influences the way I express myself in my own art. All creative art forms share a common link in that they are based on the creation and expression of a concept, story or feeling, but I don’t think that in this case there is a direct link between music and how GIFTED was created. A great question, though. Food for thought. 🙂
What has been the most surprising thing about your publication journey so far?
Wow, to pick only one…?! 😉 Hmm. Aside from all the incredible people I’ve met along the way and the support network I’m privileged to have attained, I suppose I’d have to say I was most surprised by my own resilience. I didn’t think I had very thick skin (I’m a sensitive soul!), but it turns out thick skin can be grown. 😉 I faced countless rejections in various forms in my journey towards publication, but I truly surprised myself that I was able to pick myself up, dust myself off and try again. It’s been said so many times, but believing in yourself is vital. I recall, even at my weakest moments when I doubted myself and my ability, I never stopped believing that I could do this and that my dream would be realised. It wasn’t easy. But courage is being afraid, being uncertain of something, and doing it anyway.
In dark times that belief is what drove me, what got me out of bed in the morning, what gave me something to live for. Dreams are essential. Don’t let anyone tell you they’re wrong, or just a fantasy or that you could be doing something better with your life. I believe it is unfailing passion, dedication and self-belief that will win you your dreams in the end, whatever they be. 🙂 But self-belief is the single most irreplaceable ingredient. Without it, you set yourself up for failure.
Cassandra, I’d just like to thank you for this opportunity to discuss my story and my characters with you and for your insightful, thoughtful questions. 🙂 (Aww. Thanks for dropping by!)
Lucy Jones possesses an unusual—and extraordinary—gift. Her ability to sense the emotions of others is both a blessing and a curse, eventually driving her to seek refuge from its consequences by fleeing her hometown of Sydney.
The coastal town of Duruga is everything she imagined it would be: sleepy, isolated and void of the emotional chaos that plagued her in the city. But when the mysterious Heath Stone enters her life, Lucy is overwhelmed by startling sensations in his presence. Frightened and intrigued by this uncommon reaction to a person, Lucy is uncontrollably drawn to Heath. Despite her efforts, and the sinister warnings from the townsfolk, she cannot fight the force of her attraction.
When strange events begin to occur and the truth about Duruga’s sordid history is unveiled, Lucy suspects that there may be more to the quiet town, and to Heath, than she had first imagined.
As Lucy and Heath’s fates become irrevocably entwined, the answers Lucy has been seeking all her life may be closer than she ever wanted to believe.
Gripping the steering wheel, my eyes slammed shut and I sat for several seconds with my heart pounding in my ears. My breath came out in gasps, my lungs constricting in anxiety. Images, dotted with light beneath my eyelids, teased me with things I wasn’t sure I’d seen. The vision of a ghostly, young man’s face, so alarmingly handsome and with eyes of such intense green I wondered if they could be real. I dug the heels of my hands into my eyes, trying to see clearly, though the headlights provided a limited view of the shadowy world outside the car.
The road was deserted.
I shook my head, blinking to make sure I was seeing right. What the hell just happened? Was I hallucinating? If someone had been there, where was he now?
And, my conscience taunted, what might have happened if he hadn’t been there to stop you?
A tingle ran down my spine and I tensed, on alert. Someone was out there. I knew because I could sense him. Nearby. He had to be there for me to feel the strange, weaving warmth, the rapid pulse in my veins. And sadness, so deep and powerful I clutched my chest against a sob.
Ingrid Alexandra has been writing since she could put pen to paper. Growing up, she took pleasure in learning musical instruments, visual arts, dance, acting, singing and, of course, she spent a great deal of time reading and writing. Having so many interests meant her career aspirations had a habit of changing, but her profession eventually chose her.
She dabbled in writing short stories and novellas as a child and teen, and began writing full-length novels in recent years. Being a child at heart, it was a natural progression for her to move in to writing fiction for children and young adults. Her love of teaching and interest in human emotion and psychology play a large role in the creation of her novels.
I edit for a living. Not in the publishing industry, mind you—so don’t try and pitch me anything!—but in the public sector. Lots of boring non-fiction. So I’m pretty familiar with the process.
Not the receiving end of it, though.
As I mentioned in my last post, I got my first-round edits back from Turquoise Morning Press a few days ago. In her email, Shelby said, “Please don’t be discouraged when you open it and see all the comments and marks. This is the first round and I ask a lot of questions.”
Uh oh, I thought. That’s the same thing I write in my feedback emails when I’ve totally smashed a piece.
I mentioned it to a colleague, who laughed and asked me what I’d do if I opened the document and it was a wall of red. I squirmed.
I should add, everything Shelby said in the email itself made perfect sense, and some of it confirmed quiet suspicions I’d had about some of my characters (one in particular I neglected as the book went on, and I probably shouldn’t!).
I wasn’t able to open the file at first. I was still in the process of setting up my PC, and hadn’t installed Word yet (a long story that involves a product key not kept with the disc, because it was in my email, which I couldn’t access until my ADSL had been set up, which I couldn’t access because my network card wasn’t wireless—ok, not that long a story).
But I got my Word and email set up on Sunday night. It’s now Wednesday, and I probably qualify for Chicken of the Year.
I told myself that, since I was part-way through a beta-read of Stacey’s manuscript, I really should finish that first.
I finished it yesterday evening.
Now I’m telling myself that I’ve got guests tonight, so I couldn’t possibly have time to have a quick look at Shelby’s comments. Thursday. I’ll do it Thursday.
Although I do still have to unpack the rest of my books, and sort out the garage so I actually have room to use it as a, you know, garage.
Maybe by the weekend?
You may commence making chicken noises in three, two, one—GO!
So I know you guys have all been wondering where I was. Well, probably not, because if you read my blog at all you know I was about to move into my new house — and if you don’t, you wouldn’t care. 😉
I’ve been in the new place for five days and we only just got the PC set up and connected to the internet. I was a bit alarmed to find myself getting twitchy and a little depressed about being sans PC. Even though I had my smart phone and access to social media, at least, I really felt the lack of access to the internet — and to word processing facilities.
Especially when I downloaded my emails yesterday and saw that my editor at Turquoise Morning Press SENT BACK THE FIRST ROUND OF EDITS ON ISLA’S INHERITANCE!
I haven’t cracked open the file yet — I’ll save that for when my little guy is in bed — but Shelby’s notes in the email were spot on. I’m really looking forward to getting stuck into them. (Make a note of when I said that, because I bet you $100 I’ll be suffering soon enough!)
I’m also beta reading a YA sci-fi by my friend Stacey, which I haven’t been able to touch for a week, so it’ll be good to get back into that too. The last time I read it was a climactic scene and having to wait has been killing me!
I’ve unpacked two and a half out of six bookshelves — I had to wait to do the rest till the PC was set up, in case we had to move furniture. It’s been fun reuniting with all my novels; once they are all out and looking fine I’ll post a photo of my study. I’m surrounded by books and have dual screens. And this is my view:
Want a book about love in the glamorous world of doggy beauty pageants? Wondering if there all that hairspray and valium (and that’s just for the dogs!) can lead to something more? Then CHIHUAHUA MOMMA may be the book for you!
CHIHUAHUA MOMMA is by Amy Jarecki. Born in Alturas, California, Amy holds an MBA from Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland. She now lives in south-west Utah with her husband, and writes contemporary romance and Scottish historical romance. Amy loves dancing, hiking, golfing, but above all, she is a true Chihuahua Momma.
Amy has very kindly answered a few questions about books and life here.
Where did you get the inspiration for CHIHUAHUA MOMMA? Do you show dogs?
Well, it all started when my daughter showed dogs in 4-H. She won the Wisconsin State championship, and begged me to buy a top-notch Chihuahua that she could show in the American Kennel Club. So I did my homework, drove to Michigan and bought a dog. Then my daughter got a driver’s license, a job and a boyfriend. Silly me. I wanted a return on my investment, so I started showing him and, after a few classes, I was hooked.
What’s your favourite thing about Rebecca and Matt, the main characters?
Oh boy, there’s so many things. Do I have to pick a favourite? Rebecca’s trying to hold on and keep things on an even keel—she’s making ends meet alone with two teenaged kids. Of course, Matt looks mighty hot in a pair of jeans. He’s always been a playboy, but he’s forty now, and his last disastrous relationship sent him packing across the US all the way from Malibu to New Jersey. Yep, there’s an attraction, but there’s a lot of excess baggage that needs to be shed before the pair have any chance at romance.
CHIHUAHUA MOMMA isn’t your first release, is it? Can you tell us about your other works?
My first published work was Koicto, a Native American historical novel about a boy’s fight for his place as chief of the Nahchee Nation.
I’ve got a few other novels in the works:
Virtue—A romantic suspense about a dancer who ends up on the sacrificial altar of a Mayan cult. Release date: 1 December, 2013
Rescued by the Celtic Warrior – Release August, 2014
Celtic Maid – Release December, 2014
My only overseas holiday was to Scotland so I’m fascinated to see that you studied there. How did that come about?
Funny you should ask. I was living in Australia, working for Arnott’s Biscuits in Sydney, and my daughter was a year old. Heriot-Watt University advertised in the National Accountant (a trade magazine). I contacted them and found I could do most of my studies by distance learning—took some of my exams at the New South Wales Board of Studies—for all you Aussies out there!
I just spent the month of May in Scotland researching my Highlanders of Raasay series—and gathering information for my next as well. I love Scotland, and my maiden name is Lowland Scots (yes, I do rock)!
Coffee or tea? Sweet or savoury?
Tea and savory.
Thanks for hosting me, Cass! You ROCK!
BLURB FOR CHIHUAHUA MOMMA:
In the frenetic world of canine pageants like Westminster, where dog hair flies and personalities diverge, Rebecca Lee remains in a cocoon of loneliness. Widowed, with two teenaged kids and a business to run, Rebecca would rather mow through five-hundred poodle cuts than think about dating. But when former quarterback Matt Johnson shows up to buy a Chihuahua, his irresistible grin rocks her world—until Matt’s ex decides she wants him back and Rebecca’s daughter decides she’s against her mom dating. Rebecca now has a choice—crawl back into her realm of dogs or fight for the powerful love that fills her soul.
Chihuahua Momma releases in eBook on 28 July; keep an eye out for the paperback a couple of months later.
Loyal readers of my blog (ha!) will know that I always intended Isla’s Inheritance be the first book in a trilogy. There’s a three book arc, a meta-plot … and how cool is the phrase “meta-plot” anyway? I feel like I need to say it in this big, booming voice: “I have this plot, and it is meta.”
I’ve drafted the sequel to Isla’s Inheritance; it is in the beta-reading stages. Until last week I was calling the manuscript Book Two, because I am the queen of naming things and all shall bow before me. But when my amazing editor over at Turquoise Morning Press, Shelby, asked me for a synopsis for Book Two, I had to come up with a proper name. And a synopsis. Aaah! I wrote the latter, and then ran it past my Aussie Owned girls. Sharon suggested Isla’s Oath. For she is the true queen of naming things, and all shall bow before her.
Bow! *shakes fist*
Seriously, I’m pretty stoked with that. Isla’s Oath. It rolls off the tongue. (If you’re wondering, Isla is pronounced eye-la.)
I sent the synopsis to Shelby and then—be still my heart—she asked for a one-page pitch for the third book as well.
Now, book three is currently just a series of thought bubbles in my head. I have been working on a different project these last six months, because at the start of the year I’d had no joy in placing Isla’s Inheritance and, since I write so slowly, I didn’t want to spend almost a year working on the third book in a series that might never go anywhere.
Also, the plot bunnies were biting on this new idea. And you can never tell those plot bunnies anything.
But I wrote the pitch (with a working title that I’ll keep to myself for now). And THEY SAID YES!
That’s right, I now have a three-book deal with Turquoise Morning Press. I just, I can’t even … there are no words. (That’s not a problem for a writer, is it?)
The current plan is to release Isla’s Inheritance around the middle of next year, and then the subsequent two in gaps of up to six months after that. As that firms up I’ll let you guys know.
Thanks to everyone who’s supported me in this, especially my boyfriend, the evil genius, Peter; Chynna-Blue; and all of the Aussie Owned ladies. Also, to all of my friends on Twitter and Facebook, and everyone I’ve ever met. Also to people I haven’t met yet. Glomps to you all!
For those of you that haven’t heard my exciting news, I’ve signed with Turquoise Morning Press for the release of my debut novel, ISLA’S INHERITANCE. To say I’m thrilled is the understatement of the century—and I say this knowing the century’s barely gotten started. ALL OF THE SQUEES WILL BE MINE!
So here’s my story.
If you’ve been reading my blog over the past month you’ll know I’d pretty much given up on an agent showering me with love and chocolate. I’d stopped sending out new queries and, as at a fortnight ago, only two agents were yet to reply to outstanding queries. One of the two had my full manuscript, so there was a shred of hope remaining, and I was holding off really hitting the small press market till I heard back from her.
Except one particular small press had a Twitter pitch party back in March. I figured what the hell and entered. They requested my first three chapters and then, a few days later, the full manuscript. And then I waited. And waited.
Waiting, gentle reader, drives me NUTTY BANANAS!
About six weeks later, I lost my nerve and sent my query out to two more small presses. One of them requested the full MS at the query stage (this was TMP), the other just the first pages. Three days after that, I heard back from the original small press. It was an offer of publication. OMGOMGOMG!
Trying to be polite, I emailed the agent with my full and asked her to get back to me within a week. (She replied saying she would.) And I emailed the two other small presses, withdrawing my book from consideration. I mean, they’d had it three days—there was no way they’d have made it off the slush pile, right?
I got an email from the YA editor at TMP almost immediately, asking if I’d signed anything yet. I told her I hadn’t, and that I was waiting a week. She then offered me a contract.
There was squealing and jumping up and down. I couldn’t believe, after all of the “NO” I’d been getting from agents, I’d finally got not one but two lots of “YES”. AT ONCE! That’s more yes than I’d ever had! Willow describes it best.
Willow: “They’re wooing me. They’re pitching woo.”
Buffy: “The wooing stage is always fun.”
Willow: “Rejection I can handle ‘cause of the years of training, but this…”
At the end of the week I heard back from the agent, as she’d promised. She said that she liked what she’d read so far (yay!) but that she hadn’t had time to finish reading the MS, and she didn’t want me to sit around and wait for her when there was an offer on the table, so she was going to pass. I respect that.
So, trying to decide between these two small presses was one of the harder decisions I’ve ever made in my life, let me tell you. They were both offering excellent—but slightly different—contracts, and they both have great teams. It came down to weighing up the two contracts and deciding what I wanted more. I’ll try and put a blog post together later about the factors I considered, in case it will be helpful to anyone else.
In the end, I obviously chose Turquoise Morning Press. But I would have been happy with either press, and I feel very blessed that while my agent query journey was long and unfruitful, my press query journey was mercifully short, and put me out of my misery!
There are some people I need to thank, because this is after all the Oscars my blog. To my alpha reader, Peter, for all his support and for making fun of me when I freak out; to my beta readers, Mikey, Ali and Blue, for their invaluable feedback; to my Aussie Owned ladies, especially Stacey and Katie, for holding my hand this last fortnight and patting it gently so I didn’t faint; to Kim and Krystal for humouring me when I designed my fake cover; to Cass for making me think I could actually do it; to all my tweeps on Twitter and Facebook for the moral support: THANK YOU! Thank you a thousand times over! Mwah!