Bieke & Rachel Interview Lisa Amowitz!

Posted September 24, 2015 by Bee in Interviews & Guest Posts / 4 Comments

 

interviewbanner lisa amowitz

Am I the luckiest person alive, or what? After I read Until Beth, I started talking with Lisa on Twitter. Then I read her other two books and when she found out I got Until Beth from Netgalley, not as part of the book tour, she offered to stop by my blog for an interview. YES, I was ecstatic! By then Lisa had found her place on my author auto-buy list, so I was more than honored when she suggested it. So then I sat down to think of what I could ask her, as did my lovely co-blogger Rachel, since she loved Until Beth to, and this is the result!

Bee: Okay, I’m going to start of with a pretty standard question! When did you start writing?

Lisa: My background and training was in art, but it’s probably no accident that I was drawn to illustration since I’ve always had a love for stories. But, being a primarily visual person, making art and images was my first passion. Still, I loved words. I’d filled notebooks with half-finished poems, songs, stories, novels, comic strips—and never took it the least bit seriously except to get good grades in school.

Fast forward many years later—as part of a grant opportunity for my job as a graphic design professor, I decided I was going to finally write and illustrate a children’s book. Turns out I knew nothing about children’s book genres—or how to write long form fiction! But I caught the bug and could not stop writing—even though I’m certain what I was producing was flat-out dreadful and unreadable. Not to be deterred, I joined an online critique group where after an eight-year slog through the depths of despair, frustration, gnawing envy, and angst, I finally managed to get my first book published in 2013. And, though I am more confident about my writing and my ability to churn out a cohesive narrative—I’m still slogging and am pretty resigned to that —the old angst still lurks around every corner, waiting to pounce like a spiteful cat. That is the life of a writer. But I accept it—because I know I will never stop writing!

Bee: Your books always seem to be mystery thrillers, with a paranormal/urban fantasy twist. Where do you find inspiration for these stories?

Lisa: I’ve been asked this a lot and I find I offer a slightly different answer each time. For me, writing is very therapeutic. As I’d mentioned in the question above, I’m an artist at my core, and I’ve got a somewhat unruly imagination. As a child I used to climb trees and sit in the branches fantasizing that I lived in a magic forest and tiny creatures lived under the rocks in my backyard. Yeah—I was a pretty weird kid. And that never truly left me. So, in a sense, writing mystery/fantasy/thrillers satisfy the strange child I still am, but also help me work through issues I’ve faced and question in real life. I continually ponder the nature of evil—whether because of events in the new or real life. I wonder about the unknowable mystery of another person’s mind (even my own children’s), and consider how some people persevere and prevail through unimaginable horrors. I think, also, the contact I’ve had with my diverse body of students and their experiences all feeds into my writing.

I’m drafting this on the 14th anniversary of 9/11. I live in New York City and that day is still a dark scar on the city’s psyche, though we’ve grown stronger and more resilient. It was that day I realized life is not always kind—that it can be terrifying, in fact. And that children can’t be shielded from life’s darker side (mine were very young at the time and I was horrified at the realization that I could not ever completely protect them. Witness the tragic situation in Syria). So, in answer to your question—I’m drawn to explore the dark underbelly of the human psyche, and being the strange “grown-up” child that I am, mystery/thriller/fantasy makes a great playground for my creative impulses and life’s quandries. I guess I write YA because there is nothing more fascinating than the first time—first love, first discovery of your abilities and passions—and the chance to do over things you totally screwed up when you were an actual teen.

Now to answer more specifically—I get a LOT of my inspiration from my surroundings in both New York City, upstate NY and from history. I love history. And wow—am I long-winded. You should meet me and you’ll agree. If I don’t scare you with my talky and direct New York personality. 😉

Bee: I really hope I get to meet you some day!

Rachel: Are your characters inspired by any real life people?

Lisa: None of my protagonists are real people. They are all just composites. They start talking to me, so I get to know them. I’m not actually sure how that happens! But a lot of my villains are made from bits and pieces of actual individuals that I’ve either met, or read about—because as I’ve said—I am fascinated by the nature of evil and how no one is entirely evil or good— how some people can be so casually and banally evil while still believing they are justified. These concerns kind of obsess me, and I think you’ll find it’s a theme that runs through most of my writing.

Bee: How do you get that creepy and/or tense atmosphere in your stories?

Lisa: New York State’s Hudson River Valley helps with that! Creepy woods, winding roads, “Type A” New York city metro personalities, and eerie settings. It’s just the stuff that clunks around in my head and I guess if it comes out as tense and mysterious, I’m doing my job!

Rachel: Do you have a dream cast for any of your books, in case they were ever made into a movie?

Lisa: I’ve shared this with a stop on my blog tour, but I guess I can share it here as well.

Beth: Kaitlyn Dever
I don’t know this actress at all, but she looks just like Beth—minus the blue hair.

beth

For Vincent:
He’s supposed to be mixed race, but this guy is the closest I can find. He’s a hair model and I have no idea what his name is.

vincent

Xavier:
Nicolas Hoult YES!! YES!! Those eyes! But he is a bit sweeter than Xavier and much too British—If I could merge him with a snarky young Milo Ventimiglia, we’d have Xavier.

xavier

And this guy is my perfect Andre: Imagine him with more muscles and tattoos and that’s him!
Andre: Diego Boneta

andre

Bee: Do you have a pattern of sorts when you write a book? Any rituals or habits?

Lisa: I guess if I have a pattern, it’s to do a lot of character profiling and research of locations (online mainly) and historic stuff before I start. I did create a massive plot map with my friend, author Elizabeth Langston (The Whisper Falls series and the I Wish series) whom I’m supposed to be writing a YA historical with—but short of the frenzy of “stage setting” ( I like to know WHERE my stories take place) I’m an erratic “panster” at heart. However, I’ve been known to re-write my first chapters fifty times before I write the rest. I pretty much drive myself, and anyone unfortunate enough to be my beta reader crazy, lol. But once I’ve got the kinks worked out, I can churn out words like nobody’s business.

Rachel: Do you listen to music when you write? Any playlist for your books if so?

Lisa: I used to write to music, but find that I can’t anymore.
I need to focus harder—I think it’s because of social media. It’s so much of a distraction that if I also listened to music I’d get nothing done. That being said, my books all seem to have a “theme song”. Breaking Glass most certainly has a theme song—it’s in the trailer I’d made. It’s called Lost Forever And by a band that used to call itself Guggenheim Grotto and is now know as Storyman.

VISION’s theme song is Mumford and Son’s Lover of the Light. And here is the playlist I made up for UNTIL BETH: It’s on Spotify. I’m not sure if everyone can access it so I’m including a screen shot of it.

screenshot vision

I am also really inspired by song lyrics. My favorite band, The Decemberists, has the best “song stories” I’ve ever heard and the lead singer, Colin Meloy, is actually a bestselling novelist of middle grade fiction.

Bee: But then I introduced Lisa to this awesome song and we both agreed that it’s the perfect theme song for Until Beth! Check it out! But you should also go listen to this song, because it fits really well with Breaking Glass!

Bee: Writing a first draft is hard and takes a lot of time, but the actual hard work comes after that. How do you go about revising and editing that first draft?

Lisa: Ah—I think I hinted at the hair-pulling aspect, but let me try to break this down into something useful for aspiring authors. I’m going to write it out like a mad-cap recipe for things you need to put on your checklist.

Ingredients:
5 cups of character. Know your main character. Know his/her background, idiosyncrasies, loves, obsessions, fears. Know what they need to learn/find on their journey. Know this FIRST before you do anything else.

1 cup of setting. Where and when are they? Contemporary? Future? Past? Research, research, research. Is this fleshed out? Is it pertinent to the story? Create a sense of place and atmosphere.

A gallon of conflict. Character + conflict =plot. Yeah—no conflict, no story.

Take these ingredients and mix them in a bowl. Add the following advice that comes largely from a great book I read called Hooked, by Les Edgerton.

Stir in Make sure you have a first sentence that grabs your reader immediately, tells them something about your character, and sets up what’s about to happen. Edgerton calls it the “surface problem”. I call it the catalyst. It’s the event that sets the story in motion. Your first chapter should create a situation that tells us something about our protagonist and puts events in play. It does not have to be the actual situation. That’s why Edgerton calls it the surface problem. It then leads the protagonist to the “story level problem—the issue they must solve to get to the conclusion of the book.”

Mix in action in every chapter. Something has to happen. You cannot just describe things and let your reader fall asleep…because they won’t fall asleep—they will throw your book across the room or delete it from their ereaders.

Chop any words, scenes, dialogue, description that does not move the story forward. ALL DIALOGUE and settings must add to your narrative. Use description as part of action.

Add a pinch of quirky details that bring your story and characters to life but don’t weigh down the narrative.

Cook on high heat—keep going! Don’t stop!

Allow to cool Always be ready to “kill your darlings.” That’s advice from Stephen King from On Writing. That means be merciless and cut whole chapters, sentences, even characters that bog your narrative down.

Writing Books I recommend:
Stephen King’s; On Writing, Anne Lamotte’s; Bird by Bird, Les Edgerton; Hooked.

And most important—write the story YOU want to tell—not what you think will sell.

Bee: That is brilliant! What do you love most about being an author?

Lisa: Connecting with cool people and readers like yourselves—especially at book events! I love when someone connects with my books like you both have.

Bee: Aahw! What do you do outside of writing? A job, any hobbies?

Until BethLike most writers, I lead a double life. I’m a wife and mother of two grown wacky and artistic offspring. I’m a professor of graphic design and deputy chairperson at a community college where I rant and rave about typography and deal with all manner of chaotic goings on. I design book covers (my own including UNTIL BETH, and have done over 30 for Spencer Hill Press and for other clients). I have an MFA in painting and am lately creating small watercolor landscapes which you can find on Instagram. I love to read, of course, and adore Indie movies, great locally sourced food, nature, and well-written TV shows like Sherlock BBC and American Horror Story. Speaking of Sherlock, I’ve got a fangirl crush on Benedict Cumberbatch and even went to see him perform Hamlet in London. I’ve kind of got a crush on London, too. AND—I’m a sort of history geek. And shoes—one can never have enough shoes. AND—coffee—American style drip coffee—not the strong thick stuff they serve in London.

Bee: LOVE Benedict Cumberbatch and that is a fabulous cover!

Rachel: What are your plans for the Until Beth series? (I know that WE know, but so other people know)

Lisa: The book was envisioned as a trilogy, so one way or another, it will be so.

Bee: Can you share anything else about your future projects?

Lisa: The most certain thing I can share is that there will be a sequel for BREAKING GLASS releasing in 2017.

Rachel: What is the biggest piece of advice you’d give to a budding author?

Lisa: Read tons of the kinds of books you want to write, be open to criticism, expect rejection and keep on going anyway. And never, no matter what anyone says or does—no matter if the world is ending—ever stop writing!

Bee: That was awesome, thanks so much for doing this Lisa! You can read my reviews of Breaking Glass & Vision over here and my review for Until Beth is here!

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Bee

Bee

Bee (born as Bieke) is 26 years old and from Belgium. (No she won't send waffles.) She's a strange, nerdy and anxious creature floating around somewhere on the ace spectrum. Oh, and she also writes books as Nelly B. Jones. Or tries to anyway. You can also find her on Novel Ink.

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