I'm originally from Little Rock, Arkansas, but have lived in the UK for almost 17 years now (blame my English husband!) Being a writer is what I've always wanted to do, so I feel extremely lucky that I can make a living doing something I enjoy so much. I've written over 40 books - picture books, young teenage, and lots of series fiction for young readers - but the Angel trilogy are my first YA novels. And I have to confess that they're also my favorite of what I've done so far. I love the world and its characters with a passion, and also just love writing YA - I plan to stay in this genre for a very long time!
How much research did you need to do in order to write Angel Burn and Angel Fire?
Quite a bit. Even though the stories are obviously fiction, you do want a sense of reality to pervade them whenever possible. It's important to me to get things right. So in Angel Burn, research included how to fix cars, how to handle a gun, and all the landscape details of the road trip across the US. My husband and I actually recreated that trip during the writing of Angel Burn - though we went even further than Alex and Willow, and drove from Maine to Los Angeles! The one thing I didn't need to research was psychic phenomena. I've always had an interest in that, so knew a lot about auras, etc., already.
In Angel Fire, the research focused mainly on its setting, Mexico City. I read about the city extensively, plus was lucky enough to be able to go there once I'd completed the first draft of the book. It was AMAZING to finally see the places I'd been reading about for so long, and I think it really added to the reality of the world. I also did a lot of research on the conditions of orphanages and young offenders' facilities in Mexico, because of the character Seb. I didn't want to portray these places unfairly at all - so if anything, the details we learn in the story have been toned down somewhat from my research.
Can you share a sneak peek of Angel Fire with everyone?
Of course! Here are a few paragraphs from the opening of Chapter One:
The scissors were cold against my neck.
I stood with my eyes shut in the bathroom of our motel room, trying not to notice how much I hated the sound of each metallic snip, and the odd, awful feeling of lightness that was slowly spreading its way across my head. Even though I knew how much we needed to do this — of course I did; it had been my idea in the first place — that didn’t mean I had to enjoy it. Alex wasn’t enjoying it much, either. In fact, he probably hated it even more than I did. But when I’d brought up the idea earlier that afternoon, he admitted he’d been thinking the same thing — and now the scissors didn’t hesitate as he worked them. If I hadn’t suggested this, he would have.
It was weird, though . . . both of us so eager to do something that neither of us actually wanted.
I heard Alex put the scissors down on the bathroom counter. “OK, I think I’m done.” He sounded uncertain. Dreading what I was about to see, I opened my eyes and stared at myself in the mirror.
My once-long hair was now short. Very short. I don’t even know how to describe it. Sort of a pixie cut, maybe, if the pixies had gone berserk with the scissors. And more than that, it was no longer blond — it was a deep reddish gold that made me think of autumn and bonfires. I’d thought it might go better with my skin tone than brown, but now . . . I swallowed. In the mirror, my green eyes were wide and unsure.
I looked nothing like myself.
Alex was staring, too. “Wow,” he said. “That . . . makes a big difference.”
I wanted to blurt out, You still think I’m beautiful, right? I bit the words back. Still being beautiful was not the point — not that I’d ever really thought I was, anyway; it was Alex who thought that. But the main thing now was just staying alive. In the bedroom, I could still hear the newscast that had been going nonstop ever since we’d turned on the TV: “Police are searching urgently for the pair for questioning. . . . Again, if you see them, do not approach them yourself:, call our special hotline. . . . They are assumed to be armed and dangerous. . . .”
How will you be celebrating the release of Angel Fire?
Well, I'm very lucky, because it came out in the UK on October 1st, so I get to celebrate twice! For the UK release of Angel Fire I was on tour promoting it when it came out, in the beautiful historic city of Bath for the Bath Literary Festival, along with lots of other writers such as Lauren Kate and Christopher Paolini. My husband was with me, so we had a special dinner that night and lifted a celebratory glass of champagne. I'll probably do something similar for the January 24th US release - just a private moment where I sip champagne and mentally thank my characters and the writing-muse! A few weeks later, though, I'll be coming across to the US to go on tour there, so in a way that'll feel like the 'real' release date for me.
What was the most challenging part while writing Angel Fire?
Working out the storyline, without a doubt. When I first started the trilogy I'd planned out books 2 and 3 in great detail, but then once I finished Angel Burn I realized that I knew so much more about the charaters and their world now that a lot of my ideas for the next two books didn't feel right anymore. So for Angel Fire I had to come up with a largely new storyline which still felt integral to the series - not easy! It wasn't until I had the idea for the character of Seb, the half-angel who's been looking for Willow all his life, that things really fell into place with the story, and that was quite late in the day in terms of deadline. Then I wrote very, very fast for several months. ;)
Novel playlists seem to be very popular with authors and readers alike. Do you listen to music while you write, and if so what are some of the songs you found yourself listening to?
Ooh, I love novel playlists! I don't always listen to music when I write, but sometimes I find it really helpful. Depending on my mood, I might choose what I call 'soundtrack' music, which doesn't have any words but is extremely evocative, or else I might play something more mainstream and really blast it. For the former, I especially love Bear McCreary's work - he was the composer for the new Battlestar Galactica series a few years ago. Fabulous stuff - so beautiful in places, and so raw and gritty in others. For the latter, I'm lucky enough that my UK publishers, Usborne, have created completely awesome playlists for both novels; I play them a lot when I write. Tracks for their Angel Fire playlist include songs from Mumford & Sons, Florence + The Machine, The Pretty Reckless, and Iron and Wine.
Do you have any personal rituals that help you to write?
Hmm, not really - unless stumbling out of bed, grabbing a cup of coffee and then just sitting down and doing it counts as a ritual! But one thing I always do before I start working on a novel is to get a very visual idea of my characters. So I have photos of actors who look like how I imagine Alex, Willow and Seb. (The one of Alex is actually the screen saver on my cellphone!) Here they are, if you're curious:
Alex (Sean Ferris)
Willow (Amanda Seyfried)
Seb (Sebastian Zurita)
Thanks for such great questions, Damaris! I really enjoyed answering them.
Thank you L.A for taking the time to answer them! :-)
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