Friday, October 12, 2012

Feature Friday: Heather Anastasiu

Heather Anastasiu recently moved to Minneapolis with her family, and when she's not busy getting lost exploring the new city, she spends most days writing at a café or daydreaming about getting a new tattoo.

Interview:


A.L.:
What piece of advice would you give to a budding author?

Heather:
Really listen to critique and be willing to incorporate it, even if it means big changes and rewrites to your piece. The most basic building block of being a writer is learning the discipline of sitting down to put in the hours it takes to write. But once you’ve mastered that, the next biggest obstacle is hearing what others have to say about your writing and really listening. It can be painful to hear that people don’t love your work right away. Often we have dreams that our first book will be a masterpiece. But that’s just not the way it works. It takes a lot of time to learn how to write scenes, natural dialogue, and a compelling plot. For every other artistic endeavor we accept that it takes years of practice before you’ve mastered it—learning an instrument or being a painter. Writing is no different. But try to find a critique group where they mix in positivity with constructive criticism, because being a writer also takes dogged determination, and it’s important to have others who will encourage you along the way.

A.L.:
On your site, it says your favorite book is East of Eden, would you mind telling us exactly how it blew your world open?

Heather:
Before I read East of Eden, I was very narrow in the kind of fiction that I read – it was pretty much strictly Christian romance books. While those books were entertaining, they were all reinforcing the same narrow way of looking at the world. Then, on a recommendation from a friend, I read East of Eden. Steinbeck doesn’t look at the world through rose colored glasses at all. The way he wrote about human beings with all their alternate follies and glories felt so incredibly real. It struck a chord with me. He wrote about some of the worst things that humans can do to one another, but at the end, shockingly, was a note of redemption. Steinbeck was not religious, but his form of gritty redemption felt more true and earned than the cheesy watered-down versions I was getting in the other books. Yet, in spite of all the darkness in the book, he still saw the world as full of so much beauty, and he wrote in such a way that made me want to caress the pages after I’d read a sentence. So not only was it the characters and his message, it was his lyricism that captured me.

A.L.:
Where did you get the idea for Glitch? It seems almost like The Giver, at first, but it gets way cooler!

Heather:
I’ve always loved dystopias, ever since I was a kid when there was a rash of dystopian sci-fi 80’s and 90’s movies. As far as books, I loved The Giver and 1984, both of which I read in school at various points. The idea of a government that tries to control every aspect of its subject’s life, stripping them of both their individuality and freedom, was a constant source of fascination for me. Those seemed like the most important parts to life, and I always thought stories about fighting back against such oppression also get to explore those themes about what it means to be human.

As for Glitch, I got the idea after my husband and I talked about this creepy Popular Science article he’d read about research into putting memory chips in Alzheimer’s patients. I was immediately both wigged out and intrigued by the idea that we might start integrating technology in our bodies more and more in the future. Then my imagination took it the next step, wondering what would happen if the government controlled all that tech in our bodies, and the idea for Glitch was born!

A.L.:
Did you hit any snags while writing Glitch or the sequel, Override? What were they and how did you fix them?

Heather:
Boy did I ever!!! Especially with Override. The first draft of Glitch sailed out pretty easily and without much sweat or tears. Override, on the other hand, had to be rewritten from scratch almost three times. But I’m on a six month release schedule between books, so all of those rewrites had to happen on a seriously fast timeline. The biggest problem was that the draft was written during a difficult time in my life, and I learned (afterward) that I can’t write very well unless I’m happy and everything is nice and stable. The book I produced at first was wooden with characters who felt distant and unrelatable, and the first half draaaaaaaaaaaaaaged. I’d understood Zoe so clearly in book 1, but then I had trouble connecting to her journey as it continued in book 2, mostly because I was at this strange disconnected place in my real life. 

But everything settled down at the beginning of 2012, and I was finally able to get back into a good headspace. After a few lengthy mis-starts, I rewrote the book from scratch. That was a hard call to make, but sometimes it’s just necessary to start over. And when I did, both Zoe and Adrien came back to life for me. I could feel their passions and their struggles and had a much clearer vision for what the book would be. So even though the basic plot points of the book didn’t change much in the different versions, everything else did. I don’t think there’s even one sentence from the first version that’s in the last! 

A.L.:
Which one of the characters in this series is your favorite and why?

Heather:
Well, I’ve got a lot of love for Zoe since I’m in her head all the time writing in first person :) But I think as far as my favorite, it’s probably gotta be Adrien. He goes through a lot as the series continues, and my heart would alternately break for him and be lifted up as I was writing his scenes. There was nothing more emotionally wrenching than getting in his head and seeing the world as he sees it.

A.L.:
Can you tell us a little bit about your journey as an author?

Heather:
I wrote three novels in six years and stacked up piles and piles of rejections (literally hundreds by the end) of every kind imaginable—rejections from agents, rejections from literary magazines, rejections from MFA programs. But after the sting of each rejection wore off, I’d dig back into a project or start a new one. I went faithfully to a little writer’s group that met at my local library. And I tried to really soak up and incorporate what I was hearing in my critique partners. There’s this dogged determination you have to have when you’re trying to make it as an author, so I kept holding onto the impossible dream and continually strove to get better and better.

Then in the spring of 2010 I came up with the idea for Glitch. All that semester I plotted it out in my head, but I didn’t have time to write it until summertime. I wrote it in a crazy blaze, and could tell even as I was writing that this one was different from my previous book attempts. The response I got from agents when I queried it was a lot different too! Suddenly I had lots of requests for partials and fulls, and then one agent, Charlie Olsen at Inkwell Management, sent a magical email saying he wanted to set up a phone call with me. There were things he really liked about my manuscript, and other big things that needed changing. After several big rounds of edits, he offered representation, and when we went on submission in January, the trilogy sold in three weeks in a pre-empt to St. Martin’s. That was literally the most insane and amazing day of my life.

A.L.:
We know we can expect two more books in this trilogy, but what are you going to write after that? Anything in the works?

Heather:
Oh yes, there’s always something in the works ;) There’s a lot of time waiting in between edits on each book, and I always use that time to work on drafting the next book. I finished a draft of book 3 this summer and have been playing around with a few different cool ideas the last few months. Only time will tell if they end up going anywhere, but I’m hopeful!

A.L.:
So, you love body art – especially tattoos. Would you mind telling us a little bit about some of the tattoos you already have and maybe some thoughts on which ones you’ll get next?

Heather:
My first tattoo was a celtic tree of life on my inner wrist, because I wanted something really symbolic. In the image, it’s a circle where the roots are indistinguishable from the branches, so it represents the idea that birth and growth are always cyclical, like an ever continuing exchange, which I find very meaningful. I never want my life to become stagnant. 

But after I got that tattoo, I realized that while it’s meaningful, next I wanted some tattoos that are just plain beautiful—flowing pieces of art on my skin. Nothing like your classic skull and crossbones kind of thing for me! So next I got my Alphonse Mucha inspired lady on one arm (her hair! I love the flowing hair!), and a couple years later, to celebrate my book deal, got a huge three-quarters arm sleeve of bursting roses and lilies. But after all the long sessions it took for the roses and lilies (ow), I think I’ll wait a couple years before I dive back in for another one!



A.L.:
So, you chill out in cafes on a daily basis, what’s your favorite café drink and why?

Heather:
While I mainly drink black coffee, my favorite splurge drink is a white chocolate mocha, with extra pumps of white chocolate. I want it so sweet that it tastes like liquid fudge. Yummmmmmmmm.

A.L.:
How are you enjoying Minneapolis? Have you found some excellent places in your travels?

Heather:
So far I love the weather here more than anything. I moved from Texas and it has been such a lovely relief to go from sweating all the time to putting on cozy sweaters, curling up next to the window, and watching it snow. So much more aesthetically pleasing than sweat! And snow is freaking magical. Everyone else here in Minnesota says it will lose its charm after a few winters, but I refuse to believe it!

A.L.:
What’s your favorite style of art? Do you yourself like to paint in this style?

Heather:
I’m a fan of most kinds of art and love to peek into how other people see the world through their artistic expression. There’s just so many forms that beauty can take. I really enjoy dramatic gothic art that people make with photoshop these days. I’m a sucker for a girl in a beautiful dress with long flowing hair! When I paint, I use oil and love to focus close up on faces. There was a long stretch where I painted pictures of old statues of women with, you guessed it, long flowing hair. The women in the statues always wore such emotive expressions, I love trying to capture that in my paintings.



The Giveaway:
Heather is sending a signed copy of GLITCH to one lucky winner!

GLITCH:  In the Community, there is no more pain or war. Implanted computer chips have wiped humanity clean of destructive emotions, and thoughts are replaced by a feed from the Link network.

When Zoe starts to malfunction (or “glitch”), she suddenly begins having her own thoughts, feelings, and identity. Any anomalies must be immediately reported and repaired, but Zoe has a secret so dark it will mean certain deactivation if she is caught: her glitches have given her uncontrollable telekinetic powers.

As Zoe struggles to control her abilities and stay hidden, she meets other glitchers including Max, who can disguise his appearance, and Adrien, who has visions of the future. Both boys introduce Zoe to feelings that are entirely new. Together, this growing band of glitchers must find a way to free themselves from the controlling hands of the Community before they’re caught and deactivated, or worse.

In this action-packed debut, Glitch begins an exciting new young adult trilogy.


How to Enter:
Enter the giveaway using Rafflecopter. Hit the green "Do It" buttons, follow the prompts, and hit the green enter buttons when you're done. (You may have to log in using Facebook to do this). There will be one winner (selected by Rafflecopter). I will contact the winner via email. This contest is open to national entrants only.