Friday, May 16, 2014

Feature Friday: Anna Schumacher

Anna Schumacher received an MFA in fiction writing from the New School. An award-winning advertising copywriter, she currently oversees custom creative programs for Hearst Magazines' twenty-four digital titles. She is recently married and lives in Brooklyn with her husband, Tim, and their two cats, Gus and Alexis. END TIMES is her first novel. Follow her on Twitter @SchumacherYA.




Interview:

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

Anna:
Write the books you want to read. It’s so easy to get caught up in wanting to follow trends or write a “best-seller” – I know because I’ve done it, and I have the rejection letters and heartbreak to prove it. But ultimately agents, editors and, most important, readers can sniff out passion and authenticity. So write what turns you on the most, and trust that it will find a home in the world.

That, and don’t talk smack on the Internet. It always comes back to bite you.

A.L.:
What's your favorite book and why?

Anna:
My favorite book changes weekly, depending on what I’ve been reading. Right now it’s Pointe, by Brandy Colbert, because I just finished it yesterday. Last week it was Nova Ren Suma’s 17 & Gone, and the week before it was an adult novel called Want Not by Jonathan Miles.

Generally, I like fiction with dark themes and beautiful writing. I can’t read a book with shoddy language, even if the plot is fascinating.

A.L.:
Where did you get the idea for End Times?

Anna:
End Times was inspired by an article in The New York Times about oil boomtowns in North Dakota. I’d wanted to do a rapture story for a long time, and this seemed like such a perfect and unexpected setting.

A.L.:
Did you hit any snags while writing End Times?  What were they and how did you fix them?

Anna:
I had a lot of trouble getting my mind around Daphne’s character. Everyone else was so clear in my head and so easy to write, but Daphne was a mystery, even to me. Over the course of several drafts (and many calls with my wonderfully patient editor, Jessica Almon), Daphne went from a kind of aloof, too-cool-for-school Detroit kid who partied in abandoned warehouses (which, don’t get me wrong, is awesome – but not for this protagonist in this story) to the person she is now: a quiet loner who has trouble letting anyone get close.

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

Anna:
I know I’m not supposed to play favorites, but honestly? Luna. I’ve always been fascinated by villains, and Luna walks a fine line between evil and crazy that I find incredibly compelling.

I made Luna a hooper because hoop-dance is my hobby and, frankly, I’m pretty bad at it. As a naturally clumsy person, I spend more time dropping the hoop or nailing myself in the nose than doing cool tricks. In this respect, Luna is everything I want to be: talented, powerful, sexy, and self-assured.

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

Anna:
I wrote my first short story when I was five. It was inspired by Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus painting and involved crabs, pearls, mermaids, and princesses. It used the word “beautiful” eleven times and did not have a happy ending.

From there, I basically never stopped. After college I went for an MFA in fiction writing and had some early success ghostwriting, but was never able to sell my original work. I spent a lot of time feeling discouraged, collecting rejection letters, and starting books that I never finished. (I currently have about a half-dozen partly completed books and series gathering dust on my hard drive.)

I supported myself financially and emotionally with ad copywriting work: financially because it pays actual money, and emotionally because even as I was wracking up rejections for my fiction, I was always in demand as a copywriter. Today I still work fulltime in advertising, but I’m devoting more time and energy to my fiction, which is incredibly rewarding. Maybe someday I can be one of those writers who gets to live in imaginary worlds all day, every day. Until then, I’ve got bills to pay.

A.L.:
What are you working on now?  Sequel?  Something new?

Anna:
Sequel! END TIMES BOOK 2: THE CHILDREN OF THE EARTH picks up where the first book left off, but unlike Book 1, where I spend a lot of time building the world and setting up the stakes, Book 2 is basically non-stop action from start to finish, with lots of surprising plot twists and several cool new characters. Something wild happens in every chapter, and now that I’m fully in all the characters’ heads the book is just flowing out of me. It’s incredibly exciting and I can’t wait for people to read it!

A.L.:
What made you want to write an "end times" novel?  Why set it in Wyoming?  And why make Daphne work at an oil rig?

Anna:
I’ve always wanted to write a rapture novel. I don’t know why. I was raised in a secular Jewish household, but religion and, in particular, religious zealotry have always been fascinating to me.

I chose Wyoming for its beautiful, jagged mountain landscape and Carbon County in particular because it’s one of the most economically depressed areas in the United States: a place that would change drastically if they found oil in the ground.

While Carbon County is a real county, the small town of Carbon County in my books is fictional. If you go to the actual Carbon County and ask for directions to Carbon County, they’ll just look at you funny.

Daphne didn’t work at the rig in the first couple drafts of END TIMES, but as I got to know her I realized that it was just something she would want to do. She’s a damaged character who gains genuine satisfaction from hard work and doesn’t like to sit still, so it didn’t make sense for her to just hang around the Peytons’ trailer while an oil rig went up in the backyard. It was almost like she was begging me from the pages to let her work, so I did.

A.L.:
If the end times were really coming, what would be the one thing you had to do before it all ended?

Anna:
Say: “I told you so?” Just kidding! I don’t think I’d do anything too crazy: probably just hug my parents, kiss my husband, snuggle my kitties, and then sit back and watch it all go up in flames.

A.L.:
Is there a reason why you chose the name Daphne?

Anna:
That’s a good question…I wish I had a good answer! Honestly, it was the first thing that came to me. I wanted her to have a name with a girly sound since she’s such a tomboy, but I didn’t want it to be so girly that it didn’t fit. Daphne seemed both soft and tough at the same time.

The Giveaway:
Anna is giving away a hardcover of END TIMES (US only).

End Times:  Carbon County, Wyoming is like a current running through Daphne’s heart.

When life gets too tough to bear in Detroit, Daphne flees to her Uncle Floyd’s home, where she believes she’ll find solace in the silent hills of her childhood summers. But Daphne’s Greyhound bus pulls over in downtown Carbon County and it’s not silence that welcomes her. It’s the sound of trumpets.

Daphne’s desire to start again in simple country comfort is instantly dashed as the townsfolk declare that the End Times are here. And incredible occurrences soon support their belief. Daphne does all she can to keep her head down and ignore the signs. She works a job at the local oil rig, helps around the house, hangs out with her pregnant cousin Janie and gets to know Owen, a mysterious motocross racer and fellow roustabout at the rig. But soon a startling discovery shatters her resolve and calls into question all her doubts and fears.
            
Daphne landed in Carbon County for a reason. She only has to read the signs—and believe.


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