Hello everyone! And welcome back to my Author Interview series.
This week, I am chatting with Alexa Linger, a fellow member of my new Facebook book club, Indie Eden. Her book, Birthright, is a Young Adult novel about a small town full of secrets – and the one person responsible for keeping all of those secrets safe. Let’s see what she has to say about her book, and about the writing process!
Hi Alexa! Let’s start out with what might be the most important question. What is the one question that you wish people would ask you about your latest book? (And what is the answer?)
‘Did you base a character on yourself?’ Yes, I did, but it was accidental; something that just sort of happened. Many of my traits and characteristics come out in Ruth-Anne, the main character’s assistant. Ruth-Anne over-mothers everyone, she’s neurotic, she’s disorganized, she always looks slightly disheveled, she has no fashion-sense, and she has “The Look” down (the look your mom gives when you’re about to be in trouble) – that’s all me!
Which typical author interview question do you hate the most? (I won’t be offended if you choose one of mine. :P)
‘Where do you get your inspiration? The problem with that question is inspiration isn’t finite; it can come from anywhere or anything. There’s not a one size fits all answer; you can’t wrap it up and tie a neat little bow around it.
Whew, that wasn’t one of mine. Haha! On a similar topic, though, Is there any famous author that inspires you, or that you admire?
The writing of this book was largely inspired by William Faulkner. It’s said he wrote the novel “As I Lay Dying” (one of my all-time favorites) in about a month and it was published with very little editing. Since I learned that in college, I’ve wanted to write a book in a month like him. And I thought what better way to do that than NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month)? When I had the idea for Birthright around Halloween 2016, though, I realized I would have very little time to prepare for NaNoWriMo, which takes place during the month of November. I just started writing, anyway. No character sketches, no outline, no notes – nothing. I was shocked I wrote a 50,000-word novel by December 1st with no preparation because I was so well prepared for NaNoWriMo the previous three years and the most I ever wrote was 26,000 words for them. The difference between this year and the others was Birthright was a story I needed to tell. I fell in love with Downe, the characters, and the story… I felt like I needed to share it.
Other authors that I like are J.K. Rowling, Vladimir Nabokov, Albert Camus, Shakespeare, Kurt Vonnegut, William Faulkner, John Greene, Chuck Palahniuk… the list goes on.
That’s really impressive! Can you give us a short description of Birthright?
Basically, Elisheva Corrine (Ellie) is a sixteen-year-old who’s grieving the death of her grandfather (her guardian/caregiver) when she’s thrust into her role as The Secret Keeper, which was her grandpa’s job before his death. She lives in the community of Downe, which is for all intents and purposes a cult, and she’s responsible for keeping all the members’ secrets (held within objects) safe and secure. Soon, Ellie begins to follow clues left by her grandpa that make her realize not everything is how it seems.
There’s a much better synopsis on the back of the book. 😊
Your book is in the Young Adult genre. What drew you to this genre? Do you also like to read books in this genre?
My favorite genres to read are Young Adult, dystopian, and classic literature. I’ve always been a huge fan of Harry Potter and other books that are YA, but can be enjoyed by all ages; that’s was my goal for Birthright – to have my fifteen-year-old sister and my mother-in-law like it. As for what drew me to write YA, to quote the late, great Toni Morrison, “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”
That’s great advice! The Young Adult genre is largely age-based, but like you said, it is easily enjoyed by people of all ages. Who is your target audience for this book, though? What do you think will appeal to them about Birthright?
I didn’t write this with a target audience in mind, but I wanted it to be appropriate for ages 13+. I wanted it to have a little something for everyone: dystopian, mystery, romance, suspense, and Young Adult. I’ve been told, during the beta reads, that it’s hard to put down. I think that’s the highest compliment!
I’ve been reading your book myself, and I can definitely agree with your beta readers! To delve deeper into your writing process, when you write a book, do you plan everything beforehand, or do you let the story follow its own course?
Typically, I have an outline and some notes or something, but Birthright took on a life of its own. Characters like Johanna, Trey, and Abigail, who became integral to the storyline, weren’t planned – they sort of just showed up. And I’m glad they did.
Do you have any quirky writing habits?
I’m not a ritualistic person. I like writing in complete silence on my couch (since I don’t have a home office) with my cat next to me. Or I write while I’m on Skype’s video chat with one of my best friends, who’s also a writer. We can go hours without talking because we’re both working on manuscripts, but it’s comforting to know he’s there if I get stuck, to bounce ideas off, to help me brainstorm, or to give me his opinion.
I like that idea! It is always nice to have a fellow writer who understands you. Do you have any writing tips for other writers who are maybe just getting started?
Don’t write a book in a month! (Haha) No, seriously, I would say to keep writing. Don’t get bogged down with changing things as you go; just finish the manuscript and then go back and edit, make changes. The original draft of Birthright was a mess! But guess what? I got it done and then I edited it. I had five people do reads, proof-reads, or edits since December. Without them, Birthright wouldn’t be what it is now. Also, another tip is to read and read often. It will help you become a better writer.
What would you say is the best way to market your book? With which method have you had the most success so far?
I’m fortunate that my husband does web development and Internet marketing, so he’s handling that. I’m doing the grassroots stuff, like putting a press release in our local newspaper. I think it also helps that I constantly self-promote on Facebook – a lot of people are excited for the release.
How did your book come to be published? What was your journey to publication like? Did you get a lot of rejection letters before you finally saw your name in print?
I chose to self-publish because I loved my characters and story and I didn’t want anyone telling me to change them. I’ve been a self-employed freelance writer for two years now, so it’s hard to go back to people telling you what to do after being your own boss. I just wanted to have creative control and be 100% happy with how my vision was brought to life.
I can totally understand that. At the end of the day, after all that work, is being a published author everything you dreamed it would be? If not, how is it different? Is there anything you would change about it?
It’s very surreal. I was in shock holding the physical proof of my book. I still can’t believe it! Being a published author has always been a dream of mine and to have it happen is just crazy. The only thing I didn’t anticipate was all the work that goes into editing, formatting, publishing, etc. Writing the story was the easy part! If I could go back and change anything it would be to have done more research on the self-publishing process; it was really a ‘learn as you go’ experience. I’m thankful I had an author friend who mentored me.
Thank you, Jessica, for having me on your blog. Thank you to everyone reading this and I hope you enjoy Birthright!
Thank you, Alexa! And thanks for giving us all that great advice!
About the Author:
Alexa Linger lives and breathes writing. After working on sales copy or web content all day (and occasionally interviewing musicians or bands – the coolest job in the world!), she treats herself to creative writing (mostly prose) or watches way too much TV (especially game shows and Food Network). She can always be found with a purse full of books, baking something delicious from scratch, hanging out with her family and cats, or volunteering for anything and everything (thank God this isn’t The Hunger Games!) Alexa and her husband are also licensed foster parents and open their home to teenage girls. She’s eternally optimistic and believes every day is an adventure.
About the Book:
In Downe, secrets are contained within objects and a special energy exclusive to the community members fuels them, making the objects come alive. The objects are then sent to the Hall of Secrets where they are kept safe and secure by The Secret Keeper.
Growing up, sixteen-year-old Ellie Corrine always knew that her place in the community of Downe was different; her grandfather Oskar had made it clear that Secret Keeping was her birthright. It isn’t until after Grandpa Oskar passes away, though, that Ellie inherits the role of Secret Keeper, a respected position she has been training for since the age of nine.
However, as she dives deeper into her responsibilities, she begins to learn that things aren’t always what they seem. With the help of Tavis, her assistant Ruth-Anne’s nephew, and clues left by Grandpa Oskar, Ellie begins to unravel the dark truths of Downe. How far should she go to protect herself and the members of the community? And are some things truly better left unsaid?