Hello everyone! And welcome to a brand new author interview. Today I am chatting with Lori Ann Stephens, member of the Indie Eden Book Club and author of Some Act of Vision. Her book is about a young dancer whose life is turned upside down because of fracking in her hometown. Let’s see what Lori has to say about the book, and about her writing process.
Hi Lori! First things first: Which typical author interview question do you hate the most? (So I can make sure not to ask it!)
I don’t hate any questions! Even when people ask me a question I’ve heard before, it gives me a chance to try to uncover something about myself or my writing that I don’t often or readily think about.
That’s a great way to think about it! Can you give us a short description of Some Act of Vision?
Jordan Walker’s world revolves around ballet, her best friends, and her current diet. But a massive earthquake triggered by the fracking activity nearby devastates her hometown and irrevocably changes her world. The Walker family survives the earthquake, but Jordan and her family are forced to abandon their old lives and flee to Galveston. It isn’t until she meets Caleb, a blind musician, that Jordan dares to hope again. And the more their secret friendship develops, the more Jordan understands the danger she’s placed everyone in.
Your book is in the speculative fiction genre. Can you explain what this genre is, and what drew you to it? Do you also like to read books in this genre?
Speculative Fiction is a term that I stumbled upon. Speculative Fiction, as I understand it, means that the something about the story world is not aligned with the natural laws of this universe. For instance, all the superhero stories would be speculative in nature, but so would stories with a spirit world, ESP, telekinesis, or the risen dead. I didn’t set out to write a work of speculative fiction; it just happened when I wrote the earthquake scene. Some Act of Vision has one feature that prevents it from being labeled realistic fiction, even though fracking and earthquakes and identity crises are all very real. (I won’t tell you here what that one thing is. It’s a pivotal part of the book.) I love books like The Giver—books that examine dystopias or time travel narratives. Some of my favorite stories, like those of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, contain magical realism.
Interesting! We’re reading the book for the book club, and I must say that that “one thing” is really a doozy. (And I also love The Giver!) Is there any famous author that inspires you, or that you admire?
I love Barbara Kingsolver, Nicole Krauss, and Neil Gaiman. Their writing is vivid and lyrical—they tap right into the part of me that craves originality.
Who is your target audience for this book? What do you think will appeal to them about your book?
The book’s target audience is teenaged girls, of course! And dancers. Anyone who remembers what it was like to be a teenager and formulate your own identity. But I think it also speaks to anyone whose identity is wrapped around one skill. What happens when you lose that skill? The book is also a commentary on the fracking industry, a metaphor for the way the industry absolves itself from responsibilities and the consequences of living our lives in a bubble. Bubbles eventually pop.
When you write a book, do you plan out everything beforehand, or do you let the story follow its own course?
I had a general awareness of where this book was headed, but at about the halfway point, it was a real adventure for me, too. I woke up every day wondering what’s going to happen to Jordan today? This novel was the most fun I’ve ever written.
I love it when that happens! Do you have any quirky writing habits?
I’m pretty average for a writer. I write best when I have a glass of wine, some Irish cheese, and a ramekin of salted almonds within reach. Yes, that happens nightly.
I like any writing habit that involves food! Any writing tips for other writers, aside from keeping snacks on hand?
Keep writing. Write and write and write, even when people reject your stories. Read brilliant novels, the best novels out there, and then write what your heart wants you to write. Get feedback from other writers and let your feelings get hurt and then get over it and write some more, and try to be a little better each time. Basically, keep writing because the more you do, and the more you read good books, the better you’ll get.
That is some really great advice. :) Maybe you have some more! What would you say is the best way to market your book? With which method have you had the most success so far?
Word of mouth, by far! Some Act won the National Readers’ Choice Award for YA fiction by the RWA society, but really it’s word-of-mouth recommendations that are the best marketing. I’m always so appreciative when a reader emails me and tell me he or she has recommended my books to others. I get a little choked up every time!
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 had an agent for this book, and the manuscript went on two rounds of submissions to big publishers. Editors responded with positive comments, but no one knew how to market or shelve it into a category, so it wasn’t contracted. What I learned? On the whole, the publishing industry lacks vision—just read J.K. Rowling’s publishing story (and so many others) for confirmation. Editors want the next big thing, but their frame of reference is what’s already made it “big.” The next big thing is almost always completely unexpected and original—even the publisher is often astonished. So yes, lots of rejections. Some Act of Vision was eventually picked up by a small press in New Jersey. As with so many small presses today, the press folded quietly a year later, and the rights reverted back to me. The book is now available online and in paperback: thanks Amazon!
I have had a similar experience with the publishing industry, and I’m sure most other indie writers have too. Luckily you kept going in spite of the rejections! The book is really good, it would have been a shame if you let those problems stop you from putting it out.
Okay, last question: 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?
I was warned by my creative writing professors that being a published author doesn’t mean that you’ll end up with a six-figure advance and a movie option. They were right, for me at least! I still have dreams of making a huge book deal and reaching thousands of readers who are moved somehow by my writing, but I’m honestly happy with where I am now. I’m very lucky. I have two middle-grade novels coming out in 2018 (Pierre François: 5th Grade Mishaps and Novalee and the Spider Secret, and I’m plugging away at another vaguely speculative novel now. You know: I just keep writing and writing and hope it all makes sense.
That’s great, I’m sure you have a bright future ahead of you as an author! Thanks for sitting down for the interview, you gave us some really great advice!
About the Author
Lori Ann Stephens is the award-winning author of Young Adult novel SOME ACT OF VISION (ASD Publishing, September 2013), SONG OF THE ORANGE MOONS (Blooming Tree Press, Nov 2010), and several short stories and poems. SOME ACT OF VISION is the 2013 YA novel winner of the National Readers’ Choice Award, hosted by the Romance Writers of America, OK. After winning the English National Opera Minioperas libretto contest in 2012, she found herself writing lyrics to operas…that have real composers and singers and stages in London and the U.S.! When she’s not writing or teaching writing, she reads, takes on DIY home remodeling adventures, and eats the best gourmet, home-cooked meals. She is usually not the cook. She lives in Texas with her family.
About the Book
After ten years of ballet lessons, Jordan Walker has finally landed her first principal role in Romeo and Juliet. Sweeter yet, “Romeo” has asked her to the May Fling Ball at Winston High. But a massive Texas earthquake triggered by the fracking activity nearby tears apart the community and Jordan’s future as a dancer. The Walker family survives the earthquake, but now Jordan and her family are forced to abandon their old lives and flee to Galveston. It isn’t until she meets Caleb, a blind musician, that Jordan dares to hope again. And the more their secret friendship develops, the more Jordan understands the danger she’s placed everyone in.