Today I'm pleased to welcome author Amy Bartol to the blog to talk a little bit about her novel Incendiary and being a writer.
What was the plot of your very first piece of unpublished fiction you ever wrote?
Inescapable was my first real attempt at writing. I never thought I'd be an author. I still can't believe that I have actually done it. I read a lot of books and when those books end, the stories don't end for me. I find myself still living in the world the author created.
For example, when I read The Outsiders, I found myself still hanging out with Ponyboy in my mind after reading the last page. Maybe he'd head to the DX and he'd see Cherry Valance there and she'd fall in love with him, because he needed that—he needed someone to love him. I think I have always done that. I always continue to write the story in my mind where the author leaves off.
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated or did you always just know you wanted to be a writer?
In 2007, I was inspired to write after reading Markus Zusak’s book entitled I Am The Messenger. It’s about Ed Kennedy, an underage cabdriver who has a coffee-drinking dog named The Doorman and a secret crush on his best friend Audrey. Ed has a peaceful routine until the day he inadvertently stops a bank robbery. After that day, Ed becomes the messenger.
The book, written in the first person present tense, was funny and heart pounding and sad and euphoric. It read like you could step into Ed’s shoes, breathe his air, see what he is seeing. In short, it was amazing. But, there was a message at the end of the story that struck me as if it was written just for me. It says, quote: “Maybe everyone can live beyond what they’re capable of…I’m not the messenger at all. I’m the message.”
I knew instantly that I had to try to write a book because maybe I was able to live beyond what I always thought I was capable of.
I didn't realize I wanted to be a “writer” at first; I only knew that I wanted to see if I could produce a story worth reading. I know it sounds counterintuitive because you'd think that it would be a logical conclusion that I wrote a book so I could be a writer, but for me, it was more like I became a writer because I had to write a book—I had to tell a story. I didn't have “be a writer” aspirations, maybe I did when I was younger, but when I began writing Inescapable there was no real fantasy of becoming an author. Inescapable just began as an experiment to see if I could write a book—I wanted to see if I was capable of writing a story and then LIKING what I wrote.
How did you come up with the idea for the Premonition series?
I've been a really avid reader of the paranormal fantasy genre for a while now. I was obsessed with Odd Thomas, Twilight, Lord of the Rings, and Harry Potter to name a few, so I knew I wanted to write a story that took place in the “real world,” but which also had supernatural elements to it. While reading “The Raven” by Edgar Allen Poe, I stumbled across a stanza that had the word “Seraphim” in it. I was annoyed that I didn't know exactly what that word meant because I'm preoccupied with words. I googled it and found that Seraphim are angels, and not just any angels; they're the highest rank of angels in Heaven. Angels have ranks? I had thought. Really? I did some research and discovered that a theologian in the fifth century named Pseudo-Dionysius the Aeropagite wrote about a hierarchy of angels. The angels from my stories are loosely based on Pseudo-Dionysius' writings, but I took a lot of poetic license in my writing.
As you were writing Incendiary, was there a particular scene or character that surprised you, like doing something you didn’t expect or a scene taking you somewhere you hadn’t planned?
First of all, let me just explain my writing style for a second. I’m what most people in the industry refer to as a “Pantser.” There are “Plotters” and there are “Pantsers.” Plotters meticulously plot out the outline to their stories chapter by chapter or plot point by plot point and adhere to them. Pantsers, on the other hand, start with maybe an idea of what will happen and then they write something completely different. I’m definitely a Pantser. No question. I am often surprised by what happens in my stories.
With that said, I hadn’t planned to ever write in Reed’s POV (point of view). I didn’t think I was capable of being as true to his character as was in my mind. (Things are so much better in my head.) I originally wrote chapter 28 in Evie’s POV, but right before I published Incendiary, I had to rewrite the chapter in Reed’s voice and then add a final chapter (chapter 29). I think I was the most surprised by what happened to Brennus at the end of Incendiary. I’ve drawn some criticism for how the story ended with him. I think that’s great. I want to be unpredictable. I want to keep you guessing as to what will happen. The day I become too predictable is the day readers will shrug me off and read something else.
Do you have a favorite book in the premonition series?
My favorite book of the four Premonition Series volumes, so far, is Indebted. It was so fun making the fellas and Brennus somewhat likeable. I didn’t think that it could be done after living with them in the caves of Houghton. I was wrong. Brennus proved me wrong. He’s seductive. He made me like him.
If you had to describe Evie in three words, what would they be?
Aww, Evie in three words? That’s so tough! Grr...how about: vulnerable, stoic, and relatable?
Do you have a favorite fictional character to write from the premonition series? Male and female? Why?
Writing from Russell’s POV (point of view) is by far the easiest. Okay, this is going to sound strange. I just want to say upfront that I am completely sane and I do realize that my characters are imaginary. Every time I try to answer this question I can't. I love all of the characters in this series for different reasons. Russell and Evie are the easiest to write. Russell “talks” to me the most—he's chatty—he likes to tell me his story and he makes me laugh out loud sometimes with what he says. He’ll wake me up in the middle of the night talking about where the story should go next and I usually have to get up and write it down to shut him up.
Brennus is only second to Russell for “talking.” Brennus would completely take over if I let him write the story. I’ll probably have to write from his POV soon, but I’m afraid he’ll “kill all da aingeals” if I do. He’s sort of a tyrant.
I was afraid to write in Reed’s POV because I didn’t think that I could do him justice. I didn’t think that I could convey his intelligence. He “talks” to me the least. He is my most mysterious character, but when he does speak, I hang on his every word. Now that I have written from Reed’s POV, I’ll probably do it more often.
How did you go about picking the setting for your book?
When I began Inescapable, I was a brand new writer. I wrote what I knew and what I knew was Crestwood, which is based on my alma mater: Hillsdale College. I once thought that if there were ever a place to find an angel, it would be there. The entire story takes place in the small-town college setting.
In Intuition, again, I began by writing what I knew. Evie and Reed travel to a ski resort. I’ve grown up downhill skiing, so most of the ski resorts in Michigan are well known to me. I tried to think about where I’d hide in the world if someone were chasing me and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan seemed like a good place for Evie and Russell to get lost in the world. I’ve been to Escanaba and Marquette several times. I researched Houghton and the copper mines there and found Brennus and the fellas among the ruins. I began to grow more confident in my writing, enough so that I researched Quebec City and the Gulf of St. Lawrence, which is where I located Dominion’s Chateau amid a placid isle. Intuition ends in Iceland, a place I one day hope to visit.
Indebted is where I went off the map, or rather on it, as it were. With the third book, I felt like I could set the story anywhere I wanted it to be. The world opened up to me with endless possibilities. I thought that Reed would take Evie to the other end of the Earth to keep her safe from Brennus, so the story began in Lijiang, China at the base of the Jade Dragon Mountain. It continues through the countryside outside of Kiev, to the Irish coastline, jumping into the London underground, and ending on an island in the South Pacific.
I continued the trend I began in Indebted in Incendiary and changed the setting frequently. The story begins in the South Pacific and transitions to Torun, Poland. I chose Torun because it’s a World Heritage Site and its nickname is “the city of angels.” I thought that was appropriate. From there, the story leads to Ireland again before taking you full circle back to Crestwood. The beginning is the end and the end is the beginning; the setting reflects that concept.
When you’re not writing, what do you like to do?
I’ve become a social media freak. You can usually find me on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr, Goodreads, and my website (www.amyabartol.com). I answer questions and respond to comments that readers leave me. I love it. It takes me longer now because there seems to have been an explosion of comments lately, but I try to respond to as many people as I can.
Read any good books recently?
The best part of becoming an indie author is that I began to read other indie books. A whole new world opened up for me when I did. Exciting, non-traditional works have captivated my imagination. Authors like: Shelly Crane, Georgia Cates, Samantha Young, M. Leighton, Rachel Higginson, Quinn Loftis, Angeline Kace, Abbi Glines, Fisher Amelie, Nancy Straight, Courtney Cole and a dozen other wonderful storytellers have brought new worlds to life for me that I would’ve missed otherwise.
Which do you prefer hard copy books or e-books? Why?
A few months ago, I would’ve answered hardcopy, but I’ve recently been reading while walking on my treadmill. Ebooks are awesome for that.
Who are your top five favorite authors?
REALLY?? TOP 5 ONLY!! This is excruciating. It can change weekly, depending on what I’m reading! Okay, let me think. Hmmmm...
Ohh, that hurt!! There’s also Edgar Allen Poe, Kurt Vonnegut, Roald Dahl, S.E. Hinton, Frank McCourt, Dean Koontz, Hunter S. Thompson, J. R. R. Tolkien...this is a kryptonite question...I’m melting...
It was so much fun having Amy Bartol answer our questions, she's awesome! More information on Amy Bartol can be found below:
Author of Inescapable: The Premonition Series (Volume 1), Intuition: The Premonition Series (Volume 2), Indebted: The Premonition Series (Volume 3) , and Incendiary: The Premonition Series (Volume 4). Currently working on a fifth novel in the Premonition Series entitled Iniquity.
I live in Michigan with my husband and our two sons. My family is very supportive of my writing. When I’m writing, they often bring me the take-out menu so that I can call and order them dinner. They listen patiently when I talk about my characters like they’re real. They rarely roll their eyes when I tell them I’ll only be a second while I finish writing a chapter…and then they take off their coats. They ask me how the story is going when I surface after living for hours in a world of my own making. They have learned to accept my “writing uniform” consisting of a slightly unflattering pink fleece jacket, t-shirt, and black yoga pants. And they smile at my nerdy bookishness whenever I try to explain urban fantasy to them. In short, they get me, so they are perfect and I am blessed.