1) For everyone who doesn't know who you are, describe yourself in 100 words or less.
Author, equestrian, photographer, and My Little Pony collector. I talk about horses and Pokemon way too much.
2) And in case people have been living under a rock, give us a brief introduction to your debut novel 'ANGELFIRE' due out next year.
ANGELFIRE is about a seventeen-year-old girl named Ellie who is the reincarnation of an ageless warrior and the only one able to wield angelfire and protect human beings against the reapers, monstrous creatures who devour souls and send them to Hell to rebuild Lucifer’s army of the damned. She doesn’t remember her past lives or understand exactly what she is, but her soul remembers one thing: her Guardian and sworn protector, Will, who has secretly fallen in love with her over five centuries of watching her live and die in battle. As Ellie uncovers the terrifying secrets of her previous lives and of Will’s mysterious past, a powerful reaper has discovered a weapon which may be able to destroy her immortal soul forever, ending her reincarnation cycle and unleashing Hell upon Earth.
3) What made you decide to be a writer?
I’ve always loved telling stories, especially stories to scare people, even before I learned how to read and write. One of my earliest “stories” was one I told to my first grade teacher about how I used to have a sister, but she was eaten by rats in the attic. I don’t think my teacher believed me. In the third grade, I discovered the Goosebumps books by R.L. Stine and that’s when I decided I wanted to be him when I grew up. I don’t think I ever wrote a story that wasn’t scary, whether it was a murder mystery in the fifth grade or my first novel-length book about vampires when I was sixteen. Writing really wasn’t something I ever just decided to do. It was something I just did.
4) What was your journey like to publishment?
When I got serious about being published in 2008, I queried the book that I wrote in high school. I had a few close calls, including an amazing phone call with my now-agent Elizabeth Jote, who told me to query her again if I wrote another book. So I wrote another book, ANGELFIRE, and Liz signed me. That summer, after doing round after round of revisions for her, I learned how to write a book. One year to the day of finishing the first draft of ANGELFIRE, Liz called to tell me an editor was preparing to make an offer. The next day, we accepted a pre-empt and it was the most amazing day of my life.
5) If you had a choice between reading something new or an old classic, which would you choose and why?
This depends on how classic of a classic we’re talking about. I am a history nerd and I love the Greek classics and poetry, but I’ll admit I’m not a big fan of Steinbeck and I didn’t really enjoy To Kill A Mockingbird. Though, I think I was just bitter after learning Boo Radley wasn’t really a ghost. If the choice were between something modern and a classic story from thousands of years ago, I would pick the classic because that story would be about someone from a time and a culture I could learn something about.
6) It's refreshing to read about a YA girl who can kick some serious butt. What made you decide to go down the route of having a super strong female as opposed to being the damsel in distress?
I have always written about strong female characters, inside and out. I love breaking the mold of male dominance and putting characters on equal ground. However, I think real people are both strong and weak in different ways, and characters need to grow into their strengths and out of their weaknesses. Ellie from ANGELFIRE is very physically powerful, but she also has a strong heart, even when she doubts herself or might be afraid of her enemies. Everyone has to be saved sometimes, even reincarnated girls who slice and dice monsters with fire swords.
7) Does Ellie share any of the same traits as you? How hard was it to create her character?
This is a funny question, because everyone who knows me very well and has read ANGELFIRE has commented to me—no joke—about how much of myself is in Ellie. She and her friends talk like my friends and I talk do. Ellie’s personality was very easy to write and her voice was in my head from the instant I began writing this book. I knew I wanted her to be a badass, but a sometimes silly, snarky girl at the same time.
8) You have a lot of fight scenes in your novel. How did you research into fight moves? And what was it like creating these scenes?
I watch a lot of action/scifi movies and a lot of combat videos on Youtube—not personal experience, if you’re wondering. My characters use a lot of moves I’ve picked up through watching various martial arts disciplines, but they have many of their own signature moves as well. They each have a bit of their own style, a way of fighting that works best for them and whatever situation they’re in. Writing these scenes are sometimes a blast and very easy, but sometimes challenging. I try hard to be inventive and to make each combat scene different from any that I’ve written before it, but also to make them clearly cinematic enough so that a reader can visualize in their heads and not get confused. After all, this is a book, not a movie, and the rules are different here.
9) In Angelfire, Ellie has a social life that she's trying hard to upkeep. Her world isn't all about Will and reaping. Was this a conscious decision to give her something outside of a romance and destiny to focus on? Were her friends something you always intended to play a big part in her life?
I was determined to make Ellie very “human” in this violent, supernatural world she is forced to navigate. She loves parties and going out with her friends, and Will, as her Guardian and protector, dutifully tags along, even though he doesn’t quite know how to function as a normal person. As awkward and funny as it is for them, it keeps them both sane and happy. It gives them down time in between the action, though it gets harder and harder for Ellie to be a warrior and a normal high school senior at the same time, trying to keep her duties a secret from her friends and family.
10) Though I know you're currently working on the next book in the Angelfire series (Wings of the Wicked), is there anything else you're planning on writing? Or are you just focusing on the one thing for now?
I have tons and tons of ideas for books and I’d love to be able to write them all one day. For now, I’m trying to stick with the Angelfire trilogy until I have the third book (Hymn to the Fallen) written, and then I’ll be able to concentrate on something different. While I’m currently editing the second book (Wings of the Wicked), I’m picking at other projects and dreaming of finishing them one day. It’s hard to focus on more than one series at a time, so I don’t know how a lot of these authors do it. When I am in one world for a series, I am in that world and it’s very difficult for me to switch character brains, especially if the project is something fresh and new and unfamiliar. So, I’ll just avoid that grief and work on one project at a time. What’s the rush, right?
11) What advice would you give to querying authors?
My best advice is to find an amazing reader or critique partner who will be honest with you and your writing. If they say something is good, ask them how to make it great. Nothing is more valuable to a writer than a second (or third, or fourth) pair of eyes. They will see things you’re so used to looking at that you see nothing at all, and the difference in your writing and story-telling skill will be astronomical.
Quick fire questions:
Favourite chocolate bar? Anything solid milk chocolate only.
Fast Food or Sit Down Restaurant? I try not to eat fast food if I can help it, so sit down restaurant.
Coke or 7Up? Neither. I hate soda and will avoid it if possible. I drink tea and water!
Bad boy or good boy? How about a Good Guy with a Badass Edge? (aka Will from Angelfire lol)
Favourite flavour chewing gum? I don’t really like gum (can you tell I’m a picky eater?)
Thanks again for the interview Courtney. To find out more about Courtney, visit her page here.