Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Blog Tour Interview and Giveaway: The Authors of The Amber House Trilogy

Hey guys! Today I am SO excited to bring you my interview with the authors of the AMBER HOUSE TRILOGY, to help promote the impending release of NEVERWAS the second book in this amazing trilogy. I seriously love this series so far, it's spooky, adventurous, and beautifully written, and according to the authors each book is going to have a different tone and setting, kind of like the different seasons of American Horror Story, but where AHS uses a new cast of characters and an unrelated story line, this series keeps the same characters and inputs them into a new setting, it's hard to explain but once you start the second book it'll be easier to understand. I'm reading the second one now and this concept is really working well for this series. Anyway I won't take up any more of your time, be sure to click on the covers below to visit their respective Goodreads pages.



ZACH: How does your writing process go? With all three of you working on the books, it would seem like that might get a bit complicated.

KELLY:  There are complications now and then — differences of opinion, or maybe an emotional attachment one of us has to a particular story element that the two others in the group may veto.  But for the most part the collaborative process enables us to more quickly piece together a richer story.  Some authors incorporate notes from friends and family after they’ve finished a first or second draft of a manuscript — we’re able to benefit from three sets of eyes reviewing every detail from the earliest stages of crafting the story all the way up to publication.

ZACH: How did you come up with the titles for your books?

LARKIN:  When our mother first started writing early drafts of the story back in the 1980s, she referred to the project as “The House.”  The original concept was a mix of a weird family legend about a house on the East Coast and the story of the Winchester mansion in California, near where our mother went to college.  The amber in the title is symbolic of the echoes caught and preserved in the house — similar to ancient insects caught in amber, preserved in exact detail.

TUCKER:  During the writing of AMBER HOUSE, the character of Fiona and her obsession with the possibility of altering or perfecting time developed into a much deeper theme than we at first anticipated.  She is one of our favorite characters, representative of how women with conviction, women who did not conform to societal expectations, were often dismissed or even silenced throughout history.  It seemed natural to use the titles of Fiona’s sonnets — “Otherwhen” from the first book, and “Neverwas” in the second book — as titles for the other books in the series, in effect underscoring Sarah's (and her family’s) journey from dysfunction and turmoil toward something different and better.

ZACH: I love the character of Sammy and how he adds a lot of depth to the story beyond simply entertainment. What inspired you to use this book to help raise awareness for autism?

LARKIN:  We are so glad to hear that you like Sam!  He’s based on three boys on the spectrum whom we absolutely adore — chief among them being my little brother, Sinjin.  Most of Sammy’s lines and mannerisms are borrowed from Sinj when he was that age.  Sometimes we quote him word-for-word.

TUCKER:  We have many people in our family whose behavior suggests they fall somewhere within the autism spectrum.  When I was a little girl, kids would through balls at me on the playground because I was “weird.”  I spent lunch periods in the library, avoiding mean girls, until well into high school.

KELLY:  I experienced much the same thing growing up.  I knew, somehow, I was different from other children.  Recent research seems to prove that autism is harder to detect in girls than in boys, that girls “mask” their symptoms.  There are several characters in the books who are autistic — Sammy and Maggie are identified outright as being on the spectrum, but Fiona’s emotional persona is an autistic trait, as is her obsessive interest in the House, much like Sarah Louise Foster’s childhood interest with catching and studying insects, which is depicted in the sequel.

LARKIN:  We’ve had a handful of reviewers actually complain that Sammy wasn’t “really autistic” or “realistic enough.”  That was crazy to us:  that people don’t think you can be autistic unless you’re exhibiting a certain set of symptoms, or conforming to a certain stereotype.

TUCKER:  We’re proud to say we’re nominated for the Dolly Gray Children’s Literature Award for our realistic depiction of a character with a disability.  While we don’t necessarily define autism as a disability or a disorder, as some do — including characters in the series, such as Maggie’s mother, Ida — we do know from personal experience that those who fall within the spectrum face pervasive societal stigma.  When I told an ex-boyfriend my brother had autism, I was asked if that meant he acted “like Rain Man.”  We’re truly glad that AMBER HOUSE’s inclusion in the Scholastic Book Fairs and on librarian and school reading lists has helped expose readers to a different portrayal of autism.

ZACH: Are any of your characters in the Amber House trilogy based on yourselves or the people you know?

LARKIN:  Almost all of the characters share traits with people we know or members of our family.  Sammy, of course.  Fiona, my favorite character, is inspired by Tucker’s and my great-grandmother Ida May Heitmann.  She was an heiress from Chicago who moved West, started her own motion picture company in the 1910s, produced films for Frank Capra, and threw wild parties with Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks.  Our family line goes all the way back to the Mayflower, so we had a lot of individuals to base characters on.

ZACH: What sort of research do you do for your books?

LARKIN:  Lots of research.  We researched sailing for the last book, for instance, and the history of the Severn River.  For the alternate reality in the second book, we consulted a history buff from Yale.  Right now we’re learning as much as we can about early 20th century medical practices for the final book.  And Nikola Tesla.

ZACH: What's the hardest thing about writing for you? What's the easiest?

TUCKER:  I think we all three agree that the hardest thing about this series is keeping track of all the supporting characters’ storylines.  We’re juggling thirteen generations of a family, in addition to Sarah’s main character arc.  Not to mention the family lines of Jackson Harris and Richard Hathaway, and how and when those families intersect with the Amber House women.

KELLY:  I think dialogue is easiest for us, because everybody's voices are so distinct in our minds.  The dialogue just spills onto the page.

ZACH: How do you get past writer's block?

LARKIN:  We just wait for it to go away!  Kidding.  We all sit down and brainstorm together.  That’s one of the perks of a collaboration like this.

KELLY:  When you have two writing partners, a lot of nagging is involved.

ZACH: What is your favorite comment/question from a reader?

LARKIN:  I don’t have a favorite.  I just enjoy hearing from readers.

KELLY:  We love hearing from readers who identify strongly with a certain character.  Especially Sarah or Sammy.

TUCKER:  We’ve had more than one reader ask us if Amber House is real.  That always puts a smile on my face, that somebody out there hopes this house is standing somewhere, because I know I’d personally love to visit and wander around exploring a house like that.

ZACH: What was your biggest challenge in publishing AMBER HOUSE?

TUCKER:  I can speak to that one.  I think the number one obstacle for aspiring authors isn’t writing an entertaining story — it’s getting someone in a position to publish it to read it.  When you start from square one, as we had to do — finding an agent first — it’s this quest to find just the right person who believes in the project.  There are a lot of talented writers out there with wonderful stories.  The publishing industry is the same as trying to land a record deal or a part in a Stephen Spielberg movie.  There are all these talented people vying for a limited number of spots.  You can be prepared as you’ll ever be, but your fate is ultimately in the hands of someone else.  It takes pretty much obsessive determination to just keep looking until you find that one person who believes in you.

KELLY:  We did, thank goodness.  Our wonderful agent, Jennifer Weltz, at the Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency.

ZACH: What piece of advice would you give a budding author?

LARKIN:  Find someone you trust who can give you constructive criticism, but never get down on yourself.  Believe in the value of the story you are crafting.

TUCKER:  Then make sure you’re sharing the best version of that story.  Edit, edit, edit.  Don’t settle for “good enough.”  Don’t think that because a bunch of what you might consider mediocre books just got published, you don’t have to give your story everything you've got.

ZACH: What's your favorite color?

LARKIN:  Black.

TUCKER:  Green.

KELLY:  Black.

ZACH: What's your favorite guilty pleasure? 

LARKIN:  Wasting an entire day marathoning a season of a TV show.

TUCKER:  I could eat like four Sprinkles cupcakes one after the other and not regret it at all.

KELLY:  Curling up with a good book and finishing it in one sitting.

ZACH: Where do you see yourselves in 5 years, and do you think you'll still write books together on another project or series or pursue individual projects?

KELLY:  That’s a really fun question.  We all have our various interests — Larkin is a talented filmmaker and photographer, Tucker has always been passionate about theatre and playwriting — but we certainly don’t anticipate this series as being our only collaboration.  There are two projects in development:  Tucker and I are currently working on a young adult fantasy story for male readers.  Larkin and I are interested in a young adult stand-alone that explores feminist issues using Greek mythology as a springboard, in the vein of C.S. Lewis’ Till We Have Faces, which is a favorite of ours.

ZACH: If you could have one wish what would it be?

KELLY:  More wishes.

TUCKER:  The ability to time travel.

LARKIN:  Infinite health.  You can tell I play video games by the way I phrased that.

ZACH: If you could hang out/have dinner with anyone dead or alive, who would it be?

KELLY:  Shakespeare.  He invented close to two thousand words.  That's genius.

TUCKER:  Stephen King.

LARKIN:  Stanley Kubrick.  He and I share a birthday.  We could throw a huge party and make people give us cake and presents.

ZACH: Last question, even though Neverwas has yet to be released, is there a projected date/time of year for the release of OTHERWHEN?

KELLY:  In November, we turned in the outline for the final installment, and we hope to hand a finished manuscript over to our editor by this time next year.  Then it’s up to Scholastic to schedule it into their slate of releases.

Sonnet "Puzzle Piece" Giveaway

Be sure to check out the next "Puzzle Piece" over on The Quiet Concert (http://thequietconcert.blogspot.com)

Giveaway Rules:

In NEVERWAS, Sarah must piece together the mystery of her forgotten past with the help of clues left behind by her great-grandmother, Fiona Warren.  For readers interested in the chance to win a signed first-edition hardback of NEVERWAS -- with an exclusive hint for what's in story for Sarah in the final book, OTHERWHEN, hidden inside -- visit each blog on the tour for the month of December, collect the various lines from the poem, arrange them in the proper order, and submit the final sonnet by New Year's Day for a chance to win the special copy of NEVERWAS! 

About the Authors:

KELLY MOORE is a New York Times best-selling author, former litigator, and single mother of three. Her latest project, the young adult fiction series THE AMBER HOUSE TRILOGY, co-written with her two daughters and based loosely upon her own family history, examines fourteen generations of Maryland women and their ties to the past, present, and future.  The first book in the series was nominated for the 2014 Dolly Gray Children's Literature Award for its realistic portrayal of characters with autism; Moore is outspoken about her inclusion in the autism spectrum, and is dedicated to autism awareness.

TUCKER REED is an award-winning fiction and nonfiction writer.  She has been recognized on the national level for her short stories, essays and poetry.  She is also a notable political blogger and has appeared on CNN, CBS, ABC and HuffPost Live, as well as featured in articles published by TIME magazine, Marie Claire magazine, Ms. magazine, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, and The Guardian, among numerous others.

LARKIN REED is a professional photographer, currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in filmmaking. In 2013, Reed established her own multimedia production company, and has subsequently produced and directed several short films.


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