Friday, July 23, 2010

Star Light, Star Bright...Interstellar Interview with R. J. Anderson

Forget everything you think you know about faeries...

And enter the fantastical realm created by R. J. Anderson! Born in Uganda, she was raised in Ontario, and went to school in New Jersey, yet she's spent much of her life dreaming of other worlds.

During childhood R. J. immersed herself in fairy tales, mythology, and the works of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien and E. Nesbit. Later she discovered contemporary authors like Ursula LeGuin, Patricia A. McKillip and Robin McKinley, and learned to garner as much pleasure from their prose as the details of the stories they told.

Married, and living in Stratford, Ontario, she's a mother of three who reads the classic fantasy and sci-fi that enlivened her childhood to her sons. In her YA and childrens novels, she strives to engender a similar sense of humor, adventure, and timeless wonder.

What prompted your use of faeries in your YA novels? Is there a reason you chose to have heroines as the main faery characters, with a supporting human “boy”?

Well, there have been plenty of folk stories and fantasy novels which show faeries and faeryland from a human's point of view, with all its strange beauties and mysterious dangers. But I couldn't help wondering what a faery raised in such an environment would think of the human world on seeing it for the first time. Might we humans not seem just as surprising (and unsettling) to faeries as they would seem to us? So the idea of writing a book from the faery's point of view, and using that to cast light on all the things about human relationships and society that we tend to take for granted, really appealed to me.

I also liked the idea of adding to this culture shock with another kind of shock -- a girl raised in an all-female environment encountering a male for the first time, and all the confusion and fascination that generates. He's not just human, he's a BOY. Gasp! Of course, by the second book the faery girl / human boy encounter isn't nearly so startling from the faery's point of view, but then Timothy and Linden have a very different sort of relationship from the one between Knife and Paul in the first book, and I wanted it that way.

Why did you choose the young adult sub genre to make your mark on the literary world?

I didn't, at least not at first. KNIFE was originally written for adult fantasy readers, and in the first draft, the characters were adults as well. It wasn't until an editor friend asked me if I'd consider submitting it as YA that I stepped back and realized the elements of the story -- which is a coming of age story, a story about finding one's identity and purpose in life, and also a first love story -- were perfectly suited to a teen audience.

At the time, my library consisted of a lot of classic "juvenile" fantasies like the Narnia books and the Chronicles of Prydain, and then jumped straight into adult epic fantasy and mysteries. However, in the process of trying to get a handle on the YA genre I fell in love with the amazing range and depth of YA literature that exists today and now I read YA almost exclusively. Maybe one day I'll come up with an idea for a certifiably "adult" novel, but at present it seems as though all the ideas and themes that interest me most fit very nicely into the YA spectrum.

What’s the biggest downfall in having two sets of releases—one in the UK and one in the US ?

It's unfortunate that because the two editions have completely different covers and titles, US readers sometimes get all interested and excited over a review of KNIFE or REBEL and go looking for them, without realizing that they're published here as SPELL HUNTER and WAYFARER. I fear I've lost quite a few potential readers that way. But it does seem to be quite common that things turn out this way.

Other than that, all the effects have been really positive. I love that my UK releases come out six months or more earlier than the US ones, because the books are bestsellers in the UK and that's always a great emotional boost for me before I tackle the North American promotion.

How have adventurous tales inspired you to write…and if you could take one real life journey what would it be?

When I was a young teen, I read Susan Cooper's book THE GREY KING and fell in love with her description of Wales. I had the opportunity to visit the north of Wales in 1993, and it absolutely did not disappoint -- surely one of the most beautiful places on earth. I returned there, to the west and south of the country this time, to do some research for WAYFARER in 2008, and now my upcoming book ARROW involves a journey through Wales as well.

But apart from making endless return trips to Wales (which I would gladly do), if I could go anywhere at all in the world, I'd love to visit New Zealand and

If you could’ve done one thing differently on your way to becoming a published author what would it be?

When I was shopping my first manuscript to agents and editors, I became discouraged very early in the submission process and gave up for months or even years at a time whenever I got rejected. I realize now that I was actually getting some great feedback on how to improve the manuscript from those rejections, and if I'd been bolder about revising the book extensively instead of just twiddling and tweaking and polishing my prose, I might have been agented and/or published a lot earlier. But then, the market was very different back then and the book might not have done as well as it has. So I think it all worked out the way it was meant to, in the end.

Do you have any other releases or appearance that fans (old and new) should know about?

My third faery book, called ARROW, will be coming out in the UK on 6 January 2011 -- I'm quite excited about that one, especially now that I've been allowed to publicly share the cover. Later in 2011 I've got a paranormal thriller for older teens coming out, the story of a 17-year-old girl who ends up in psychiatric care after confessing to the murder of a schoolmate -- it's called TOUCHING INDIGO at present, but I believe the UK title is going to be changed to ULTRAVIOLET. I'm really looking forward to hearing what readers think of that story as well!

If you'd like to learn more about R. J., her novels, or check out her extras visit her delightful website!

1 comment:

Linda Andrews said...

The books sound great! Thanks for the tip about the title changes, I'll just look for your name and save myself the headache. :-)