Thursday, February 25, 2010
How much of myself winds up in a character depends on my character – I’ll pull more from my experiences and personality quirks for the female characters. The guys tend to be similar to the ones I grew up around.
I gave Jayne my fear of ovens and a certain amount of my sense of humor. But in many ways she’s very, very different. For instance, she could pack everything she needs for a trip in a small bag. In contrast, I could pack everything I need in a small steamer trunk.
What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?
Very difficult to say. In first grade, I changed my name often. Some of these names were completely made up, but I took them very seriously. My teacher (bless her heart!) never said a thing about it, only noted when she was grading papers that the name not on her roster was always me.
There have been other moments of quirk, but I’m going to stick with this one for now.
When did you first discover that you were a writer?
The moment of affirmation came in my teens. I’d always written, always told stories. When I was fifteen, I think, I went to my first Oregon Christian Writers conference and connect with Bonnie Leon. She read the manuscript I had at the time and told me it was publishable. That moment changed everything, I think. It made writing for publication seem like an attainable dream.
Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.
It’s quite the range. I love books about food – Sarah Addison Allen’s books, Nicole Mones’ The Last Chinese Chef, Siri Mitchell’s Chateau of Echoes. Most anything by Juliet Marillier. C.S. Lewis, naturally. I enjoy YA, because I can read it without expending too much mental energy. I love books based on fairy tales. I’ve read a lot of fiction by Indian authors.
I love novels based on fairy tales, too. And movies about them. What other books have you written, whether published or not?
In 2007, I finished my first novel, Divine Discontent. It focused on musicians and artists and hippies in my hometown, I loved it. I hope it’ll be released some day when contemporary fiction starts selling better.
How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?
I try to shut out the world as much as possible. It helps to not fall behind schedule, in writing. That’s when things really start getting crazy.
How do you choose your characters’ names?
I’m a little obsessed with names. I’ll have a very firm idea of who the character is and what they’re like; the name has to fit that. I keep lists of names that I like, but it’s tricky sometimes. When I wrote Divine Discontent, I named the main female character Livy because it sounded different and simple at the same time. I named the main male character Mark Firth; a name I was completely proud of, because he was a drummer; Pro Mark and Vic Firth are the names of two different drumstick companies. Then I got the idea that Livy’s character was quite bitter, and I thought her name should reflect that. I thought about naming her Mara or Mari, which both mean bitter. That meant I had to change Mark’s name – but I couldn’t! He was Mark. Nothing else worked, nothing else fit. So in the end, he was Mark and she was Livy, and I was okay with the fact that her name meant “of the olive tree.”
In Plain Jayne, I came up with the title, and fit a character around the name.
However, for my next book, Simply Sara, the publishing committee had a say in that character’s name, because whatever her name was would be in the title as well. We went through a few incarnations before they settled on Sara.
What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?
If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?
I had to ask my husband to help me with this. He says llama. They’re loyal, protective of those close to them, have soft, knittable fur, and let’s face it, get a little unpredictable when provoked.
What is your favorite food?
I really love beef stew over egg noodles.
What is the problem with writing that was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?
I don’t tend to plan ahead much, and synopses are a headache. I finally learned to storyboard, being a little looser with the concept, and then writing micro-synopses at the top of each chapter, sort of like Winnie the Pooh. It’ll read something along the lines of “Chapter 12, in which Sara bakes something, argues with Will, and starts a minor kitchen fire,” or something like that. It’s really helped me to maintain focus on where each chapter is going.
What advice would you give to an author just starting out?
Don’t pressure yourself to write like anyone else, to use certain words, or write about the themes you think you have to write about. Write about what’s close to your heart, using the voice God has given you. Push yourself to write the best book you can; don’t try to publish it until it’s the very best work you can put forward.
Tell us about the featured book.
With Plain Jayne I wanted to write a different kind of Amish novel. Jayne Tate likes to think of herself as a fearless modern woman, but the truth is that she’s hiding from her past and limiting herself as to who she thinks she has to be. Experiencing Amish life shakes up her perceptions of life, of family, of herself.
In the midst of this is Levi Burkholder, who I think is special because he sees Jayne for who she is, not how she tries to present herself. But he’s complicated, and he has secrets, and his approach to family is the opposite of Jayne’s.
Please give us the first page of the book.
I actually don’t have it. But you can read the whole first chapter here –
How can readers find you on the Internet?
I’m all over the place. My web address is hillarymantonlodge.com. I also maintain a separate blog on AmishReader.com. Readers can follow me on Twitter and Facebook as well.
Thank you, Hillary, for spending this time with us.
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