Readers, we have another debut author.
Welcome, Tessa. Tell us how much of yourself you write into your characters.
I like to be able to relate to my protagonists and express myself through them, but I don’t want them to be an exact replica of myself. They each have to be unique. For example, the protagonist in PURPLE MOON, Selena, is an artist, a dreamer, introvert, and a coffee-drinker, much like myself. However, her back story is completely different from mine. She also has an alcoholic mother and deals with issues herself, things that I cannot necessarily relate with.
What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?
I’m not sure if it is the quirkiest thing I’ve ever done, but it definitely is something quirky that I do. Since I am such a coffee-lover, you would think that I drink several cups of coffee throughout the day. However, it’s the exact opposite: I sip on the same cup of coffee throughout the day. Today is the perfect example. I am currently sipping on my pumpkin spice flavored coffee, which is over half full. And it’s late in the afternoon. J All good things should be savored, right?
When did you first discover that you were a writer?
I’ve wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember. When I was 3, I would beg my mom to teach me how to read. And before I learned how to write, I would tell her stories, and she would write them down for me. I eventually started writing the stories myself on paper and stapling the pages together. I taught myself how to type once I got older and began writing stories on the computer. I’ve always had a big imagination and loved to create. When I was 13, I decided to combine my passion for youth ministry with fiction by writing Christian novels for teens. I actually had no idea that the genre of Young Adult Christian fiction even existed at the time.
Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.
Obviously, I love to read contemporary YA Christian fiction. I’m starting to get into the adult contemporary Christian fiction as well. I especially love Karen Kingsbury’s books, and I also really enjoy Jim Rubart’s books, which is in the Christian fiction speculative suspense/supernatural genre. I also devour dystopian novels. I’ve been intrigued by that genre ever since I read The Giver by Lois Lowry in the 8th grade, before dystopian novels were even popular.
How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?
I don’t know what I would do if I did not have a relationship with Christ. Every night since middle school, I have forced myself to spend time with God no matter how tired I might be. I have noticed that Satan will do everything he can to keep us from having a quiet time. One way he does this is through our busy schedules. It is difficult for most people to find a certain time every day to get away from their noisy life and just spend some time with their Maker. I would probably go crazy if it wasn’t for finding the strength and peace I need every day by spending time in God’s presence.
How do you choose your characters’ names?
I’ve always enjoyed coming up with unique names for my characters. I was at the beach when I began brainstorming Purple Moon, and I decided to name the protagonist Selena because one of the little girls my family was vacationing with was named Celeena. However, I chose to spell it with an S, since Celeena reminded me of blond hair. For secondary characters, I usually try to find a name that matches their personality. I will sometimes just use the first name that pops into my head. In Purple Moon, I actually named several of the small characters after my friends and relatives. I think that’ll probably end up being a tradition for every one of my books from now on. J
What is the accomplishment you are most proud of?
I am very thankful that I didn’t go to high school in 9th through 11th grade. Instead, I stayed home and took classes through a public online school. The only reason I did this was because I had such a strong desire to pursue writing. At times, I would become discouraged and wonder if I was doing the right thing by staying home rather than having the normal teenage experience like all of my friends. However, it was during this time that I really cultivated my relationship with God, learned more about the writing craft, wrote Purple Moon, and attended a writing conference, which is where I met my publisher. I’m so thankful I didn’t give up, but instead I pressed on, in spite of how hard it was. Although I could’ve just as easily waited until after high school (or college) to pursue publication, I was able to get a head start in my writing career. I am now able to minister God’s love to people earlier than I would have if I had waited.
If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?
Hmmm … well, the first animal to come to my mind is a zebra. They are my absolute favorite animals. However, after reading Lioness Arising by Lisa Bevere, I would have to say I would rather be a lioness. That book taught me a lot about lionesses, despite the fact that it’s meant to be a Christian inspirational non-fiction book. But I now really admire the strength, beauty, and passion that lionesses possess.
What is your favorite food?
I love any kind of Italian food. I have a gluten intolerance, so anything that I order from an Italian restaurant has to be gluten free. This can be difficult at times, especially since many places do not have a gluten free menu. However, I have found that Italian restaurants have a great selection of gluten-free food. There is nothing like eating an (almost) guilt-free cheesy pasta, covered in yummy sauce. J
What is the problem with writing that was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?
The greatest roadblock I faced while pursuing publication was probably my age. Not because I lacked the amount of experience that seasoned writers possessed, but because I often felt looked down on by some professionals in the industry (before they read my writing). This did discourage me somewhat, only because I didn’t want my age to stand in the way of pursuing my dreams. Because of this, I was sure to study the writing craft like crazy. I did this by enrolling in a course through the Christian Writers Guild, taking a creative writing class through my online school, and by reading several books (and blogs) on the writing craft. I was determined not to let my age and lack of experience cause me to come across as an amateur in the industry.
Tell us about the featured book.
Purple Moon is a YA Christian novel about a 16-year-old girl named Selena Taylor who is forced to leave her apartment in
New York and
stay with her snobby cousin in
while waiting for her mom to get out of rehab. It was initially inspired by the
song “By Your Side” by Lake
Lure, North Carolina Tenth
Avenue North, as well as the skit that many
churches have performed to the song “Everything” by Lifehouse. I wanted to
write a character-driven story about a teenager who had fallen way from the
relationship she once had with God after her dad kicked her and her mom out of
the house. The story covers issues that several teens face on a day-to-day
basis, such as alcoholism, dysfunctional families, anxiety, etc.
Please give us the first page of the book.
“Once upon a time, there was a beautiful little princess named Selena.”
One of my favorite childhood memories is of my dad tucking me into bed one night. He sat on the edge of my bed, stroking my hair. The room was dark, the only light coming from a princess nightlight plugged into my wall.
I allowed my heavy eyelids to close. Tugging my blanket to my chest, I let Dad’s soothing voice paint a story in my head, just as it did every night.
“Selena was an incredible artist, always drawing pictures of her horse named Fairy Tale.”
I squinted my eyes open slightly, catching Daddy glance at the wall behind me where I had taped up every picture I'd drawn.
“She was definitely a daddy’s girl, too. Took after him a lot, including her nose—” He reached over and pinched my nose between his fingers as I giggled. “—her brown eyes, and even her brown hair. Selena hardly ever caused trouble. She was definitely the perfect little child. And even though she’s a bit small for her age, I know that God is going to use her to accomplish big things in life. As long as she continues being His best friend.”
How can readers find you on the Internet?
They can check my websites for updates at www.tessaemilyhall.com.
I also write a blog, Christ is Write, where I post weekly with writing tips, teen devotions, book reviews, and more.
Thanks so much for having me! J
You're welcome, Tessa. We loved having you here.
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