Thursday, July 30, 2009

Interview with Amber Kizer


Amber Kizer is the author of One Butt Cheek at a Time and her new upcoming novel, Meridian, which will be in bookstores August 11. Upcoming on READING ROCKS will be a review of Meridian and, maybe, just maybe, if your lucky... a super great contest for both of Amber Kizer's books. Stay tuned!
(And I really apologize for the paragraph formatting with this post. Blogger refuses to be kind today. -Elise-)

Your two Young Adult novels are very different. Do you prefer the end result of one over the other? Did you have more fun writing one than the other?

The funny thing about being a writer is that I'm always in love with whatever project I'm working on in the moment-which means I'm years ahead of what readers are looking at and reading! Trying to pick a favorite is like trying to pick a favorite flavor of ice cream-not possible!

Do you find yourself relating to any of your characters? If so, how?

There are always parts of characters that I feel on a gut level---Gert cracks me up. She hates high school and I did too (for different reasons in some cases but still loathed most of those years!) Meridian's struggle with grief and death is something I completely understand— again, differently, but it's the emotions of the characters that I relate to more than anything else.

For me, a theme in my work is that of learning how to be okay in your own skin— take what you've got and get okay with whatever and whoever you are. Regardless of the book or genre I think that comes up a lot.

How did you come up with the idea for MERIDIAN? I mean, a half-angel, half-human link between the dead and the living is a very original idea. What is the story behind it?

This book is very close to my heart— the idea came from sitting vigil as my grandparents died (about 18 months apart). They both had very different dying experiences, though in both cases, as a family, we chose to work with a wonderful hospice organization (St. Vincent's Inpatient Hospice Care, in Indianapolis, IN).

With everything in life, I like to know as much as possible so I read and did a bunch of research on dying, the physical process itself, the psychological process, and people's near-death experiences.

For this story, I wanted to explore the idea that the "light" people talk about as they die is an actual person and what that might mean.

What if everyday of a person's life was that of being a window to beyond? I wanted to give a face to death that wasn't the Reaper's, wasn't something out of nightmares. And saying "God" is there in death doesn't say much--what does that mean really? How does that look?

And from a science aspect we're all energy. Where does that energy go? And isn't a soul of any animal or plant worthy energy? How does that look? How does that fit with the major religions and cultural norms?

And I also wanted to explore some organized religion as fear based— the idea that people hide behind religion because they're afraid or upset or angry. How does that twist what can be profound and comforting in faith? The mob mentality is so easy to manipulate if you're good at it--I wanted a character (Perimo) who was good at it and used it.

What does writing mean to you?

Writing is like breathing— it's always happening even when I'm not staring at a computer screen. It's necessary.

Where is your favorite place to write?

I don't have a place-for me it's more about the favorite time of day-when the world sighs and slides into sleep. When it's so quiet I can hear whispers of story.

Do you have a cure for writers block?

Writer's block is an excuse (I don't believe in a muse either). It's work. Sometimes it's crap, sometimes it's not usable. Sometime's it's a matter of writing gibberish to find the stream to swim in, but there isn't a wall you can hit if you don't believe in it.

How do you choose the names for your characters and places?

Sometimes they come to me like being introduced to a new person at a party. It's not like you can say "Oh, I'm so sorry your name is Jane, you're so much more an Erika or a Becky." You go with it because that's what the character demands.

Character names are very important to me and usually that's one of the first things I know about a story— who is in it and what are they called? I knew Meridian's name from the very beginning, but it wasn't until we got to know each other (sounds strange to non-writers I know!) that I realized her name has all sorts of levels to it. Meridian can mean a midpoint like midday. It can also be the center of an object. It's used when talking about the longitude of Earth. In Chinese medicine Meridians are the energy pathways used in acupuncture. So it can have many connotations-what the reader should take from that is that our Meridian is caught-she lives-in the middle of life and death.

Actually, all the characters in this book have names that "mean" something to me as the writer and might resonate with readers who like to dissect deeper levels in a story. Tens, the male lead, is a Protector and as such knows things about Meridian that he doesn't really know how he knows. His full name is Tenskawtawa and comes from a Shawnee religious and political leader from the 18th century. He was Tecumseh's brother and he was also known as "The Prophet". With our Tens's backstory, and gifts, I knew it was the perfect choice and it felt right.

For the "new" species of people I introduce in this book: Fenestras and Aternocti, I played with all sorts of different languages and took inspiration from Latin primarily. I wanted names that could be pronounced even without knowing the meaning but here's my definition of both:

Fenestra is a human with Angel DNA that is triggered if they are born at midnight on December 21st. Fenestras are "Windows to the Afterlife"-they literally become windows for dying souls to get to the good place (call it Heaven or Enlightenment or Nirvana).

Aternocti are "Dark Nights," also human with Angel DNA of a different nature. As they are corrupted they lose their humanness, but Aternocti thrive on disaster, fear, destruction, and cruelty. They shepherd souls to a bad place (call it Hell or ignorance or the Underworld).

What is the most important message you want to convey to your readers in your books?

I hope every reader finds something in my stories that speaks to them personally. Hope. Joy. Belonging. Readers bring their own experiences to a book which is what makes it such a subjective art form, and so satisfying as the creator when it resonates on an emotional level. I hope readers have a good time, ideally can't put it down, and are sad when it's over! The best compliment is when a book is a "keeper" and people buy copies for their friends because "they just have to read it!" That's the best!

Are you currently working on anything? Can you tell us a little bit about it?

I'm always working on something, but I'm one of those writers who don't talk about works in progress until it's drafted and on paper. I can say a sequel to MERIDIAN is in development, along with three other stories which cross a few more genre lines!

What things could you not survive life without?

Aside from running water and lots of good food? Books, music, animals-I'd probably befriend the rodents if I was in a prison. Animals can be much more enjoyable than people!

You raise chickens, bake difficult recipes, and enjoy quilting. What are some other things that your readers probably don't know about you?

I love shoes. The best and most amazing are the ones that are art and completely unwearable for me, but I love drooling over fashion mags and stores.

I adore basketball and play a mean game of HORSE. I like watching football on TV and get sucked into World Cup action as well. I like Indy Car racing, will check out Nascar, but really can't get into Hockey or Boxing-they just don't do it for me!

I can't resist wedding shows-not because I'm wedding obsessed but because they combine three of my favorite things: flowers, food/cake, and pretty dresses.

You can learn more about Amber Kizer and her books by visiting her website here.

3 comments:

  1. That was a great interview! I love what she had to say about her creative process, how she got the idea.
    I'll definitely keep an eye out for this book! :)

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  2. I can't WAIT to read Meridian!

    shutupimreading.blogspot.com
    Jessica

    ReplyDelete
  3. Amber!

    I must get my hands on that book!!

    The day to go home can't come soon enough!

    ReplyDelete

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