07 July 2010

20 Questions with Anne Osterlund!

I have had the incredible pleasure of interviewing Anne Osterlund, author of "Aurelia," and "Academy 7".  So first off, I must thank Anne (again) for giving me her time to answer all these questions and her patience for putting up with my ridiculous ranting.  She's one cool cucumber.

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1. How long have you been writing?  When/Why did you decide to get published?
Sometime around Christmas of 2004, I decided to complete a book that could really be submitted for publication.  Aurelia volunteered for the position.  And I guess, ultimately, the decision to be published was based upon the fact that I have been writing forever.  And that Aurelia is very determined, stubborn, and full of overconfidence!

2. What is your writing schedule like?
I write all day (about eight hours) every day that I can.  During the school year, this is Friday through Sunday.  During the summer, it is every day of the week.  With exceptions, of course, for family trips and holidays.  But not many.

3. What type of research did you do for your books, if any?
This depends upon the book and the topic I need to research.  Aurelia, and its upcoming sequel, Exile, require a lot of research because they are set a world roughly similar to our 18th century.  For them, I spend a lot of time checking details online.  For Academy 7, this would be next to useless, because you simply can't type in "Space Ship, 5021" and get any details.  LOL.  Along with the internet, I use the encyclopedia as a written resource.  And I've been known to call up family members and hound them with vital questions like "How do you change the oil in a car?" and "Can you plunge a sword under someone's ribcage and up into the heart?"

4. Who were your inspirations?  Did you grow up reading?
Tamora Pierce, Louisa May Alcott, S.E. Hinton, James Barrie, L.M. Montgomery, Ann Rinaldi, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Mark Twain, Robert Louis Stevenson, Shakespeare, Sally Watson, and on and on and on.  I started reading voraciously as soon as I knew how.  I had an hour long bus ride to school every morning and another hour back.  Achingly boring, and tremendous incentive to read!

5. I've read that Aurelia came to you complaining about an itchy ankle.  What about Dane and Aerin? How did they appear?
I first found Aerin while she was gazing in a mirror, removing her headband, and contemplating the vast question of whether she could scrub away the person she had been in order to become someone different.  Dane, I found in prison, throwing away his future and angry with his father.  There is actually a much longer summary about this on the About Academy 7 page of my website.  www.anneosterlund.com.

6. How much would you say your personality is reflected in your characters?  Is there any that you identify with especially?
Oh, I identify with all of my main characters, and I think every character whose head you climb into must reflect some of the author's personality, but the key is actually for me to get beyond that and make sure that everything the character does, from waking up in the morning, to fighting fire, to riding in a horse race is done from the character's point of view.  Aerin walks into a room, and she automatically feels terror.  Aurelia sees a challenge.  Robert sees danger.  This is a simplification, but they all see differently than when I walk into a room.

7. How long did it take to write "Aurelia," and "Academy 7," from the first word to the final manuscript?
I would say the average is three years.  Aurelia and Academy 7 both began long ago and spent many years in notepads and with a few pages of typing, but once I decide to actually dedicate myself full time to a story, it takes about two years for me to complete the writing process and then another for revisions after it has been submitted to an editor.

8. Between the more medieval setting of "Aurelia" and the beyond the stars of "Academy 7," which would you rather spend all your time in?
Literally, I suppose space would be better.  I am extremely fond of indoor plumbing.

That said, the country of Tyralt is far more pleasant place to visit as an author because Aurelia has a sense of humor and fun!  I love Aerin and Dane, but they are so intense.

9. Out of your books, which character was the most difficult to write and which was the most entertaining?
The villains are always the hardest to write.  Because they lie.  They won't admit who they are, and they like to wreak havoc all of my stories.

As for entertaining, well--Chris is very entertaining.  Dane is explosive.  And Aurelia is a lot of fun.  Though I dragged poor Beth out of bed this morning and sent her scrambling all over her disastrous room, which was quite entertaining as well.  So sometimes I can be entertained by characters who are having a dreadful time.

10. What inspired the change between the historical fiction aspect of "Aurelia," to the sci-fi setting of "Academy 7"?
These are the worlds in which the characters live.  I didn't really have a say.

I do think I chose to flip from Aurelia to Academy 7 because the tones of both stories are very different.  And as an author, that is fun.  To leap out of one mood and into something else.  I do this as a reader as well.  I read about 1/3 fantasy, 1/3 historical fiction, and 1/3 everything else.  So I enjoy floating in the fantastical for a while and then plunging into serious realistic fiction and then riding a covered wagon across the Oregon Trail.  I'm rather wretched at staying inside a box.

11. What is your opinion on writing critique groups?  Have you ever participated in one?
Yes, I think they are a great thing, especially the writing exercises for coming up with new ideas.  I've had a critique group for the past three years, but unfortunately, it recently dissolved.  People are relatively few and far between in Eastern Oregon.  And people who have the same time available to meet are even more rare.

12. What type of reception did you receive when your friends and family found out that you were getting published?
They were all happy, especially my cats.

13. How do you deal with the pressure of deadlines?
I can achieve a lot when I know there's the potential to reach a goal.  I'm not a good multi-tasker.  I like to plunge into something with intensity, work at it full tilt, and create magic.

14. Are there any "gotta have this/gotta have that" during the writing process?
Hmm.  Orange soda is nice.  A warm snuggling white cat.  Occasional ten minute breaks with episodes of Robin Hood from Netflix.  Those would be this week's "gotta haves."

15. You've done historical fiction and sci-fi.  Any plans for exploring another genre?  Is there one genre that you absolutely will not write?
The book I am writing now, Salvation, which is set to come out spring of 2012 is a young adult contemporary novel about Salva, a young man who doesn't want to be everyone's salvation, and Beth, the walking disaster area.

Never say never.

16. What's something about you that would surprise others?
I grew up on a ranch in Eastern Oregon, and I cannot drive a stick shift to save my life.  Well, perhaps to save my life, but it would require practice.

17. Who are some fellow authors that you would like to meet?
Actually, I had the chance this past fall to meet my favorite author, Tamora Pierce, at the Sirens Conference on Women in Fantasy Literature in Vail, CO (fabulous conference!  Highly recommended).  And I was able to meet Sherwood Smith and Kristin Cashore there as well, who were both great.

I would love to meet Ann Rinaldi.  I think her ability to take great moments in history and share them through the perspective of female heroines is amazing!

18. I see you're a very open-minded and adventurous person.  Were you always having adventures as a kid?
Only in my head.

19. What's your writing environment like?  Do you absolutely have to have music going, or can you only write when it's quiet...etc.?
No music.  Quiet.  Couch.  Laptop.  Coffee table.  Writing bag: with dictionary, thesaurus, pens, pencils, sharpener, notebooks.  Printer.  Fore-mentioned "gotta haves."  All very boring, but I like the scene in the movie, Finding Neverland, where James Barrie's door opens and you see all the magical things floating around.  Because that is what writing is like.  You see, I'm not really there on a couch.  I'm wherever my characters are, experiencing whatever they're experiencing.  So today, I spent time in Beth's disastrous bedroom, and walking down with her and her best friend to the asphalt pond in front of their school, and with Salva, at Table Numero Uno, the most exclusive location at Liberty High.

20. Do you have any advice for young adult writers?
Write the story you love!  The one that refuses to disappear--that stays in your head and keeps calling "Write me!"  And when you finish that one, write the next and the next and the next.

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Make sure to head over here to post a comment!

Straight from Anne Osterlund folks!  Again, I cannot say how honored I feel for being able to ask all these questions.  It was hard narrowing it down to just twenty.

Thank you again, Anne!  For all your time and for all your fabulous books. :)

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Anne Osterlund grew up in the sunshine of Eastern Oregon and graduated from Whitworth College.  She lives in a cute little yellow house with her best feline friend, Dance, and her own library of young adult books.  She also teaches sixth grade and enjoys immersing her students in language, literature, and imagination.  Anne has written two novels, Aurelia and Academy 7, both published by Penguin Books, and is ambitiously embarking on two more.

Read a fuller (and more entertaining) biography here.

You can befriend Anne on Goodreads here.

You can purchase "Aurelia" from Amazon here as well as "Academy 7" here.

All additional information can be discovered at Anne's website.