Dec 1, 2011

Meeting AdriAnne

My guest this week is soon-to-be breakout YA paranormal/urban fantasy author, AdriAnne Strickland.

AdriAnne picking fish

By summer a commercial fisherperson in Bristol Bay, and by winter a full-time writer, AdriAnne is represented by Sandy Lu of the Perkins Agency. She's also a former world-traveler, proud English major (I have my P.O.E.M. shirt, do you?) who carries around a fascinating group of characters in her head. Really. Check out her web site for a really fresh take on paranormal/supernatural.
Or just read on because that's what this interview is about. :)

1. What brought you to Alaska?
My husband. We met in college in Portland, and when I found out he was from Alaska, I said (acting tough) that I’d always wanted to try commercial fishing for salmon. He laughed, and said I’d better be telling the truth because he’d been fishing out in Bristol Bay pretty much all his life. So, I spent my first summer in AK fishing in Egegik, then we bought our own boat, and now five seasons later, I’m hooked… pardon the pun. (“Netted” would be more appropriate—goodness, and I claim not to pun!)

Oh go ahead. I resisted the urge to compare any knot-tying expertise you may have - fixing nets, y'know - with tying up your fictional characters  so puns welcome.
2. Your site says your first book was an adventure featuring a MC who was a little too much like Indiana Jones, and your second book featured a talking cheetah (which I would love to read.) So describe the book that landed you your agent.  
I wrote the cheetah book in third grade and I had dismal handwriting, so you probably don’t want to read it! First of the Fallen is the book that got my agent’s attention, though she works with YA too, lucky for me. It’s about, well, a fallen angel meeting up with the first angel ever to fall (guess who!) and accidently triggering Armageddon. I only know what initially attracted my agent  from what she’s mentioned: the fact that my protagonist wasn’t a woman prior to her fall, and Samael. My agent, Sandy Lu, really likes Samael. I’ll talk more about him in a second….

3. Your genre is supernatural and urban fantasy YA and, judging from your site, you're pretty prolific. How many hours to do you write a day?
I treat my writing like a full-time job for ten months out of the year, thanks to fishing. So when I’m deeply into a project, I’ll write for eight hours a day. Even when I’m not writing, I spend the hours from 9am-5pm working on a project, whether that’s the research stage involving a lot of reading, brainstorming/plotting, or staring at my computer in disgust.

Wow. Eight hours a day to write. *tries imagining this and fails*

4. Do you write different MSs simultaneously? Talk about your writing schedule or process.
I try not to write more than one manuscript at a time, because it takes a while for me to really lock into a project, and if I’m bouncing back and forth I end up distracting myself with shiny new ideas rather than getting much done. (I once ended up with 30 pages on three different manuscripts, and it’s telling that none of those three have been finished.) But I do like to have a completed project (or two!) that I can go to for revisions when I’m feeling stymied with a current WIP. Revisions give me a fresh perspective, at times. It’s been really great working with my agent, because I have deadlines, lots of revisions, and new projects to keep me constantly interested, though I feel like I get whiplash sometimes looking from one manuscript to the next.

5. The First of the Fallen is a supernatural about - wait for it - a fallen angel. Given that angels/demons are popping up everywhere in WIPs these days, how does your MS stand out?
I mentioned above that my protagonist was androgynous before she fell, and the adjustment to living as a woman is a large focus of the first part of the book. There are a lot of novels with sexy, aloof angel love-interests, but not many with a first person angel POV, really trying to dive into what it would be like to be an angel on Earth—the human side of them, if you will. The second thing that might make it different is Samael. He’s… uh… the devil. And he’s a love interest. And he’s a good guy. He also plays the piano, recites poetry, and saves the world. I think the idea of the Adversary just being misunderstood all these years is not something that many manuscripts tackle.

6. I love the premise of the Words Made Flesh trilogy. (Hey, I'm a sucker for glass pyramids and the word 'athenaeum.' I love saying it. Athenaeum.) Talk about how you drew on your life experience as a world traveler for two years to concoct this plot.
All of my projects come from “seed ideas,” something that just pops in my head, either as a random thought (First of the Fallen), a dream (Midnight), or even a phrase, which is how the Words Made Flesh came about—from reading, not from my travels. I did a lot of biblical research for First of the Fallen, and came across the line “the word made flesh” and thought—hey, what if words were really flesh? What if divine power came to be embodied in certain supernatural human beings? And then I ran with it. I loved writing Tavin—it’s the first time I’ve written a male first-person POV, and I used my wonderful, snide, loving brother as an inspiration. But some of my traveling experiences did come into play with the different Words (kids with powers), since they all come from diverse cultural backgrounds.

That sounds so cool. 

7. Your web site banner is awesome. (I'm talking about the photo of the wings turning into crows.) Where did you find that art?
I commissioned it from a friend, paying him with eternal gratitude and props for his awesomeness. Tony Clark, the guy who did it, is a graphic 3D artist working at Liquid Development (a 3D art team working on Halo 4, among other projects) in Portland right now. We didn’t meet in Portland—he actually grew up with me in my dinky hometown of Elko, NV. We drew together all through high school (mostly video game characters! Go Link!), though he was the one who actually ended up going to art school.

Well, he rocks. And I bet your first cover will be just as gorgeous if you're able to sign him as the artist. 
8. OK, now let's talk querying. Give us the deets - how long, how many agents, and if you can, share your query letter.
First of the Fallen is sort of a weird case, because it’s both my first novel (not counting what I wrote before college) and my fourth. When I initially wrote it, I made every beginner mistake in existence—much too long, much too rough for submitting to agents, an atrocious query letter, not enough research into the agents I submitted to, etc. The problem is, I didn’t know these things were mistakes at the time—I thought it was perfect! (hah)—and I only realized it after something like 30 rejections and multiple drafts later. By my fifth or so draft, I realized the book had flaws that I couldn’t revise away, and so I actually put it in a drawer. I think it’s really important to be able to move beyond your first novel (I know quite a few people who’ve gotten stuck there, unable to bear the fact that it might just not be good enough) and try something new, grow in another direction. I did move on—I wrote two other novels—but the story kept haunting me. So I returned to it with a different perspective and more writing experience, and literally rewrote most of it without looking at the old manuscript. So it’s also my fourth novel. I only submitted it in its new form to about seven agents (the query letter said basically what the little blurb on my website says about it), Sandy Lu requested the full, and then I went fishing. A few months, emails, and phone calls later, and I signed with Sandy.

9. Talk about designing your author web site. Did you do it yourself or hire someone? What are some tips you could share with authors who haven't yet put together their own site?
I had a friend help me with it, and did some of it myself afterwards after he worked on the nitty-gritty code stuff that I have no clue how to do. Tip: find a friend! Websites are notoriously expensive, and writers are notoriously poor. Sorry, that’s probably not too helpful. Let’s see… once you find someone to help you out, have a vision and a lot of content for it, otherwise you might end up wasting time and not getting what you want. So imagine your perfect website first, with all the text, pictures, art, etc., and then dive into it with that in mind. (But also have an idea that fits your budget.)

10. What's it like being out on submission? Is it worse than querying?
I’m only out on submission as of this week… so far, so good! I know I’m likely in for a long trudge, though, but at least it’s my agent doing the querying while I get to focus on my writing and revisions. So in that regard, I’d say it’s better.

Alaska fast five

Which brand of salmon do you crave - red, king, silver or pink?

King, preferably grilled over a drift-wood fire with no seasoning.

Your dipnetting record? (no fair counting seining or gill netting. I mean with your own two hands and a net.)
I've actually never dipnetted! (I know, I know, shame on me.) But I have caught a red salmon with my bare hands during the peak of the season. Does that count?

Yes! You're just like a brown bear! Only I'm guessing you didn't tear it open with your teeth. :)

Longest day spent on a boat without a bathroom break?

I definitely haven't stripped down out of my rain gear to use the infamous bucket for about eight hours before. Not fun! Guys have it so easy!

Most favoritist place in Alaska?

Probably the abandoned cannery in Ugashik, with only the tundra and nothing else rising up into snow-capped mountains.

Best movie you've seen this year?  (ok, this one isn't Alaska themed but hey. I need Red Box recommendations.

Black Swan. It was visually striking, and Natalie Portman's acting was mind-blowing... like playing both Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde at the same time!

Thanks so much for stopping by AdriAnne! I can't wait to hear of your first sale.


Nancy Thompson said...

Great interview. And the fallen angel story sounds fascinating. I so love hearing about the process other writers go through.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed reading this interview. It was great getting to know AdriAnne and her writing. I'll check out her website.

Have a lovely weekend.

Julie Musil said...

Your books sound fascinating and yes, the web site is so cool! I loved hearing about your writing process.

AdriAnne said...

Thanks so much! I'm glad to be meeting new people. If you ever have any questions/comments, feel free to contact me. I have email info on my website, a new blog under "Ramblings," and I tweet (@adriannems), so I'm pretty easy to reach.

Thanks again!

MNB said...

Adri this is amazing. All your efforts are starting to shine... can't wait to read your books! Love your website too! -Maru =)