In this version of twenty questions, I send a list of questions to a willing
victim author and they choose their own interview by choosing which questions, and how many questions, they want to answer! Lenore Appelhans’s Level 2 examine the not so peaceful afterlife of Felicia Ward, and how she slowly comes to realize that she is purposefully being held back from a true experience of her afterlife by agenda driven rogue angels. Here is what Lenore had to say about reading, writing, and letting go by writing …sentence fragments.
Would you give us a bit of introduction and let my readers know who you are, how you got started writing, and what kind of books you like to write?
I’ve been blogging about books since 2008. In the time between starting my blog and getting my book deal in March 2011, I read hundreds of books and posted hundreds of reviews on my blog Presenting Lenore. I’ve always been an eclectic reader, but blogging sparked my interest in YA novels and especially dystopians.
Blogging led to meeting a lot of authors and to realizing that publishing a novel of my own was an attainable goal. So I started writing the type of novel I wanted to read, and so far the endeavor has been more successful than my wildest dreams.
I am often struck by the different ways writers respond to the process of writing a book. Linus’s Blanket refers to my use of reading and other activities as a means of escape and comfort, can you share with us any routines, food or recipes, or favorite books or rituals that help you thorough the writing process?
I start with a vision of the book: major character arcs, plot points, and themes. I let these percolate in my head for a long time (for LEVEL 2, I brainstormed for four months before ever typing a single word of the story). Then, I write in a linear fashion, discovering the narrative along the way.
I usually begin writing after 3 pm because I’m not a morning person at all. I listen to my book playlist to get in the mood and then jot down a few cool ideas for my next scene during what I call a spark session. If I ever get stuck, I either take a shower (the hot water loosens my thoughts and leads to major revelations – I get all my best ideas in the shower!) or a quick nap to let my subconscious deal with the problem.
Write the question you would most like to answer in an interview, and then answer it.
English teachers like to tell us that authors purposely employ allusions and other literary devices. Is this true?
What’s interesting is that some allusions I definitely intended, and others I subconsciously included.
In LEVEL 2, I wanted to explore the nature of memory – how memories shape us, and how we create our own life narratives via what memories we chose to remember. When I wrote the first chapter, I had this idea that Felicia was going to look for a memory edition of a certain book and Thornton Wilder’s play OUR TOWN popped into my head. Once I dug deeper into the story of LEVEL 2, I started noticing all the parallels it had to OUR TOWN, and in fact, my editor encouraged me to explore these even more so that OUR TOWN actually becomes an important thread in the novel.
What are you reading now? What are some of your favorite books and authors?
Until recently, I was a very monogamous reader. Now I seem to have several books in progress at any one time. I am very slowly reading through Angela Carter’s short story collection THE BLOODY CHAMBER, fairy-tale retellings with incredibly rich language. I’m also just about to start the hardcover of THE BOOK OF BLOOD OF SHADOW by Robin Wasserman and a digital galley of THE DAYS OF BLOOD AND STARLIGHT by Laini Taylor, both of which I’m incredibly excited about. Hmmm… I seem to have a blood theme going on here, don’t I?
My favorite books are those that take risks – that play with structure or voice – and that challenge my own assumptions about the world. I’ve had the sense for the last few years that the most ground-breaking writing has been going on in YA – look at books by AS King or David Levithan or Megan McCafferty or CK Kelly Martin for example. I could go on all day.
Are you able to read when you’re writing and if so what books inspire you when you’re working your own book(s)?
Definitely. My ideal workday would be half reading and half writing. I consider reading as part of my job as a writer. I know some writers have a problem letting other voices into their heads while they write, but I’ve always been good at compartmentalizing.
Honestly, I find all books inspiring. Sometimes I’m stymied by something in my own work, and I’ll come across a spark while I’m reading that will lead to a solution.
I did a ton of research on the afterlife visions of different religions and learned a lot of cool things. Obviously I didn’t incorporate everything, but since LEVEL 2 is the start of a series, I may well use some of it later, so I don’t want to give anything away!
Did you know what you wanted the title of the book to be? How involved were in choosing the name of the book?
While I was writing, I called it LEVEL 2. When my agent asked what my working title was, I told him LEVEL 2. There was a period of time where the title was going to be SANCTUARY, but I’m happy we stuck with LEVEL 2. The title just feels right.
Do you ever look back at your early work? How do you feel your writing style or approach to writing has evolved since you first began?
I did a lot of creative writing in high school, mainly short stories, but there were a couple of half-baked novels as well. In the intervening years, I’ve written a ton of ad copy and articles and blog posts, but very little fiction. LEVEL 2 was the first novel I actually finished.
I recently found some of my creative writing from high school and I cringe to read it now. It’s incredibly melodramatic.
One of the rules my high school English teacher ingrained into me was to avoid sentence fragments at all costs. In fact, if we had a sentence fragment in our essays, it was an automatic D. For years I diligently followed this rule, but something about Felicia’s voice in LEVEL 2 demanded that fragments be used occasionally. It was almost physically painful at first, but slowly, I let go.
What were your experiences with reading when you were growing up? Was there a pivotal moment in discovering literature when you knew that you wanted to be a writer?
My mother studied English in college, so she was big on reading and language. She’d never tell me the meaning of a word – we’d always have to look it up in “big red”, her unabridged dictionary.
My father loves collecting books, and we went to so many library sales through the years where you could get huge sacks of books for $1. It was amazing. There were days when I’d read three or four books – just devouring them.
In school, writing was always my biggest talent. I realized early on that I’d be some sort of writer. And I always have been. I studied Journalism in college and I’ve been an advertising copywriter for over ten years now. It was just recently that I tried my hand at writing a novel.
Who was your favorite character to write, and why did you have an affinity for that character in particular?
Probably Julian – because out of all the characters, he was most cooperative on my writing days – easy to get on the page. And he’s fun too. He definitely comes off as a jerk sometimes, but there’s a lot about him still to discover …
I’m working on edits for the sequel to LEVEL 2 (tentatively called LEVEL 3) and researching a super-secret novel.
I’m also working on picture books with my illustrator husband, Daniel Jennewein. Our first collaboration, CHICK-O-SAURUS REX (written under the name Lenore Jennewein), comes out in July 2013.