Thursday, April 28, 2011

Interview with children's author Anne Osterlund

Today, my guest is children's author, Anne Osterlund talking about her young adult historical fantasy, Exile.

1.     Please tell me how long you've been writing, and why you decided to become a writer.

I’ve been writing since at least the third grade (have a distinct memory of an Indian Cinderella story which I’m certain was a masterpiece). I decided to become a writer because . . .
a.      I love it! Almost every aspect of the creating writing process.
b.     There seem to be a plethora of stories continually working their way out in my head.
c.      Aurelia, the main character from my first book, insisted.

2.     Are you a full-time writer or a part-time writer, and how do you organize your writing time?

I have am a full-time writer and a full-time sixth grade teacher. I don’t have time to organize my time. I teach at least four days a week (four LONG days), and I write all day every day I have off from teaching. With the exception of author appearances at schools, conferences, and bookstores. And major holidays.

3.  Please give us a brief synopsis about your current book and when and where it will be available.

Exile, the sequel to Aurelia, is a young adult historical fantasy. The pitch is as follows . . .

Exiled. From the weight of others' expectations, the responsibilities of being crown princess, and the pressure to marry, AURELIA is finally free to travel the kingdom and meet the people of Tyralt. If only ROBERT, her expedition guide, would stop pestering her about her safety and just kiss her. But then their journey erupts in a fiery conflagration, and with both of their lives and the fate of the kingdom at stake, she and Robert must determine whether they have the strength, and the will, to complete their mission. And face the darker side of exile.

Exile goes on sale April 28th. It is available now for pre-order through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Powell’s. And it will be available at basically any bookstore that sells new books in the U.S. or Canada—though you may need to ask at the counter to order one if it the book isn’t on the young adult shelf.

4.     Is this your first published work?  What other types of writing have you done?

Exile is my third young adult novel and the sequel to my first book, Aurelia. Which is a young adult fantasy. Think Cinderella inside out and with an assassination plot. My second book, Academy 7 is a young adult science fantasy about two teens who risk everything to attend the most prestigious school in the universe. It won the Spirit of Oregon Award this year by the Oregon Council of Teachers of English for being “a distinguished contribution to young adult literature that engages and encourages readers' imagination, discovery, and understanding.” Yay! And my current project, Salvation, which is coming out next April, is a YA contemporary novel, about Salva (Salvador) Resendez who doesn’t want to be everyone’s salvation.

3.     What influences your writing?

The characters run the show. I first met Aurelia, on a yellow notepad, complaining about being stuck with an itching ankle at a boring party. Aerin, the main character from Academy 7, was removing a headband and contemplating whether she could wash away the past several years of her life in order to become someone completely different. And Salva was busy checking out the pretty girl at church.

5.     Why did you choose to write a children's story?
My characters are teenagers: Aurelia, Robert, Aerin, Dane, Salva, Beth. Of course their stories are for teenagers! I didn’t really have a say in the matter.

Though I think I love to write young adult books because I love to read them: The Witch of Blackbird Pond; The Outsiders, The Hunger Games; Mara, Daughter of the Nile, everything by Tamora Pierce, Sharon Shinn, L.M. Montgomery, Louisa May Alcott, Kristin Cashore, and on and on and on.

6.     What was the process of creating this book from the first idea to the final published book?
LOL, that’s not a challenging question at all! The extremely abbreviated version the answer might be . . .
1.     I wrote the first draft, then polished the first three chapters and submitted them to my editor.
2.     Kept writing, dragging poor Aurelia and Robert into the Asyan Forest where we, literally, weren’t certain we were ever going to escape.
3.     Put the book on hold (and tried to ignore Aurelia screaming in my head) when Penguin, my publisher, decided they wanted Salvation instead.
4.     Rescued Robert and Aurelia from the forest when Penguin decided to publish Exile after all. (Actually there is a dispute about who rescued who).
5.     Wrote MADLY every day I had available from the second week of August to the submission deadline of Dec. 1st.
6.     Took off two weekends to clean my house.
7.     Revised—still madly—every day of Christmas break and through mid-February on the first edited revision.
8.     More revisions.
9.     More revisions.
10.  Copyedited revisions.
11.  More copyedited revisions.
12.  Finished the book! And was immediately drafted by Aurelia to blog so she would know I wasn’t forgetting about marketing:

7.     What are your thoughts on traditional versus self-publishing?
I think both are great. I don’t know when I would have ever time to self-publish. But I suppose it is one of those things my characters may someday compel me to learn.

8.     What is your marketing strategy?

Yikes! I try pretty much everything I have time to accomplish. I have a website: beautiful one, I might add, designed by two close friends I have known since I was about five.

I give presentations at bookstores and libraries, teach workshops at conferences, and perform school visits. My school visit brochure is available here (for page 1). And here (for page 2). . My workshop and presentation summaries are posted here.

I have a background in drama, public-speaking, and of course, teaching so I would love to present more often. This year I am the guest author for the 6th-8th grade students at the Portland Writing Festival, an amazing event. I am so excited!

I volunteer, participate, and belong to writing organizations like Willamette Writers, SCBWI, and SCBWI-Oregon. And I attend conferences, including those run by the organizations above, as well as The Whidbey Island Writers Conference and the Sirens: Women in Fantasy Literature Conference.

I also have networking sites on My Space and Facebook. And about 3,000 friends on Goodreads (very addictive book networking site) where I publish book reviews.

And I now blog (at Aurelia’s insistence).

Along with e-mails, sending out ARCS to bookstore representatives and reviewers, and completing interviews for sites like yours!

9.     What are your thoughts about children's writers needing an agent or not needing one?

Aurelia was accepted by an editor before I had an agent. In fact, I received far more personal responses to my submissions from editors than I did from agents. Which I guess is not that uncommon among children’s book authors. Ultimately, I think it can’t hurt to submit to both. Everyone takes their own path to publication. Kelly Sonnack, from the Andrea Brown Literary Agency, is my agent now, and she completed most of the negotiating for my second contract. She also sent me a wonderful e-mail about my last manuscript submission, from which I am still floating. I suppose the more people who love your stories the better.

10.  Where can people find out more about you and your writing?
My website: (complete with a bio from the point of view of my cats)
My blog: (in which my characters show up frequently)
Bookstores, libraries, and all the social networking sites available here:

11.  Do you have any tips for writers who are new to children's literature?

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.

Read a review of Exile here:




  1. Really great interview and she is so confident during this interview. Thanks for sharing with us.

  2. WD, thanks for commenting. I'm glad you enjoyed the interview.