Monday, June 1, 2015

Melanie Abed, Anni Moon & The Elemental Artifact

AUTHOR: Melanie Abed           
BOOK TITLE: Anni Moon & The Elemental Artifact
GENRE: Middle Grade/Tween, Fantasy/Adventure
PUBLISHER: Oculus Print

Are you a full-time writer or part-time, and how do you organize your writing time? I am mostly a full-time writer, however, life gets in the way from time to time. For example, we just moved recently and that was a massive disrupter. How, when, and where I write depends on what I’m doing. If I’m brainstorming, or working on outlines, I like to be in energetic environments like coffee shops. I usually write in the afternoon and evenings. I wish I was the kind of writer that was up before the sun, pen in hand, but that’s not me at all. I tend to be more of a night owl; I find I can focus better on edits during the evening, without the chaos that ensues during the day. Strangely I enjoy writing during rainy weather, somehow it helps narrow my focus, too, but in Los Angeles those odds are usually slim to none, especially now that we are in a drought.

When and why did you begin writing? Anni Moon has been a character floating around in my head for over a decade before I started writing about her.  Growing up I wanted to read a story about a tough spunky girl who was not only brave and fearless in the face of adventure. I wrote her story because it was a story that I absolutely needed to tell. Over the years, bits and pieces of the story were cobbled together after writing and rewriting the entire book a few times. I guess you could say that I’ve been in love with stories from the moment my Grandmother started reading them to me, and I believe it was that love that inspired me to want to write as w­ell. So, actually I should thank my most wonderful, amazing Grandma, Myrtle, for her love of stories, too.

What was the toughest criticism given to you? What was the biggest compliment? The toughest criticism came on my first novel, ten years ago, when I was told I needed to start over and write from scratch. That was very hard to hear at the time, but extremely necessary advice. That novel was awful, and needed a lot of work, but at the same time it taught me so much. Back then, I discovered that there are certain rules to writing, and some that are extremely necessary to employ in certain kinds of genres. Sometimes I wished I learned these rules earlier, but that’s not how writing works, is it? I’ve been very fortunate to get some really lovely compliments on Anni Moon, lots of references to some of my favorite authors, which is so wonderful to hear, but truth be told I don’t let it go to my head. I think the most important thing about writing is shielding yourself from both positive and negative reviews and just focusing on the story at hand, because that’s what’s important.

Do you ever have writer’s block? If so, how do you get through it? I don’t really believe in writers block, so I don’t like to give it any credence. So long as I have a good writing system in place, and a few writing projects to constantly work on, I stay super busy. Daydreaming for me is a huge part of the writing process.

What are your current projects? I am currently working on Anni Moon’s second book, as well as two companion books, which are part of the series, too. After that, I have a few book projects that I’m working on: a younger aged chapter book, an adult mystery, and possibly two Sci-Fi stories.

How can we find you? Website, Facebook, Twitter, blog, etc.?

Tell us about the current book you’re promoting. Anni Moon & The Elemental Artifact is a modern day fantasy, action-adventure, with a dash of mystery, for readers aged 10 to 100. It’s a story about friendship, and two girls who will do whatever it takes to save the other. Additionally, it is a book about diversity. I intentionally created a world that had few borders with lots of racially diverse characters, defined by their personalities rather than the color of their skin or their gender. This is the first book in a planned series of at least six full-length novels, with some additional companion books along the way (because the Elemental world is a vast one!).

What genre do you write in and why? I write in the Mystery, Fantasy, Adventure genres, mostly because that’s what I enjoy reading. I’m also a huge fan of Science Fiction, too, not to mention a really big Star Wars nut, so I suppose it goes without saying that there are a few Sci-fi inspired elements floating around in the overall series.

Why do you feel qualified to write a children’s or teen novel?
Ha ha ha, that’s a great question! I wonder if anyone ever thinks they are qualified to write a children’s or teen novel. It certainly took me a long time to have the courage to put my story out into the world, but I think that the decade long research of children’s lit made me feel a bit more confident. 

What books have most influenced your life? What influences your writing?
 I’ve long been an admirer of Charles Dickens and primarily I would say that it was his work that had inspired me the most. I’m an incredible fan of his book David Copperfield. When I started to reread Charles Dickens’ novels as an adult, I truly became inspired to write a story.
A few other favorite authors are: Jane Austen, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Ray Bradbury, Agatha Christie, Roald Dahl, Neil Gaiman, Diana Wynne Jones, Terry Pratchett, Chris Wooding, and J.K. Rowling.

Is this your first published children’s work? What other types of writing have you done? This is my first published children’s work. On the opposite end of the spectrum, I was published in a Medical Journal after completing my Master’s program in Psychology.

Why did you choose to write a children’s book? I’ve been reading and researching Children’s Middle Grade literature from both the UK and the US for well over a decade, which my husband jokes was my own personal masters program. I particularly love stories made for this age range, and the stories often contain messages of hope, highlight courage and bravery, admirable morals, etc. that even adults need to be reminded of from time to time.

What was the hardest part of writing your book? The most challenging aspect of writing has been balancing what the reader needs to know, especially introducing the Elemental fantasy world, and striving to create an engaging plot that pushes the story forward.

Do you outline before you write?  If not, what’s your initial process?
What comes first: the plot or characters? Before writing this story, the characters and the general concept came first, then I plot and outline. I knew Anni & Lexi’s characters almost instinctively, and I could see Waterstone Academy. As a child, I lived in the Edgewater, just like Anni does, and I imagined that there was a secret portal door to another world; these early imaginings greatly influenced certain aspects of this story. 

How did you decide how your characters should look? I intentionally created an ethnically mixed cast of characters. Growing up as a kid in Chicago, I was surrounded by a group of children from different countries so when I started thinking about my cast it came naturally to emphasize their diversity. It has been so interesting getting feedback from readers regarding the characters and how they imagined them in their minds and how the illustrations often match, or are entirely different.

What do you do when you’re not writing? I am an avid gardener, and butterfly enthusiast. I’ve been growing butterfly gardens for some years now, but this past year my husband and I raised 150 Monarch butterflies. My husband and I were very excited about this and have decided to create a small book to teach people how to do this, too.

What do you look for in a book when you sit down to read for fun? Generally, I look for stories that completely transport the reader, because I want to totally disappear into that story’s world. Also, I love books that make me think. I enjoy solving mysteries, and sort of hate it when I’ve figured things out long before the reveal. Most recently this happened with a highly acclaimed author’s book which, by the way, was excellent, but the author revealed one clue, almost too soon in the plot, and from then I knew who the killer was. However, knowing that wasn’t so bad, because the book was still a fun read.

What seven words would you use to describe yourself? Does my Meyer-Briggs test count?  I’m an INFJ, to a tee, but you want only seven words? Okay, here you go: Conscientious, Big-Picture Person, Intuitive, Abstract, Complex, Independent, and Adaptable.

Short Synopsis:
Anni doesn’t know about Elementals, Funk, Zephyrs, excited talking Bat-Rat creatures, and, least of all, Dragons. When her best friend is kidnapped, they are both pulled into the Elemental world where all this is normal. In a race against time, Anni must master this new world and save Lexi, all while knowing there’s no return to her old life. But saving her friend could cost Anni more than she’s bargained for.