Monday, January 25, 2010

Interview: Emma Kinna

[Student-Emma.jpg]We have with us today the new YA author, Emma Kinna! Emma is the author of A House Afire, which is her first novel. To find out more about Emma, visit her blog Breathing Fire.

Here's a quick look at
A House Afire: 
Phyllis Sorin has seen all sorts of people. With two kind Aunts who rent out the rooms of their house to anyone in need, the people she calls family are a little different from most. There's Bill, who takes on the personalities of movie characters. There's Quincy, whose best friend is a drag queen. There's Anna, an opera singer and kung-fu master.

And Phyllis, well, she's not exactly normal herself. But even as she begins to navigate high school's social jungle, Phyllis finds comfort and humor in her odd home.

When Dominick Siddons moves in, however, all of Phyllis's priorities become inferior to finding out his secret. A young lawyer with a vicious wit and ferocious temper, Sid may understand Phyllis in a way no one else can. And through truth and fiction, through the inevitable chaos of the house, Phyllis finds much more than she bargained for.

 When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
Emma: I've wanted to be a writer since I can remember. I used to make up "puppet shows" and stories with my dad before I knew how to write, and I remember writing in my room and yelling to my mother to find out how to spell certain words. I wrote a "book" in kindergarten about a cat and a dog, and again in fifth grade, about a girl who had a magic mirror. To write and publish a book has been the thing I've wanted most for years.

Amber: How long does it take you to write a book?
Emma: It took me about four years to write this book, but that doesn't include editing and trying to find an agent or publisher. I also spent a lot of time discovering and developing the characters; the main character Phyllis, took a while to evolve. I knew I wanted to make her a strong and extraordinary heroine, but also very human. Sid came next, and the rest of the family followed. I finished the book when I was seventeen, but it wasn't really complete until this year, when I turned twenty. I'm not sure how long it'll take in the future; the next book will probably take a longer time because I'll still be perfecting the process. I don't know if anyone ever finishes perfecting the process.

Amber: What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
Emma: I write a lot when I'm supposed to be doing something else, to be honest. A lot of writers  give themselves schedules per day to write. But at this point in my life, because I still have to grow a lot more as a writer and a person, I just can't manage to do that. Sometimes there's no way I can force myself to write, because it can lead to dull, bad writing. Other tasks provoke my mind to wander, I guess, and then I just start writing. Lately I've been writing the most at night.

Amber: Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
Emma: I get ideas from everything; my life, my friends, movies, things I hear and see at random. Things I wish would happen, too. I do research on the internet and at the library when I need to. Some of my research is social weird as that sounds. I want to learn more about the psychology of my characters. And for one character named Bill, who thinks he's a different movie character basically every chapter, I watch a lot of movies.

Amber: What do you like to do when you're not writing?
Emma: When I'm not writing, I like to read, watch movies, to swim and do yoga, and I love to travel. I also like to learn about sea creatures. I'm a student though, so most of what I end up doing when I'm not writing is studying. Or procrastinating.

Amber: What does your family think of your writing?
Emma: My family's extremely supportive and have helped me out with the book in every possible way. My mom likes my writing- she likes Sid and Phyllis; my dad's really happy for me and is reading the book, but I'm not sure if YA is really his genre. My brother's not a big reader but he thinks it's pretty cool that I'm a published author.

Amber: What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

Emma: The most surprising thing I've discovered about writing has to do with characters. My mom loves Diana Gabaldon, and she used to always talk about how Gabaldon said that her characters tend to do just what they want, no matter what she plans for them. When I was younger, I always thought, "What is she talking about? I can make my characters do whatever I want." But when I first wrote Sid, the forbidden love of "A House Afire," it was in a completely different sort of story (though it was still with Phyllis) and he was supposed to be a bad guy. But I couldn't get him to be evil. That wasn't who he was. They just got along and fell in love instead. Sid still has an edge, that's for sure, he's still mischievous. But he has his own moral code and he could never be evil. So that experience taught me a lot about creating a character that was a complete surprise to me.

Amber: Do you have any suggestions to help others become better writers? If so, what are they?

Emma: My suggestions for other writers? Well, keep in mind that I'm still working on it, myself. I think the best suggestions I can offer are to read a lot of different kinds of books, have a lot of other people read your stuff, and write about what is interesting to you. And try new things; if you learn more, you have more to write about. Don't be afraid to write what you want to write, either. Everyone can offer criticism and ideas to you, but at the end of the day, you're still the one in charge of the story.

Amber: What do you think makes a good story?
Emma: That's a tough question. I suppose great characters are my personal favorite thing in a good story. Great characters that are well-developed and don't completely change at random for the convenience of the plot. It really annoys me when characters do things that make zero sense, just so that what the author wants to happen can happen. A good setting helps, and so do, obviously, interesting events. I like when a story keeps me guessing, and gives me smart, unpredictable answers. (Amber here! I just have to add that I totally agree with this answer :D)

Amber: Do you think that you will continue to write books? If so, what genres are you interested in writing?
Emma: I am most certainly going to continue to write books! I love writing and I love getting to know characters and becoming immersed in a story. I think for now I'll stick to YA fiction, because that's what I know best and what I'm most interested in. I need to finish up what happens to Phyllis! She and I are in it for the long haul. But someday I'd like to write mysteries and adult fiction, and possibly some nonfiction works.

Thank you, Emma, for letting us learn a bit about you! Be sure to check out A House Afire. To see the trailer for the book, click here.