First, a big shout out to E.R. Arroyo for letting me interview her and for gifting a copy of her book to a lucky fan. See the contest posting later today or on our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/2gliterarygirls.
SARA: I want to start off by saying I really loved the book and the world you created. Your words translated so vividly, like those of a seasoned writer. At what age did you begin writing?
E.R.:Tough question because I honestly can’t remember. I’ve been writing poetry since childhood and songs since I was fifteen (I’m 27 now). I started writing stories in 2008 in the form of screenplays. I’m a huge movie fan, so this seemed like the right path for me. In the last two years I’ve read a ton of books, in a way making up for a childhood where I hated reading (I was bad at it, so I avoided it). I started writing prose in January of this year.
SARA: What drew you to the YA genre, specifically dystopian?
E.R.: I love the passion and zeal of young people, so I’m drawn to young characters. Dystopian sort of just happened, mostly because I had just come off a string of dystopian YA novels when I got the idea for Sovereign. But I’d say the inspiration goes further back than that. I love zombie movies, and, honestly, my love for apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic movies probably had more influence over Sovereign than the dystopian books I’ve read. It’s the post-apoc that really speaks to me more than the dystopia. My book deals with a much smaller society than a lot of other dystopias out there. Cori’s world is not entirely re-built yet. There are a particular few scenes right after the middle of the book that were greatly inspired by zombie movies.
SARA: How much of your own personality do you put into your characters? How do you personally relate to Cori?
E.R.:Each main character I work with has a little piece of me, some more than others. The thing about Cori hating to be touched, that’s an actual trait of mine. It’s called hypersensitivity. Basically, unwanted touch can drive me nuts. I can’t think of anything else until I eliminate that contact. Aside from that, I identify most with Cori’s sense of hope and justice. As for her physicality and agility… that’s definitely not something we share.
SARA: I know that in order to write a genre, you must read the genre. What are your top 3 YA favorites of 2012?
E.R.: Okay, this is going to sound horrible, but everything I’ve read this year was published in 2011. My to-read list is forever long, and I’m desperately trying to catch up. The only 2012 novel I’ve read is Insurgent by Veronica Roth, so that gets the number one spot. If I could backtrack into 2011, I’d pick Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi and Legend by Marie Lu. You will notice all three are dystopian YA. I am definitely branching out lately, but I was obsessed there for a bit.
SARA: What part of the process do you feel is unique to you? For instance, do you have any writing rituals, etc.?
E.R.: No rituals per se, but I can literally write anywhere. If I’m focused and motivated, I can drown out distractions. In the car, in an airport, in bed, or on the sofa. I’m a hairstylist, so I work in a beauty shop with constant chatter and noise. I take my computer to work and when I don’t have a client, I’m typing away or reading a book. (My shop owner and all her clients all call me ‘quiet.’) There are other times where I can’t focus at all, so I just don’t write at those times. My brain tells me when it needs rest.
SARA: If you could sit down and interview one author, whose brain would you want to pick?
E.R.: I’d like to chat with Tahereh Mafi because the way she wrote her book was incredibly brave and unique. She’s quirky and funny, and I admire how she made Shatter Me so visceral. If I could choose a screenwriter I’d pick Cameron Crowe (Elizabethtown, Say Anything, We Bought A Zoo, etc).
SARA: To me, Sovereign was one of those books that really resonated post read. I couldn’t shake it and in a way it haunted me. So now that the book is part of my long list of “series I must continue” when can we expect the next installment and how many total are you planning on publishing?
E.R.: I’m so glad the book resonated with you! I can promise a second book, but I’m not yet sure if there will be a third, and I probably won’t know until I’m closer to being finished with my first draft of book two. I literally decided there would be a sequel while I was writing the last few scenes of Sovereign. I would expect book two within the next six months or so. And I can promise it contains a lot of my favorite character, but I’ll keep who that is to myself for now. 😉
SARA: Do you have any advice for other first time authors who want to publish, but may not know how to or are scared?
E.R. My advice would be to get a lot of feedback and do not publish something until it’s ready. Find beta readers who will be very honest with you and won’t sugarcoat the truth. I think it’s rare for a person’s first anything to be good, and my only excuse with this being my first book is that I’ve been writing other things for a long time. My first screenplay will never see the light of day. It sucked. Bad. If you decide you have something and you want to self-publish, go for it! But pay the money for a professional proofreader (I think mine was less than a hundred bucks). Typos are a huge distraction, and several rounds of edits (preferably from two or more people) will go a long way. Anything else you want to know, you can probably find through Google.
SARA: To wrap it up, can you tell us something about yourself that we can’t find online? Some anecdote that might have helped you along your writing journey? (A moment of inspiration, clarity, humor, etc.)
E.R.: I referenced earlier that I’d written poetry and songs. I play acoustic guitar and sing, and when I was younger I aspired to be a singer/songwriter but stage fright often got the best of me. I guess the long and short of it is that I’ve always felt like I had something to say. So whether that’s through lyrics or through a story, I love to communicate. But nothing changes the fact that music is a huge part of my life. I can’t overstate how much I treasure it. I love this quote from the movie August Rush. “I believe in music the waythatsome people believe in fairy tales.” I’d say that sums it up. Thanks so much for having me! I’m glad you enjoyed the book–it was a blast to write.
Once again, I want to thank you so much for taking the time to give our readers a little glimpse of the person beyond the book. It really did rock and we can’t wait for the follow-up.