Column takeover….Guest interview with Tonya Hurley, author of The Blessed
As much as I know you are eagerly awaiting my next column (well, probably not) I have decided to open the slot to someone far more exciting, interesting and cool…..the one and only Tonya Hurley; author of The Ghostgirl Series and The Blessed (which I read, loved, reviewed on this very site).
Tonya very kindly agreed to answer my questions, despite my fangirling (I tried to tone it down but what do you do when an author you admire is casually emailing you?!) and did so with great grace. There are some great facts, amazing tips and well, just generally fascinating things we can learn about Tonya in this interview…who doesn’t want to know an author’s favourite sugar rush?!
I want once again to thank Tonya for her time and her awesome books. You can find more about her and the stories on her site: www.tonyahurley.com .
AK: Can you single out one experience in your career so far where it really hit home for you that you were a ‘real’ author/where it registered with you personally?
TH: I’m not quite sure it has really hit me yet, even after all these years. I still get really surprised when I see my books on shelves or meet readers who turn up at my signings. I hope it’s something I never get used to!
AK: The Blessed, as I referred to in my review, is unashamedly gritty. Was it your intention to write something for the older YA contingent or did the subject matter naturally take you down that route?
TH: My intention was to re-imagine the ancient martyr legends into present day Brooklyn. The original saint stories are brutal and bloody and to be true to them, I knew the book would have to be as well. But honestly, I think they just might be the earliest YA stories we have, centered around themes of faith, determination, fitting in, death and supernatural love -albeit of a very particular sort. The tendency is to see these young women as passive and weak, but the reality is far different. They were defiant and passionate about their beliefs and refused to deny them even on pain of death. In essence they had faith in themselves and were even willing to die for what they believed in – for love. These are young teenagers mind you, defying the wishes of their families and in some cases the Roman Empire itself. Talk about brave. I tried to channel that spirit for The Blessed so I’m proud of the fact that the book feels very gritty and street and I do understand that a younger reader might have some reservations about it.
AK: I am fascinated by the idea of each young writer having a process? Do you have a routine or some particular rules you work to when creating your characters/books (i.e. are you a sticky note and wall planner type or just let it happen as you go type?)
TH: I try to assemble various images that suggest each character and the plot to me. Fashions, accessories, buildings, places, things, music. All those sensory references are useful to me in creating the characters, the world and the story. However, if you were to look at my inspiration collections, you might not see the connection. I am a very visual writer and I love to work with my hands, so often I will even build armatures and things like that to get my brain going.
AK: Who is your favourite character from your books and why?
TH: I don’t have a favorite. There is a little of me and people I’ve known in each Lucy and Agnes and Cecilia. In terms of my own life story, it’s probably closest to Cecilia’s. I arrived in New York City from a small town and tried to make my way in the music business. It’s a tough game. They’re all on a path, they are struggling to make it and make sense out of the world and who they are. What they are meant to do. I think we can all relate to that.
AK: Have you ever based anyone on people you know?
TH: Most the characters I’ve written about, both in ghostgirl and The Blessed, are based on people I know or have known. It makes the whole experience of writing that much more personal for me. And I’ve been lucky enough to make the acquaintance of some pretty colorful people from all walks of life.
AK: One thing you would say to anyone seeking a career as an author?
TH: Writers write. If you want to be an author, you need to have a idea for a story you are passionate about and the determination to write it to completion, even if you believe no-one but your closest relatives will ever read it. If you don’t believe in it, you can’t expect anyone else to. Also, get used to rejection.
AK: Have you ever like a movie adaptation more than the book?
TH: I’ve worked on both sides – as a short filmmaker and television writer and as an author. They are two completely different mediums with completely different objectives. It almost doesn’t make sense to compare them. The book is the author’s version of the story, but once you put it out there, it only makes sense that screenplay writers, directors, producers, actors and of course the studio executives, will have their own spin on it. I don’t know that I’d say any film adaptions have been better than the book, but look, for example, at The Shining, a classic horror film that is loved by everyone except STEPHEN KING, who wrote the novel. Jaws, The Exorcist The Godfather, Carrie, The Notebook, Harry Potter, Hunger Games, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo were all novels that succeeded on their own, but benefitted greatly from the film versions.
AK: Three words you would use to describe your experiences as an author?
The Real You
AK: Favourite cupcake flavour?
TH: Vanilla buttercream on yellow cake. Add sprinkles for vibe. I like to kick it old school when it comes to sugar!
AK: Do you have a specific piece of music or album that helps you write, if so what?
TH: I’m a big music person so I couldn’t limit myself to a single disk or artists. The Cure, Public Image, Ltd., Death Cab, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs are always in regular rotation though. I also love to listen to movie soundtracks. I do better when I’m writing to scores, otherwise I’m too focused on the lyrics.
I love the soundtrack to FARGO for example.
AK: Perfect Sunday afternoon?
TH: Writing or reading by a large body of water. Of shopping at a flea market or curiosity shop.
AK: What would you choose as your superpower?
TH: I’ve said this before. Omnipotence, because then, selfishly, I’d have every power!
AK: What would you like your epitaph to be?
TH: I told you I was sick!
It would be total validation for my friends and family complaining about me being a hypochondriac.
AK: What is your guilty pleasure?
TH: I will eat anything that doesn’t eat me first.
AK: Desert island book choice?
TH: The Collected Works Of Edgar Allan Poe.
AK: One word you wish didn’t exist?
Thank you so much for doing this interview, it has been a joy getting to know all about you. Please check out Tonya’s book, The Blessed.
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