Join us in welcoming writer Aira Philipps to the member spotlight this Monday! Aira is a recent Book Country convert who writes YA, loves Stephen King, and is the mother of three boys. Check out her book RISE OF THE WHITE RAVEN and get to know her as she talks about writing YA characters and unleashing her creativity in her fiction.
NG: Thanks for chatting with us, Aira! Start by telling us a little bit about yourself & how you landed in the crazy world of writing!
AP: Thanks for having me, Nevena. Gosh, I can’t remember when I wasn’t writing something. I wanted so badly to be able to tell a story like Roald Dahl, or Jean Merrill. I had a pile of notebooks with stories in them I never shared with anyone. I just liked to write. My creative mind took me in so many directions, so my writing was just one of many. I was taking private art lessons and doing community theater, even playing the cello, I never took my writing seriously. Then I settled down raising my three boys, and about the time I found the internet, I started writing again. This time it was much easier to focus and organize my thoughts. I just ran with it.
NG: THE RISE OF THE WHITE RAVEN is the story of a not-so-ordinary 17-year-old girl who has to face supernatural forces and an old prophecy. What’s your favorite part about telling this particular tale?
AP: I really like Deidra as a character. Because she started out being an outcast when she was younger, she became strong and independent. Deidra is able to fit in without giving into peer pressure, and doesn’t need a boyfriend or to wear the latest trends to feel good about herself. I think Deidra is what we all wish we could have been in high school.
NG: Blending paranormal elements in a contemporary setting can be tricky. What is your personal approach to grounding magic in the book?
AP: It all comes down to the first advice given to a writer. Write what you know. I am a big fan of Joseph Campbell, and read any kind of myth I can get a hold of. It’s also the fiction I am drawn to, so the paranormal part is easy enough. The story was already in my head, much of it from my own experiences. I just began to write. For bringing the characters up-to-date, I can thank my boys and all their friends — my house is always full of clowns.
AP: I have a big family, and we are an entertaining bunch, and my boys and I actually talk to each other like the characters in the book. It’s funny, when I sit down to write I can almost hear the dialogue in my head, and I type it out quickly. If I overthink it I blow the flow of the conversation. As I like to say, I’m a chick with too much inner dialogue.
NG: I know you’re a huge Stephen King fan. What are some of the lessons you’ve learned from reading him that you’ve applied to your own writing?
AP: I learned that everyone improves the more they write. Like many, the first of his books I read was CARRIE. I have read every one since then. I go back now and read his earlier books, and I see a big difference. Some of the advice he gives in ON WRITING comes from his own writing mistakes. I love his work, but I don’t think my writing mirrors his in any way — other than trying to create characters you can relate to. Stephen King has a way of drawing you into his characters’ heads; you love them or you hate them, but you can’t get enough of them.
NG: Writing is a challenging undertaking: it has its ups and downs. What motivates you and keeps you going day in and day out?
AP: I guess it’s just knowing I have a story to tell. Even if no one reads it, the story is there. When I first started writing, it never occurred to me to try to get anything published. I just wanted to write. It’s compulsive. I see a blank screen or a blank piece of paper, or even a canvas, and I have to fill it. I didn’t have any lows until I was encouraged to put it out there for everyone to see. Then you get the self-doubt. I just have to remember I’m going this because I love it.
NG: Finally, how did you find about Book Country and what’s your favorite part about the site?
AP: I found it on Twitter. I followed some writers and saw the interview with Kerry Schafer. I asked the big question: “How scary is it putting your story out there for others to critique?” She answered with “If you want to write for public consumption, you’ve got to toughen up.” I had too many people telling me what I wanted to hear about my book, and I needed an honest opinion, so I joined. The best part for me has been the reviews. The advice I was given was extremely helpful. I think sometimes we see the story in our heads and don’t see what others see in our writing. If the reader isn’t happy, it’s best to know up front. My reviewers were gentle but honest. It’s just what I needed to polish my book and call it done.
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