Saturday, October 01, 2011
Angel Fire Blog Tour - An In Depth Interview with L.A. Weatherly
And thank you for being the first stop on the Angel Fire blog tour! I'm delighted to be here, and really excited about Bath as well.
In the opening sequence of AF we meet Seb. What made you decide to bring Seb on board?
As much as I love the romance between Willow and Alex, it had to face some kind of challenge to keep things interesting as the series continued. 160,000 words of romantic bliss would probably be a bit much for even the most stalwart fan to stomach! Though I hadn't specifically planned on bringing in a love triangle, while mulling over ideas for Angel Fire the thought suddenly came to me: what if Willow met a boy half-angel? He'd be the one person who could seriously threaten her relationship with Alex, because he'd understand her in a way that Alex simply couldn't. I loved all the inherent drama and tension that were immediately possible with this idea - and voila, Seb was born!
How did you go about determining both Seb and Willow’s supernatural powers and what kind of research did you do?
Ironically, I wanted to keep this aspect of the story as grounded and real-feeling as possible, so although Seb and Willow both have psychic powers, it's not anything incredibly dramatic, such as being able to throw furniture around with their minds or anything like that! They both have the same basic skills - being able to give readings to people, seeing auras, etc. - they only differ in terms of which of them is better at what. This is actually the one area of the story where I didn't need to do any new research. I've always been fascinated by psychic and supernatural phenomena, and have read a great deal about it over the years.
I am very interested in the parallel story lines that flow through AF - similar to the original Angel, but this time even more complex. How did you manage to handle the threads? I’m making a hash of this question, but I basically want to know how you kept Seb / Willow / Raziel’s threads running, twining and twining them, with the big conclusion towards the end?
Good question - and no, not making a hash at all! When writing the first draft, I stayed with Willow's and Alex's storylines at first, making notes of where I wanted a Seb- or a Raziel-sequence to fall. Then I went back and added these later on.
In Seb's case, this was easy, since his storyline exists somewhat outside of the others, and is primarily there to add tension to Willow's own: we know how drawn Willow felt to Seb in her dream, and then from Seb's POV we find out that he's in love with her and has been trying to find her his entire life - so what on earth is going to happen when these two meet?! Seb's thread also allows readers to really get to know him by the time he does find her - which I felt was important, since Willow experiences such a deep, instant connection with Seb. If he's a complete stranger to the reader at that point, this would have been much harder to pull off. There's only one Seb POV after he and Willow meet, which is mainly because he was so incredibly happy at having finally found her that there was no tension in his POV anymore!
Raziel's storyline was very different. It's essentially the underpinnings of the whole novel, since it contains vital information about the action storyline that the other characters don't know, which (hopefully) heightens the tension as you read. As a result, the Raziel scenes were some of the last things I went back and added in, once I had thoroughly worked out the action storyline myself. (I have a lot of fun with Raziel. He's such a deliciously evil baddie!)
I know you are a dedicated planner, having had the opportunity to sit in on one of your writing classes in the past. Do you approach each book in the same way or do you find yourself looking at certain books in a different way?
Oh, I definitely approach different books in different ways. With my shorter works of fiction (for instance, series fiction for younger readers), I usually plan quite extensively, doing specific chapter breakdowns, etc., and the book usually follows these fairly obediently once I start to write. For longer works, though, I've learned that this sort of in-depth planning is often a complete waste of time. The characters are certain to start doing things that you didn't expect (Alex, 'obedient'?), and you'll also find out a lot about the world of the story as you write. So when writing Angel Fire and now also Angel Fever, I started out by just typing my thoughts about the story onto the computer screen, letting the ideas flow as they would, and did this until I had a very basic storyline in place - just a series of stepping-stones, really, to get me across the stream. For Angel Fever (which I just started writing a few days ago!), I know broadly what's going to happen, and I know how the whole series is going to end up ... but for the rest of it I'll just have to sit back and let the characters surprise me.
You recently came back from a trip to Mexico and surrounds - was this to make sure the details in Angel Fire ring true or is there another nefarious Book 3 reason you were out there?
A 'nefarious book 3 reason' - excellent! I think I should claim this even if it isn't true, just to worry people. No, I primarily went because I was very conscious of the fact that I was writing about a city (Mexico City) that I had never been to, and one which was outside of my own culture. So I really wanted to go if I possibly could, not only to check my research, but also to get an authentic feel for the place. Thankfully, my husband and I were indeed able to travel there, and it was an amazing experience to finally see in person all the places that I'd been writing about. Though I was only there for a week, most of the Mexico City descriptions in the book are from Willow's POV - and since she, too, is viewing the city as an outsider who's only just arrived, my impressions were probably exactly what was needed here.
In Angel, Willow’s character was that of a very strong young woman, whilst maybe not very confident. I felt that in Angel Fire that she had matured quite a bit, grew more confident, but that she had lost her independence to a certain extent, because of Alex. Was this something you intended to show or am I reading far too much into it?
Interesting. This certainly isn't something that I was aware of while writing, so no, I definitely wasn't trying to show this or explore it as an idea! Personally, I don't really agree that Willow's had any loss of her independence in the story - or at least, no more so than any person who chooses to be in a committed relationship, Alex included.
It works equally both ways: they're both adjusting to being in a serious relationship for the first time, with all the difficulties and compromises that this entails - being part of a 'we' instead of just a 'you'; having to think about the other person's feelings as well as your own.
Both Willow and Alex think it's totally worth it, I think, but I also think both of them are taken aback in this book by how difficult relationships can be even when you really, really love each other. And in their case, there's the added difficulty that Alex, as well as being Willow's boyfriend, is also the team leader and some of his decisions in this role affect her, which isn't easy for either of them. However, it's really important to me to show that Alex and Willow interact and view each other as complete equals, so I hope this is how things come across - I very consciously try to avoid an Edward/Bella type of relationship, where the boy's in charge because he's always right.
Alex's role as the AK leader doesn't mean for a moment that he's also in charge of his and Willow's personal relationship; I think they'd both be horrified at the thought!
I loved how it felt that I was right there with Seb and Willow and Alex, in the desert, travelling and visiting Mexico. How important is setting and locale to you and does it consciously influence your planning and writing when you start a new book?
Thank you! If I were cleverer, then the choice of setting would definitely influence my planning of new projects. (Why on earth don't I write a book set in Jamaica...?) But actually, it's sort of the other way around: the story dictates the setting. In this case, because Alex spoke fluent Spanish (something that I hadn't planned on in Angel, by the way!), Mexico was a natural place for them to go. And since I'd already done the whole wide-open-vistas thing in Angel, I thought an urban setting would be a good contrast for the sequel, which led me very naturally to Mexico City. It's very important to me to get the setting right; it's such a subtle thing, but it can enhance the reality of a story tremendously. It's why I research so much, and always travel to where my stories are set if I possibly can - I want readers to feel like they're actually seeing the places I write about, and for people who have been there to nod in recognition.
How important are writing buddies to you when you start a new project? I know you have a great circle of friends who write adult and YA books and it made me wonder if you bounce ideas off each other etc.?
At the start of a new project I'm actually really secretive, and hardly talk to anyone about my ideas - my friends know by now not to even ask! ;) But as things progress, I find my writing buddies invaluable, especially when I get to the stage where I suddenly realise that I've written 70,000 words, and the deadline is looming, and NO ONE has read this thing yet but me...eek! Most of my writing friends in fact write for younger children, but we're all very much on the same wavelength. I can trust them to tell me whether something is rubbish, or if it's working.
With everything that’s happened in AF, what can we expect in Book 3 - maybe just a hint? And knowing you, you’ve already thought about what comes after - any ideas you can share with us? Will it be another contemporary YA with supernatural elements or…?
Angel Fever will be set in the US again, where things are very changed in the wake of what came at the end of book 2 - and the love triangle between Willow, Alex and Seb will heat up even further, playing itself out against what I hope will be a hugely dramatic final battle against the angels. I'm REALLY looking forward to it - I've been wanting to write some of the scenes in Angel Fever for absolute months now! And, just as importantly, I think readers will like how things ultimately end up.
As to what I'm planning after Angel Fever...see my above answer about being secretive. ;) Oh go on, then, twist my arm. It'll be YA romance again, with elements that could be construed as supernatural (note careful wording!), and I think will be somewhat darker and grittier than Angel.
Finally, my favourite question as both reader and aspiring writer: what is some of the most valuable advice you received as a writer and in turn, what advice can you give to aspiring writers out there?
Some of the best advice I ever received was, "Even though your story ideas might seem boring to you, that's only because you're used to them - to someone else, they could seem fresh and exciting." This one definitely kept me going a few times!
To aspiring writers, I'd say the same, and add: "Write with passion!"
Thanks so much for the great questions, Liz!
Lee really is one of my favourite writers and I hope you enjoyed the interview. If you've not had the chance to read Angel, I suggest you buy it. It is not your average boy meets girl love story either, because there are evil badass angels, and warfare and guns and fast cars. Not that I am biased or anything. And the second novel, Angel Fire, luxuriates in taking Willow and Alex's story further. It's very cinematic and I loved every second of reading both.
Follow the Angel Fire blog tour below. Next stop is at 5 Minutes Peace blog - be sure to check it out!
And if you are around today, 1st October, in Bath or the general area, be sure to check out Lee's event that forms part of the Bath Kidlit Festival. I am jealous for everyone else attending!