Welcome to our weekly feature,
We’re excited to have with us this week as our guest Amber Shawl Garr, Author of young adult (YA) novels Promises and the newly-released Betrayal. This will be our first time interviewing someone from the YA genre. So, grab a cup of coffee or pour yourself a cold brew — beverages are always on the house — pull up a chair, and enjoy!
At what age did you first realize you wanted to write books and how/when did you first share this ambition with “the world”?
I honestly hadn’t seriously thought about publishing a book until a couple of years ago when I really started to make the time to write. I had always created “stories” through dance and shows (like in the forest with my sister), but when that creative outlet was subdued due to an injury, I turned to writing. It was short stories at first, but a few of those turned into first chapters and it just grew from there. I published my first novel in December 2011.
Who in your life and what authors you read had the most influence over your decision to write?
My close friends and family, who I initially shared my writing with, were encouraging enough to give me the drive to continue. I am a huge fan of the urban fantasy genre – where the supernatural may be right next to you and you’d never know – so authors like Kelley Armstrong, Kim Harrison, Richelle Mead, Charlaine Harris have certainly inspired me. I read every day, and all of the authors who have created worlds of their own are amazing and make me want to be able to capture that same magic.
What influence has your career choice had on your choice of writing subjects?
Well, I am a marine biologist who has always wanted to be a mermaid, so my first published series centers around a mermaid and other water creatures. All of the underwater scenes have to be accurate! My second career choice would have been a medical examiner, so I made sure to write a forensics component into my adult urban fantasy book (not been released yet). I have also been a high school teacher, and I am currently working on a non-fantasy book that explores slightly darker themes with a protagonist who teaches by day but is an assassin by night (no, I never did that!).
You are writing for a Young Adult audience. Are there other YA authors you admire and what is it about their writing that you like?
Absolutely! I didn’t write the YA series first…but once I started including YA books in my reading list, I was hooked. It brings me back to all of the immature, overwhelming, and erratic feelings we all have as teenagers. Where we think we know it all, but really have no clue. I am a sucker for the Richelle Mead, Kelley Armstrong, and Rachel Caine type series. They do a great job capturing the YA voice and I think that’s what’s most intriguing to me.
What about adult fiction authors? Same question.
Some of the authors are the same. I admire how they can have successful adult series and are still great YA authors. But for adult books, I respect those authors who can make me sit down and read the entire book in one day or one weekend, and then a few weeks later I want to read it again. I suppose it’s the story telling that gets me emotionally attached and I strive to be able to do the same with my characters.
Is there another genre you’d like to try and what attracts you about that genre?
I kind of hinted to this above…probably some type of dark fiction or detective/mystery type novel. I’m looking forward to exploring characters that are not like anyone I know (or would want to know), and seeing how that develops.
If you could pick another’s character and use him or her as a character in a novel, who would that be and in what type of setting would you write about him or her?
Ooh, good question! I think that I would have to say Eric Northman, an old and powerful vampire from Charlaine Harris’s novels. I like his detached persona created to hide years of memories, so I think that I would write him into a comedic scene to try and loosen him up a bit.
You poll your readers and ask them to list five words that best describe your novels. What top five words do they list?
I hope they would say something like – intriguing, suspenseful, emotional, addicting, different. 🙂
Your book covers are beautiful! Did you know all along what you wanted your covers to look like and how did you go about finding a cover artist who could fulfill your wishes?
Thank you! I didn’t necessarily have a cover in mind aside from knowing I wanted my protagonist only, and that an attractive cover was important. I actually found my cover artist for the mermaid series through reading other self-published books and researching who did their work. I knew the minute I saw Claudia’s designs on her website that she would be able to create something wonderful. And thankfully, she was excited to work with me on a mermaid cover. It amazes me what she can do and for both jobs, she had my covers complete within two days. Her business is really taking off, so I hope that I can still snag her for the final book in the series!
Often, it takes a lot of encouragement for young readers to pick up a book and read. Do you think that e-publishing will be a good way to break down youth’s resistance to reading?
Absolutely. In fact, I know a teenage girl who got an iPad for Christmas and the first thing she did was download my book (which was nice). She said she never used to read for fun, but now she has this tool that she can use, and I believe she is reading other books now. It’s quick, convenient, and cheap…so I definitely think this will be a great revolution for young readers.
Are you a dog person or cat person and what kind of canine or feline assistance with your writing do you receive, if any?
Both! I’ve had dogs and cats my whole life and currently have one hound dog (Noodles), a cranky Calico (Screamie), and my new muse (Bitsy). Every time I sit down to write, Bitsy is in my lap or right next to the computer. (I think she likes the heat, but I’ll pretend she’s really bringing me ideas!)
You’re admitted to heaven and you decide to throw a dinner party to celebrate your arrival. What five people are on your guest list?
Assuming they have to be in the same state as myself, I’d invite a wide range of people representing all of my interests in life. Jacques Cousteau, Bram Stoker, Gregory Hines, Mary Leakey, and Trond Stegen (a family member that I haven’t seen for a long time).
Amber Shawl Garr, Author Biography:
Amber Garr spends her days conducting scientific experiments and wondering if her next door neighbor is secretly a vampire. Born inPennsylvania, she lives in Florida with her husband and their furry kids. Her childhood imaginary friend was a witch, Halloween is sacred, and she is certain that she has a supernatural sense of smell. She writes both adult and young adult urban fantasies and when not obsessing over the unknown, she can be found dancing, reading, or enjoying a good movie.