Eva will award a Kindle touch to one randomly drawn commenter during the tour, and a swag pack of goodies to one commenter at each stop, so comment today AND follow her tour (if you click on the banner over there on the left, it'll take you to a list of her tour stops)! The more you read and comment, the better your odds of winning. You could be introduced to a great new author AND win prize!
Eva was kind enough to answer all my prying questions, so let's turn the floor over to her!
Why do you write in your genre? What draws you to it?
Let me take the opportunity to introduce you to my work and the inexplicable passion I have for writing. I began formal writing when I was thirteen years old, encouraged by my dedicated and driven middle school English teacher. At a young age, I read the book ‘Flowers in the Attic’ by V.C. Andrews and it intrigued me to the point of inspiration. It was not long before I began typing stories up on my DOS-operated computer. Even in my early teens, I focused on writing about young female characters that found themselves in difficult situations while also scheming to find a way out of them. My short stories shed light on my fascination with conflict and what lies beneath the surface, and people’s struggle in finding a resolution. At sixteen I wrote my first full-length novel, which was truly the beginning of my writing career.
While writing Sweetest Taboo, I had the opportunity to explore a subject with much social and psychological significance. To delve deep into romantic encounters among unlikely partners and develop an honest but page-turning story has been rewarding. I am fascinated by the complexities of society, and the often-difficult choices presented to individuals, particularly women. Sweetest Taboo exposes the inner dialogue and emotional strategies pursued by those making difficult decisions, and it exposes the mechanisms of manipulation that become useful to characters in getting what they want, regardless of the outcome. What excites me most as a writer, and storyteller, is unearthing the drama that we rarely see, the drama that lurks beneath the surface. Rather than me choosing the genre, I think the genre chose me!
What research is required?
I must admit, because my day-job and doctoral career entails so much research, I stay away from creative writing requiring research (such as historical fiction). The reason for this is because for me creative writing is an escape from my day job, a creative outlet for my passion for writing, and an opportunity for me to create. Although I create in my day job, and I create original work in my professional and academic writing, it does not compare to the absolute freedom that creative writing offers. When I sit in front of my laptop with a blank Microsoft word document and no reference material around me except for notes I’ve jotted down throughout the week which remind me which way I’d like my story to go, what kind of plots I’d like to develop, or what way my characters will decide to go, I am completely content. Because I write YA literature, I draw from my own life, the experiences of friends, acquaintances and even beneficiaries of the programs I have helped implement throughout South East Asia and Africa. My research, if you will, is based on my own interactions and experiences with individuals from all over the world and my inspiration for my books originates with these experiences and interactions. Living my unique international life and observing and interacting with my surroundings serves as a passive form of research which I easily tap into by recalling memories.
Name one thing you learned from your heroine.
Isabel, a strong yet conflicted teenager, taught me a great deal about love and life. Most importantly, the lesson I learned from Isabel is that there are many shades of gray in life and decisions, which need to be made, are not always necessarily black and white. Hence, life’s decisions are not always easy to make. For instance, cheating and lying are clearly not admirable habits. However, through Isabel, I learned how difficult life can be when deciding where one draws the line in terms of one’s personal beliefs and social mores when true love is at stake. Another important lesson I took away from Isabel is that it’s okay to be true to one’s self, it’s okay to love, to take risks, and to taste what life has to offer in spite of society’s pre-conceived notions. At the same time, I realize Isabel was young, and as she developed into a young woman, she wasn’t equipped to handle the ramifications of many of her disastrous decisions. As I developed the story, I often wondered how I would heave behave if I were placed in such a predicament. I came to understand that I would be as fiercely loyal to the one I loved as I am in real life, but yet at that age, I would question my loyalties to a married man, and how those loyalties would affect me as a teenager who was just starting to experience newfound freedoms.
Any odd or interesting writing quirks, habits or superstitions?
I’m not sure you can call it a ‘quirk’, but I often feel a writing vibe and know that I’m ready to sit down and write for hours. Sometimes I sit down in front of my laptop and don’t feel the vibe, so I don’t even give it a try because I know the outcome/product will be uninspiring and I won’t be happy with it. As for my writing habits, there is nothing out of the ordinary. However, I can’t sit down to write if I know I have less than two hours of free time at my disposal. My level of concentration is quite high and when I get into the concentration zone, I focus intensely on my writing for hours at a time. This intense focus does wear me out quite a bit, but, I find it absolutely necessary to be in the zone for at least two hours otherwise my writing is interrupted as I start to get into my writing flow. No writing superstitions to speak of…notice I qualified that by saying ‘writing’ superstitions. If you ask me about general superstitions, I could probably write a novella!
Plotter or pantser?
Definitely a plotter. My inspiration for ‘Sweetest Taboo’ came in spurts, but those spurts were carefully jotted down in a notebook as chapter titles and brief descriptions of what I wanted to include in each chapter. Plots, characters and timelines were all carefully plotted which made the writing process flow. Because of the comprehensive outline, I was able to develop each chapter at one sitting. However, as I wrote I also became somewhat of a panster, weaving new plots, characters and climaxes into each chapter. In essence, my writing process can be described as highly organized and plotted, with room for creative ‘interventions’ when the inspiration hits.
Look to your right – what’s sitting there?
My neighbor’s dog, a small mutt that is confused as to who her legitimate master is! I’m not clear on why my neighbor adopted this little darling because this dog is never at her house, but is nestled between the cushions of my sofa, or cuddled between the pillows and me in bed at night. She’s a darling little thing, sweet as can be. If I had to provide an estimated ratio of the amount of time she spends with my neighbor and the amount of time she spends with me, I would say 1:4 (that is, this dog spends 75% of her time at my house). I’m not complaining, she’s a doll and a great little companion :-).
Anything new coming up from you? What?
Although I did not intend for Sweetest Taboo to part of a series or trilogy, several readers (and now fans!) have provided critical feedback that has made me think twice about the nature of my debut novel. Readers really want to know what happens next. Without spoiling any plots, I can safely say that readers want to know what happens next. Sweetest Taboo does not end the way readers expect, and there is a natural, so now what? element to the novel. My readers have inspired me to work a sequel, which I have been writing diligently over the past several months. Readers can expect complex and somewhat disturbing revelations, some disappointments, and definitely some tears. The stories I weave always include trials and tribulations, but they will also include redemption and hope.
Do you have a question for our readers?
In all of my blog posts on my own blog, I always end with questions for readers because I absolutely LOVE to hear about the views, thoughts and perspectives of readers and/or prospective readers of my books. In assessing acceptability of my novel’s subject matter, I continue to want to know from one and all their views on student/teacher romances. Like many taboo romances, be it extra-marital relationships, same-sex relationships or romances between priest and congregation member, people tend to have well-developed perspectives and I’m always curious to hear about them. What I’d love to hear from your readers are their perspectives on student/teacher romances. Are they 100% off limits? Are there circumstances where these romances are acceptable? Are there boundaries or does love justify laws broken? A recent blog post I wrote about two high profile student/teacher romances that hit the news draws parallels between the two and asks why one was represented by the media as relatively acceptable, while the other was labeled ‘pedophilia’. Have a read and share your thoughts! http://sweetesttaboobook.com/studentteacher-romances-does-gender-matter/
I realized suddenly that I had gone from one extreme to the other in a few weeks. That was a mistake, and people were bound to notice. I couldn’t backtrack now, though – the damage was done. What was I supposed to say? “Yeah, I'm staying away from Mr. Stevens because I don’t want anyone to know I’m making out with him after practice” would never do.
“You know, he was pretty cool at first," I replied as nonchalantly as possible. “But one day I was late for practice and he made me go to the diving pool to swim laps. I’m not going to hang around with him if he’s going to be such a jerk, you know?”
That answer must have been good enough for Vicky, because she lightly tapped my shoulder and then jumped into the water to swim off. I laughed as I watched her swim away; she was doing the butterfly – badly – and bumping into other swimmers as she shimmied from side to side down the crowded lane. My smile faded, though, when I realized that she was probably voicing what everyone else had noticed as well. My sudden change of attitude had been just that – sudden and unexpected – and people were going to wonder why. I had to come up with a better story, and quick, or change my behavior again and hope that no one else said anything.
I wasn’t sure which option was best, or which would cause me more pain. Our late- afternoon rendezvous were becoming more and more intense, and my senses were becoming fragile. When I walked toward his classroom, now, I knew that there would be more physical contact, with less clothing. We hadn’t gone all the way yet, and Mr. Stevens was always very careful about my feelings – he asked me if I was okay with what we were doing every five minutes, it seemed – but we were both getting braver, and closer. I didn’t know if I could be close to him without really wanting him, but I was afraid of getting hurt.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was also starting to fall in love with him.
Links: www.SweetestTabooBook.com (website AND blog)
www.facebook.com/Sweetest.Taboo.YA.Book (FB Book page)
http://youtu.be/flff2TcA4AQ (Official Book Trailer on YouTube)