Welcome to YAlicious, Aja. It's very cool to have you.
What first got you interested in writing?
In second grade, I found out that being an author was a job. A real life job. We were handed out papers and shown the basics of writing a story. Pick a title, pick a subject, name some characters, chose a setting, add conflict, find a solution. I always picked all the characters and my setting before I settled on a title. And, as I sat there with that first paper and wrote about a cat who climbed a mountain, I knew this was what I was wanted to do for the rest of my life.
What was your very first story about... you know the first one you ever created, but will probably never publish :)
I don't remember my first story very well, but I do remember my first series. It was called The Adventures of Cherish and Tisia. It played on the names of my siblings and it was written for my little sister who had recently learned to read. I illustrated it, stapled it, and read it to them. Sometimes we'd even act out the scenes. The two girls in the story would go raft down rivers, climb trees, explore spooky forests, only to always end up safe at home in the end. In fact, in one of the stories they were even stranded on an island, though it was much smaller and less dangerous than Zarconian Island.
Oh, dear. Well it's been a long process and it has developed quite a bit over time. The idea of a tropical island has always fascinated me. After I read a few novels with strange islands and stranded youngsters, I knew I wanted to use that. I started writing the first draft in high school.
I've also always liked the old world idea of explorers hacking through jungle to unknown ruins. But nowadays, GPS makes that rather impossible. So I was doing some research when I stumbled upon this idea of the ten dead zones around the world, including the Bermuda Triangle. They each line up and alternate longitude and latitude, and I started to think: "What if Atlantis was the capitol and these were all connected somehow?"
Without giving too much away, that's how the nation of Zarconia was created.
Which authors inspire you?
That's a toughie. John Green for saying what's on his mind despite the press. Meg Cabot's characters' voices and her strong female leads. Michael Chrichton's mastery of plot development (Chaos Theory!) and weaving of science and reality. Amy Tan's mysticism and strength of culture.
What's the best lesson you've learned so far in writing?
Here are my five biggest:
1. Don't give up.
2. Keep Revising.
3. Market Appropriately. (I begrudginly admitted my work was paranormal romance.)
4. Show, Don't Tell.
5. Don't take criticism personally. (Though I loved some dialogue and some scenes, they had to go in order to make the book more concise and coherent.)
Excellent pieces of advice, Aja. I totally agree :)