I conducted an interview with Amber Turner through a Goodreads group I help moderate, !YA Heroines!, which is dedicated to the strong heroines in YA books. This interview is also posted on that group.
Before I give you the questions and answers, I will introduce the author and her debut novel!
Amber Turner has been writing since before she could spell (those early stories were gold - she probably didn't spell one word correctly, not even her own name). She was a high school journalist, entertainment and copy editor, and majored in Global Journalism at Drexel University.
After college, she couldn't write anything but fanfic and took a couple of odd jobs that had nothing to do with her degree. She now works as a paralegal at a Cincinnati law firm (again, having nothing at all to do with her degree) and lives downtown just like one of the chicks from Sex and the City.
If the chicks from Sex and the City were all broke, shopped off the clearance racks at TJ Maxx and Walmart, and never had a single date.
Yeah... the similarities are astounding.
Check out her blog: http://indiespiritpress.com/2013/06/02/64/
Her Debut Novel
Meg Little desperately wants to be editor in chief of the Haverton Gazette. The former editor just resigned to complete a stint in rehab for a raging Adderall addiction and the competition for his replacement is fierce.
When Margaret Bean, Haverton Prep’s star equestrian, is bucked from her horse two weeks before regionals, Meg believes she may have found the story that will win her the coveted editorship. Margaret’s a gold medal-winning rider – she doesn't make mistakes.
But the rest of the school buys her fall as an accident. Even the Gazette’s lead photographer and Meg’s best friend Stephen thinks the fall was innocuous – until Meg shows him a photo of Margaret’s horse sporting a cut saddle after Margaret’s fall. Clearly the “accident” was sabotage.
Meg’s prime suspect: Margaret’s teammate and Meg’s arch-nemesis Kitty Cooper. Kitty’s the only member of the team who was MIA after the fall and she’s acting way too shifty for Meg’s taste. Against Margaret’s wishes to let broken girls lie, Meg launches an investigation into the girls’ private lives convinced her amateur sleuthing will uncover the evidence needed to take down Kitty once and for all.
And if Meg happens to achieve journalistic glory in the process of defending Margaret’s honor, that’s a sacrifice she’s willing to make.
As regionals approaches and the investigation veers off in unexpected directions, Meg learns the students of Haverton are far more dangerous than their plaid skirts and blazers suggest – and all the little liars on Margaret’s team have something to hide.
Now that you know about the author and her books, lets move on to the best part . . .
The Q's and A's with Amber
Q: First of all, I would like to know about your book, Preppy Little Liars. What inspired you to start writing it?
A couple of things converged and made me decide to start a YA mystery series, and this book in particular. The first was the fact that I've been writing since before I could spell, but after majoring in journalism in college, I lost my love of writing for enjoyment and entertainment's sake. I took a regular 9-5 job to pay school loans and get a place of my own and still struggled to make ends meet - I live paycheck to paycheck like most Americans, but I wanted something more for myself. Then I stumbled upon a blog series about killing the myths in publishing written by Dean Wesley Smith which encourages writers to take control of their own careers whether they go the traditional publishing route or they go indie. I don't agree with every point he makes in that series, but it sparked something in me - a desire to write what I want when I want, essentially being my own boss and publisher.
And then I got sick. For months I had severe stomach issues that couldn't be identified after several rounds of (expensive) medical tests. I knew I would have a pile full of medical bills coming to add to the overflowing stack of student loan bills I was already struggling to pay and instead of curling up in a ball and crying myself into a straight jacket like I wanted to do, I decided to begin writing again and to do it as a self-published writer. I had no illusions of becoming an overnight success or making millions (though a girl can dream, lol) - I just needed to make a little extra cash to help supplement the income I get from my day job. I also wanted to write something fun and humorous to get me out of the funk I was in due to my financial woes. So that's how Preppy Little Liars came to be - it's an experiment of sorts in being my own boss, sure, but it's also the story that helped lift me up on days where I felt too sick to function.
Q: It seems that your book is a fun one, according to the reviews that I've seen. What was the funnest part behind writing it?
My book is heightened reality and I think that's why the people who have read it like it so much. Yes, the mystery itself is intriguing, but the characters steal the show here. I tried to write smart characters, characters who may be a tad exaggerated, but who are also multi-layered and interesting. I kind of compare the book to Gossip Girl. I haven't read the books, but I was a loyal viewer of the show, and my world is sort of similar to the world depicted there - it takes place at a prep school for rich kids with a protagonist who's only tangentially involved in that world through her best friend and all of these kids occasionally behave in ways most normal kids would not. However, the fun in watching the show not only lay in getting to daydream about how cool it would be to have an unlimited amount of money and designer clothes, but also when we would see these kids experience the things all of us can relate to: betrayal, first love, the end of a friendship, struggling to fit in, etc. I put the characters in PLL in outrageous situations for laughs, but I also remember to give them depth. So that's fun to me.
Q: How did you celebrate the release of your debut novel?
I actually haven't celebrated yet! I've been working crazy hours at my day job and have been doing all of the promotional stuff for this book on top of that - I'm exhausted. The day the book came out, I was at work until 7:30, came home and crashed, lol. Maybe I'll celebrate when the ebook comes out.
Q: I know you just released your book on Amazon, but are you working on writing or publishing any new books now?
I'm actually working on the ebook formatting for PLL to release it through Smashwords. I'm also in the brainstorming phase for the second book in my Meg Little series, Dead Man's Party. I'll begin writing that one July 1st and I'm so excited about it because it's a parody of classic cozy mysteries with a lot of meta humor thrown in for good measure.
Q: What are your writing habits like?
I try to write something every day now that I've gotten back into doing this professionally. If I don't, I don't beat myself up about it - it's usually because I'm reading or watching movies/TV shows, all of which counts in my opinion towards teaching one to be a better storyteller. When I'm writing, I usually have music on or the TV turned down low because I can't write in complete silence. I have a journalism background - I'm used to writing in chaos.
Now, a couple non-writing questions:
Q: What is your favorite genre to read?
My favorite genre to read changes depending on my mood. I grew up reading horror novels because that's what my mom read so I read what she did. I was four when I started reading Stephen King, probably didn't understand most of what I was reading, but I liked the feelings he was illiciting in me. Right now, I'm in a mystery phase. I'm reading Dorothy Sayers, Agatha Christie, and Rex Stout. I also have a bunch of chick lit novels I recently won from a popular chick lit book blog that I'll probably start reading next month. When I'm sad, I like to read humor novels. My tastes vary.
Q: What do you believe makes a great heroine in a book?
A great heroine in a book is one that girls, adult women, and even guys can relate to. She's someone who's intelligent and clever, resourceful and independent. But there's a caveat to that last thing: I think it takes an incredibly strong person to recognize when she's out of her league in something and can ask for help. Meg Little is a tough girl - she's persistent and driven by a very strong personal code of ethics. But she knows she doesn't always know everything so she oftentimes seeks out the advice of her mentor or her best friend and even classmates she only occasionally associates with. I'm reminded of a line from an über famous Beatles song: "I get by with a little help from my friends." Yes, Meg can do many things on her own and she can do them well, but she's at her best when she's working with others.
Thank you, Amber, for answering my questions!
I have a few responses:
- I totally agree about the heroine. Part of being strong is being able to accept help from your friends, instead of just doing it all by yourself.
- I hope Amber gets to celebrate soon. Everyone should get a moment to celebrate big achievements like publishing a debut novel.
- I haven't read the Gossip Girl books, but I really like the show. I've read a few books from the author's other series (The It Girl series) that is, I'm pretty sure, a spin-off from Gossip Girl. I did enjoy those books, so I'll probably like Preppy Little Liars.
That's it for today's interview! Come back tomorrow to check out my interview with Travis Bughi!