Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Interview with YA author Julie Hall

Today we're talking with Julie Hall, author of the YA novel,  Life After: Huntress, and an adventure junkie. (More about that later)

How did you choose the title?
Well, the original title for the series was actually Life Ever After. Kind of a mash up of “Happily Ever After” and “The After Life.” I thought it was catchy and appropriate since it was a story about what happens to a girl after she dies and most of us think of people’s “ever afters” ending with death, not starting with it. Being a believer, I also believe that we will have an existence after death (even though my depiction of the afterlife in the book is not, and is not meant to be, Biblically accurate). That title will always have a little place in my heart. My publisher pushed to change the title to something different since they thought Life Ever After sounded a little too much like a fairy tale. Valid point! So the series title of Life After was decided on instead and the first book to be called Huntress to convey the action aspect of the story.

Young Adult. *biting lip* If you want to talk about sub genre I would call it a Supernatural Young Adult Fiction book.

How would you describe the book to someone in a text message?
Fun question!!!!
“Dead face emoji, clouds emoji, sword emoji, fire emoji, dancing girl emoji, laughing face emoji, boy girl heart emoji, crying face emoji, devil emoji & dog emoji (I’d throw in that last one just because I like dogs). The End.”
I’m fairly confident any self-respecting teen would be able to understand exactly what the plot is from that message.

Who is your main character and what problem does he/she face?
My main character’s name is Audrey. She’s an eighteen-year-old girl who has just woken up in the afterlife without any memories of her actual life. If that isn’t hard enough, she’s assigned the job of hunting and fighting demons to protect the living for the rest of her existence. She quickly discovers this isn’t something she’s a natural at, after all, she’d rather be discussing her nail color then breaking them on angelic weapons. She also has to learn to work with her over achieving trainer, Logan, who is as attractive as he is annoying. She’s convinced that God has made a huge mistake with her assignment. Without the memories of a caring Father she also questions His love for her as well as her purpose in the afterlife.

What prompted you to write this book?
I wanted to write a Young Adult (YA) book with Christian aspects in it, but exciting enough to engage any reader. The YA genre in the Christian fiction market is practically non-existent. Lots of Christian bookstores don’t even have a YA section, but if you go into any secular bookstore you’ll see that YA books are booming right now. Like there’s been a serious explosion at Barnes and Noble and you can’t walk more than a few feet without running into a YA novel. Honestly, my book kind of straddles the fence of secular and Christian – being that God is an actual character in the novel, yet the version of the afterlife I’ve created isn’t theologically accurate. For that reason it does better online than in bookstores because booksellers can’t quite figure out where to shelve it. Ha! Oh well, readers are finding it anyway!

What did you bring to the book from your own life?
Without realizing it I brought a lot of my real life struggles to this book. In the middle of writing Huntress I came down with a debilitating chronic illness that left me bed ridden and full of brain fog for several years. In the middle of that my husband and I were going through the adoption process (which we started before I became ill). There were days I didn’t see much of a future past getting through the next hour. I had to stop writing at one point because I was unable to even type. My fingers were too swollen and ridden with arthritis to push the keys, and I was only in my 20s. It wasn’t until the book was completed and I went back and read through the whole draft that I realized my own hurt, frustration, and feeling of abandonment were woven into the story. Interestingly enough it was the sections that I wrote before I became ill that mirrored how I felt during the height of my illness.  

What makes your book stand out from other books like it?
I think what makes my book stand out from other books like it is that it’s more than just a clean YA read. And it’s also more than just a book full of the things I love to read in YA books such as a great adventure story, creative world building, supernatural elements, romance, and action. God’s love is woven into the Life After series, which is what makes it so much more than just a good read. You can read the book for pure enjoyment sake, but you’re also going to be taking something away from it that has deeper meaning as well.

What is one thing you learned from writing this book?
Ummmm, am I allowed to say how important editors are? Because seriously, none of us should be releasing anything without a good editor. I’m hesitate to even release these interview questions without an editor. I’m telling you, editors are worth their weight in gold!!!!!

When you were young, what did you want to be when you grew up?
This question is easy! I wanted to never grow up!

Do you still want to be that?
Yes! I still very much don’t want to ever grow up.

When did you know you wanted to be an author?
I have a really hard time falling asleep, and so I used to make up stories in my head to pass the hours lying awake at night. Counting sheep does not work people! By the time I was in middle school the stories were pretty elaborate, and that’s about when I started to really get into reading for fun. I think that was when I started to think it would be really cool to be an author someday.

What’s the most times you’ve read a book and why? Title?
Honestly, unless it was a book for school I got assigned twice I don’t think I’ve ever read a book more than once. I remember too many of the details for it to be fun for me to re-read a book. I have gone back and read my favorite scene from books in the past, but never the whole thing. There are too many awesome unread books out there that are vying for my attention!

What are three unusual things about you your readers might not know?
Oh this is a super fun game! Hmmmm, let me think!
1.)    I took sword-fighting classes so I could more accurately write the fight scenes in my books. In my mind I was a rock star at it, however, I wouldn’t let my husband video any of the classes. On the off chance I had an over inflated view of myself, I didn’t want to shatter the illusion.
2.)    I think book signings are just about the most intimidating things on the face of the planet . . . besides wolverines.
3.)    I can legally officiate a wedding! That is for the next 11 months until my license expires. I just performed my first (and last) wedding for my best friend this month . . . you’d have to pay me A LOT of money to convince me to do another one.

What’s the most adventurous thing you’ve ever done?
This was a tough question for me because I’m big into adventure and extreme sports. Some of my favorite things to do are snow boarding, rock climbing, bungee jumping, repelling down waterfalls, zip lining, dying my hair all sorts of different colors, and traveling all over the world.  But the most adventurous thing I’ve ever done was probably adopting my daughter. All the other things are momentary adventures, but bringing home my daughter is a lifetime adventure for my husband and me.

Do you have life philosophy? Favorite verse?
I actually have my favorite verse tattooed on my wrist (much to my mother’s disappointment). The verse is Hebrews 12:2 which reads “Fix your eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorned it’s shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” The short explanation is that it reminds me where I need to have my eyes fixed, who is the true author of our life stories, what Jesus did for us and where He is today.

What advice would you give a teen who wants to be a writer?
I’d tell them not to be scared to reach out to their favorite authors for advice. Yes, there may be some that never get back to you, but on the whole I’ve found that most authors love interacting with their readers and would be more than happy to give them advice on how to be a published writer one day.

Julie has two Goldendoodles, Coco and Bear.

You can connect with Julie and also buy her book on her website
You can find her author page HERE

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