Friday, May 6, 2011

Interview with Any Witch Way author, Annastaysia Savage...

Today, I am SUPER honored to be able to share an interview that I was able to score with Annastaysia Savage, author of the recently published Any Witch Way.  

Without further ado, let's get comfy and learn more about this super talented lady!

Please tell us a little about yourself.
Well, I’m a bit of a recluse, living with my husband, dog, 2 cats, 5 goldfish and 3 catfish (not to mention all the wild critters) in the middle of a few hundred acres of river bottom forest in Western PA.  I earned my BFA from Arizona State University, am 1 residency shy of an MA in Creative Writing from Wilkes University and am also currently pursuing my MFA from The Academy of Art University.  I write and make art all day and night, going with whatever I’m “feeling” at the moment or with whichever muse has visited me.  I haven’t always been so “on track” though.  I traveled in gypsy like fashion, working odd jobs (still writing and making art though) until I was about 30 and realized, “Hey, enough play time, I’m getting old and it’s time to grow up.”   So that’s when I decided to go to college and try to make my dreams come true.  I’m just lucky enough to have a husband who supports my crazy ideas about being both a write and an artist.  It’s true what they say about the “starving artist,” which without my husband I would definitely be, lol.      
When did you first begin writing?
I first started writing in grade school.  I absolutely loved creating my own worlds and characters.  And to be honest, reading brought me to writing.  I would read anything and everything.  I would read a particularly good fantasy novel or just want an escape from my own world and begin creating my own little fantasy worlds.   
What inspires you to write?  What did you draw from particularly for Any Witch Way?
I’ll list all the “things” that inspire(d) me and to tell the truth, all of these things had a hand in the creation of Any Witch Way.  Thinks like old books, being afraid, black cats, mountains, sea monsters, fairy creatures, falling leaves, snow, cackling, Dr. Seuss, magick, spiders, broom sticks, pointy black hats, C.S.Lewis, scratching noises at the back door, crows, shadows, Lemony Snicket, bones, Tim Burton, stormy days or nights, J.K.Rowling, Roald Dahl, ghosts, forests, snapping twigs, whispers, nightmares, full moons, The Brothers Grimm, footsteps in the dark, witches, Edward Gorey, gnarled old trees, pumpkins, Halloween, autumn, J.R.R.Tolkien, Lewis Carroll, Anne Rice, and my very dark, very creepy, cobweb infested, stone walled basement all inspire me and indeed, had a hand in Any Witch Way.   
What kind of environment do you prefer to write in?  Pen & paper or laptop?  Music or quiet?
I need my laptop, a ‘cuppa’ tea with honey and an open window in order to write.  I have to have the outside right there, whether it’s snowing, raining, or just a sunny day.  I need to hear the outside world as well.  When I’m thinking (or daydreaming as most say, lol) I stare out that window and begin to imagine.  I can’t have any music playing.  I’ve tried that and funny as it turns out, I’ve caught myself writing the lyrics of whatever song is playing into my story.  I need the silence (or sometimes not so silent) world of the forest I live in. 
Are you a “planner” or a more spontaneous writer—writing as you go?
Honestly, I do both.  Sometimes I just sit down and write and it all just comes to me.  Other times I’ll plan out what’s going to happen.  Most of the time an idea will come into my head and I have to jot it down on whatever is available.  Shuddering Seamus came to me while on a walk through the woods by the river. I couldn’t see why at the time, but a tree on the water’s edge was literally trembling.  After watching for a while, I realized it was a big fox squirrel causing it to move.  But my imagination had begun to run wild by that point.   I literally ran the entire way back home to jot down the idea.  I learned my lesson too.  Now, I always have a pad and pen with me just in case…
Did you learn anything new while writing Any Witch Way?
Boy did I!  I learned that no matter how many times you think you’ve edited your work, someone, somewhere, will find a mistake.  (But that could just be me; I’m absolutely horrible with grammatical things).  I learned that you’re not going to please everyone all the time.  I learned that what one person might love, another will hate.  I learned to write for me, tell my story, and if someone out there likes it – great, if not, then that’s okay too.  I also learned that there will always be critics.  I’ve developed quite a thick skin since beginning my journey.  But that’s not to say that critical analysis doesn’t still hurt.  Some people can be just plain mean, and that’s okay too–each to his own.    I’ve just learned how to comprehend it and filter out the good criticism from the just plain ugly.  The most important thing I think I’ve learned is to just keep writing.  Write through that writer’s block, write through that last rejection letter, and write through the bad times and the good.  If you just keep at it, your writing will improve and someone out there will notice you eventually.     
Did you have any particular challenges or snags as you were writing Any Witch Way?
Believe it or not, the one thing that was hardest for me about writing Any Witch Way was to keep the faith, to keep the confidence that I could write this story.  So many times I just wanted to give up.  It wasn’t because it was hard to write or create the story; it was because it is so very hard to get published. 
You created some really remarkable characters in Any Witch Way.  Where did they come from?  Have you always had a good imagination?
The characters in Any Witch Way are my own spin on already established creatures and/or characters with the exception of a few (like the Blaze Bellowers).  I just basically created a world that I thought would have been amazing to live in.  The good thing is that this world is right here with us now, we just don’t see it because of the glamour those creatures can put on. 
For me, I never considered myself having a good imagination; it was just the normal stuff that came into my head.  But others told me I had a good or overactive imagination and since it [my imagination] seemed to intrigue some people, I began writing it all down.  
Who are your favorite characters?  Is there one that you identify with more than others?
My favorite characters are Elgarbam and Whistle.  I love the banter they have and they just seem like such snarky little never-satisfied comedians.  But I also love Versipellis.  Imagine how amazing it would/could be if you could change into anything you wanted to – oh the things I would experience…
For me, I think I identify a lot with Sadie, for personal reasons. 
What were your thoughts/feelings the day you published your first book?
I cried.  I was so happy.  I never thought I would get to that point just because of how hard it is to break into “the business.”  I finally felt like all my hard work had come to fruition. 
What has been your toughest criticism thus far? 
Oh Wow!  I will never forget this one review.  The person said they couldn’t even finish reading my book it was so bad and then proceeded to tear apart everything they could about my writing.  Funny thing though, everything they said was contradicted in the very next review.  So I guess this just proves you’re not going to please everyone all the time…  It’s all about perception, what we “bring to the table,” and matters of opinion and taste. 
What about the good stuff?  Memorable compliments?
Honestly, I do remember all the good reviews.  They make me smile and feel like I’m doing something worthwhile.  They keep me writing.  The most incredible compliment was from this girl who said, “If I can’t live in J.K. Rowling’s world, can I live in the world Annastaysia has created?”  That comment actually made me cry.  Rowling and the Harry Potter series, to me, are incredible.  To be compared to someone I admire most seemed so unbelievable. I was floored.   I am nowhere near the level of fantasy writer that Rowling is, but to get that compliment … it gave me encouragement and I was smiling for weeks!
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Just write.  Keep writing.  Write anything all the time.  Even if you’re writing pages and pages of “I have nothing to write.”  Never give up, just keep at it.  And don’t start out with great expectations.  Cut your teeth on magazine short stories and the like.  That will build up your writing resume so that when you’re ready to send your book out to the world, the agents and/or publishing houses will see you’ve some experience under your belt and take you more seriously.  It’s hard to even get them to read your work, you’ve gotta “hook” them somehow, any way you can and using your entire arsenal… 
What’s next?  Are you writing anything now?  What are your plans?
Right now, Sadie is taking me on a little journey so I’m trying to figure out where we’re going to end up.  I’ve a notebook full of ideas for a sequel or even a series with Any Witch Way.  I’m just going to see where it all ends up.  So far, there have been a lot of requests for more from Sadie so as appreciative as I am of those who love her, how can I not write more about her? 
What about what you read?  Who are some of your favorite authors and which books do you absolutely love?
My favorite authors are, of course, J.K.Rowling, as mentioned before.  I love Dr. Seuss, E.A. Poe, Chekhov, Neil Gaiman (The Graveyard Book is my favorite) Stoker, Holly Black, Gregory Maguire,  Edward Gorey,  Brandon Mull and the Fablehaven series, P.C.Cast and Kristen Cast and the House of Night novels,   E.D.Baker and the Tales of the Frog Prince,  Nancy Holder and Debbie Viguie and the Wicked series and anything written by Anne Rice.  I’m sure I left someone or some book out, my favorites list is always being added to, but the aforementioned are always on the list…  
What was your favorite book as a child?
As a small child, every Dr. Seuss book written.  I literally wore them out.  He was so different from any other writer/book out there.  And, as I “grew a little” - The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede.  I’ve read that book just about every year of my life.  I think I actually have it memorized, lol. 
What is on your to-read list that you never seem to get to?
This is embarrassing but… I have read the first few pages of Moby Dick, but never seem to finish it.  I LOVE Herman Melville, and know the story by heart and can quote lines from it, but I’ve never been able to actually just sit down and read it all the way through.  I guess this is the trouble with having television and movies, lol. 
And…A little fun stuff…  :-)
Cats or dogs?  
BOTH! And lots of them…
Vanilla or chocolate?  
Chocolate, most definitely.  It’s a food group isn’t it? 
Coffee or tea?  
Both, but mostly tea.
Favorite movie?  Theater or DVD at home?  
This week’s favorite movie is the original Fantasia.  My favorite movie changes at least twice a week though.  And I prefer watching at home. A few days ago it was Legend and then two days before that it was Beowulf.  I’m sure by this time tomorrow it’ll all change yet again, lol.  I’m feeling a Harry Potter marathon coming on…
Favorite season?  
Without a doubt, hands down, it’s Fall on the East Coast. 
Most interesting place you’ve ever traveled? 
It would have to be the Arizona desert.  I felt as though I was on another planet.  Everything I knew/know about my world doesn’t apply there.  The landscape is so very different, the animals are so very different and the heat, wow, I have never felt such heat in my life.  It was like when you open the oven door…

Thanks so much Annastaysia!!!  Personally, I can't wait to read more about Sadie!  Great advice...  And, yes, chocolate is DEFINITELY a food group! :-)

You can learn more about Mrs. Savage at the following:

JournalStone Publishing



Go to Amazon NOW and get your copy of Any Witch Way!!!