Interview with Stevie Rae Causey, author of “Ring of Fire”

What makes this particular genre you are involved in so special?

My genre is amazing because of its audience. You’re writing to the youth of the world. They’re in this amazing place of in-between where the idea of magic and happily ever after still feels tangible…and yet their heads and hearts are turned toward the realities of the world they are about to face. YA literature has the potential to meet them, in this place of in between, in a way that no other part of their life will.

I know a lot of adults (myself included) still read YA because it takes us back to that in between place and gives us…if not a reprieve than a new perspective on some of the harsh realities one faces in the real world.

Do you aim to complete a set number of pages or words each day?

The only time I do this is during Nanowrimo. Nano is how I have jumpstarted my novels, and it challenges me to commit fully to my characters. On the other side of the coin, forcing a certain word count makes my writing stagnate, and I end up going back and re-doing a lot of it. I don’t confine my creative success to a certain number of words in a certain amount of time, because it kills my creativity.

 Have you ever experienced “Writer’s Block”? How long do they usually last?

  Any tips you would like to share to overcome it?

Everyone experiences writer’s block. (And for me it is usually because I am trying to force an idea that isn’t working). I usually step away from the piece and put at least one good night’s sleep between myself and whatever I’m struggling with. Then I take a deeper look at the characters-not what they are doing, but who they are. The plot moves forward only when the character is motivated to move them. So what motivates them?
If I can’t hash that out in my head, I move to the old fashioned pen and paper. I write down the character’s name and the questions I have about them. For example: “Why does MC lie to her love interest?”
Then I talk it out with my husband or our oldest daughter. They offer input that usually helps me rule out scenarios that *didn’t* happen (and are very gracious about the number of times I say “No, that’s not it”). By the end of our talk I usually have it figured out.

 

What is the most important thing about a book in your opinion?
It’s emotional availability to the reader. Which is to say, your characters thoughts and emotions need to be relatable. The whole point of writing, IMO, is to make a connection with your reader.

Do you read and reply to the reviews and comments of your readers?
I read reviews and respond when it is appropriate. I answer all fan mail personally.

Does a bad review affect your writing?
Absolutely. Once I have crawled out from the blanket of hurt feels (and put at least one good night’s sleep between myself and the initial reading) I take another look. Sometimes what is said about the book is about how it was written and is feedback to take into consideration so I can grow as an author. Other times, the feedback tells me more about the reviewer than my work, but that is still valuable. I can decide whether that is an audience I want to reach. If so, I adjust my writing. If not, I adjust my marketing.

What books have influenced your life the most?

Different books have meant different things to me depending on the stage of life I was in. The Giver, Ella Enchanted, Jeremy Thatcher Dragon Hatcher, The Hobbit, Eva, Dragon’s Milk, A Wrinkle in Time…I could go on. Those books shaped my childhood and I find myself drawn to them again and again.

In my adult life, books that have spoken to me include The Art of Racing in the Rain, Schuyler’s Monster, The Bean Trees, and Travels with Penny.

Are there any books that you are currently reading and why?
Currently I am reading Escape from the Past: The Duke’s Wrath as part of an author review group I am in.

 Is there anything you are currently working on that may intrigue the interest of your readers?
My current focus in YA is the sequel to Ring of Fire. I also have a very personal side project that may or may not meet the eyes of the public that deals with my journey after the birth of my youngest child.

 It is often believed that almost all writers have had their hearts broken at some point in time; does that remain true for you as well?
Absolutely. You can’t live with any amount of heart and not have it broken at some point, whether it is by a lover, a friend, a family member. My heart has been broken by loved ones and strangers and current events. Heartbreak is part of the human condition. It is the foundation of change and growth. I don’t think you can truly relate to another human being unless you have experienced some sort of heartbreak.

Who is the most supportive of your writing in your family?
My oldest daughter is, if not the most supportive, the loudest supporter in my family. It helps that she is an avid reader, and more than a bit of a writer herself. Her support could be tied to the fact that she gets sneak peaks of cliffhangers and can’t handle the suspense.

Is it true that anyone can be a writer?
 A lot of people think that writing begins with talent. While some writers do begin that way the truth is this: writing is a skill, and skills can be developed. For some writers the skill comes more naturally than others, but anyone who is dedicated enough to start from whatever point they are at and work to develop that skill can become a writer.

From all that we have been hearing and seeing in the movies, most writers are alcoholics. Your views on that?

Movies have writers. Writers have characters. Alcoholism is a relatable character flaw that has the potential to further a plotline.
As far as the intricacies of addiction and the creative mind…It is an issue complex enough to warrant its own post entirely.

Which writer’s work do you believe most resembles your work?
Different pieces likely resemble different authors. The narrative style of Ring of Fire reminds me a bit of Gail Carson Levine’s earlier works. Ella Enchanted in particular.

Have you ever destroyed any of your drafts?
My first draft is discarded once it has been through a few edits, but I have never intentionally thrown out a manuscript. In fact, the very (horrible) first draft/outline of Ring of Fire was hand written during my 7th grade science class. I held on to that draft for about 15 years, through several moves and life changes.

Have you received any awards for your literary works?
Ring of Fire has recently been nominated for a Cybil Award.

Have any of your past loves inspired characters in your books?
Inspiration comes from experience. Several of my characters have traits derived from people who have found their way in and out of my life. But yes, there is one character in particular that resembles someone from my life more than others.

How many children do you have? Do you see any young writers in any of them?
I have three children, ages 10, 5, and 6 months. My oldest has the heart and mind of a writer, and has advanced to State in the National PTA Reflections competition more than once. Some of her work will be featured on my blog in the near future.

Do you encourage your children to read?

It’s not so much that I encourage them to read. A lot of times I have to tell them to STOP reading. Usually because they are trying to read and walk or are neglecting other tasks because they can’t put a book down.

Do you have a library at home?

I joke that we will someday end up on an episode of hoarders. We have several overflowing bookshelves in the house.

Do you blog?
I blog about writing, books, and motherhood at www.stevieraecausey.com