Author Heidi Angell stops by the blog - as part of a blog tour - as she launches her new book, Hell School, a Young Adult novel. But we'll let her tell us more about that...
Hi Heidi, and welcome to the blog – and more importantly, congratulations on the forthcoming Hell School series, where I understand love is hell, and so is high school! Tell us a little more about the book.
Stephen, thank you for having me here! Hell School: Fresh Meat is a YA literary fiction novel.
High school is hard, especially when you're a freshman in a new town, surrounded by people you don't understand and who don't understand you. Sam was overwhelmed just trying to fit in. Then she is singled out with the first letter.
While some girls envy the “romantics” of this unknown admirer, Sam can tell something isn't right. Sam wanted to just blend in, but someone's eye is fixated on her. As the letters and bad poetry continue, so does the nagging in Sam's stomach telling her this is not normal.
When things escalate from strange to creepy, Sam's world becomes a nightmare. Twisted admiration is stalking her around every corner in the high school from hell….
It's intended to be a series, yes? Have you planned out already how long the series will be? Or are you still exploring where your characters are taking you?
It is going to be a four-part series. Each year of high school encompassed in each book.
You say “based on true events” - how true to life is the story?
Well, so far it is very true to my experiences. I have cut out a lot of the boring and seemingly inconsequential, added some bridging scenes to carry the story better, and combined some people to make it easier for the reader. Of course, all names have been changed to protect the innocent as well as the guilty, but yeah… it is becoming more true-to-life than I had originally intended.
This is the latest series from you – you've previously had the supernatural thrillers of the Clear Angel series, The Hunters, with brothers fighting vampires, and your children's books – what genre do you enjoy working in most?
I have thoroughly enjoyed all of them! The beauty of writing is that I have the freedom to explore different genres, and tell the stories that most need to be told, in a way that will be best received by the intended audience.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but the Young Adult field seems to your bag – but in literary terms, that definition is a comparatively new one, who were the writers in that equivalent area that you used to read when you were a young adult?
To me, YA is really just a newfangled version of “coming of age” stories as we called them when I was a kid!
I tend to favor the YA/ NA* field more than the YA/ MG* end, but I also think that people make the mistake of believing that coming of age type stories are restricted to children and young adults. We are all capable of growing and should not feel limited once we have finished school. With the Clear Angel Chronicles, she is YA, but her partner is in his 30s and I would be inclined to say he does the most growing in the story. (*Editor's note: NA = New Adult, MG = Middle Grade)
As to the authors who were most influential to me in that genre, of course Mark Twain was remarkable in writing coming of age stories, Orson Scott Card also had some great series. I loved Harry Potter, which is probably the quintessential YA/ MG story.
Away from writing, I understand Netflix binging is a guilty pleasure! What's your Netflix binge comfort watching? (Here at Inklings Towers, we sadly miss episodes of Stargate SG-1 not being available in our region!)
Ha, guilty as charged! My family’s Netflix binging is all over the map. I am currently binge watching NCIS again. My boys and I binge watch anime a lot! We just finished binge watching Merlin. As a family we watch a lot of documentary-type shows and recently began binge watching X Files as my husband admitted he didn’t really watch it as a teen and we wanted to introduce our boys to the series, with the new ones coming out!
Ha! I lately finished the full X Files binge watch myself - the later series were some hard going at times, though! Ok, back to writing. What's the hardest thing you've found in your career as a writer?
The uphill battle of getting my work known. It is a fun challenge, but hard to justify to my family why the house is a disaster because I am gearing up to a launch when at the end of the day they don’t see the return of the amount of effort I put out there.
Can't argue there! Especially that balancing act of saying here, look at this new thing I wrote and not wanting to be too pushy! If you could give one piece of advice to yourself as a starting writer, what would you say?
Start building your audience and support base now, before the book is finished. I wasn’t on social media, or really involved online at all before my first book. Something about being stalked left me leery! But this is where your grass roots effort begins and the reality is that if a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, it doesn’t make an impact. The same is true with your book. You could be the next Shakespeare, but if you don’t have people there rooting for your success and willing to help promote you, the world may never know how amazing you are.
In terms of marketing advice, who do you tip your hat to as having given some great pointers?
Oh goodness, so many people…. Jeff Goins provides a great support group for building your tribe. Susan Beckworth has a great newsletter with tips… The Publicity Hound, Jeneane Blackwell offers some great tips too. I love following Jo Michaels' blog. She does give some tips, but seeing what she and other authors are doing for promotion gives me a lot of inspiration. There is a wonderful group on Goodreads, Indie authors Unite. Between all of us, we come up with some creative suggestions for promotion.
Almost done – but who would you cite as your greatest influences? Or what – if your influences come from outside writing?
For what I write, I would say that life is my greatest inspiration. All of my books address bigger issues. I am a big proponent of education through entertainment. Presenting complex ideas through an entertaining story and pushing readers to think outside their comfort zone.
As for who has most influenced me, I would have to say my mother. She taught me that I could be and do what I wanted, no matter how hard it was. She has always been my greatest supporter and set the tone for the rest of the family. My brother has been incredibly supportive as well, challenging the way the world is and brainstorming with me how the world should be, reading everything I have written and offering critiquing, help with marketing, and his talented opinions. I love them both so very much!
Eh, I don’t know! I just finished Realms Unreel by Audrey Auden and am still in the after book glow… I just picked up some really great books and I cannot decide which one to start next. Linda Bloodworth’s A Raven’s Touch, Coreena McBurnie’s Antigone Prophesy… and those are on top of about 15 really good books I got from other authors this year and haven’t gotten around to reading!
Heidi, thank you very much - and the very best wishes for your book launch!