My most recent, and first published book, is called The Island of Lote. It is a teen romantic comedy that takes place on a tropical island. The main character is a sassy fourteen-year-old named Milo Hestler. She, through unfortunate and unforeseeable events, becomes stranded on an island. The first person who finds her, a hot boy named Simon Swallow, can’t speak English, and so they can’t communicate well. He proposes to her, and by accident she says yes. When she learns what’s happened, and that the island laws say she can’t break off the engagement, she is furious and determined to make Simon as miserable as she is.
Tell us something about yourself.
I am from a tiny but terrific town in southern Maine, called Limerick. Coincidentally, this is also the name of a type of poem, and though I don’t really do poetry, it is still a form of literature. I’d claim Destiny, but I fear you would just laugh. I’m from a conservative, Christian home, I went to a conservative, Christian school, and each week I attended a conservative, Christian church. All this might lead you to believe that I am a conservative Christian, and you would be right. I love God with all my heart and my skirts are never above my knees. I have been writing since before I was able to write. When I was very small, I would color (badly) a series of pictures in a sequence, staple them all together, and hand it, with a pen, over to my mother and then dictate to her the words for each page. As I grew, my imagination, oddness, and ambition increased, and dreams and goals flooded my mind and heart. I was always trying to write books, but never got very far or wrote very much. That all changed when I was fourteen. Determined to finally pen a complete novel, I stapled and duct-taped three Mead notebooks together and wrote what would become the first draft of The Island of Lote. It was one of the most joyous experiences of my life, and about half way through I decided that I had found my life’s career.
What inspired you to write this book?
Well, I was at a point where I just wanted to write a complete novel, since I was sick of starting and failing. And I wanted to do it from scratch, instead of using a story that I had been developing for a while. A friend helped me think up a simple premise, just to get it started, but as soon as I wrote the first page, I forgot what it was. Frustrated, but resolved not to quit, I thought up another one instead. I had been mulling over a concept in my head, about heroines being victims of circumstance. There were so many scenarios were ladies would get accosted or abducted by “jungle men”, and all they would do was whimper and be frail. I had just fallen in love with hip-hop and attitude was on my mind. I wanted to create a female victim of circumstance with spunk, sass, and sarcasm. Lo and behold, Milo Hestler was born.
How did you choose the title?
Since the story took place on a tropical island, I knew that the word ‘island’ had to be in the title somewhere. While I was considering different word arrangements, an Elvis song from the movie Blue Hawaii popped into my head. At one point in the song he sings, ‘Hawaii, island of love.’ Well, Island of Love sounded incredibly sappy and generic, so I wasn’t fond of that idea. However, it still sounded simple and clean, so I tried to mold it to my liking. Since there was a mixture of both love and hate in the story, I decided to merge the two words together. Since ‘The Island of Have’ would make a perfectly stupid title, I put love first, as we all should, and got ‘The Island of Lote’, and it stuck.
What obstacles did you encounter in getting this book published? How did you overcome them?
I encountered a deluge of obstacles trying to get this dang thing published. I was fourteen when I first wrote it, and I’m twenty-one now. That’s a long time, filled with a long list of trials, tears, and yearning. Let’s start at the beginning. I was fourteen when the first draft was completed and very much unaware of the whole re-writing extravaganza, so all I was concerned with was getting every written word typed. However, I had next to no experience typing, and so the idea of over five-hundred pages of it was petrifying. I therefore enlisted some friends to help me, splitting up the three notebooks I had. One friend’s hard-drive fried, and my family’s computer at home crashed. I collected all the notebooks, and started again, saving all the info on floppy discs, which were swiftly becoming obsolete. When we got a new computer, I had to walk to a neighbor’s house so that I could use the floppy discs. Then, somehow, I got it back onto the home computer, and then had to print it, and our printer only took rather expensive cartridges. Then I had to overcome my fear of sending out for a copyright, which took months, since back then I was ten times more yellow-bellied than I am now. Then our computer crashed again, taking all my info with it, but I wasn’t concerned because I had a hard copy of the “final” version. Then learned it wasn’t in the right format, so it had to be scanned back onto a computer to be fixed, and then had to be converted to an editable format, because the scanning had mangled the text. That took a long time, but thankfully it happened, otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to send the manuscript as an attachment when my current publisher asked for it.
How did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you get started?
I was about four or five, maybe even three. My mother used to read to my brother and me every single night. I remember sitting beside her on the couch and watching her hold the book while reading the words on the page. Now, for some reason, despite my age and no one ever telling me, I knew that books didn’t just pop out of thin air. Someone, somewhere, at one point, had to sit down and write them. So, as I watched and listened to my mother, I thought, very randomly and unconcernedly, to myself that it would be really cool if someday she read from a book I had written. That was all it took. I thought it was cool. Plus, I loved books anyway. I still have all the little picture books I made when I was young, and all the notebooks I started writing novels in as I got older. The desire was always there, always in me, constantly nagging me at the back of my mind. And, having been born with a rampant imagination, I’ve always been coming up with stories in my head, and the only way that’s useful to anyone is to write them down.
Do you have any writing rituals?
I like to clear my mind and focus only on the story. Sometimes I’ll listen to a particular song to get my confidence amped up. I have a writing chair in the corner of my room, where I do all of my first drafts. I also only use one kind of pen for writing: Pilot Precise Grip, Extra Fine, the best pen ever invented.
How do you come up with the names for your characters?
That really depends. Sometimes they just pop into my head, and other times I do some mental exploring. I love phonetics and the science of sound, and I try to match the sound of the name to the complexities of the character. I also have a few excellent name books that I’ll go through if I want a specific meaning behind the name, or if I’m feeling lazy.
Did you learn anything from writing and publishing this book? What?
I learned perseverance, that’s for certain. I’m actually rather proud of myself. Teens give up on projects all the time, in the blink of an eye, and I never did once for eight years. I also learned that, no matter what, God is in control and always will be. I prayed and prayed and felt like, if something was going on, I was completely unaware of it. I was trying to be in charge. Only when I relinquished the reins and handed them over to God did things finally start happening. I wouldn’t be in the position I’m in now if it wasn’t for God, and that’s a fact. I’ve learned to trust Him with all things and through all things.
If you were doing it all over again, what would you do differently?
I’d be more humble, and do more research. I would do all the little things what make lives easier, like investing in the proper discs for saving info. But I think everything had to happen this way, or else I wouldn’t be the person I am today. Looking back, it’s so obvious that everything had to happen the way it did, even though at the time I was so frustrated and couldn’t see it.
What types of books do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors?
I love books loaded with imagination and delicious word play. There are two components to good books: The construction of the story and the delivery of the story. My favorite kinds of stories are ones that have what I like to call “Story Inertia”. The story immediately just draws you in and moves in a way that keeps you going, makes you not want to stop reading. Oh, those are the best. If you can get immersed in a book, in its settings, its characters, its vocabulary, it can be like an out-of-body experience. You feel transported, removed from your surroundings and from your common emotions. You can’t tell me that’s not amazing. I also like books that make you think, and books that inspire me. Often, if the writing is good, I will pause during reading and just gaze off at nothing, a story writing itself word by word in my head. I’m not a big fan of adult literature, though I love the classics like East of Eden. I’m a big Steinbeck fan, but my favorite author is Kate DiCamillo.As you read her work, you can just tell that she writes straight from the heart. She uses achingly beautiful simplicity, yet also uses great vocabulary. Every single one of her books has touched me in a special way. Besides her, I love J. K. Rowling (she’s one of my heroes), Charles Dickens, Dr. Seuss, Beatrix Potter, and Leo Tolstoy.
Are you working on your next book? What can you tell us about it?
I’m always working on new books. My workload is set to take me years. The second book I’ve finished is currently being revised, and I’m very close to finishing my third. But I also have two bins worth of notebooks that I’ve started stories in. I have notes upon notes for different stories, and all kinds of charts for upcoming novels.For right now I would prefer not to talk about any of them, since I have no idea how long it will take before any are ready. Today is for The Island of Lote.
What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?
Want it, crave it, need it. This is not an easy lane to break into, like most other entertainment lanes. You have to have patience, resolve, thick skin, intelligence, and determination. Do your research, the internet is both a friend and a valuable tool, and while you should maintain a strong confidence, you also must be humble. Remember that this is an art you are contributing to, as well as an industry that wants to make money. Be sure that you respect both these things. Have a good support team, remember that it’s okay to ask for help, and pray every day.
Who is the perfect reader for your book?
My target audience really is young adults, twelve and up. It’s a really well-written book, though, so it could appeal to a broad audience. But for the record I’d say teens. Maybe mature tweens. Anyone who likes humor, sweetness, sarcasm, and imagining being on a tropical island
Where can readers learn more about you and your book?