Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Interview with Lisa A. Kramer, author of P.O.W.ER #YA






Lisa A. Kramer has spent her life learning, creating, and exploring the world through theatre, writing, traveling and collaborating as an educator. She has lived in nine states and two countries (including Japan). She holds a PhD in Theatre for Youth, an MFA in Theatre Directing, and a BA in English Language & Literature and Theatre. She has published non-fiction articles in journals specializing on Theatre for Young Audiences, as well articles aimed at young people for Listen Magazine. In addition to young adult novels, she has ventured into the world of short stories, and has stories for adults in several of the Theme-Thology series published by HDWPBooks.com and available on Kindle, Nook, and Kobo. When not writing, Lisa shares her love of the arts and the power of story as co-founder of heArtful Theatre Company and as adjunct faculty at various colleges and universities. She also spends time enjoying New England with her husband, daughter, and two dogs from her home base in central Massachusetts.
Her latest book is the YA speculative feminist fiction, P.O.W.ER.

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About the Book:

What would happen if women and girls joined their unique abilities together to change the world? In a world where access to the written word is reserved to men, Andra BetScrivener has been able to read and write ever since she was a little girl without anyone teaching her. She must keep her abilities a secret in the country of New North, or she could lose her hands, her eyes or her life. In fact, the only paths offered to her–and all young women–are to either marry or enter the government-run Women’s Training Program, where she’ll be taught “feminine” arts like drawing, painting, and homemaking.
On her seventeenth birthday, Andra discovers that her abilities extend beyond reading. She can write events to life. As she begins to explore her new ability, she must take care not to jeopardize her father’s job as head scrivener at the Ministry. Despite her efforts to keep her powers hidden, she comes to the attention of both the government and a rebel group, who each desire to use Andra for their own goals. At the same time, she begins to meet other gifted women who have never dared use their unique powers. With the help of her friends Brian and Lauren—who has the ability to read minds—Andra must find a way to unite the power of women to create change. 

When one side manipulates Andra’s words into killing someone, and the other threatens her father’s life and her own freedom, Andra decides to use her writing to empower others to stop governmental oppression. But in a society ruled by lies, cruelty, and inequality her journey will not be easy or safe.

Her latest book is the YA speculative/feminist fiction, P.O.W.ER

For each book sold, a portion of the proceeds will be donated to causes that support women and children around the world.  

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Q: Welcome to The Writer's Life!  Now that your book has been published, we’d love to find out more about the process.  Can we begin by having you take us at the beginning?  Where did you come up with the idea to write your book?

I can’t say that there was one thing that gave me the idea, rather an accumulation of many things. P.O.W.ER is a response to a pervasive attitude in the world that seems determined to undervalue over half of its population—the female half. Whenever I hear of programs that try to limit girls’ and women’s access to education or healthcare a question pops into my head: why are people in power so afraid of educated women who make their own choices? That, is perhaps, the initiating spark of the book. Other elements that led to me telling this story are:  my fascination with the mind and with the possibility of people having psychic abilities, my belief in the power of the arts to bring people together, and my belief that change is going to have to come from creative collaboration rather than violence.

Q: How hard was it to write a book like this and do you have any tips that you could pass on which would make the journey easier for other writers?

Some days were harder than others. Sometimes I ran into a place where I got stuck. On those days I had a choice, sit down and write or give myself a break. I usually did a combination, because forcing yourself to write isn’t always the answer, despite what everyone says. I believe that sometimes you shouldn’t write, you should walk and think and live and observe, then come back to the writing. It works as long as you don’t make the distractions an excuse.

At one point, I brought a version of this to a writer’s conference and had a one-on-one session with an editor. Her feedback, at first, made me want to give up. It wasn’t horrible, but it made me doubt myself as a writer. I didn’t agree with everything she said, but it planted questions in my mind. That night, I found myself revising the chapter she had read, based off of some of her comments. I had originally written P.O.W.ER in third person, although I tend to be stronger in first, because I felt like I should. But, her comments made me realize I was undermining my own work by trying to fit some kind of mold. The revision strengthened the chapter, and ultimately the book, because I finally was true to my own voice and goals rather than what I perceived as fitting a niche or a genre. So, my advice, is write what is true to you. Write from your heart. Write the story that you need to tell in the way you need to tell it. Write whenever you can, but be kind to yourself as well. If you can do that, it becomes easy and joyous.

Q: Who is your publisher and how did you find them or did you self-publish?

My publisher is Word Hermit Press, a small publishing house. I found them because of a blogger friend who listened to me vent about how frustrating the process is. I had just attended another writing conference where everyone was saying YA dystopian fiction is dead. I had also just read my reviews from the second round of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel contest, where both reviewers had said it was well written with interesting characters etc. but it would be a hard sell. I couldn’t wrap my mind around the idea that well-written books would be denied based off of a few pages, when the story was much more than a dystopian novel. My friend, who had a connection with Word Hermit, suggested I send the book to them. There were no guarantees, but it was worth a shot. I am so glad I did.

Q: Is there anything that surprised you about getting your first book published?

Beyond the surprise that I actually found a home for it? I would say I was surprised at how difficult it is to market something that isn’t (yet) available in a bookstore. I thought bookstores were struggling, but so many people seem to prefer buying books that way.

Q: What other books (if any) are you working on and when will they be published?

I am working on two manuscripts at the moment—one a YA supernatural thriller and the second is literary fiction. I also have a couple of nonfiction projects I’m hoping to get started—one dealing with theatre for social change, and one celebrating women writers. I don’t have publication dates at the moment.

Q: What’s your favorite place to hang out online?

I spend a lot of time on Facebook, but I wouldn’t say it is my favorite. I also love to spend time on my blog which can be found at www.lisaakramer.com. I’m slowly coming around to Twitter, but really I prefer to communicate through email or (shock) hand-written letters.

Q: Finally, what message (if any) are you trying to get across with your book?

P.O.W.ER is about celebrating the talents that each of us have. It is about people coming together to support each other and make change. It is about challenging the ills of society through working together, rather than fighting against each other. It is about girls and women recognizing the importance of their voices in our world, and it is about men learning to value and listen to those voices.
  
Q: Thank you again for this interview!  Do you have any final words?

I hope that every reader finds the special powers inside themselves and uses it to change the world.