Thursday, July 7, 2011

Writer To Writer with Ania Ahlborn July 7, 2011

Today we are talking with Ania Ahlborn, author of “SEED.” Thank you Ania for taking the time to stop in and talk with us. So let’s get started!

How was “SEED” born?

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I joke that Seed was born of childhood trauma, but it’s kind of true. The first horror movie I saw—and I’m talking real horror, not the stuff they’d run on basic channels back in the 80’s—was The Exorcist. I watched it with my cousin, alone in a dark house while my parents celebrated the New Year. Unbeknownst to them, I was scarring myself for life right there on the living room couch.

Ever since then, I’ve had both a weird fondness and a very real fear of possession. It isn’t that I wander around thinking the Devil is going to steal my soul or anything, but the concept of it, the idea that it’s actually possible… that just gets me going. I haven’t been able to find a book I’ve truly loved dealing with the subject, so I decided to write the story myself.

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I attribute my ‘discovery’ of writing to when I was around eleven or twelve years old. My grandparents were groundskeepers for the widow of a Texas oil tycoon, and my cousin and I (the same cousin who I watched The Exorcist with) would be shipped off to Grandma’s every summer while she worked there. My grandparents lived in a caretakers house, but the main house… we’d always snoop around in there. It was this enormous Southwestern monstrosity, and the fact that it was constantly empty made it seriously eerie. We’d sleep in the guest bedroom upstairs, but between snooping and endless movies and stocking the mini fridge with stuff we’d steal out of Grandma’s cupboards, we got bored. So one day we decided to write a tandem story together, and it spiraled out of control; what was supposed to be just an afternoon thing turned into a three month project. We hand-wrote hundreds of pages while listening to Ace of Base on a loop. That was the summer I discovered writing, and it’s been my first artistic love since then.

Did any of your characters exist before the story? 

No, and that actually surprised me a little bit. I’m the type of person who whips up characters on the fly while watching a movie or listening to a particular song. I get these jolts of inspiration and I can see the character and know their history within a blink of an eye. But these impulse characters fade. I don’t act on them.

When I started writing Seed, I knew I was creating a four-person family. I wanted them to be organic, not forced… so I did some character development for the people I thought they were, knowing fully well that they’d probably just revolt against what I wanted them to be and be themselves. Everything I do in regard to writing is very loosey goosey. I allow the characters and the story line to develop on its own.

What was your most satisfying moment with this book?

The ending; and I’m not saying that to suggest that ‘oh, thank god that’s over!’ For me, the whole story came together in the last quarter of the book, and when I reached that last line I knew I had succeeded in what I had set out to do. I had written the book that I’ve wanted to read, and it was an awesome feeling.

Are your characters all completely fictional? Is there any of you in them?

They’re completely fictional, but they’re also completely real. I think readers will be able to connect with all of the characters on a personal level because they’re rooted in reality. They aren’t glossy and polished. They have weaknesses and bad habits. They argue (a lot) and they have moments of resentment toward the ones they love most, which they’re ashamed of later. My goal was to make them as ‘real’ as possible. With that said, of course, there’s a part of me in each one of them. But I think that there’s a part of everyone in each one of them.

How did you choose your title?

When I first started writing Seed, my working title was Live Oak. I didn’t know what I wanted to call it, and for a long while I was seriously considering just calling it Demon. But that felt a bit weird to me. I really don’t know how I settled on Seed. It just came to me one day and stuck.

Which character would you bring home to mother? Which one would be secretly involved with?

Honestly, I don’t think I’d bring any of them back to mom. They’re all demented in their own little way. I think the only character that’s close to normal is ten-year-old Abigail. Everyone else has serious issues.

As far as being secretly involved? Probably my main character’s best friend, Reagan. He’s a bit more normal than Jack is, and he’s in a band. What girl can resist that?

Where do you write and when?

I write in my very uninteresting white-walled bedroom. It’s one of the only rooms in our house that hasn’t been revamped, and it’s quite literally a blank slate. There’s nothing interesting to stare at. There’s no television or stereo. There isn’t even a desk. I write in bed, leaning against the wall because there’s no headboard, and I stuff earplugs into my ears to block out the sound of traffic. And that’s it. Blank room, no noise; I used to only be able to write in the evening with music blasting in my ears. I’m not sure whether I’ve evolved or devolved, but now I can write at any time, but in complete silence… and with the blinders on.

Do you have a playlist? If so what was “SEED’s” If you could choose a theme song for this book what would it be?

No playlist because, as we just discussed, I can’t write with music anymore. However, there is a definite theme song, and if Seed was ever turned into a movie, opening credits would have to be set to Creedence Clearwater Revival’s ‘Born on the Bayou’.

What have you learned being an indie author?

What haven’t I learned? Being an indie is an exciting place to be. You have free reign over what you write, what your cover looks like, what formats you publish it in. But with that freedom comes a lot of responsibility. You don’t have an editor or a publisher to tell you ‘no, dear, that isn’t going to work.’ While you have the ability to run amok and do what you want, you have to filter yourself as well. You need to be disciplined enough to write a good story and know it’s a good story. You need to be open to the opinions of your beta readers and change things that don’t work, just like you’d listen to an editor. You need to approach your book cover not only with the eye of a writer, but also the eye of a publisher—it isn’t just about ‘does this image portray my story’ but ‘will this image sell my book?’ It’s a lot of work, but once your book goes live, once all the work is done, it’s a pretty awesome feeling. But being an indie isn’t for everyone. If you’re not self-disciplined, if you don’t know how to kick your own ass, well… no one else is going to kick it for you.

Fun Questions

Dogs or Cats? 

Dogs. Cat’s scare me. I’m serious. Every time there’s a cat around, I tense up. I’m just waiting for them to claw my eyes out.

Coke or Pepsi?
      Coke. Diet Coke. Never ever Pepsi.

Socks or barefoot?

      Socks. I wear socks about nine months out of the year, to bed too.

Coffee or Tea? 

Tea. I’m an iced tea junkie, and I probably set the record of cups of Earl Grey consumed per year for the Southwestern United States. Nobody but the British can beat me.

Harry Potter or Twilight? 

Honestly? Neither. I couldn’t get into Harry Potter, though I tried. Too much wizardry for my taste. I tried with Twilight as well, before the boom. Too much sparkle.

Who are you on L O S T? 

Dexter Morgan. Wait, he wasn’t on LOST? No charming serial killer vigilantes? That’s probably why I didn’t watch LOST then. ;)

What is your approach to resolve writer’s block? 

I take the Matrix approach. You remember ‘there is no spoon?’ Well, ‘there is no writers block.’ You sit down and you write, and that’s it. If you’re blocked, tough, you sit down and write anyway… and if you end up cutting every single word you wrote out of the manuscript, so be it. But you sit, and you write, and you do it until you’re done.

Traditional or ebook? 

I was one of those people who’d climb the highest mountain and scream ‘I love the smell of paper!’ Now, you couldn’t get me to buy a traditionally printed book if you wanted to. I buy books for the content, not for the paper. Besides, I’m out of shelf space.

Who should star in “SEED?”

Maybe Emile Hirsch as Jack. Suri Cruise as Charlie. Hey, look at that, I just created her first starring role! Where’s Tom Cruise? I need to have a word with him.

If you didn’t write what else would you do? 

I’m also a traditional artist. I draw portraits in charcoal, and I’ve sold quite a few over the years. Not exactly the best way to make a living, though. Then again, what are we talking about? Apples to apples.

Final question: What is next for Ania Ahlborn?

What’s next is a book tentatively called ‘The Neighbors’, which I hope to have completed and published by the end of the year, but we’ll see. What’s next is finally doing what I’ve wanted to do since I was a kid, and doing it with reckless abandon.

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