Earlier this week, I featured a review of BREAKABLE, Aimee’s debut YA novel! Click and read it HERE
Welcome back, Aimee! I’ve been following your blog for over a year, and have learned so much from you in that short time. As a matter of fact, I love your blog so much it’s a link on my home page. I’m so thrilled that you stopped by today during your whirlwind blog tour to tell us a little bit about yourself and to answer some questions about BREAKABLE.
First, tell us a little bit about your main character and what inspired you to write BREAKABLE?
Hi, Liz! Thanks so much for having me – again!
The main character in Breakable is a seventeen-year-old named Stacy Watson. When Stacy looks in the mirror, she can talk to her future self. She calls her future self “Older Me”.
Stacy’s an unpopular girl who made some bad choices socially in junior high and has been paying for them ever since. Older Me helps Stacy (to a certain degree) navigate the highs and lows of being bullied, and being in love with her best friend, Mark. But Older Me and Stacy have very different goals for where Stacy should end up, and how. So the ultimate conflict for Stacy is in whether or not she can trust her “self”.
Within limits, Stacy was inspired by my own teen self. That is more true of the initial draft of the story, and it’s because the book as a whole was inspired by the www.dearteenme.com website – where authors write letters to their teenage selves. When I started thinking about what it would be like to be me, now, in my thirties, talking to my sixteen or seventeen year old self, I could just see it. So the first version of Stacy ran very true to my own teen self.
But if there’s one thing I’ve learned in the past few years, it’s that true life rarely works well as fiction. The character of Stacy still has flavors of me, but really it’s that we share an ultimate vulnerability. Her personality is very different to mine, now.
You’ve had an interesting journey on the road to publication. Can you tell us a little about that, and your decision to ultimately self-publish?
Sure. How much time do we have?!
In short, Breakable is the second book I’ve written and tried to get published traditionally. With both manuscripts, my agent has ended up having to leave the agenting profession when we were in the middle of the submission process to editors.
This time around, though, my agent had to leave because she was such a successful author in her own right (her name is Brittany Howard, but she’s known to the world as Cora Carmack, New York Times and international Bestselling Author of Losing It and subsequent books in the series).
When Brittany had to leave agenting, she told me she still really believed in Breakable and wanted to help me get it out there however I chose to do that. After a few very tough weeks, I decided I was sick of leaving my career in the hands of other people, and didn’t want to start the whole process with an agent somewhere else. So Brittany / Cora agreed to offer her advice on self-publishing (that’s where she started), and to blurb and promote my book for me to help boost that initial “discoverability”.
It was a really tough decision, one I hadn’t thought I’d make. But once I got started down that road, I find I’m happier and happier that I’ve done it. I think everything happens for a reason, and I’m ready to find out if Breakable can be a success in the independent field!
When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?
This is a little weird for me. I actually wanted to be a writer of novels way back when I was a kid. Reading and writing stories was the ultimate for me. But I was always told that it’s so hard to become an author, it wasn’t a good career to pursue.
So, long story short, I studied Communications at college (though I never finished my degree), and gave up on the idea of writing fiction at all, until I was about 28. Then I thought the only way to be a “success” was to write non-fiction.
It wasn’t until 2009 that I got inspired and started writing a novel for teens for fun. But as it grew and grew, I knew I needed to take it further. Sometime in late 2009 / early 2010, I finally admitted to myself that this was what I wanted to do. I was blessed enough to be a stay-at-home mother, which gave me the freedom to write during the day. So I started getting disciplined about it and focused on it the way I would any business I ran from home. Of course, I hoped to have a book out there much earlier than this. But I’m really glad that Breakable is the book I’m taking to market. It’s definitely my best work yet.
What advice would you give to new writers?
The best piece of advice that I ever received as a novice writer was that if you are serious about publishing in a professional manner, regardless of which market you’re entering, you have to let your work be critiqued by people who don’t know you or love you. You absolutely have to develop a thick skin, admit to yourself that you don’t always get everything right, and look for people with more skill or a good eye, to pull your manuscript apart and tell you how to make it better.
Personally, I joined a critique group called NovelPro (which, to this day, I credit with teaching me how to write). It was hard listening to experienced authors tell me that I hadn’t delivered on a scene, or a character – or a story! But I swallowed my pride and started making changes.
Every time I went through that process, I would read my book at the end and see how much better it was. In the end, critiquing became the priority for my writing process.
The point is, as authors, we’re too close to the story to see it as someone would who comes to it blind. They don’t have all the knowledge of backstory to draw on, or the understanding of the characters. And they aren’t going to have us there, standing over their shoulders, explaining everything as they read. They can only go by what’s on the page.
So we have to learn how to deliver the story we want to tell, in a way that a person who’s had zero contact with us can understand.
A truly good writer takes their own inspiration and wraps it in a plausible, succinct delivery that is understandable and compelling to their core audience. Becoming a truly good writer (and I don’t claim to be there – yet) takes the humility to listen to people who are closer to that goal and learning from them. Then having the discipline to work through this massive document time and time and time again, until you get it right. Not just readable, but compelling.
What’s next for you?
Another book! I have so many ideas, and so many partial manuscripts. I plan on putting Breakable out there, then sharing blurbs and first chapters of a few of my ideas with my readers, to see which they’d be most excited to read. So if you like Breakable, stop on by my website in a few weeks and tell me what else you’d be interested in. I’m aiming to release another book within six months (earlier, if I can).
What was your favorite line from BREAKABLE?
Wow, good question!
There are scenes and moments in the book that mean the most to me on an emotional level. But my favorite line is a lighter moment when the Psychiatrist asks Stacy whether she’d let a guy take advantage of her again. She tells him “No.” But in her head she says, “I’d have hair implants and call myself a cat if it meant Mark would stroke me one more time.”
To me, that line just crystalizes her self-deprecating and dry sense of humor. Stacy is often dishonest or evasive with other people. But she’s very open with the reader.
Thanks again for stopping by! I’ve really enjoyed having you. You're welcome any time.
Thank you so much for having me! What a treat. I can’t wait to talk to you again – next time on my blog?
Sounds good to me, Aimee! I hope everyone enjoys BREAKABLE as much as I did. Good luck on the rest of your tour!
Aimee L. Salter is an author and blogger. She studied Communications and previously put her writing skills to good use in a wide variety of corporate roles. Since becoming a mother, she’s returned to her love of storytelling. After many years in New Zealand, in 2013 she returned home to Southern Oregon with her husband and son.