Here’s another of our debut authors. One author, Four questions. Here we go!
Hey, you’re getting published! How’d that happen?
I took one of the longer roads. I started off writing a tween historical fiction set in New Zealand. The good news was that I was runner-up in the 2007 SCBWI WIP Grant (first-place was Ruta Sepetys) and I found out via an email from Arthur Levine, which caused me to jump up and down like a caffeinated toddler. The bad news was that I rushed to finish the book. I didn’t understand then what it meant to truly revise. Eventually, I queried agents and signed with my agent, Laura Rennert, at Andrea Brown Literary Agency. We shopped it around, but every editor said nearly the same thing: it wasn’t marketable enough–could you send us her next book? I had to put it aside and write something else. I also had my second baby then, so it took a while.
Three years later, I had written an ok-draft of THE FIRE WISH, so I went to the Big Sur Writing Retreat hoping to get some feedback from editors. I met my agent for the first time then (after having her for three years!) and was put in a group with an editor from Random House. She was so encouraging, and requested that we send it to her when I was done revising. We did, and then a month or so later, I got the call.
What’s your debut about? Can you share any cool details with us?
THE FIRE WISH is about two girls, both from different sides in a war between humans and jinni, and how the choices they make affect everyone around them. It’s set in the golden age of Baghdad, back when the Arabs were naming the stars and figuring out algebra. It’s also when the The One Thousand and One Nights are said to have first been told. And there’s this wish, you see…
I tried to remember as much as I could of my time in Bahrain and Iraq while writing it. I wanted to be as culturally authentic as possible. I even tried to teach myself Arabic (“tried” is the key word here). It’s amazing how much is out there to learn! Eventually, I had to put it all aside and actually write the story, but having some frankincense on hand and a real Persian rug I bought at a bazaar in Baghdad has got to have been helpful, right?
One cool detail in my book that I can’t wait for readers to discover is the land of the jinni. They live in a cavern, but it’s not just any old damp cavern…
Do you have any writing quirks–places you need to write or things you need to have with you?
I don’t need any particular place to write, as long as it’s not at home. Otherwise, procrastination gets the better of me and I end up cleaning or napping. I wrote THE FIRE WISH sitting in the cafe at Barnes and Noble, but now I have an office that I rent in an old Victorian house. As long as I have my laptop and some coffee, I’m good to go. Oh, and that frankincense? I burn that sometimes. It sets the mood, although I’m not sure the other writers in the house like it so much. 😉 I guess one quirk is that my critique partner, Emma Kress, is my novel’s lifeline. Without her, I’d have dried up long ago.
What cool facts might readers not know about you?
Not exactly how “cool” these are, but here’s something:
1. I went to a Japanese elementary school solely because Indiana Jones was my idol and it’s what he would have done.
2. I got “lost” in a pyramid in Egypt because I didn’t want to follow the tour guide. I also happened to be wearing an Indiana Jones-type leather hat I picked up in Sydney. (See? I told you he was my idol. I was a total geek.) I ended up in a false burial chamber, which was rather anti-climactic. But still…it was awesome for those ten seconds I thought I was onto something.
3. I decided to major in Russian because I read CRIME AND PUNISHMENT by Fyodor Dostoyevsky and fell in love with the culture of Russia. Also, I wanted to learn something other than Japanese, and at the time, I was applying for an AFROTC scholarship. The choices for the scholarship, besides foreign languages, were all engineering-based. I knew that wouldn’t end well. Also, in Japan, I could never blend in, but in Russia…everyone just thought I was Swedish. (I was too tall to be Russian.)
4. I was deployed to Baghdad for eight months, during which I learned as much as possible about the region and its politics. (It was my job, and it was pretty cool.) It was during this deployment that I made the decision to quit the military and go for my life-long dream of writing novels. Not because I didn’t like my job, but because life is too short to spend it doing something other than what your heart wants most.
|Amber Lough lives in Syracuse, NY with an astrophysicist and their two kids, Future CEO and Future Comedian. She spent half her childhood in Japan and the Middle East, but majored in Russian because she likes a challenge. She quit her job in Air Force Intelligence to write stories in which no one speaks English or “common.” Her Middle Eastern fantasy, THE FIRE WISH, is due from Random House Children’s in Fall 2014.|