Saturday, May 28, 2011

Author Interview - Jolene Ballard Gutierrez -- Devil May Care

I'm so happy to welcome Jolene Gutierrez, author of Devil May Care to Annette's Book Spot. You can read my review here.

About the book:

When Ana takes off flying across the high school stage, her life is forever changed. Searching for answers, Ana meets Gabrielle, her mentor. Gabrielle teaches Ana that she’s an angel and is here on Earth to help prepare for a war between good and evil. The only problem? Ana can’t always tell who’s good and who’s evil. While she’s learning, Ana meets the man of her dreams, Dylan. He’s gorgeous, sexy, and really seems to care about Ana. Even though he’s a demon, Ana’s heart tells her to trust him. Then Ana’s world is shattered and she finds herself alone and afraid. As the boundaries between good and evil blur, Ana realizes she no longer knows who she can trust and who might be out to kill her.

 You can purchase the book or ebook here.

Tell us what inspired you to write Devil May Care. How did you come up with the story?

I enjoy reading books about the supernatural, and I wanted to examine good and evil a little more closely. It’s always been both fascinating and horrifying to me that throughout history, certain groups of people have felt they have God on their side and use this belief as an excuse to do terrible things to other groups of people. I wanted to look a little at stereotypes. I know that we’ve all been guilty of judging people at different times, and I wanted to get into that in this book-- the fact that there’s more than meets the eye with each of us. Lastly, my husband and I were high-school sweethearts who were drawn to each other immediately, just like Ana and Dylan, and I loved revisiting that time in our history.

How long did it take you to write Devil May Care?

Devil May Care took me about 3months to rough out, and then I spent another 9-12 months revising. I write based on the school calendar because I work as a school librarian, so summers are my big time to write. I try to get a good rough draft of my books done from June-August, and then I spend weekends and school breaks refining the book.

Are there any parts of the book that are personal to you? Names? Places? Events from your past?

Yes, there definitely are! Cheyenne is named after my daughter (her name is spelled Shaian, so we decided to go with the more traditional name so people wouldn’t be confused by the spelling). Cheyenne’s brother Dakota is named after my son, Dakota. The romance between Dylan and Ana is based on my husband and I. The story takes place in the Denver area, where I live. Oh, yeah, and I did get stuck in a trash can by some seniors when I was a little 7th grader.

Tell us about your writing habits. When do you write? Where? Do you have any special rituals that you follow to help the writing process?

I write whenever I can! I take my notebook with me most places, and if I have a few extra minutes, I’ll write a bit. With Devil May Care, I wrote by hand first, and then would type up what I’d written as a way of doing my first revisions.

While writing Devil May Care, I didn’t outline the story much at all. I had a general idea of where I wanted the story to go, and then I let the characters lead me. That’s the best thing about the writing process for me—the almost magical feeling that came over me when the characters would surprise me or when things would come back together in a way I hadn’t expected. I liken it to being a weaver and bringing all of these pieces of yarn together—you’re holding all of the strands and shaping them into something different and beautiful. It’s this feeling of being connected to something larger, something beyond yourself, and it’s an amazing experience.

Do you have any hints or suggestions for aspiring writers?

Read, read, read, and write, write, write! The more writing you’re exposed to and the more you practice the art of writing, the better you’ll be. I also encourage writers to immerse themselves in the writing community. Using Twitter and Facebook to get to know some of your favorite authors, editors, and agents is helpful, as is reading blogs, interviews, etc. Find local communities of writers if possible, too. I’m a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), and the connections I’ve made through SCBWI have been so helpful. Finding a critique group or honest friends to read your work can be extremely helpful (and painful, but you’ll need straight, no-holds-barred opinions to help shape your book into the best piece of work it can be). Lastly, remember that writing might be some of the most difficult work you do, but if you’re doing it for the right reasons, it will be extremely rewarding.

What were some of your favorite books when you were a kid? How about lately?

I love horses, and when I was younger, I read every horse book I could get my hands on. Lynn Hall’s A Horse Called Dragon was my favorite. Then I found a creepy ghost story book in our school library and moved on to supernatural books. In high school, I loved Christopher Pike, Stephen King, and Dean Koontz. Now, I read books from a lot of genres so I’m able to recommend books to my students. Some of my favorite books I’ve read recently are Carrie Ryan’s Forest of Hands and Teeth series, Ally Condie’s Matched, Beth Revis’ Across the Universe, and Jackson Pearce’s Sisters Red.

What’s next? Are you currently writing more about Ana or are you working on something else?

My current book is a totally different genre and level. It’s a middle grade multicultural novel called Dias de los Muertos:Days of the Dead. It’s based mostly on my husband’s own experiences being the only Mexican boy in an otherwise all-white town, and how he tried to keep his family together when his abusive father died and left the family to fend for themselves. There are elements of the supernatural toward the last part of the book, but it’s a very different type of book. Now that I’ve finished Dias up, I may be revisiting Ana’s world again, though. I miss her and I feel like some of the other characters in Devil May Care have more stories to tell.

When you are not writing, what do you like to do?

My family keeps me fairly busy! My kids are still in Elementary school, so I do a lot of PTO, soccer games, orchestra programs, and other kid stuff with them. I love hanging out with my husband—he’s hilarious and we have a lot of fun together. We have a few pets in our family: a dog named Zoey, a cat named Shakespeare and a crested gecko named Marty. I also love learning more about natural healing therapies like essential oils and herbs. And, of course, I love reading.

Since I am a school librarian, I have to ask you about your librarian job. What type of school? What is your favorite part of being a school librarian?

I’m a librarian at Denver Academy, a private school for 1st-12th grade students with learning differences. I’ve been there for 17 years—all of my adult working life—and I love it. My favorite part of being a school librarian is helping students make connections. I love when students realize that the library can be a fun, exciting place. I love when things “click” and students understand more about researching. And I especially love when I help a student connect with the right book for them. That’s almost like magic!

I was thinking of the students I work with when I wrote Devil May Care. I wanted to write a book that wasn’t too long and intimidating with a font size that was comfortable to read. I also wanted to write a book that would be fun for them to read and hopefully one they could connect with.

Please, what else do you want us to know about you or your book? Feel free to add any additional comments!

I guess my parting words would be this: we all have various interests or passions in our lives. I feel that it’s crucial to nurture those passions or we risk losing our true selves.

I had a dear friend, Rae, who passed away a few years ago, and before she passed, we always talked about writing. I’d tell her it was something I wanted to do “someday”, but I never took steps toward making my dream a reality. Rae was such a strong, amazing woman and mother, and her death made me ask myself, “What are you waiting for??” Rae was my motivator. She was the person who made me stand up and take a step forward; the person who made me realize that I had to work to achieve my dreams. In our busy lives, I think it’s easy to forget who we are and what nurtures our souls, and Rae reminded me of that. I’m so thankful for the gift she’s given me, and I hope her memory inspires others.

Thank you so very much, Annette, for your time and your help in spreading Ana’s story! J

Thanks Jolene for sharing a little about you and your book with us!

Jolene Ballard GutiĆ©rrez grew up on a farm in northeastern Colorado. She still lives in Colorado with her husband, daughter, and son. Her day job is that of a teacher/librarian, but she’s either writing or reading when she has some spare time.






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1 comment:

  1. Thanks for all of your help and support, Annette!!

    ReplyDelete

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