I had the great pleasure of meeting Alexandra Adornetto, the young author of HALO, about two weeks ago. She was in a library in Manhattan, talking about her book. Alexandra is only seventeen, but you'd be hard pressed to find a young woman with greater poise. Honestly, authors old and new could take a lesson from this girl. She'd been traveling across the US and Canada and she was totally relaxed and professional. She was also very funny. She had the crowd laughing more than a few times as she answered questions and spoke about what inspired her to write HALO.
|Getting ready to speak at New York Public Library, Manhattan|
Though Alexandra lives in Australia, she was checking out colleges while she was here in the US and would like to return and attend one in the South. She was especially fond of one in Tennessee.
The publisher Feiwel and Friends/MacMillan was kind enough to send me a hard copy edition of the book and I am giving it away to one of the faithful. Check out Alexandra's interview and then learn how you can enter for a chance to win her really engrossing book. I loved it!
1. You are clearly a precocious teen. Tell us about your journey to getting published. When you decided you wanted your first story published, what did you do? How much did you do on your own to learn about publication and how much were you assisted by your parents? How did you acquire your agent?
When I wrote my first novel, I was thirteen and it happened quite by accident. I wrote it over the summer vacation of 2005 when all my friends had gone away to the beach. I realized that I was actually really enjoying the process and it was flowing very naturally. I submitted the manuscript to Harper Collins and it was picked out of what they call the “slush pile” which is a whole lot of unsolicited manuscripts. I was very careful to present my work in the most professional manner possible. And yes, I did research what publishing houses were putting out there in order to target the right publisher for my work. My mother who was initially excited to have me so occupied ended up being concerned that the “summer project” was taking up all of my time! After submitting my sample chapters there was an interminable wait which was hard to cope with as an impatient thirteen year old. Finally Harper Collins called me to ask if I was interested in turning my book into a trilogy and I said “hell yeah!” After working with them for five years, I have learnt so much about the publishing industry. I pretty much grew up with writing as my profession and now, everything is very familiar to me. Getting an agent was my idea and a decision I only made recently, but it was the best thing I ever did. She was recommended to me by my Aussie publishers and since signing with her, she has sold Halo to the USA and seventeen international countries. I was like: “Why didn’t I think of this before!?”
2. How do you balance your writing with your school responsibilities? Explain your time management strategies. Take us inside a typical day with you as you juggle multiple goals. How long does it take you to complete a first draft of your stories and then revise?
Juggling writing with school-work was one of the biggest challenges I’ve had to face. I was the sort of student who was very involved in school life, I held lots of fund-raisers, lead the school choir, performed at the school concert and wanted to get good grades while at the same time trying to write a 120,000 word novel! I’ve graduated from high-school now which leaves me a lot more time to focus on my career. I usually write in the morning and set myself a word quota that I have to fulfill. After that I work on media promotions, interviews and plan for any events and tours that are coming up. In terms of drafts of a novel, I usually write the full manuscript and then edit it twice (one major and one light edit) before sending it to my publishing house. The editing process and tweaking continues for months after that.
3. What do your friends and schoolmates think of your success? Are there any jealousy issues?
I have a very close circle of friends who are really supportive of my work. They always come along to my Aussie events and cheer loudly and embarrass me! There will always be people who aren’t happy for you or are unsupportive for one reason or another, but I’ve been pretty lucky so far. One of the drawbacks of writing as a teen is that all my friends are at college and have loads of free time and it’s hard for them to understand the time commitment writing requires. It would be true to say that my social life is sometimes neglected.
4. Now let's get Halo specific! There are quite a few angel stories being written in YA. Why did you choose this topic?
I wanted to write a novel about angels because in my mind they are such fascinating creatures. I kept reading novels about vampires and fallen angels and I wanted to creature characters that were devoid of any darkness (like Gabriel and Ivy). I wanted to put forward a classic story of good VS evil. My angels are classic, righteous, biblical creatures who aim to protect humankind while the demons delight in human suffering and conflict. I wanted Halo to have underlying messages of hope, faith, love and redemption which is why I chose angels. Also, they are so unfamiliar with the process of actually engaging in human life, I thought it would be really interesting to write about them coping in the flawed world of humans.
5. In my opinion, Halo seems less focused on the fantastical than other angel stories and more rooted in biblical principles. How would you describe your religious beliefs? Do you believe angelic entities really exist? How do your religious beliefs affect and play a part in what you've written in the series?
I was raised Christian and went to Christian schools for most of my life and I think that’s clearly reflected in Halo. For me, the only way to write a book about angels was to use the Bible as a reference point and my own experience with religion a basis. I think that unless you’re writing about fallen angels or Nephilim, it’s hard to escape including religion in some way. I believe in God and heaven and angels that watch over humankind so it wasn’t too difficult for me to get inside Bethany’s head, though it’s still a creative piece of fiction. The intent behind Halo is not to force any kind of religious beliefs on my readers, but just to weave it into the story, as it’s sort of unavoidable.
6. I understand the next book in the trilogy deals with Hell. Why is it titled Hades as opposed to Hell? What kind of research did you do to write this sequel? Is the final book in the series, Heaven, completed yet? What kind of research did you do for that?
I think I chose Hades because it’s less blatantly obvious as to what the story is about and provides a little more mystery. Hades is just another name for Hell, but it’s refers to the ruler of the ancient Greek underworld and eventually became the name of the dimension in general. I liked the idea of including that bit of history in the title, because it shows how much the concept of Hell has changed over the years and how there can be so many different interpretations. I am working on Hades at the moment and it is requiring a fair bit of research, because Hell is not a simple concept to just pop into a novel. I had to decide how I imagined hell, what form the demons take, how the souls are punished etc. I haven’t started Heaven yet, it’s still a work in progress.
7. Are the characters inspired by people you know?
I wish there was a real-life Xavier! Elements of the characters are definitely taken from people in my life. For example, Xavier is a compilation of a whole lot of teenage guys I’ve met in my life. One of them might have had the same color eyes, or been captain of the water-polo teams and I’ve taken those elements and put them together to create this fictional hero. Molly and the girls at Bryce Hamilton and based on people I was friends with at high school and a lot of Beth’s experiences, feelings and observations are taken from my own life. I can very naïve and innocent like her!
8. Will you be touring the US? If so, when and where? Do you think you would ever move to the US?
We are visiting ten cities. My future fantasy is to live on a ranch somewhere in Texas with lots of wide open spaces and a horse called Whisky.
9. I thought your portrayal of Xavier's mother, Bernie was very interesting. She is a woman with firm beliefs and a conservative viewpoint about how young people should conduct themselves. Is there any advice you would like to share with any young person reading this, particularly young women, in the area of sex and love that you think is important?
I think young people feel they need to party, drink and have sex in order to feel accepted or because that’s “what young people do,” but I believe there is an alternative. The society we live in seems to be focusing less and less on instilling values in the young, but young people can dictate their own personal set of beliefs, without being influenced by the media or society which promotes a certain type of lifestyle. Ultimately, it is up to individual to decide what kind of life they wish to lead and it is not for anyone to judge their choice, but I think it doesn’t hurt to think long and hard about the sort of person we want to be before making that choice.
10.Are there any new or pending projects beyond the Halo trilogy you can share with us?
At the moment I’m focusing on getting Hades and Heaven finished. I think I have my hands full with that at the moment but there’s always plenty of ideas bouncing around in my head so who knows what will happen from here.
Alexandra, you are positively awesome for taking the time to answer these questions. I know my readers will love learning more about you and your climb up the literary ranks. I can't wait to read Hades! If you're coming to New York or South Carolina, I definitely want to be there! Thanks so much.
No worries, you are very welcome! I am coming to New York on my Halo tour.
|Alexandra talking with her fans and signing HALO|
If you would like the chance to receive HALO, become a follower if you're not already. Leave a comment and answer two things: angels are religious/spiritual creatures. Why do you think they are such a big trend in YA novels? Do you think the religious angle of the angels should be explored more in the stories or avoided? Why? Don't forget to leave your email in the comment so you can be contacted if you're the winner. The winner will be selected randomly via Random.org
Giveaway ends Saturday, November 6, 2010 and is open to resident's of the US and Canada only.