Monday, January 30, 2017

Author interview: Erica M. Chapman

I virtually sat down with author Erica M. Chapman to talk about writing, becoming a published author and her debut YA, Teach Me To Forget which came out in December to some great reviews and nice buzz! It’s on the Best YA Books of December list from Bustle, Barnes & Noble’s Most Anticipated December YA books, The Children’s Book Review Best New Young Adult Books of December 2016 and was named one of Goodreads’ Best YA Books of December!
I'm also running a giveaway. One lucky winner will receive a finished hardcover copy of Teach Me To Forget along with a free digital download of the audio book! Enter at the bottom of the post below through Rafflecopter. You can enter between 1/31 at 12am through 2/7 at 12am. Get those entries in!  
Teach Me to Forget is the story of Ellery, a girl who learns how to live while waiting for the date she chose to die.

Ellery’s bought the gun, made arrangements for her funeral, and even picked the day. A Wednesday. Everything has fallen into place.
Now all she has to do is die.
When her plans go awry and the gun she was going to kill herself with breaks, she does the one thing she has control over–return it and get a new one. After tormenting the crusty customer service associate by trying to return the gun with the wrong receipt, Ellery gets caught by the security guard who also happens to be someone she knows–the annoyingly perfect Colter Sawyer from her English class.
Colter quickly uncovers what she’s hiding and is determined to change her mind. After confessing a closely held secret of his own, he promises not to tell hers. Ellery tries to fight her attraction to him as the shadows of her past cling tight around her, but when she’s faced with another tragedy, she must decide whether her love for one boy is more important than a lifetime of pain.
PRAISE FOR TEACH ME TO FORGET
“In this stunningly brave and necessary debut, Erica M. Chapman takes us on a journey to the edge and back—exploring grief, depression, and suicide with candor, insight, and above all, hope.”–Amber Smith, New York Times bestselling author of The Way I Used to Be
“A beautifully crafted, dark, and heartbreaking look at depression and suicide. Ellery’s story is needed and necessary; Chapman is a writer to watch.”– Kathleen Glasgow, New York Times bestselling author of Girl in Pieces
“Ellery’s voice is engaging and authentic, and her edgy black humor comes into play…. Sadness gives way to redemption and an unforced hope in this thoughtful read.”Kirkus Reviews
Chapman has crafted a hauntingly beautiful story with richly developed characters. A moving tale to recommend, especially to readers who loved Jennifer Niven’s All the Bright Places.”—School Library Journal
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So, this is your debut YA. What was the process like for you from query to book? What was your favorite part of the process? Once I talked to you on the phone I knew we had the same taste so I knew our partnership would create some awesome stuff (I was right!). We were on submission for a while but you always kept my hopes up. When I was ready to throw in the towel you suggested a newer imprint to sub to... and that was Merit Press! Thank YOU, it's because of you. Never give up hope people. You just never know... My favorite part of the process is getting that first response (usually a pass but ya never know) once you go on submission. It makes it a lot more real and gives me that determination to keep going ;o)
How does it feel to have TMTF out in the world? It's pretty surreal. At first it was really weird knowing that people were reading my words and not knowing what they would think. I've gotten used to it now and I'm really enjoying the ride. I hope I can help people feel less alone and maybe give those who have been fortunate enough not to have depression or suicidal thoughts a glimpse into what it may feel like. I've been so touched by the reviews and messages I've received so far. 

Every writer has a different writing process. What is yours like? Do you have a place or time you like to write? Hmm, well I write in my recliner mostly at night, but I'm moving and planning on getting a desk and have an "office," so we'll see how that goes. I write quick first drafts then revise for a while, make sure I have readers read it after the second revision, then I send it to you! Then I typically revise a couple more times... Lots of revision!! I also LOVE to read my drafts on my kindle paperwhite, I always find mistakes and plot holes I didn't on the screen.

Your opening is quite impactful. What led you to start the book this way? Thank you ;o) Well, it seemed natural to me to start it on the day she wanted to kill herself but I also wanted readers to get to know Ellery and care about her before we followed her down the rabbit hole... Having her talk to Jackson and say goodbye lets the reader get to know her and their friendship which is important so we know what she has to lose. Also, I like books that just start right in, grab hold of you and don't let you go! Interesting side note, the beginning never changed in all the revisions. It's still the same as it was the first day I started writing it.

How do you come up with your characters? Do you draw inspiration from people in your life? I think it's hard not to draw from people in your life or people who influence you in some way. I think there's definitely parts of me in Ellery and Colter. I talked to some friends who helped me flesh out Ellery a lot so she has influences from them too. But more than anything, characters I write embody what I'm feeling at the time, characteristics are fluid and organic most of the time. It could also be that I read an article on sand art and decide that's what would be perfect for a character to love, then I research it and add it. So I pull from all around me for inspiration.

Suicide is a tough topic to talk about. Do you hope that this will spark conversation among teens and parents? Yes, I would be so honored if TMTF had anything to do with teens and parents, really anyone, talking to each other about the topic of suicide. It's SO important. I think in addition with starting the conversation, we also need to accept each other for who we are instead of who we want each other to be. I've said that in a couple other interviews and I'll continue to say it, that's an important layer to peel away.

Did you have a playlist or any songs that you liked to listen to while you wrote? What would Ellery’s theme song be? Yes! I shared my playlist on All The Write Notes blog last year, but I can list them here. It's rather long as music is a huge part of my life and in many ways saved my life as a teen. I have a music note tattoo on my wrist to remind me that there is always hope. As for Ellery's theme song... there are SO many songs that represent her. Broken Hearted Girl, The Lonely, Heavy in Your Arms. So many. Colter's would be the last one, Your Guardian Angel By The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus. 

Heavy in Your Arms – Florence + The Machine: Ellery and Colter struggle through the book to love each other. She feels a burden to him on more than one occasion and this song beautifully represents that struggle.
Broken Hearted Girl – Misty Boyce: Pretty simple. Ellery’s heart is broken for a lot of reasons. This is a soft song that tells that story.
Mad World – Gary Jules & Michael Andrews: I’ve always loved this one. It’s so haunting and the lyrics have always affected me. Ellery’s world is a bit mad.
You Found Me – The Fray: Once she meets Colter she feels as though someone finally notices her, although she’s not happy about it.
Oblivion – Bastille: This is such a sweet song. I can see Colter singing this to Ellery.
The Lonely – Christina Perri: Ellery is very lonely, and this song’s lyrics are just so perfect for her. “I’m a shell of a girl that I used to know well.” It’s just so beautifully written.
I Should Have Known – Foo Fighters: This could work for either of them, really. It’s a song about regret which they both have painful reminders of constantly.
Breathe Me – Sia: This song. You can just hear the emotion in Sia’s voice and it so perfectly matches Ellery’s state of mind in this story.
Tourniquet – Evanescence: I love a good Evanescence song and this one really represents Ellery’s struggle with what she chose to do and the decisions that come along with that.
Wait – M83: “More Time” is the lyric that is uttered through this song and that’s just what Colter wants for Ellery. It’s such a simple song but it says so much.
How To Save A Life – The Fray: I listened to this song on repeat bawling my eyes out while I wrote this book. We just want Ellery to want to live but how do you do that?
Indifference – Pearl Jam: Ellery wishes she could care about what’s going on in her life but more than upset, she’s indifferent to it. When I discovered this song (and heard it live OMG amazing) I knew it was perfect for TMTF’s playlist.
Comfortably Numb – Pink Floyd: Ellery has a lot of moments where she just wants to be numb to the world. To forget everything that’s happened to her.
Black – Pearl Jam: Such a haunting song. The pain in Eddie Vedder’s voice mirrors that of Colter’s so much.
Untitled – Simple Plan: This is the perfect song for the tragedy that leads to Ellery’s attempted suicide in the beginning.
Trembling Hands – The Temper Trap: One scene in particular comes to mind when I hear this song. A very heated one with consequences that affect both Ellery and Colter.
Asleep – The Smiths: At some point Ellery just wants to sleep and get rid of the pain. Such a sad song.
I Will Follow You Into The Dark – Death Cab For Cutie: There comes a time when you have to choose to join or abandon someone in pain. I think this represents that choice.
Your Guardian Angel – The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus: Colter wants nothing more than to protect Ellery and save her, be her guardian angel.

What scene was the hardest for you to write? Oh, romance can be really hard for me, but the chapter where a very sad event happens that makes Ellery feel deeply for the first time in a long time was really hard to write because it felt so real to me. I keep a lot bottled up myself so when I'm writing it, it's like I'm opening my own wounds too. I think they become the most beautiful pages but boy they can be tough to write!

You’re very active on social media. What is it like being a part of the YA writing community? Any tips for first time authors looking to build a platform? I love to make connections with people so social media has been a great outlet for that. I've been on social media a long time--way before I ever had a published book. I love being a part of the YA writing community. It's full of people who are advocates and lend their voices for incredibly important causes. They're giving and understanding and I'm proud to call many of them my friends. Social Media is how I met a lot of the friends I have. I would say to first time authors to follow certain hashtags to learn more, like #amwriting #10queries #pitchwars, #writing #YAlit and many more. Meet other writers and share ideas. For debut authors I would say to join a debut group either on Facebook, or a blog. The Sweet16s (a 2016 debut MG/YA group) were amazing and I'm so glad I joined. I would also say, don't worry about promoting your book so much as being genuine and talking to others. That's the best promotion you could have in my opinion ;o) Also, share others' tweets and articles, and blogs by RTing, and promote books you love and support your fellow authors. 

What’s your favorite(s) recent YA that has come out or is coming out? Did you have a favorite book growing up? Ohhh, there are many. I adored SUMMER OF SUPERNOVAS by Darcy Woods, it was such a fun romantic read, GIRL IN PIECES by Kathleen Glasgow was so gritty and unforgettable, THE WAY I USED TO BE by Amber Smith was so beautifully written and important, STALKING JACK THE RIPPER by Kerri Maniscalco was mysterious and lyrical. I can't wait for her next one out this year! I've read so many lately that are just SO good! Growing up I loved the Baby-sitters club books by Ann M. Martin and Christopher Pike books! 

Anything else you’d like to say?

I just want to thank those of you who've read TEACH ME TO FORGET, who have talked about it, shared tweets and posts, thank you for continuing to make my dream come true.

Follow Erica on Twitter @ericamchapman and visit her website: http://ericamchapman.com/

You can order Teach Me To Forget here: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound 

And an audio edition is also available from Audible

a Rafflecopter giveaway


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3 comments:

  1. I got to meet Erica and now to get a chance to win a hardcover copy of her book would be so exciting! Go Lions (next year!!!).

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    1. Danielle! Hello ;o) Good luck! Go Lions #OnePride!!

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  2. Thank you so much, Christa. For everything ;o)

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