Tuesday, September 04, 2012

What's Fresh with Ann Finnin's The Sorcerer of Saint Felice!

At the Romance Writers of America conference last month, I got the chance to chat with debut Flux author Ann Finnin.  She agreed to be in our "hot seat" today, to chat with us about her young adult novel and her writing career. 
Hello, Ann!  Could you please tell us a little about your writing background and how you made your first sale? 

I started writing when I was eleven and I wrote all through high school and college.  When I had to drop out of graduate school, I knew that I had to make a decision about what I really wanted to do with my life.  The answer was: more than anything else in the world, I wanted to be an author. Easier said than done, of course.  I wrote novel after novel that almost sold but didn’t.  The years went by and still nothing.  I kept writing, submitting, getting rejected, rinse and repeat, over and over again. 

Then, the Harry Potter series came out.  I had written a manuscript that was basically a medieval version of Harry Potter.  My agent had tried to market it as a fantasy, but since the protagonist was only 15, it didn’t sell.  All of a sudden, everybody wanted teenage wizard stories.  So, I sent it to Flux.  

Again, nothing happened for six months.  Then, I talked to a friend who had recently become an agent.  I asked her if she knew anybody at Flux and if she could make a phone call or two to find out what had happened to my submission.  She found out that Flux had a new acquisitions editor that loved the premise and wanted it ASAP.  Two months later I signed the contract for The Sorcerer of Sainte Felice

Readers and writers often like to get a behind the scenes peek of an author's writing routine. It would be great if you could please share your typical writing day schedule.
I really don’t have a “typical” writing day.  I have a full time job, so it all depends on what else is going on at work that day.  I’m a technical writer so work is sporadic.  I can usually write on a lunch hour.  But if it’s a slow day, I can work on a novel for an hour or two without too much of a problem.  

I’ve learned to write in small one-hour sessions.  If all of a sudden I have a couple of hours to kill before a meeting or review session, I take out my latest novel and work on it for awhile.  Sometimes, I’ll write in the evening or I’ll take a Saturday afternoon and go to Starbucks for a couple of hours.  Maybe one day I’ll actually be able to afford to write full time, but that day hasn’t happened yet.  So, this method works for the time being.
Please tell us about your novel, The Sorcerer of Sainte Felice, and what we can expect from your characters.

The Sorcerer of Sainte Felice takes place in the year 1480 in Orleans, France.  15 year-old Michael de Lorraine has run away from home in order to study magic.  However, he finds himself being burned at the stake for sorcery.  He thinks he’s a goner until he is rescued by the charismatic abbot of a nearby Benedictine monastery.  

Michael doesn’t want to stay at the monastery until he discovers that the abbot is actually a notorious sorcerer known as Seratois and that the five monks that inhabit the monastery are all alchemists, herbalists, astrologers and seers.  Michael eventually takes his vows as a Benedictine novice, becomes the abbot’s apprentice and learns the abbot’s secret method of conjuring angels. The monks make a wine using the alchemical process of distillation and mix in certain secret herbs that cures what ails you and cause angels to sing.  It becomes very popular among the local nobility.  But soon, the Grand Inquisitor comes to call.  He has discovered the abbot’s real identity and drags him from the monastery in chains.  Only Michael knows the abbot’s magical techniques.  But has he learned enough to save his mentor from being burned at the stake?

This is a classic sorcerer’s apprentice story, but with a twist.  I’ve set it in an actual time and place with a couple of historical characters (like the French king) thrown in for good measure.  All of the magic that the abbot and the other monks perform is historically accurate and documented.  In many cases, it’s the same magic that Rowling uses in her books.  I just put it back into the cultural context in which it was originally practiced.
It’s Harry Potter – only real.

What's up next? Do you have another project in the works? If so, please tell us about it.
The next project is a teen witch book called Moon Spell.  It’s a contemporary story about a 16-year-old girl who is studying witchcraft with her best friend.  Her friend performs a love spell that goes horribly wrong, causing the hero to be trapped in the fairy realms until the heroine finds a way to free him.  But the story takes place in an ordinary suburban setting in an ordinary high school.  The heroine not only has to deal with the world of magic, she has to still study ordinary subjects in school and live with her geek father and born-again Christian mother.  Again, I’ve tried to set a magical story in a real world setting to show how a real wannabe wizard or witch has to ‘walk between the worlds’ and live in both the mundane world and the magical realms at the same time.  After all, not everybody can go to Hogwarts. 

Would you like to close with a writing tip?
Never give up.  Never, ever.  Believe in your story.  Today’s rejected manuscript sometimes becomes tomorrow’s best seller.  And don’t pay too much attention to the people who will tell you that such-and-such a story won’t sell.  Maybe it won’t sell today, but in a few years it could be the Next Big Thing.  I’ve ruined a lot of stories over the years by listening to people who are “in the know’”telling me that you can’t have certain things in a novel because editors won’t buy it.  Work on your craft (characterization, voice, pacing, plot, etc.) and tell a good story.  It will find a market eventually.  Hopefully, you won’t have to wait thirty years like I did. 

Your perseverance is inspiring, Ann, and your book sounds terrific!  Thanks for visiting with us!  

4 fresh comments:

TinaFerraro said...

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Janie Emaus said...

Ann's book is a great read. Thanks for sharing a bit of your life with us.

Linda O. Johnston said...

Delightful story and delightful interview, Ann!

Kelly (Lynn) Parra said...

Thanks for sharing with us, Ann!