Author Interview: Charlie Holmberg

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Hi Charlie! Thanks for agreeing to be part of my new site. I think it’ll be so fun to get a more personal glimpse at some of my favorite authors. So, I really do thank you for taking a chance on me and answering my questions.

First, I’m going to ask for a brief introduction, and maybe a little something that not many know about you (i.e. favorite song to jam out to, favorite dish to eat when you are sick, your least favorite smell). What does your life look like?

Let’s see… I write books. The end.

😀

Okay, trying again. I write fantasy books (I have the best job ever) that tend to be fence-huggers between YA and adult. I’m a mom of 1 (mom of 2 come July) and I currently own about 20 pairs of glasses (and not that many pairs of shoes).

Something few people know about me… I ran through a glass door when I was nine and I have a scar on my arm that looks like the Star Trek insignia. 🙂

*Edited to add: for more about Charlie, you can always visit her blog or her website!

Next, I feel even more connected to you now, after researching you for this interview series, because we are expecting babies super close together! You’re due in July and I’m in August, so that leads me to my next question: how in the world do you find time to write (so prolifically, I might add) while juggling a toddler at home? You’ve released 4 (soon to be 5) books in just 2 years. It’s astounding!

I literally have no other hobbies.

I know that sounds like a joke, but it’s mostly true. I bake/cook sometimes, and if I had a piano I’d probably play that, but really, I just mother, clean, and write most days. I get the bulk of my work done during nap times and the daily episode of Sesame Street. Having two kids will definitely test my multitasking skills!

Paper-Magician-RD-3-fullsizeFor those who don’t know, The Paper Magician series focuses on Ceony Twill, a young woman who has just completed her training in magical arts and begins her apprenticeship in Folding (much to her chagrin) at the beginning of the first novel. She is assigned to study under Emery Thane, an eccentric and brilliant magician in the otherwise very lacking field of Folders. In case that description isn’t enough, we’ll just go ahead and say that these books fall firmly in the realm of fantasy. I, personally, loved the “learning magic” aspect of the books (Harry Potter-esque) with a female lead. Can you tell us more about what draws you to fantasy? Why this genre, which you have stated you’re firmly devoted to, as opposed to the myriad other options out there?

I like writing about things we don’t get to experience in real life—things that don’t exist in the world as we know it. Writing fantasy is like creating a telescope into another realm that we otherwise would never get to experience. The fantasy genre gives me lots of creative liberties as well, and in fantasy, I can kind of do a little of everything—mystery, romance, adventure, etc.

*Kaytee’s edit to add: In Followed by Frost, Charlie’s 4th novel, she has this fantastic quote that I had to pull and stick in, because it’s so applicable here:

“Fiction is for dreamers”

He smirked. “Is it?”

I turned up the flame in the oil lamp. “Why else would one read unbelievable stories, but in hopes of believing? I always saw novels as an outlet for which the mind can escape this world, not be tethered to it.”

*Thanks for giving  us that unbelievable way to escape, Charlie. If your fantasy novels don’t embody this quote, I don’t know what does!

So, I found your first novel, The Paper Magician, through the Kindle First deal that Amazon puts forward for Prime members every month. So did a lot of other people! I see you received an award that year for having 100,000 readers choose your book as their download for August 2014. Other than the cover change that the publicity necessitated, do you feel like Amazon really helped launch you to the next level with that promotion? Or was it too much, too fast?

I think Amazon has been fantastic for me. I was a debut, a nobody, and Kindle First got my book into a lot of hands. It put me in front of readers I wouldn’t have been able to reach on my own. I’ve said this before, but I really couldn’t have debuted with a better publisher.

After tearing through that first book (I couldn’t put it down), I was so MAD that I got tricked into buying the first of a trilogy that wasn’t complete yet! 🙂 But then they all came out so quickly. Were they all prepared before you even got The Paper Magician accepted? Or are you just an extremely fast writer? You have an article about having stacks of rejection letters (and give a wonderful quote: “Good news is great for the ego, but bad news is better for the craft”), so I guess I’m curious if you were submitting that first novel/storyline, getting rejected, but still working on the others?

The Paper Magician was actually intended to be a standalone (I’m a standalone writer at heart; starting out with a trilogy is almost a fluke!). But with all my books, I like to imagine what would happen next. In the case of The Paper Magician, I came up with a lot. So I pitched the book as a standalone with sequel potential, and my editor at the time liked the idea. I had most of an outline for The Glass Magician ready when I sold the first two books. I sold The Master Magician later.

I’m always working on something. If I’m querying one book, I’m editing or outlining another. I don’t like to have an empty desk, so to say (and because I really have no other hobbies I get very bored otherwise!).

Some of your most recent great news involves selling the rights for The Paper Magician to Disney! What a huge endorsement of your story and your writing! I feel like I got in on the ground floor here. Like, once the Disney films come out you’ll be completely unreachable. 🙂 I’m curious as to what the celebration looked like for you when that deal came through? And if you have any hopes for what that product will look like when it comes to the big screen?

There’s no guarantee that Disney WILL make a movie, just that they CAN… but I very much hope they do! The Disney announcement was a very weird day for me. I was under a strict non-disclosure agreement not to talk about Disney (I had been in contract negotiations for a while leading up to it), and suddenly The Hollywood Reporter is tweeting at me with this big press release. A press release that had information on it I’d never heard myself. And then social media exploded, ha! So I definitely wasn’t expecting it, and I had to stay quiet for a few days because I wasn’t sure what I was allowed to say. It was excruciating.

The celebration has come in little bits over a long time, with each advancement the deal made. I haven’t had a big party yet or the like… but maybe that will come if the book(s) really DOES make it to the big screen. I will wet my pants if that happens.

On a different track, I love that you’ve been writing some personal stuff about self-acceptance on your blog. Especially because, from outward appearances, you are just so gorgeous and darling. What is it about the cultural beauty paradigm that really speaks to you? Perhaps raising a daughter? Or being one of four sisters?

Ah, yes. Needless to say sites like BeautyRedefined.org have brought out the feminist in me. I, like many, many women, have had issues with self-esteem that focus solely on how I look. I’d have a bad day because I felt fat, or I’d freak out because a guy was coming over to my apartment and I’d already washed my makeup off. I couldn’t understand how so many girls could just go out without their hair and makeup done.

But slowly I started to step outside myself and look at the situation objectively. Why do I feel this way? Why are all these beauty standards applied only to women? And bit by bit, I started to get over it. I started to realize that the media was controlling how I felt about myself and that’s just hot garbage right there.

The post you linked to is only a little over a year old, and that’s when I realized that I was still more familiar with my makeup-wearing self than my natural self, and I didn’t want my “real” face to be a stranger to me. I gave up mascara (seriously, hardest beauty thing I’ve ever had to do) so I could replace my mental image of myself with the me God made (and yes, there’s some religious aspect to it, too. Why should I be ashamed of how God made me? Do I think He didn’t do a good enough job?). Ultimately, it’s all been great for me, and that low self-esteem monster rarely shows his ugly face anymore.

Finally, since I am a mom of boys, I’ve become a bit of a reluctant nerd. I see from various interviews that you were raised as a Trekkie, and I really adored your analysis of Vulcans vs. Elves. It seems to me that you really embrace that side of your upbringing and lean into the “geek” culture (I actually don’t know the differences between nerds and geeks, so please excuse any faux pas on my part here!). Even though your books are so different from those series and don’t reflect the same themes, were those two fantasy series (LoTR and Star Trek) especially formative in your love of fantasy?

Star Trek definitely was; I was literally raised on it. My whole family would sit in the basement and watch it. I actually didn’t get into LoTR until the movies came out. But I definitely think being exposed to fantastic stories at a young age helped me develop a love and appreciation for out-of-this-world storytelling.

As a parting note, want to give us a Magic Bitter, Magic Sweetlittle plug for your next book, Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet, due out in June? Will fans of your books find any common threads in this one?

Yes! I’m excited for the release of this book. It has no ties to The Paper Magician series or my other standalone, Followed by Frost. I do tip my hat to some fairy tales, legends, and Lewis Carroll in the story.

The book is about a woman named Maire who only remembers the last four years of her life. She has a strange ability to bake emotions and other traits into her food; an ability she barely understands. But an attack by bandits on her village sends her onto a new and bizarre path, where she meets two men connected with her past: one wants to use her amnesia to control her, while the other wants her to remember. Only problem is that if he simply tells her and she doesn’t believe him, her amnesia will become permanent. It’s all a lovely mess of surprises. 🙂

Charlie, thank you so much! I love your nerdiness, your books, your smile, and your passion. It was such fun to interview you, and I’m very much looking forward to the new novel in June!

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