Monday, May 7, 2012

Author Interview: Alicia K. Leppert on "Emerald City"

I believe that the beginning of each new week must be special. In order to do that today, I invited author Alicia K. Leppert for an interview, and she was happy to participate. Now if you're wondering who she is, here's what she says about herself...

I always knew I wanted to be a writer, ever since Career Day in first grade when I walked around carrying a notebook and pencil. Twenty-some odd years later, after a short stint in high school where I dreamed of being an actress, a whirlwind Internet romance including a blind proposal that led to a fairytale wedding and two pretty-near perfect kids, my lifelong dream came to fruition with my first novel, Emerald City. I live with my small brood in my beloved hometown of Pasco, which is located in the only part of Washington state that isn't green. When I'm not writing, I can be found decorating novelty cakes and taking naps--my other two passions.

If you want to know more about her, please visit her site, where she shares odd things about herself, her books and giveaways.

And since I was so swiped by her debut book, "Emerald City", I couldn't hold it in me and asked her the following questions:

  1. How did you come up with the idea to write Emerald City? Did it have something to do with the movie City of Angels at all?

My main goal was to write a powerful love story. Outside of that, I didn’t know what to make that love story be about. I tried and failed several different stories before one night having the idea to add a paranormal/fantasy aspect to it. I’m not a huge fan of vampires and werewolves and didn’t want to jump on the Twilight train anyway, so I tried to think of something different, something that was more “good” than “evil.” And that was when I had the idea of an angel. It had nothing to do with City of Angels at all. In fact, I never intended it to be anything like that movie and hoped people wouldn’t draw comparisons to it. Unfortunately, the way I ended up taking the story did resemble that storyline.

2. Did you take special classes to learn how to write so well? I mean, seriously – your style is amazing!

Well first of all, thank you for the incredible compliment! No, I took no classes other than your typical high school English and writing classes and a few community college ones as well. That’s it. Writing is just something that has come naturally to me my whole life. I write how I think and I write what I feel and it seems to work!

3. How did you know what depression felt like? You've described it so well that one can only wonder. Any personal experiences you might want to share?

Yes, I’ve made it no secret that I am speaking from personal experience. I know depression and anxiety all too well. I’ve suffered from an anxiety disorder and a chemical imbalance my entire life and seen more doctors and tried more meds than I care to admit. It is something I struggle with every single day. It was important to me to tell Olivia’s story and paint a realistic picture of depression and the havoc it wreaks on those who suffer from it. I hope it opens people’s eyes to the very real pain it can cause.

4. I felt connected with each one of your characters on a very deep level. I wonder how you managed to make them sound so real. Were they taken from real life models?

There weren’t really any specific individuals I modeled my characters after, more like different pieces of different people I put together to make each one. Olivia, as stated above, was modeled primarily after myself, but other than that, they were all just products of my imagination.

5. I know that many people experience extreme tragedies in their youth, but somehow you've made Olivia's sound unique. What made you write about this girl and present her case as something special?

I knew Olivia’s history would have to be pretty bleak to bring her as low as she was at the start of the book, so I tried to think of the worst things that could happen to a person without getting too grizzly (like rape, for example). I knew she needed to be alone in the world, so that made it easy to come up with her father’s abandonment and her mother’s death. The time between those two events sort of filled itself in naturally, as the things that would realistically happen, in my opinion.

6. One thing I absolutely loved about this story was the growth that Olivia underwent. She started out as the absolute loner, but with the help of Jude, she was able to make some friends. Do you think that in real life, such drastic changes are possible to accomplish?

It’s hard to believe that such a drastic change is possible. But I’ve seen it in other people and I believe that it can happen. At least I have hope that it can.

7. What is the message you're trying to convey through Olivia's character?

Basically that same thing—that change for the better is possible, that there is always hope. No one should have to live life alone and miserable and loveless. That people should never give up on each other, should never stop trying to reach out and befriend one another. And that those who find themselves in a position like Olivia did where they feel there’s no hope and no way out, to GET HELP. There will always be someone, somewhere, who cares enough to help.

8. And now about Jude. Oh, dear! That guy got me hyperventilating every time I saw his name on the page! He was simply amazing! How on earth did you manage to portray someone like him so well? I mean, his attitude, his thoughts, his feelings... they're perfectly thought out!

I’m so glad you fell in love with Jude as much as I did! I intended for him to be that guy that got your heart rate going, and I’m so glad to hear I succeeded! What can I say about Jude? Basically, I just created my dream guy, the guy that every girl wants. Gorgeous, sensitive, caring, but with an intensity and passion that gives him the sexy factor. I didn’t want him to be so sensitive that he didn’t seem masculine, or so tough-guy that he seemed angry and abusive. I tried to find that perfect balance right in the middle.

9. What do you feel for Jude? Both as an author and not?

Hmmm…interesting question. As an author I love Jude’s character because he has a lot of depth, a lot of inner turmoil caused by feelings of right versus wrong and his feelings for Olivia that he knows he shouldn’t have. As a human, and a more specifically a woman, I have a serious fictional character crush on him!

10. I'd really love to know how you came up with Hal's character. That guy was both hilarious and serious, and extremely helpful.

Hal was pieced together by various characters I’ve seen over the years on TV and in movies. The interesting thing about Hal is that until about ¾ of the way through writing the story, he didn’t exist. Jude and Olivia were the only two characters, and one of my editors thought I needed to add some more. Enter Hal. Now it’s hard to imagine the story without him, and he is hands-down the favorite character in my book, according to my readers.

11. The message of this book was pretty strong. I don't know whether you'd written it so it would hold a message, but still. There was hope to keep us strong and there was love that conquers all. What else should the reader see between the lines?

I actually didn’t write Emerald City with the purpose of giving a message, other than “love conquers all” as you stated perfectly. I really had no idea the message that readers would take away from it until I started getting feedback from them. Now I am thrilled and proud of the message it conveys in regards to finding hope, finding happiness, and overcoming darkness.

12. And last one I promise. Is there going to be book 2? I mean, the ending of Emerald City suggested so, but I would like to know for certain :)

Yes!! There will definitely be a sequel, which I am in the beginning stages of writing. It will be called Sin City and will take Jude and Olivia to Las Vegas. The books will be part of a series, although I’m not exactly sure how many books in the series there will be. Right now I’m thinking 4.

Thank you for this interview and for loving my book! 

And I thank you for participating in this questionnaire! It was an honor to have you on my blog! 

You guys, if anyone has a question for Alicia, you can post them as comments and I'll forward them to her! Have an awesome week!