Award winning author, LJ Evans enjoys binge reading, binge watching and binge writing. She is routinely inspired by music and will pull over the car to write a book scene when a particular song strikes her imagination. Her my life as an album series debuted in 2017 inspired by old Taylor Swift songs. As our Author of the Day, Evans tells us all about it.
Please give us a short introduction to what my life as a country album is about.
My life as a country album is about Cam who was born into Jake's life. Her mama even says that he willed her into existence. But the truth is, she feels he belongs to her as much as she belongs to him. She's not only a tomboy but is so impulsive that she would probably qualify her for ADHD meds if her family believed in that sort of thing. Bottom line is that she doesn't let anything get in the way of the things she wants, even if its Jake himself. She won't stop until he's completely hers in every way. Even though he's three years older than her and often on adventures that she's too young for, she finds ways to force him to see her. And he does. But, the downside is that Cam has never wanted anything for herself more than Jake. He's been her whole world. So what happens when that world comes crashing down?
In which way is this a coming of age story?
This story starts literally at the beginning of Cam and Jake’s lives. It tells the story of how they grow and change and mature together from sports addicted little kids to angst-filled tweens, and crazy high schoolers. It’s about the feelings and doubts and successes you have as you go through each of those stages of your life and how you deal with them. And for Jake and Cam, it’s about how each of those stages finds them tied closer and closer together.
What music did you listen to while writing this book?
This entire novel was inspired by Taylor Swift albums, especially all the albums up to and including her Red album. Each chapter title was named after one of Taylor's songs. My daughter and I were going to see her concert, and we had the songs on repeat in the car for about a month. “Mary’s Song” came on and I got this vision of Jake and Cam (names and all) in my head. After that, each song spoke to me about these two kids and how they grew up in each other’s pockets and what happened in their lives. I feel like Taylor’s songs truly wrote this book. Crazy, but true.
Spotify playlist: http://bit.ly/2MLaaCAlje
Above: I was excited beyond belief when I got the first set of my book with the award on the cover. I’m thrilled that The Independent Author Network picked my novel as the 2017 Outstanding Young Adult Book of the Year.
Did you plan right from the start to make this into a series? How do the other books in the series tie in with this one?
I had no intention of making this a series when I wrote it. In fact, I didn’t even plan to publish it. I was just doing my normal hobby thing of writing as “an escape”. My amazing older sister would NOT STOP bugging me until I put it out into the world, which is why its release was so quiet. I had no idea what I was doing. After I’d had a lot more people read it, they would talk to me about the characters they liked best and how they wanted to know more about them. So, the series came into being. I want the books to be able to be read as standalones, but each of them will have one or two characters from the first book who then get their own, hopefully, HEA.
Between teaching 1st grade, managing a family and cats - how do you make time to write?
I have to be honest, finding time is difficult. I know lots of authors who say you have to write EVERYDAY. And for me, that just doesn’t work. I have too many other things pulling at me. But, I do find myself taking lots of notes and scribbling down ideas when they hit me, and then when I do get time, mostly on the weekends, I get to put it all together. It’s almost a reward for me. I got through the week, and now I get to do this wonderful thing called writing!
What, would you say, makes childhood best friends and young sweethearts so endearing?
The number one thing that people told me after reading Cam and Jake’s story is that it took them back to their own tween and teen years. They’ve lived those emotions. Didn’t we all have that first crush and that one boy (or girl) that we would have done anything to have noticed us? I think that adding on top of that someone who has known you your entire life and gets where you come from and all that you’ve been through adds a layer of depth to the relationship. It allows us to root for them on a deeper level because they’ve always been together. We don’t want them to ever be apart.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
I’m a stand-up comedian. Ha! I wish. No, comedy is definitely not my strong suit, I routinely have to ask my hubby, “Is this funny?” when I attempt it. I do love to draw (nothing that I’d share), and can make a mean scrapbook album. Oh, and I can order from Amazon like no one you’ve seen before, does that count as a secret skill?
Above: I’m not there yet, but I really want this to be true. I want to know that I can make art out of my mistakes. So, these words are an inspiration to me.
Readers describe the book as heart-wrenching - was it your intention to evoke such intense feelings?
In the beginning, I knew some of the emotions I wanted to evoke in the story. That feeling that, “there is only this one person in the whole world that will ever fit me,” and what happens when that’s gone, but I didn’t know how it was all going to turn out. I’m truly honored that I’ve been able to make readers feel at the depths they’ve told me they have. Even though Jake and Cam were in my heart and never leave me, I didn’t know that others would have that same reaction. I thought it was because they were my creation. It’s humbling and exciting and also incredibly nerve wracking to know that people have had the reactions they’ve had to this story.
Your characters are very relatable and feel real. How did you pull this off? Were they inspired by any real people?
I think they were inspired by real feelings and situations, some from my own past, and some from my daughter’s experiences. And, truthfully, Cam does have a little bit to her that is very much like one of my student’s that I had in my class when I was teaching 4th grade. That little girl will always be special to me.
Do you have any interesting writing habits? What is an average writing day like for you?
For some reason, I get most of my ideas in the shower or in the car listening to a certain song. I thought that was strange, but lots of my writer friends tell me that happens to them too, so at least I know I’m not the crazy in the house. I take gobs of notes on stickies at school, on my phone, in a notebook, random papers. And then I have to put it all together in a document so I don’t lose them. The other day, I was like, I know I wrote this down. I had a whole scene that I wanted and couldn’t find. I wasted twenty minutes scouring everything, only to realize it was sitting in the notebook right next to me. Ugh. When I do get time to write, I write for hours in a sitting. I can easily forget to eat or drink. I’m really absorbed with what I’m doing and living in that story. My family usually has to shout at me several times before I come back to the real world.
Above: I don’t have an “amazing” writing space like some people. Instead, I have the couch, a TV tray, and typically one to three cat editors who “help” me along.
Your readers report that you kept them up through the night, at the edge of their seats. How did you manage this?
Honestly? I wish I knew. I’m terrified it was a one-time thing. I do read a lot so I know what I like and don’t like. And, I try to see everything in my head as if it were a movie while I’m writing it. If I can’t see it, I can’t write it. When I’m done, I read the whole book out loud. Several times because I want it to read smoothly. I want it to be like your best friend is telling you this thing that happened to her/him. That’s my goal anyway. I don’t always achieve it. But I try.
Above:Another reminder to myself, to just be me and write what I can write with all my experiences, and hopefully that will be enough.
What was your greatest challenge when writing this book?
The thing that was hardest for me is that Cam is not me. She’s probably my polar opposite. So, I had to keep editing things that weren’t how she should react but rather how I would react. Some of my first readers helped me a lot with that. After it was done, the greatest challenge was having the confidence to put it out into the world. It’s still a challenge.
What are you working on right now?
My final edits for the second book, my life as a pop album, are eating me alive at the moment, but I’m also working on Seth Carmen’s story. He’s the bad boy from the “I Knew You Were Trouble” chapter of my life as a country album. His first draft was actually done before the one I’m releasing, but he wasn’t ready yet. He’s being difficult, typical Seth.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
THANK YOU for interviewing me as your Author of the Day. I’m thrilled to be able to talk with you and share more about my stories and my writing. I haven’t quite got it into my head yet that I am a “real author”, so thank you for helping me along that journey.
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