Books And Bites: Congratulations on the publication of “Scary Mary”! Tell me a little about it—what’s your pitch?
S. A. Hunter: Scary Mary is a novel for teens about a high school girl who hears ghosts. Mary begins her junior year of high school without high expectations. As the resident school freak, she’d just like to be left alone, but Cy Asher, a new student, befriends her. The budding friendship, though, dies when Mary discovers Cy’s house is haunted and not by Casper, The Friendly Ghost. Cy refuses to believe Mary when she tells him about the ghost. She must work without his help to exorcise the spirit, but luckily, she does get help from her best friend extrodinaire Rachel, her fortune-telling grandmother, and a dead Scottish Terrier named Chowder.
BAB: No two authors seem to take the same route to publication, but almost every author has an interesting story about their journey. Care to share yours?
S. A. Hunter: Well, I tried to go the traditional route, but couldn’t seem to get anywhere. I queried publishing houses and agents to no avail. I probably didn’t query enough, but the waiting and rejection really wears a soul down. I just wanted to get the story out there.
I finally decided to go the cyber route and give my writing away on the internet. I first got the idea when I looked at participating in Nanowrimo a few years ago. They had, I think, teamed with Blogger to get authors to post their works online as they worked on them. Blogger had articles about putting your book online, and I liked the idea. I wasn’t getting anywhere with print, and I wanted to get the story out there. Once the story was online and getting a steady stream of hits, I thought a print edition was in order. It seemed fair to think that once people read the book, they might want to purchase a hard copy. I used Lulu to offer the print edition.
BAB: How did you get the idea for your novel?
S. A. Hunter: I can’t remember now. I came up with it when I was about Mary’s age, and well, I’m a bit older than Mary now. I think it just sort of occurred to me and then I wrote at least six different drafts, and things changed with each draft. The basic story and Mary never changed, but the published story and the first draft are very different from each other.
BAB: Do you have another book in the works?
S. A. Hunter: Yes! I have a sequel that I’m currently posting online in serial fashion. It’s called Stalking Shadows. It is only available online at this time. The address is http://stalkingshadows.sahunter.net and is free to read.
I also have another story online called Unicorn Bait. I hope to offer a print edition in the next year maybe, either through Lulu or a small press.
BAB: Your current novel, Scary Mary, is marketed as a young adult novel. Did you originally set out to write a YA novel?
S. A. Hunter: Yes, I knew that it would be a YA novel. With the main character being a high school student, I knew that it would interest those in a similar age group or younger. I’m a huge fan of the genre. I still read YA novels. I think Maxim Gorky had it absolutely right, “You must write for children the same way you write for adults, only better.” I don’t know if I’m writing better, but I aspire to.
BAB: How did you get the inspiration for Mary, Cy, Vicky, Rachel, Chowder, and Ricky/etc?
S. A. Hunter: Each character sort of just comes to me. The main character comes first. I have a strong sense of who he or she is from the beginning, but then the plot dictates the other characters, and as I figure out the plot and write the story, the characters develop alongside. I do often model characters after people I know or have people I know in mind when writing a story. In early drafts of Scary Mary, some of the characters actually shared names with the people I modeled them after. Little known fact, almost every character in the story has been renamed at least once, some multiple times, except Mary and Ricky.
Mary was modeled after me a little, but I injected her with traits I admired like a strong sense of self and the courage to stand up for herself. Cy was originally planned as be the ideal type boyfriend, but that couldn’t work precisely with the plot. I had to struggle to give him an actual personality. I must admit that I thought of Cordelia Chase of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame when developing Vicky, though that archetype of the mean popular girl is prevalent everywhere. I had to deal with my share of Vickys and Cordelias in high school. Rachel is the best friend everyone wants. She’s sassy, loyal, and completely supportive. Chowder was originally planned to be a way to inject another supernatural element into the story and then he became integral and a part of the family. He’s a very persistent little dog.
BAB: Who is your favorite character? Why?
S. A. Hunter: Mary is my favorite. She’s the heart of the story. If I don’t love her and want to write about her, then the story is dead in the water.
BAB: When did you know you wanted to become a writer?
S. A. Hunter: I discovered writing when I was in fifth grade when my teacher had us start writing stories in class. We would write stories, and she would look them over and correct grammar and spelling. I loved it. It was about this time that I discovered reading too. We read The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe and I couldn’t get enough. Reading that story and realizing I could write one like it was a light bulb moment for me.
BAB: In writing, Scary Mary, what was your most surprising discovery?
S. A. Hunter: I’m not sure. I’ve worked on Scary Mary for so long that it became a very real part of my life. I learned a lot about storytelling, plotting, and characterization. It was the first long story I’d ever written.
BAB: What’s your writing routine? Do you write in the mornings, nights, daily, or when the mood strikes you?
S. A. Hunter: I’ve found that posting my writing online really pushes me to produce. When readers are expecting a chapter every week, it really helps me get to work. Before, I would let myself not write for months. Now, I don’t have that luxury, and I’m glad I don’t.
I don’t have a set routine. Right now, I try to dedicate time on the days that I’m off work to writing the next installment. I set a goal of about five pages and work to produce those. If I get five pages, I’m done. I need that goal in sight to write.
BAB: What experience did you have with your publisher? Good? Bad?
S. A. Hunter: I am my own publisher. I went through Lulu, which has a pretty severe learning curve, but I had basic control of everything. Years ago, I’d purchased a global distribution package for Scary Mary and only recently used it, but seeing my book listed on Amazon and Barnes and Noble is pretty cool.
BAB: If you had to pick one author as your favorite, who would it be?
S. A. Hunter: I’ve always loved Tanith Lee. I especially love her science fiction. I wish she wrote more of it. She writes about people in the future. Not ‘the future’. The best way I can describe it would be like comparing Firefly to Star Trek. Star Trek is very much about ‘the future’ and showing the advancements. I like Star Trek, but Firefly was much more about how people live in the future.
BAB: Finally, thank you for taking part in this interview. Before you go, what message would you like to send to your fans?
S. A. Hunter: Thank you for your support. It means a great deal to me. I wouldn’t be half the writer I am today without you. Your comments and questions give me so much food for thought. Writing in a vacuum is not nearly as much fun or as challenging as writing for an audience. Thanks.
You can also check out the book here.