I don’t quite remember how I discovered Anne Osterlund, but I do know that I thought Aurelia was a rocking book, and thoroughly loved Academy 7. And interviewing her has been on my wish list for ages now. So, imagine my surprise when she emailed me, and asked if I wanted a copy of Exile (Which is out today! My review here). I jumped at the chance, and thankfully, she was able to take a few moments out from her teaching, writing, imagining, and cat-loving schedule to answer a few questions.
MF: I’ve always been curious how fantasy writers dream up their worlds. And since this book was about Aurelia discovering her country, what was the inspiration/germ for Tyralt?
AO: Tyralt is where Aurelia lives. It has always been very much as it is, in my head, at least since Robert informed me he was from the frontier in chapter 1. A country with a royal court and a frontier. A traditional monarchy and a modern education system. A vast distance between one corner of the kingdom and another. A history of tradition and a push for enlightenment. All of which lead toward . . . conflict. Which is a dynamic element within a story.
MF: Unlike Aurelia, and even though there’s adventure in it, Exile is more about an internal journey on Aurelia’s part. Why did you choose to go that route with this book?
AO: Aurelia’s journey begins in the first book, and all her actions stem from the discoveries she makes about herself and her family at the end of book one. Aurelia is about a defining and traumatic moment within her life, but it’s just that—a moment. The time span of the entire book extends for only the length of about a week and half. Exile covers a much longer period in time, allowing the characters to learn a great deal more about each other, the kingdom, and most importantly, themselves.
MF: Do you have a favorite character or scene in Exile?
AO: I’m not allowed to have favorite characters. It would start a war within my head. As for scenes, …hmm. I’m rather fond of all the frontier scenes. Probably because that is when Aurelia is the most happy. Though I love watching her and Robert fight during the first two chapters, which is rather hypocritical of me.
MF: What is the trickiest part about writing Exile?
AO: The forest. Or rather getting out of the forest. Aurelia, Robert, and I were stuck there forever This is largely Robert’s fault. He was too concerned about looking weak during the early drafts, which led to all kinds of revising, when what he really needed to do was just suck it up and let Aurelia rescue him. Though to be fair, this is also the part of the book where Aurelia has the worst time emotionally, and that is probably what really makes the forest the most difficult.
MF: The easiest?
AO: Again, the frontier scenes always read swiftly for me. I think because Aurelia enjoys herself so much while she’s there.
MF: Since you’ve written in both genres, what are the differences/similarities between writing fantasy and science fiction?
AO: LOL! That is a huge question. There are plenty of differences within writing genres (word choice and research being two of the greatest), but ultimately, in my opinion, any young adult novel comes down to knowing the characters. Aurelia, Academy 7, and Exile are all character driven. The settings and the worlds change, but the depiction of those worlds is always through the characters’ eyes. My books all star two teenagers (one guy/one girl), and those characters undergo the same challenges as any other teens. They have minds of their own. They make their own decisions and their own mistakes. They express an entire range of emotions. They get in trouble and change their minds and have the ability to grow. They don’t know everything. And they don’t know they don’t know everything. And there is always hope.
MF: You teach sixth grade, right? Does your teaching influence your writing? Why or why not?
AO: The greatest influence teaching has had on my writing career is via the school visit and presentation aspect. I have a great deal of experience setting a meaningful objective, getting my audience’s attention, and holding that attention for the duration of a lesson or presentation. Sixth graders do not tolerate boredom.
MF: Since you also have a full-time job, when do you find the time/space to write?
AO: I write all day every day I am not teaching or presenting. With the rare exception of family trips and major holidays.
MF: Do you have any special place you like writing?
AO: On the back of a half-wild stallion sprinting across the Tyralian frontier. Or in an interplanetary plane flipped upside down and scaling the side of a frozen waterfall. No, honestly I write on a couch, surrounded by papers, pencils, a thesaurus, and a dictionary. It doesn’t matter where you are when you write. It’s about where your imagination is.
MF: Who or what inspires you to write?
AO: The characters are the inspiration. Always the characters. I first met Aurelia, the heroine of Aurelia and Exile, several years ago, on a yellow notepad, when she was complaining about being stuck at a boring party with an itching ankle. Aerin from Academy 7 was removing a headband, standing in front of a mirror, and contemplating whether she could scrub away the past five years to become someone completely different. And Salva, the hero of my upcoming fourth book, was checking out the pretty girl at church. All of these characters required change. None of them could remain as they were. And change is the ultimate force within a story.
The first two scenes mentioned above are both posted on my website. Here for Aurelia and here for Aerin.
MF: What’s the last book you read and loved? And why did you love it?
AO: I just finished Rules of Attraction by Simone Elkeles, the second book in her Perfect Chemistry series. I’ve loved both these books because they pull the reader through the story. And also, I admit, because I’m always afraid they will turn out to be too much like my upcoming fourth book. And they never do.
MF: If you don’t mind telling us, what can we expect next from you?(More Aerin and Dane? Or more Aurelia and Robert? Or something completely different?)
AO: Salvation is a young adult contemporary novel scheduled for release next April. Here’s the pitch.
SALVA (Salvador) RESENDEZ is at god a Liberty High School. Quarterback. National Honor Society Member. ASB Vice President. His Mexican immigrant family has high expectations, and Salva is prepared to fulfill them—mostly—but what he really wants is to blend in with his friends and enjoy his senior year. A goal bound for destruction when an asinine requirement forces him into AP English with the teacher from hell. And with walking disaster area, BETH COURANT. Who may be his salvation. But what neither Salva nor Beth knows is that the cost of salvation is mortality.
I would love to write more about Aurelia, Robert, Aerin, and Dane! But Salvation is definitely the priority at them moment. Currently I’m wrestling my way through the first edited draft. And let me tell you, Salva definitely rivals Aurelia for stubbornness. Check out my second blog post if you don’t believe me.
MF: Thanks, Anne, for sharing your time!
AO: Thank you so much, Melissa! I hope you and your readers will come visit my website and my blog. And of course, I hope you all enjoy Aurelia and Robert’s expedition in Exile!