Welcome! Today we have a special event: an interview with J.R. Sparlin, a fellow author in the Timeless anthology from Pugalicious Press, as well as a chance to win a free copy of the anthology (details at the bottom of this page).
Q: Congratulations on the publication of your story in the Timeless anthology! I love the concept of “The Angel of the Bastille.” What inspired you to write in this era, and this particular story?
A: I came home from work one day and I was tired and rather gloomy, and thinking about how people used to go to prison for debt. and that was when prisons were really awful. The first line of the story popped into my head. It doesn’t even make sense grammatically, but it intrigued me. Then the rest of the story showed up. The Bastille is such an archetype of suffering; I may have used it because I read A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett many times, and it uses the Bastille as a metaphor throughout.
Q: I don’t want to spoil the story for anyone, but I want to say how much I love how the themes of hope and perseverance link with love and contribute to the path of the story. Are these themes you had hoped to bring to the reader when you started writing, or did the story develop organically as it came to life?
A: I pretty much knew what was going to happen. But when the story came to me it was much darker and I wasn’t sure about the end. It was so dark, in fact, that I didn’t want to write it at all. I knew it wasn’t going to leave me alone, so I just tried to write it and let it be what it was, and it turned out, to me, to be more about redemption than anything else. The dark elements are still there, but there is light too, and I’m happy with how it turned out. I have actually written several stories like that, where the initial idea is horrible and dark but it grows into something more hopeful.
Q: There are actually so many things I love about your story: questions of perception and reality and sanity, among them. The story has some very meaty, chewy concepts to present to teens (and it is done very well!). Is writing for the teen audience your first love, or have you written for other age groups as well?
A: I’m so glad you like the story! I’ve read Hamlet many, many times, and I think some of Hamlet’s core struggles (am I mad or aren’t I?) made their way into the character of Jacques. (Please understand I am not comparing my writing to Hamlet in any other way!)
As far as the audience — I enjoy writing for children, teens, and adults. My favorite books to read tend to be classic children’s books that are beloved by all ages. Actually, I don’t tend to consider the age of my audience when I’m writing, except in the most general way. I just write it, and then try to see where it fits. This is probably not recommended or efficient. To be completely honest, I did not perceive this story to be a “teen story” when I first wrote it. It was just a story. Later I saw the call for submissions for this anthology, and looked through my manuscripts to see if I had anything to send. It occured to me that yes, this is a story about young adults, so I sent it and was so pleased when it was accepted. If it speaks to teens, I will be very happy. Teens are a tough, critical, and savvy audience.
A: I have written lots and lots of peoms and short stories, some of which are published, most of which are not. I do have a very exciting event on the horizon. I was the recipient of the inaugural 2012 Clare Vanderpool Work of Promise Scholarship, awarded by the Kansas chapter of the Society of Children’s Books Writers and Ilustrators. I get to go to the KS SCBWI conference for free this fall. I won for my unpublished middle-grade novel, The Court Wizard. I am always working on more stuff.
A: I wrote my first story when I was four. I dictated it to my mother. It was about alligators in the grass. I have a creative family and reading and writing have always been a part of me, as well as other art forms like ballet, theatre, and music.
My mother taught me to see the world. On car trips she told me to look at the scenery, and she wasn’t just trying to shut me up. She wanted me to see the trees and the grass and the sky. My dad used to write quite a bit, and he taught me a lot about language and grammar (he’s the only person with whom I can have a really good conversation about grammar!) When I was a kid there were always Writers Markets and journalism textbooks lying around, and I read them. I think that gave me a big advantage later.
A: Oh wow. Advice to teens.
Being a teenager is so difficult. Everything is so new and sharp, and you don’t know what you’re doing half the time, and so you make mistakes, and it’s so painful. Actually I read the Bible a lot, and that helped. I also hung out with my friends and we swam and ate noodles and watched Top Gun and Blazing Saddles and laughed and laughed. I don’t know if that’s relevant. If you can find something to ground you, whether it be your faith or family or friends, or writing or playing soccer, I think it helps. You have to respect the person you are and that you are becoming.
And now for that chance to win a FREE copy of the Timeless anthology (in either Kindle or Nook format)! You can get up to three chances to WIN by following the steps blow.
First, start by commenting on this post. That automatically gives you a chance to win!
You can get up to two more entries into the lottery by simply passing along the link to this article either by (1) Liking my page on Facebook and Sharing the copy of this post that is there and/or (2) by Tweeting the following:
Interview with J.R. Sparlin and a chance to WIN a free copy of the #Timeless anthology from #PugaliciusPress! http://wp.me/p2nuWB-2O
Comment back here with links to let me know that you’ve Shared and/or Tweeted the article, and you’ll get an entry for each that you’ve completed! This contest will remain open until Wednesday, 8/8/2012, at Noon EDT. Good luck!