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Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Interview with Amber Kizer, Author of Meridian

Today I'd like to welcome author Amber Kizer who stopped by to talk about her upcoming novel Meridian, her menagerie of animals, love of cooking and much more! Let's get started.

1. In Meridian, the title character is a half-angel, half-human intermediary whose purpose is to transition dying souls into the afterlife. Being that this novel is heavily immersed in issues of death and religion, what type of research did you have to do?

I didn’t set out to write a paranormal story and fit all the bits around that. This book is very close to my heart--the idea came from sitting vigil as my grandparents died (about 18 months apart). They both had very different dying experiences, though in both cases, as a family, we chose to work with a wonderful hospice organization (St. Vincent’s Inpatient Hospice Care, in Indianapolis, IN).

With everything in life, I like to know as much as possible so I read and did a bunch of research on dying, the physical process itself, the psychological process, and people's near-death experiences. Titles I’d recommend to anyone interested are: DYING WELL, FINAL GIFTS, and HOW WE DIE.

For this story, I wanted to explore the idea that the "light" people talk about as they die is an actual person and what that might mean. For the story, Meridian looks like just a girl, until a soul is dying and then she becomes the bright light, the window they can take to the afterlife, the next step.

What if everyday of a person's life was that of being a window to beyond? I wanted to give a face to death that wasn't the Reaper's, wasn't something out of nightmares. And saying "God" is there in death doesn't say much--what does that mean really? How does that look?

And from a science aspect we’re all energy. Where does that energy go? And isn't a soul of any animal or plant worthy energy? How does that look? How does that fit with the major religions and cultural norms?

And I also wanted to explore some organized religion as fear based--the idea that people hide behind religion because they're afraid or upset or angry. How does that twist what can be profound and comforting in faith? The mob mentality is so easy to manipulate if you're good at it--I wanted a character (Perimo) who was good at it and used it. I’ve always been interested in all religions, and how they shape people’s ideas of faith and how to live. For this particular book, I read the entire BIBLE several times, since that is the text that Perimo exploits and misuses, plus commentary and religious theory. There was also cultural research on death and dying as dealt with in religions of the world.

Of course readers don’t have to know any of that—but that’s where I came up with the question I tried to answer in this book!

2. Meridian is the first book in what promises to be an exciting new series. Have you always known how the series will be plotted out, or are creating it as you write it?

I do both plotting and fluid writing—so I know the big ideas of the series and where it’s going, but if I get a sense of something I need to change or explore, I go with that, too!

3. Meridian is your third novel to date. How does this experience compare with writing the Gert Garibaldi's Rants and Raves series? Did this book take longer to do?

That’s comparing apples and oranges honestly. My process is similar but where Gert is funny and realistic, she’s also on a lighter emotional plain than Meridian (as far as the writing goes). Meridian is much darker and took a heavier toll on me to write. No, we were on a very tight timeline with MERIDIAN.

4. In Meridian, souls use “Fenestra” like Meridian as their doorway into the afterlife unless they are captured by dark forces called “Aternocti”. But what happens if they are not collected by either of the two- do they become reincarnated perhaps?

You’ve just asked one of the “big” questions in the series! Yes, recycling energy (reincarnation) is definitely one piece of the puzzle.

5. If there was one single message that you want readers to take away from Meridian, what would that be?

I hope every reader finds something in my stories that speaks to them personally. Readers bring their own experiences to a book which is what makes it such a subjective art form, and so satisfying as the creator. I hope readers have a good time, ideally can’t put it down, and are sad when it’s over!

6. What are the best and worst things about being an author?

I started writing after a diagnosis of a rare nerve disorder that effects my legs—in short they don’t always work properly, but I’m always in some level pain (from background music to full blown jet engine). I needed a career that I can do with flexibility—at the good time of day even if that’s 3AM or on the couch with my legs elevated. So the best part for me is being able to have a career in spite of, or even because of, my legs.

The worst part is that there isn’t enough of me to go around!

7. Do you have any writing habits or little quirks that you implement when you sit down to work on a novel?

I definitely have ways I get into the zone faster and stay in a book longer. I light scented candles that are specific to each project. Gert’s books are Hazlenut Coffee, MERIDIAN is fir and pine scents. One book I’m working on is a candle that smells like grape bubblegum. The adult romances are all a Buttercream scent. The wrong scent can make me nauseous if it’s not right for the book, but getting the right one really does the trick for me. Of course, this means I’m always sniffing candles when I’m out shopping—see candles? See Amber snorting up the fragrances!

I also have project specific playlists for music. Gert’s books tend to be very pop, very teen drama music. MERIDIAN was a lot of Celtic rock and folk. A band called Great Big Sea was in heavy rotation while I was writing that one. At the moment I have a Rat Pack playlist for one book and a metal list for another. It keeps my brain centered and focused and let’s me get into the story and stay there like the candles. Of course, this means I’m always listening to new bands and new music—I love finding obscure or unknown groups that really work for a book, or international music that I wouldn’t hear otherwise.

I do a lot of quilting and baking and gardening—all these things are part of my process of writing—I’m writing even when it looks like I’m pulling weeds or painting fondant!

8. On your website you discuss your “Noah’s Ark” at home which includes two dogs, two cats and fifteen pairs of chickens – how do all these animals get along with one another and is one in particular your favorite?

I do love animals—some days much more than I like people!!! The interesting part is that there’s a definite fluidity to the animals in the house, the normal aging and dying for the mammals and predation for the fowl. So at the moment, we have one dog, three cats, a rooster and five hens.

Just this week I lost a chicken to a coyote. We let the chickens wander the property (though they have a very nice place to sleep at night) so they do get eaten by raptors and other predators every once in a while. I really love having the chickens around—they have a wonderful energy and inquisitiveness about them. Don’t let anyone tell you that chickens are dumb—they’re not and they have a very cool language.

As to how they all get along, well I can’t explain it but they do. In fact the dog (Lacey), has learned the rooster’s (Hunk) alert calls for coyotes and she responds to protect them. The cats know Hunk’s call too and race to the house if they’re outside when a predator is around. The cats leave the chickens alone—even when a hen is raising chicks! I don’t understand it, but I think it’s probably because they have human scent on them. Maybe, that’s just my theory.

The chickens know that Lacey isn’t a threat to them—even playing fetch in the yard, the chickens aren’t fazed by a racing black lab following a tennis ball!

It just works. I even had a pet turkey for three years—her name was Tom (we were told she was a boy until she started laying eggs!) and she looked after everybody. I miss my turkey.

Which usually brings us to the question of, “If you love animals so much, are you a vegan?” And I have to say no, I love meat, chicken, fish—I need the protein to feel good--but I believe that they all deserve the best life they can have before they are butchered. I don’t think it’s an either or proposition.

9. You are an accomplished baker and have made some truly artistic and beautiful cakes that readers can check out on your website. But have you ever had a really horrible baking mishap in the kitchen where a recipe went REALLY wrong?

Thank you! I love creating with food. I’ve never set the kitchen on fire or blown up the microwave or had a cake jump off the table and try to take over the world—I think people put too much pressure on themselves when it comes to cooking and baking. It’s just food—no one is going to die if the cake falls or the soup is too salty. Just play with it and worst case scenario have a frozen pizza and ice cream in the freezer—that way it takes all the pressure off! I’ve certainly had recipe mishaps—when I was a very young baker I made up pie crust and pie filling recipes—those weren’t edible, but it was fun and I learned from them. Cooking is a skill like shooting hoops or playing the piano—the more you do it, the better you get!

10. Can you tell us about what projects you are currently working on now?

I’m always working on multiple projects—in this case several YA novels (the next Fenestra book and a lethal pandemic), a picture book, two adult romances, non-fiction projects about chickens, cakes, and religion (three separate books!), plus a historical that is stewing in my brain. That’s the most I can say though, I am one of those writers who doesn’t talk much about works in progress—it messes with the mojo until I get it on the page!

11. Is there anything else you would like to add?

Thanks for the interview! I do want to mention that I love hearing from readers and do respond to all my mail—I can’t promise it’ll be quick--so if you have something to say, I want to hear it!

Also, readers can find me online in a variety of places: Facebook, Goodreads and my own sites: AmberKizer.com, Onebuttcheek.com, MeridianSozu.com—I have a monthly newsletter that readers can sign up for—it’s got exclusive contests, information and sneak peeks before anyone else! Plus it’s a hodge podge of my favorite books of the moment, great recipes for the bakers out there, websites I find and love plus answers to questions sent in by readers. And I promise it doesn’t come out more than once a month!

Thank you Amber for taking the time to stop by!

Be sure to check out Meridian which will be in stores August 11th 2009!


celi.a said...

It's interesting to hear how Kizer came to writing (as a profession), and how she came up with the concept of this book and series. I always wonder what motivates people to write paranormal. Great interview!

Jessica Secret said...

I always love to read author interviews. Being an aspiring writer myself, I love to hear what they have to say. Awesome interview!


donnas said...

Great interview. Very interesting. Thanks!!

Trista said...

Very good interview! I can't wait to read Meridian! Sounds like a really good book and I'm excited that it will be a series. :)

Juju said...

Great interview! I love that she's a meat eater that loves animals like me.
I look forward to reading this book.


Kristen said...

WOw! How moving that she started thinking of the book when her grandparents died. To think that those thoughts led her to this amazing looking book. It just amazes me sometimes to see what has prompted authors to write what they do.

Fantastic Book Review said...

I really enjoyed this interview! It's amazing to see what inspires authors to write. I can't wait to read this book!

Sab H. said...

I'll have to check out her other books too. Great Interview!

jpetroroy said...

Loved hearing about her inspiration. Great interview.

Book ♥ Soulmates said...

Great interview! It's unfortunate that she has to live w/ that nerve disorder, but it's inspiring that she turned it into something positive :)

It was also interesting to read of how Meridian, the story, was born. Death, although scary in itself, is fascinating and she offers one more idea on what the process could be like.


Margay said...

This sounds like a truly innovative series. thank you for sharing the inspiration behind it - I love to read about how authors come up with ideas for books. The creative process is such a mystery, sometimes!

Jessica Kennedy said...

Great interview! I learned a ton about her! :)

Sad to see loved ones pass away. Too sad. Glad she found a career that offers her flexibility with her nerve disease. I imagine that would be a difficult obstacle with any other career.

Looking forward to reading this!

Kristen said...

Just wanted to let you know I have an award for you:


Llehn said...

Great post! I love insights as to what makes an author tick!


I loved the interview! I can't wait to read this book...

Valorie said...

It's amazing to create something out of tragedy. It really gives you time to reflect, though.


Sara said...

That cake looked like it could be on Food Network!

The background story to Meridian was very intense! I had no idea!

kalea_kane said...

Fabulous interview. What a talented woman! I envy her menagerie of animals. We had turkeys when I was a kid, but they were huge and chased me around a lot. :)

Adrienne said...

Very nice interview, and I really want to read her books. That's so sad about her rare nerve disorder in her legs : (

Wrighty said...

What a fascinating person! The concept for Meridian is so touching and clever. It's sad that it came from the loss of her grandparents but it sounds brilliant and I can't wait to read it. I love how she uses the same candles and music as well when she writes. Great interview!!

~The Book Pixie said...

Oh, look at the doggie! I didn't realize Meridian was going to be a series. lol. I wanna read all her books. She sounds really cool.


Kate said...

Thanks for the fantastic interview!

gaby317 said...

Great interview! I enjoyed hearing about her writing process and how she tricks herself to get productive faster. The candles in particular were interesting.

She's so focused and productive - baking, gardening as well.

gaby317nyc at gmail dot com

Ashley said...

Awesome interview! I love hearing from authors.
I still haven't read One Buttcheek At A Time. And I didn't know there was a sequel!

Shawna said...

Shawna Lewis

I think it is really nest how something as sad as a death of a loved one can be turned around for the positive in writing this book. How amazing thanks for the review/interview

Jenn said...

Great interview. :)
To tell the truth, I've always been afraid of the dark, death, and the unknown, so I think it'd be really interesting to see the opposite side of that. It's nice to know there's hope out there.

CherylS22 said...

It' interesting that each book was written with a specific scent of candle to create Amber's writing environment. Thanks for the interview!

Book Sp(l)ot said...

I loved reading her answer about her animals and I think I'm going to have to check out her website some now--thank you for this inteview :)

Beleth said...

Didn't know the author, thanks for the interview it was very interesting :D

Megan said...

What a great interview. I love reading what authors have to say about how they come up with their ideas for each novel.

Shakespeare's Muse said...

Lovely questions! I really enjoyed this interview. :-)