Coffee Talk: Ann Hunter

By: Ann Hunter

1. How did you get published? Please share your own personal journey.

First let me begin that I won't pretend to be a great intellect or sophisticated to any degree during this interview because that's not me. I'm goofy and fiercely loyal, and I don't have one of those internal filter thingies that tells you that you probably shouldn't say certain things.

I was 12 the first time one of my stories was professionally published. As our project for 6th grade English, we had to write and illustrate a short story. My English teacher flunked my little book. My reading teacher noticed I was pretty down about it and read it. Then he passed it to the librarian who also read it. She then gave it to the 8th grade English teacher, who happened to be a traditionally published author. She read it and brought it to the principal's attention. He read it and and the next thing I knew, I was in the newspaper. The story was published and I was interviewed, photographed, and everything. I was also removed from the English teacher I was under and placed into a different class. I guess it was a good little story because it went on to get a couple of local awards. I just kept writing stories from there on out. I had written 20 novels by age 16. My mom thought I should be sending them out to agents, but I didn't think they were ready. I got burnt out by age 18 and took a several-year hiatus. Gradually the urge to write returned to me. I put out a few feelers to agents when I thought I finally had something respectable, but wasn't overly disappointed when I got standard rejection letters. I knew I was on to something when one agent wrote a personal note back to me to say they thought The Subtle Beauty was very good, but that it wasn't a good fit for her firm. She encouraged me to keep looking. The ebook revolution was beginning. I did a lot of studying. I had to decide if I wanted to make a career of it and try to support my family, or just see a couple of paperbacks with my name on it, spine out, desperately waiting to be noticed in some brick and mortar store that may or may not be there in a few years. The choice became very clear. I worked with an editor for two years on The Subtle Beauty, bought my own ISBNs, and self published it.

2. What was your inspiration for writing "The Subtle Beauty?"

It was either fall of 2010 or 2011, and NaNoWriMo was fast approaching. I had no ideas. Literally NONE. My daughter was watching Disney’s Beauty & The Beast when it hit me. That was it. I wanted to write Beauty & The Beast. I had to make it my own, though. I love writing characters who are their own worst enemy. My protagonist, Glory, was not the first character I’ve written where I purposely wanted the reader to sort of hate her. I wanted her to be the girl that you love to hate but then hate to love. Another tidbit about me: I’m half Irish. It partially explains my craziness. I’m loud and nutty when I get to know you (not unlike Donkey from Shrek. By the way, I LOVE the movie and musical versions of Shrek! I cried like an idiot when they revealed the princess was an ogre and how she felt was exactly how I grew up feeling, but I digress). I knew I wanted to learn more about my Irish ancestry, so I used this opportunity to incorporate Celtic mythology into my retelling of Beauty & The Beast. The result was an insulting gryphon, wild donestres, and hungry barghests.

3. What do you find is the most challenging part of being an author?

Time management. I'm a mom first and a writer second. It's hard to concentrate on writing when you have two busy kids under the age of 6 who are finding all sorts of ways to cause chaos. I call my one-year-old Hurricane Annee for a reason. Writing daily is a real challenge. Life happens. Sometimes by the end of the day I just want to curl up with a book, unwind, and go to sleep. I completed a new novel during NaNoWrimo 2013 and it taught me that I CAN write daily, even with kids and a busy schedule. I have no excuses. But that doesn’t stop me some nights from grunting, “I don’t wanna!”

4. What do you find is the best part of being an author?

My 5-year-old tells me she wants to write books when she grows up. She's constantly illustrating her own stories. You know you're doing something right when your #1 fan is in the same room with you.

5. What is ONE thing that you have done that brought you more readers?

*Guiltily* Spammed Goodreads and Facebook. True story. When you're just starting out, you "gotta do what you gotta do", right? Feel free to friend me! I always post as I would to a friend though so that it doesn't come across like a used car salesman. I update my friends on how The Subtle Beauty is selling, what I'm currently working on, little snippets from the work in progress, and so on.

6. What's one thing that your readers would be surprised to know about you?

I have a secret identity. I've even been asked by a stewardess if I was the secret agent on the flight!

7. What are your top 3 tips for writing a great read?

I don't know that I've ever written a great read. I know people generally enjoy reading what I write, but I'm no Hemingway or Keats.

*Don't be afraid to take risks with your characters. If you're not nervous and freaking out just a little bit, then you might want to try upping your game a bit. Write the things you know as well as what makes you uncomfortable, because that is where your true heart lies. Besides, if it doesn't pan out, there's this little thing called editing & revision.

*Keep your descriptions light. Expect your readers to be intelligent. All you need is just a suggestion of the details. Your reader will flesh in the rest. For example: I like to work on my novel in my bedroom. The black comforter on the bed is rumpled over red jersey sheets. It faces the bathroom. The door to it is an ugly, dark-brown faux wood pattern that guards a bathroom which literally defines the term water closet. The paneling inside is perpetually stuck in the 1960s. The walls of our bedroom are a shade of white called Grace's Smile. We got it when I was pregnant with our first child who we named Grace. Two Hanna-Barbera cell paintings hang on the wall. Now, based on that, you can probably picture my entire room. I didn't have to tell you how lush the sheets felt (telling you that they're the jersey fabric kind did that), or that I hate my bathroom so much that I refuse to use it ("ugly" and "closet" should have hinted there), but you know that this room is a happy and enjoyable place to be because I've shown you the paint color with my daughter's name, and cartoons hang on the wall. But I'm hoping most writers know that. It's pretty basic stuff. You don't need to carry on with purple prose to make a place memorable. Though if I've given you some magical insight, I'm glad.

*Work with a professional editor and turn out the best product that you possibly can. Don't aim for perfect because it can become the enemy of good. No one is perfect. Keep writing. Keep dreaming. Keep working at it. Compare next year's stories to the ones you wrote this year. You'll realize your feelings of inadequacy are misplaced because if you consistently keep at it, you're going to be a stronger storyteller than you are now.

8. Who is one author you'd love to have dinner with and what would you order?

Just one? You're no fun. Don't you realize how awkwardly cool it would be to have Marion Zimmer Bradley and George R.R. Martin at the same table? (Shhh! I know Marion's dead, but this is my fantasy, and you asked the question). And then Gregory Maguire would totally walk by. I'd completely geek out, but I wouldn't have the nerve to ask him join us for a drink, because I'm just me and already pretty starstruck by George & Marion. I'd expect it to be an upscale restaurant because I'm sitting with two of the fantasy novel greats. I'd order prime rib, cuz, hey, 5-star restaurant. I'd also get a cherry soda with chocolate ice cream or a brown cow.

About the Author

Ann Hunter wrote her first multi-award winning story at age 12. She is the author of the young adult fantasy novels The Subtle Beauty, Moonlight, The Rose In The Briar, and Ashes. The Subtle Beauty is her first novel-length story to be published. She likes cherry soda with chocolate ice cream, is a mom first and a writer second, has a secret identity, and thinks the Twilight movies are cheesier than cheez whiz (which is why they are her guilty pleasure!) She lives in a cozy Utah home with her two awesome kids and epic husband.