Saturday, August 22, 2009
Amber Kizer Interview + Giveaway
I have an interview and guest post for you from Amber Kizer, the author of Meridian. I'm sorry for the delay in getting these posted, but again, my computer was a bit messed up and I have a lot that needs to go up these days. You get extra entries for commenting on the guest post but more details on the giveaway below the interview.
Interview with Amber Kizer
•Have you always been interested in writing a novel like Meridian, with a mix of paranormal/fantasy elements? When or how did the idea first come to you (if you remember!)?
As a reader I've always loved books that use our reality but are tweaked-whether by magic or because there are more levels to life than what most people experience. But, 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.
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.
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!
•I love the names of characters, especially if they are unique. Where did Meridian come from and does it mean anything in particular?
Character names are very important to me and usually that's one of the first things I know about a story-who is in it and what are they called? I knew Meridian's name from the very beginning, but it wasn't until we got to know each other (sounds strange to non-writers I know!) that I realized her name has all sorts of levels to it. Meridian can mean a midpoint like midday. It can also be the center of an object. It's used when talking about the longitude of Earth. In Chinese medicine Meridians are the energy pathways used in acupuncture. So it can have many connotations-what the reader should take from that is that our Meridian is caught-she lives-in the middle of life and death.
Actually all the characters in this book have names that "mean" something to me as the writer and might resonate with readers who like to dissect deeper levels in a story.
Tens, the male lead, is a Protector and as such knows things about Meridian that he doesn't really know how he knows. His full name is Tenskawtawa and comes from a Shawnee religious and political leader from the 18th century. He was Tecumseh's brother and he was also known as "The Prophet". With our Tens's backstory, and gifts, I knew it was the perfect choice and it felt right.
Also to find Fenestra and Aternocti, I played with all sorts of different languages and took inspiration from Latin primarily. I wanted names that could be pronounced even without knowing the meaning but here's my definition of both:
Fenestra is a human with Angel DNA that is triggered if they are born at midnight on December 21st. Fenestras are "Windows to the Afterlife"-they literally become windows for dying souls to get to the good place (call it Heaven or Enlightenment or Nirvana).
Aternocti are "Dark Nights," also human with Angel DNA of a different nature. As they are corrupted they lose their humanness, but Aternocti thrive on disaster, fear, destruction, and cruelty. They shepherd souls to a bad place (call it Hell or ignorance or the Underworld).
•On the cover, there is a design of skulls in the back that seems to lead into a door. I was wondering if this has any meaning for the book or was simply added by the illustrator? And if it does have a meaning, anything you can share?
Isn't that the coolest cover? And the metallic additions they've added make it glow in the sunlight. I'm so impressed by the designer's vision and the artist's interpretation. And if you take a look at the cover, the girl is a painting. She's not a real girl, she's the artist's idea what Meridian looks like based on my description in the book.
Meridian is a Fenestra-a Window to the afterlife---so the door behind her is a window like what she becomes for the dying. The skulls are a hint that where there is a good, there is also evil. Everything on this cover is found in the book-even red roses--I'm very lucky-readers know what they're getting when they pick it up!
•You love to bake, which is amazing. I really wish I could but I wouldn't exactly trust me in the kitchen. If you could make any kind of cake (the dream design if you will) what would that be? Also, would you ever want to see your book cover on a cake (or have you already)?
Thanks! Yeah, I really find baking a cake is a great way to work on a book-just like gardening or quilting which I do as well-while I've got a story stewing in my brain.
Honestly, I think everyone can bake if they can follow directions-if you can follow the instructions for hooking up a new appliance or computer you can do the steps in a recipe. Really. It's chemistry which seems like magic and of course there are levels of difficulty, but anyone who likes to eat food should know how to prepare it!
I have to say I'm totally hooked on TLC's Cake Boss-Buddy is amazing with cake and fondant. I wish I could intern in his bakery (okay I'll be honest, I wish I could shop in his bakery!) and learn from his expertise. I love getting a request and then trying to translate that into cake-like a Goldfinch or a Bat from the book Bat's in the Library. But the wedding cakes that are modern and goofy are my favorites to play with. Of course, there's more pressure there to come out with a good cake when it's for a wedding! Everybody should play with luster dust and lemon extract-painting the most amazing, beautiful designs on cookies is just so fun and the colors are incredible (and edible!).
A dream design? I guess it would be more like working with a cake artist who I really respect and learning from them-like Buddy on Cake Boss, or Colette Peters who has fabulous cake books (her recipes turn out just like they say they will) CAKES TO DREAM ON is my favorite and a great place to start. I know enough about cakes to be dangerous, but taking it to the next level would be fantastic!
They've come along way with putting art on cakes and it's actually really simple to order a book cover on a sheet cake-they "print" them with edible food colors. But what I'd really love is to have a Food Network Challenge with four of the best cake artists interpreting MERIDIAN in cake! That would be awesome! I'm so in to judge that competition!
•Since August is the month I celebrate my 2-year blogging anniversary, I want to know: what is something you've done for at least two years? Do you still do it, and why or why not?
Two things come to mind that relate to the book. The first is that every year since I was little we go to a tiny town in Indiana where my grandmother's family is all buried (and now my grandparents) for Memorial Weekend. I just don't feel like it's Memorial Day if I'm not in a cemetery during that weekend. I love being in cemeteries-they seem to whisper if you listen closely enough. We clean the graves, and plant a ton of bright flowers (my grandmother always planted her favorite pink geraniums, but since the torch has moved on now we shake it up with Gerbera Daisies, petunias, marigolds-anything cheerful and joyous). It's a way to pay respects but also gather as a family and celebrate the love we feel for people we know, or generations passed we didn't know, but who have always been there in stories or photographs or in a certain smile or way of standing. Death just isn't scary, it's just part of life for us-which doesn't make the grief any less to say goodbye, but there's comfort in the rituals.
The second thing, since this is your celebration and happens in August: is every year since I can remember we've taken blankets (and up here in the pacific NW hot chocolate) outside to a big field and watched the Perseid Meteor Shower. It's fantastic and you don't have to know anything about the constellations or need a telescope. All you have to do is lean back (pillows are good or the neck protests the next day!) and watch the sky. Some years are better than others but we always see 10 or more blazing meteors in about an hour. Some years it's ten in a couple of minutes. Everyone in the US should be able to see them, the show starts August 12th at something like 3AM, but honestly for several days on either side you can see them. It's awe-inspiring and great perspective to take in a natural fireworks show! Since MERIDIAN is released on August 11th, that's how we're going to celebrate!
Open To: INTERNATIONAL!!!
To Enter: Leave a comment about the book, Amber, or the above interview.
Ends: August 31
Prize: A Copy of Meridian and One Butt Cheek at a Time
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+1 leave a comment on the Guest Post with Amber
+2 if you have my button on your blog (the party button, in the top left hand sidebar)
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