Pen Friends ~ Today’s interview is with YA Author Annie Sullivan talking about her latest book, Tiger Queen! We also just learned that she and Lauren Mansy (from our last interview) will go on tour together promoting, The Memory Thief, and Annie’s Tiger Queen, (& her debut, A Touch of Gold!) Be sure to check them all out!
SP: Hi Annie! Thanks for joining us! Before we get into book stuff, we’d LOVE to know a bit about you and your writing journey?
AS: Thanks so much for having me! I’m the author of fairytale and fantasy young adult novels. I love taking stories readers are familiar with and giving them an unexpected twist—whether that’s a new character or a new ending. I have a master’s degree in Creative Writing from Butler University and have been writing seriously since college. It’s always been a dream of mine to be a published author, and now, I’m so excited that it’s come true!
SP: Tiger Queen was just released into the world! Congrats! Can you tell us how this idea & its characters came about?
AS: Tiger Queen is actually a loose retelling of Frank Stockton’s infamous short story “The Lady or the Tiger,” which has a cliffhanger ending. Ever since I read the story in grade school, I’ve always wanted to give that story the ending it always should have had (in my opinion.) So I’m so excited that I was finally able to make that happen in Tiger Queen as we follow Princess Kateri as she fights suitors in an arena to win her right to rule.
Here is blurb:
In the mythical desert kingdom of Achra, an ancient law forces sixteen-year-old Princess Kateri to fight in the arena to prove her right to rule. For Kateri, winning also means fulfilling a promise to her late mother that she would protect her people, who are struggling through windstorms and drought. The situation is worsened by the gang of Desert Boys that frequently raids the city wells, forcing the king to ration what little water is left. The punishment for stealing water is a choice between two doors: behind one lies freedom, and behind the other is a tiger.
But when Kateri’s final opponent is announced, she knows she cannot win. In desperation, she turns to the desert and the one person she never thought she’d side with. What Kateri discovers twists her world—and her heart—upside down. Her future is now behind two doors—only she’s not sure which holds the key to keeping her kingdom and which releases the tiger.
SP: While writing Tiger Queen, which character surprised you the most?
AS: I think Princess Kateri surprised me the most. She’s a character who was practically born with a sword in her hand—not to mention she’s very stubborn. So it was really fun to discover her softer side as the story goes along. I loved getting to develop her and see how what she believes about herself and her world changes as the story unfolds.
SP: Tiger Queen is your second book after A Touch of Gold, so tell us, how did writing & publishing book 2 feel different?
AS: I actually had a draft of Tiger Queen done before A Touch of Gold was published, so there wasn’t as much pressure to write something because it was already written. But there’s a lot of pressure to have your second book live up to your first book. But I was a little more laid back about the whole process because I’d been through it before.
SP: The inner circle confession — when CPs first read Tiger Queen, what were some of their reactions?
AS: Oh man, at first some of them hated Princess Kateri because in the first chapter she’s rooting for a child to die in the arena for reasons that are swiftly explained. The landscape of Achra, where the story takes place, is a very unforgiving desert, so it takes a lot to survive there. And that boy was a water thief—meaning if he’s stealing water, someone else is going without it. So it was the very fine line of balancing the harshness of the world with making Kateri a believable character.
SP: Did you have to delete any scenes or characters you wished were still in Tiger Queen? Will you post those gems anywhere?
AS: Honestly, I’m not sure I deleted a single scene. The story came together so organically that I didn’t have any extra moments. And I don’t think I deleted any characters either. I will say I love the character of Dimic, so I might someday give him a little short story or something, but we’ll see how that plays out.
SP: Ok, all upcoming writers love to know– Querying. Agents. How did you get through that door?
You’ve got to force yourself through that door, and it’s a very hard door to get through. It took me two books and nine months to get an agent—and those were some of the most depressing months of my life because you’re constantly being rejected. But I’m proof that you can make it through that door. Just don’t give up. If your first book doesn’t get you an agent, write another one and another one. The ones who give up are the ones who don’t get published.
SP: The Publishing world. What was entering this sphere like for you and what is something you have learned long the way?
AS: I love being a part of the publishing world. Book people are my people. I’m constantly hanging out in Facebook groups talking books all day because I love talking with book people. But I think something I learned is how small the book world is. You get to meet so many authors when you’re doing the major book events, and they’ve all been so kind to me. So I think I just love how supportive authors are of each other.
SP: Marketing books these days is a daunting thing, what is one aspect of marketing that you like and think works for you?
AS: I actually really love being on Instagram and doing beautiful book photos. The #bookstagram community is just such a fun one to follow. It takes a lot of work to make nice photos, but it’s always fun to see the end product.
SP: Writing habits–morning? Evening? Word count goals?
AS: I write anytime I can. I tend to edit at night though. I think I pay better attention then. I also do try to have word goals. A minimum of 500 words a day. Some days I blow past that and write 3,000, but sometimes those 500 are hard. I also listen to music as I write, so that helps me stay focused.
SP: If you weren’t a writer, what would you be?
AS: An actress! I feel like that’s another form of storytelling, and it would also involve me thinking about characters and their lives and motivation. Plus, I’ve just always really wanted to be an actress. I’m ready for my close-up!
SP: Now to lighten things up:
Current dream vacation spot?
Ha! If you’ve read my bio, you know I love to travel. I’ve been to every continent (yes, including Antarctica), but I would love to go almost anywhere. High up on my list right now are India and Iceland.
Would you rather take your chances of survival on: a deserted tropical island? A cozy cave in the Himalayan mountains? Or on a luxury Space Station?
Definitely the island. I love the beach and would want somewhere that isn’t going to crash out of the sky into a weird planet. Plus, the mountains just sound cold. I would freeze to death!
Current fictional crush?
Legend from Caraval! *swoons*
Favorite childhood book?
I loved A Wrinkle in Time when I was growing up. There was just something about Meg that spoke to me. I haven’t reread it though because I’m afraid I won’t love it as much.
SP: Thanks so much for sharing with us, Annie! We wish you the greatest success with Tiger Queen, A Touch of Gold, and all of your future books!
Nova, signing off.