Heidi Ayarbe visits us this week at The Randoms. A YA writer who lives in South America with a brand new baby, Heidi has a new book out soon: FREEZE FRAME (Laura Geringer Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Teen, October 7). Read more about how she balances baby, writing, and not being a thoracic surgeon.
1) What is your typical writing day like?
I get up and give my baby a bath, get her fed and dressed, organize lunch, bottles … oh wait. You wanted to ask about my writing day. HAHAHAHAHA!! Okay. Seriously. We have an aunt and grandma that help with my daughter three days/week. Those days, after organizing my daughter, I usually go for a run to clear my head, then I have the BIC inspiration going (butt-in-chair). And I write. Sometimes I get in a solid five hours. Sometimes one. It’s harder now, being a new mom, but on those other days when I’m not writing, I do a lot of mental writing — thinking about characters, situations, etc., then write like mad when I get a chance to sit in front of my computer for more than a twenty-minute stretch. Most people would wonder why I don’t write when I finally ger her into bed. Honestly, I’ve never been able to write at night, and I’m just too doggoned tired to do so now. So I’m a daylight writer — no midnight inspirations or crack of dawn drives to the computer. I sleep when I can and write when I can.
2) Why did you decide to write YA?
FREEZE FRAME, my novel coming out this October, was originally going to be Middle Grade. But Kyle’s voice found me, and he definitely didn’t have an MG voice. So I guess YA found me. I think most writers have a “voice.” Though some are absolutely talented and can write in many genres, most of us stick with one — one that fits our style.
3) What is the biggest surprise you’ve experienced when it comes to book publishing?
Everything! Okay. I suppose you’d like me to narrow it down. I was in awe from beginning to end — how my agent went to bat for me and my editor took a huge risk on a manuscript she knew needed a load of work. They fight for their projects, and I felt a huge sense of responsibility to both since they took a chance on me. Then I loved the whole revisions process — re-conceptualizing my book and having an editor (Jill Santopolo) who knew how to challenge me every step of the way to make this book one-hundred times the book I ever thought it could be. The copy-editing stage was insane. I based the book in my hometown, and they printed out MapQuest maps of the area and wanted to know why the address I used didn’t exist on Richmond Street. (The only thing I made up because I didn’t want any Carson City, Nevada, kids knocking on some poor soul’s door.) The copy-editors picked through ever fact and reference in the book and taught me that everything, absolutely everything, had better be researched 100% on my part. But what I love most isn’t the publishing part but the writing part — getting to that point in the novel, that comfort zone, in which I could place my characters in any situation and know how they’d react. What a pleasure it was to create these characters and truly understand them in the end.
4) Do you ever have any “dark days,” when you wonder why you’re a writer? What are those like, and how to you get through them?
Absolutely. Our neighbor is a thoracic surgeon and sometimes I watch him go off to surgery and think, “He doesn’t have to invent a new surgery every day. Why didn’t I go into that?” Then I remember I don’t like blood and the mere thought of cutting a human being open makes me cringe. Bad example, I know, but honestly sometimes I just feel overwhelmed and incapable. Then I get an idea … or maybe I think of a line, a scene, a character trait, and my mind races and I feel a lot better that I didn’t go to med school after all. Really, though, writing is tough. And there’s no tenure. If you don’t produce good, solid work, you’re out of a job. And, even if you do produce good, solid work, you could be out of a job. So you’ve got to love it. The writing. Not the publishing, the interviews (though, don’t get me wrong, I love the interviews … like this one, for instance), the glimpse of glory before your book is put on the back shelves. You’ve just got to want to write and take those dark days with a grain of salt. They’ll come. And they’ll go. And you’ll always go back to the computer. It’s too irresistible not to put those characters banging around your head on a piece of paper.
5) Authors talk about “the call.” Usually, it has to deal with getting an agent or getting published or getting an accolade. What was the best “call” you ever received in terms of your writing, and how did it go down?
The mythic call … I remember the most exciting was when Stephen Barbara offered to rep me. I had sent him my manuscript, and two days later he asked if we could talk. I live in Colombia, South America, and have a great computer-to-phone calling system, so I called him, and he offered to represent me. This was the first person, outside of my family and crit group, that actually talked to me about my writing and how he projected my career. It was surreal. Plus, he’s so funny, gracious, and easy to talk to, it was absolutely exhilerating. That was an unbelievable day, and I still thank my lucky stars for Stephen. He’s made all the difference in my career path. That was about two and a half years ago.
Thank you for asking me to be part of your Blog. BEST OF LUCK to all of you in this crazy business of words.
For more Heidi, visit her site.