Friday, December 18, 2015

Author Spotlight: Samantha Joyce on the process of writing FLIRTING WITH FAME

I'm super excited to have the opportunity to interview the amazing Samantha Joyce, author of FLIRTING WITH FAME which will be released on Februrary 29th 2016! Check out the interview and then enter the rafflecopter below to win a $5 Amazon Gift Card so you can preorder your copy today!

And in case you haven't read the blurb...

From Goodreads:

Elise Jameson is the secret author behind the bestselling, cult hit Viking Moon series. But when a stranger poses as Elise, the painfully shy, deaf nineteen-year-old starts to see how much she’s missing. Can she really hide in the shadows forever? This clever, coming-of-age debut is for anyone who has ever felt unsure in their own skin.

After a freak childhood accident leaves her deaf and physically scarred, nineteen-year-old Elise Jameson retreats into a world of vibrant characters she creates on her laptop. She is shocked when her coping mechanism turns into a career as a phenomenal bestselling novelist. Fans are obsessed with Elise’s Viking Moon series and its author—a striking girl with zero resemblance to Elise who appears on the back covers. Elise sent the randomly Googled photo to her editor following a minor panic attack. Now, horrified to learn she is expected on set of the television pilot based on her novels, Elise tracks down her anonymous stand-in. To Elise’s surprise, Veronica Wilde has been taking credit for Viking Moon for years. She eagerly agrees to keep up the charade if Elise will pose as her assistant.

It’s hard for Elise to watch a stranger take credit for her work and get all the perks she desires, including admiration from the show’s heartthrob star. Edged onto the sidelines of her own life, Elise reconsiders her choice to stay anonymous. Is she ready to come to terms with her true identity—and with the long-buried secrets that could cost her her career, her fans, and the few precious friendships she’s made?

What Authors Are Saying: 
"A charming story of learning to embrace and love those things about ourselves that set us apart from others. I don’t think I stopped smiling once throughout Elise's journey except during the moments that squeezed painfully at my chest."
- Molly McAdams, New York Times bestselling author of To the Stars

"With a sprinkle of book fandom and dash of yummy romance, Flirting with Fame is the perfect story for every book lover."
- USA Today bestselling author, Tiffany King

Samantha Joyce was cool enough to indulge all my questions because after reading the book I couldn't NOT talk to her! Not only is she an amazing writer, she's an absolute awesome person! Check out our conversation below :)

1) What inspired you to write FLIRTING WITH FAME?

The idea actually formulated when I was giving a (very bad) audition for a production of Cyrano De Bergerac. I started mulling the idea of writing a modern take on the famous play about the man with the big nose, but I wasn’t sure how to go about it. The story came fully to fruition when I read about famous authors who’d hidden behind new pen names, and I started to think about an author so shy that, not only did she use a pen name, she used a fake photo as well. The rest of the story took off from there.

What a cool way the story evolved!

2) What made you decide to write a deaf character?

I didn’t actually set out to write one. The first line of the book I wrote (which isn’t the actual first line of the book) was when Elise says to Gavin, “The world was silent all the time and I couldn’t stand it. Except, when I was writing it wasn’t quiet anymore because, all of a sudden, there were all these voices in my head. I feel like the only time I’m able to hear the world clearly is when I’m creating a new one.”

I knew then that Elise was deaf, but it was just an aspect of her—like I knew she had blonde hair and was painfully shy. The book was never about her being deaf, it was just a part of her.

That is one of my absolute favorite lines from the book and that is awesome it was the first one you wrote :) 

3) How was the process writing from the perspective of a deaf character? 
What steps did you take to try to keep it authentic?

It was a challenge, for sure. One of the things we’re taught as writers is to incorporate the five senses into our worlds, but I was restricted to four. I needed to be aware of lighting and body placement, so Elise could see who she was talking to. And I needed to make sure sound words weren’t used, since I’m so used to including them.

I did a lot of research. I stalked a ton of Deaf forums and read up on the difference in being born Deaf and losing your hearing later in life (Elise loses her hearing in an accident at thirteen). I read about the process of reading lips. One of my critique partners had a Deaf roommate, so we ran everything by her to make sure Elise’s reactions/actions were as authentic as possible. In fact, she was the one who gave Elise her sign name, which I was honored by. Sign names are very special to the Deaf community, and must be chosen for you. I was very touched she felt Elise was worthy of one.

One other thing I did was walk around my city and take public transit with earplugs in. That was an eye-opening experience. I have one of those faces that makes everyone come up and ask me directions (even in cities that aren’t mine, and I’m just as lost as them). At one point, I looked up to see a very angry lady in my face, and I realized she’d been trying to ask me something, but I hadn’t heard her. I shook my head and pointed to my ears, and she walked away quite mad. That was when I realized we automatically assume everyone else can hear. I remember just sitting there and letting that realization hit me—how we believe anyone who looks able is able—and I resolved to never get angry like that woman because someone can’t answer me in the way I want or perform a task I want them to do. It was a very powerful moment.

Wow! That’s a ton of research and I’m blown away you got so into character in order to help keep Elise’s authentic. It’s amazing what we learn when attempting to walk in another person’s shoes. 

4) Were you worried writing a deaf character not being deaf yourself?

Absolutely. I’m still terrified of how people will react to me writing this book. But I am comforted by the fact that I treated everything as respectfully as possible, and I know I did not write this character to be offensive or a stereotype. I hope I succeeded. With every book, of course, there is the possibility of getting some things wrong, even after painstaking research. And I take ownership of any errors. My mistakes are my own.

I admire that. Every time an author sits down to write a novel they run the risk of getting something wrong because they don’t always live the lives of the characters they write, but the ones who take every effort possible to keep it as true to heart as they can, end up with one amazing story. And having had the honor to read FLIRTING WITH FAME, I can say with certainty it is incredible :)

5) As writers there are always artistic liberties we have to take in order to comprise the best story possible. Were there things you had to compromise on for the sake of the story?

Yes, definitely. Especially when it came to Elise’s lip-reading or the use of ASL. Lip-reading is not a perfect art form. There are people that are very good at it, but it’s pretty tough to get it 100% correct. This is where Elise’s ability as an author comes in. While she seems to be able to read most of what is being said, some of it is her author brain filling in the gaps for the reader.

ASL, like any language, has its own grammar and set of rules. It is not signed the same way we speak English. For example, “What is your favorite book?” would probably look more like Book, your favorite, what? Or Book, your favorite title? in ASL. I went back and forth on whether to write ASL the way it is signed, or use traditional English. While I wanted the book to be authentic, I also didn’t want to pull the reader from the story. After all, the book was not about Elise being deaf; that was never meant to be the focus. I scouted out forums to see how people felt about this aspect of writing a Deaf character (there were many discussions out there on the subject with differing opinions). In the end, I made the decision to use traditional English when she signs, though I tried to keep it somewhat basic, for the most part. It was one of the tougher sacrifices I made for the sake of moving the story along.

That would definitely be a hard battle. Pulling the readers out of the story is one of the biggest author no no’s. I’m glad you were able to find a balance between the two extremes in order to keep the readers engaged as well as the world authentic. 

6) In the book, the actor/film world is also incredibly authentic and gives readers a cool backstage pass to a world most aren't familiar with, did you have to do much research for that environment as well?

I’m kind of known among my friends as the girl who stalks celebrities, haha, so I’ve spent some time watching film sets in my area. But I also lucked out that another one of my CPs is an actress and has spent plenty of time on set. She called me out on anything I got wrong (this is why having multiple CPs is important! They all come with different life experiences).

That is awesome! Learning this new tidbit, I have to ask, who was your all time favorite celebrity to meet?

I can only choose one? Well, I suppose the most life-changing one was Joss Whedon, just because Buffy the Vampire Slayer is my favorite show of all time, and my love for it and Joss' writing runs deep. Also, I waited six hours in the rain, so when I finally got a pic and autograph, I felt like it was worth it. But I do have to give a brief shout out to Alexander Skarsgard and John Barrowman, who were two other favorites to meet. Alex is even better looking in person, and Barrowman made me laugh so hard, my sides hurt.

*Picks jaw up off of floor* *Fans self* Well, now I'm totally jealous and want to be BFF's for life at the same time :)

7) Gavin is such an awesome and surprising character, showcasing as a famous hot actor with a good heart and dark past, how easy did his character come to you?

Gavin actually came super easy to me. I’ve met a lot of actors I’ve had crushes on (see: celebrity stalker, above), and have always been surprised how kind many of them are. These men literally have women weeping in their presence, yet they somehow remain humble and sweet. After all, they’re just human like the rest of us (even if they are crazy hot).
And Gavin is so insanely hot! 

8) Who is your dream cast for the main characters?

Oooh! This is such a fun question! I love these!

I think Katie Leclerc from Switched at Birth would be an amazing Elise. She actually looks exactly like her. She’s also Hard of Hearing, which I feel would be important when casting that role. I’d want Elise to be as authentic to her character in the book as possible.

You already know I based Gavin on Ian Somerhalder, from Vampire Diaries. I needed a guy hot enough to smolder off of TV and movie screens, but also seem sweet and down to earth (Ian loves animals!). Oh, and he had to have a HOT bod, since Gavin spends a lot of the book shirtless. Ian definitely fit that bill. Whew. *fans self*

Elise’s Broadway-bound bff, Jin, would be played by Harry Shum Jr., of Glee. Jin’s a dancer and actor, and Harry is one of those dancers I could watch for hours.

And I’d probably want Rebel Wilson as Elise’s sassy roommate, Reggie. Reggie is everything Elise isn’t. Forward and unapologetic. Rebel comes across the same way.

Chris Carmack, from Nashville fame, would make the perfect wannabe cowboy (and classmate to Elise), Clint. He has that boyish charm you can’t help but swoon over.

For Veronica, the villain, I’d probably cast Leighton Meester. She is beautiful and she showed us on Gossip Girl she’s good at playing bad.

Hmmm….all these answers clearly show I watch far too much TV. Now I know why I wrote a book about people making a television show.

Wonderful! Always cool to see who the author had in mind when they wrote the novel!

9) What are your plans for the future of this series? Other books?

Well, I’ve been hard at work on the second book in the series, which is sort of a companion to FLIRTING WITH FAME, but I’m not sure how much I’m allowed to say yet. So I’ll just say it takes place a few years later and revolves around one of the other characters in the book—and it has some surprising twists.

I’m also currently revising a young adult book I’m super excited about. All I can say about that now is it has a little bit of magic. ;)

I can’t wait to see more of your work! Thanks for stopping by to share your thoughts and process and fun celebrity stories! 

Remember, FLIRTING WITH FAME releases February 29th 2016 so enter the rafflecopter below to win a $5 Amazon Gift Card so you can preorder it! 

About the Author:
Samantha has wanted to be an author since she picked up her first book and realized authors get to create new worlds with just a pen and paper (or laptop, if you will). She loves to write about romance because, as someone who married her high school sweetheart, she absolutely believes in true love. She also loves making people laugh and feels love and laughter go hand in hand. If she can make someone both swoon and giggle with her words, she considers that a success. When not writing or at her day job, Samantha can be found either singing and dancing on stage in local musicals, or at home watching geeky television shows with her husband and their pet rabbit.

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