Today, Hartford Books Examiner welcomes Anthony Paolucci.
The creator of more than thirty titles, Paolucci writes for audiences that range from preschoolers to adults. His stories embody a wide variety of subjects and themes, and he credits his daughter, Eden Rain, and wife, Christine, as having served as the inspiration for many of his ideas. All of his books are produced through Broken Moon Publications and available for purchase in paperback or hardcover editions on Lulu.com; Kindle books and select paperbacks are also available on Amazon. Paolucci is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and the Connecticut Authors and Publishers Association. He makes his home in Milford.
Paolucci is currently focusing his attention on the young adult genre and published his most recent book, Memories of Winter, for that audience at the end of August. Reader J.F. noted, “It was a very interesting, slightly darker story. I liked the passing through generations idea. It’s really cool when a story has that much depth and history to it. Overall, a very involved story, and I was intrigued and entertained by it.” The first chapter can be read here.
From the publisher:
Daydreamer Winter Mitchell struggles to find balance in her life, torn between the need to maintain her grades and appease the budding artist within. Escaping the rigors of adolescence by way of her art, music, and books, Winter copes with the pressures of being the daughter of two working artists, and the heartache of a younger brother with a life-threatening ailment. Her best friend, Taliba Jones, accompanies Winter on this never-ending quest for personal acceptance and understanding, yet there are times when Winter feels as if she’s destined to be alone, and a failure in her endeavors. Then comes the day Winter’s mother presents her with a curious heirloom-an ancient bracelet that is bequeathed to the women in her family at the age of thirteen. Winter’s dreams soon become a doorway to the past, as she bears witness to the magical awakening of bracelet owners past. Forever changed by their newfound abilities, will Winter be next in this long line of girls whose lives are touched by the bracelet’s power?
Now, Anthony Paolucci offers a revealing look inside his writer’s journey …
1) At the moment, your focus is on writing young adult novels. What is it about this genre that particularly appeals to you—and how does writing for a teen audience both challenge and invigorate you creatively?
The plight of the American teenager hasn’t changed all that much in the last 50 years. Most are struggling to discover who they are, figure out their place in the world, and succeed academically. All the while, they’re contending with emotions and physical changes that only mange to complicate everything. Unfortunately, a lot of parents forget what it was like to be that age, and, as a result, they have a difficult time understanding and relating to their own children. They tend to have a hard time seeing past the surface level of the situation, which only breeds resentment on both sides. They can be impatient and set standards and goals that are difficult for their children to achieve. They forget what it was like to fall in love for the first time at that age, to believe with all your heart and soul that, even though you’re only fourteen, you’re going to be with this person forever. And despite all the angst and frustration that a teenager experiences, regardless of how vulnerable they may feel at times, there’s an underlining of sheer invincibility. Old age is still far off, the need for a serious career a million miles away, and susceptibility to age-related disease in another universe entirely. You’re right on the cusp of maturity, which can be both a very exciting and very terrifying time. You’re overwhelmed, over stimulated, and over informed. What kids don’t understand at this age is that all the terrible things they feel and experience as a teenager doesn’t necessarily vanish when you reach adulthood: they merely change forms, or exist on a different scale. Adults still experience social anxiety, relationship issues, identity crises, peer pressure, things of this nature. The only advantage that adults have is the experience of having gone through it all before, and they don’t have things like puberty making it seem a thousand times worse. These are the most crucial years in a person’s life. A lot of important decisions are made, unknowingly or not, that affect the rest of your life. Ask any adult what they would change about their life, and they’ll likely mention one or more things that took place in their teens. These are the years when you become the person you’ll be until your dying day. And because you feel indestructible in a sense, you’re more inclined to experiment with danger, whether it’s driving excessively fast, drugs, alcohol, or cigarettes, all of which can have a lasting effect on your health and personality. As a teen, you feel you have something to prove—to yourself, your parents, your friends, the opposite sex, the world, and you feel this incredible pressure to do so, or risk being worthless and insignificant. I’d like to think that I’m one of these adults who hasn’t forgotten what all of this feels like, who can still recall the lessons of these experiences vividly enough to pass them on to others. These books are my way of saying, “I understand what you’re going through, and this is what I learned from my own experiences.”
2) Tell us about the inspiration for your most recent release, MEMORIES OF WINTER. How do you feel that this book represents your evolution as a writer?
Like a lot of my stories, the inspiration for an idea is completely random. I never sit down to write; I never get writer’s block. Stories generally seek me out and haunt me until I give them life, so there’s an element of profound release during the writing process. Like George R.R. Martin said, “I don’t enjoy writing. I enjoy having written.” In the case of MEMORIES OF WINTER, it began with my daughter, who was 8 at the time. She was having difficulty remembering to bring home her homework. I decided to utilize the classic method of tying a string around one’s finger, but I substituted the string and finger for a bracelet and a wrist. I was hoping that seeing the bracelet throughout the day would serve as a reminder to put her homework in her backpack. As I was explaining this to her one night, another voice in the back of my mind began whispering how this idea could be turned into a story. As far as how it helped me to evolve as a writer, I don’t generally spend this much time in the modern world. I prefer villages in the Middle Ages, and early American colonies. I like these simpler time periods and settings, because they allow the heart of the story to shine through. There tends to be less to be distracted by—technology, pop-culture, etc. MEMORIES OF WINTER takes place in the present day, and I had to write about things like school and school life. I was definitely out of my comfort zone, and it’s the only book I’ve written where I had to go back and rewrite the ending, because I wasn’t satisfied the first time around. As I said before, these stories seek me out; I don’t go looking for them, so they have a tendency to write themselves. The characters tell me what they want to do, and how they want to do them, and I rarely have any say in the matter. The last chapter of WINTER, however, required me to step in, and say, “No, we need to do it THIS way, because your way was a little anticlimactic and abrupt.”
3) You are quite prolific, and have also written for children and adults. Can you briefly compare and contrast these disciplines? Also, what would you say to aspiring writers who are trying to both find their voice and achieve a sense of balance?
As I said before, I never set out to write a story. I generally get an idea, and I have to decide in what format and genre the idea would best thrive. When I was writing strictly picture books for young children, the biggest decision I had to make was whether to tell the story as a poem. If I were to advise another writer, I would probably suggest letting the story happen naturally, and never to force it. I could never imagine sitting down to my computer and saying, “Today I’m going to write a romance story set in Victorian England,” and then expect an acceptable and believable story to unfold. To me, that’s forcing an idea, and chances are it’ll sound that way to others who read it. If you’re a writer, then you’re a writer, which encompasses many subjects and styles. Famous authors like Stephen King write mainly in one genre, because it’s likely his preferred genre to write in, but also because that’s the genre he’s most known for. If Stephen King had an idea for a romance novel, yes, some people might be inclined to read it, but others might be turned off. My favorite author, Neil Gaiman, has managed to achieve mainstream success, while not pigeonholing himself into any one genre. He can write a fantasy novel as easily as he can write a horror story, or a fairy tale. These authors, however, are few and far between. As an unknown, I’m basically free to write anything I want. I don’t have diehard fans or a publisher to answer to. The same goes for aspiring writers. Explore every genre and find out into which genres and categories your ideas best fit. Along the way, you may notice a pattern—all of your ideas tend to be horror, or mystery, or even realism. I would suggest not trying to write in any one genre, but to let the idea decide. A fight with your imagination is a losing battle, and when you let the creativity flow naturally, the results are always better. Always.
4) In addition to serving as the inspiration for EDENISMS, how has fatherhood influenced your writing? What do you hope that your daughter might garner from your literary legacy once she’s old enough to appreciate it?
I began writing my fantasy novel, “Gabriel Thorn: A Faerie Tale,” before Eden was born. Otherwise, with the exception of one or two others, everything I’ve published was written after, and in some way has been influenced or inspired by her. Either the story was written with Eden’s interests in mind, or was based on something she did or said. I never thought in a million years I would ever write anything for children—of any age. That alone is the most significant way becoming a father has changed me as a writer. I have a new audience, where before I wanted to write scary stories for adults. My idols once consisted of Edgar Allen Poe, Poppy Z. Brite, Anne Rice, Nancy Collins, and Neil Gaiman. Now I’ve added Roald Dahl, Dr. Seuss, Shel Silverstein, and J.K. Rowling to the list. As far as what I hope Eden will take from these books, I hope she sees how much she was loved, adored, and worshipped by me. How profoundly and wonderfully she affected my life, shaped and molded it into something worth living. I hope she sees herself in every story, looks deep into the cracks and crevices and sees her own young self peeking out, because she’s there. I want her to be proud of me, as I’m proud of her, and I hope these books give her some insight into who her father really was.
5) In looking back, what are the greatest lessons you’ve learned through creative expression—and, in looking forward, what is your greatest literary ambition?
Trust your instincts. Never compromise the integrity of an idea. Be the audience as often as you are the performer, and understand and appreciate the nature of each. Everyone has a creative voice, and the hardest part is discovering in which form that voice will manifest. Are you a writer, a musician, a poet, a sculptor, or a painter? Sometimes you think you’re one, and then many years later realize you’re another. Everyone has a story. The most difficult part is finding the courage to tell it. Right now, Eden can sing and play the piano very well, and at such a young age; however, she’s terrified of performing in front of anyone. I told her that’s like being able to fly, but afraid of heights. Never deny your gifts. They’re called gifts for a reason. Talent should be nurtured and explored. And if you’re a writer, write. It sounds complicated, but it’s really that simple. As far as my greatest literary ambition, aside from someday doing this as a fulltime career, is to simply be remembered. And I’d prefer to be remembered because I wrote something that truly enhanced or changed someone’s life. It’s never about sales in the monetary sense, but the idea of reaching out to many people and affecting them with something I’ve written. I don’t want to merely be a distraction, or an escape from reality. I want them to learn something about themselves that they never knew before, or understand something about themselves because I helped put it into perspective. The first time I read “Interview With the Vampire,” something changed in me, and I’ve never been the same since. In fact, the idea of possibly not having read that book terrifies me. I doubt I’ll ever write anything of that caliber, but to me, as a writer, that has to be the greatest reward. Not writing a bestseller, but simply touching someone that deeply and profoundly, to the point where they’re never the same person again.
6) Finally, leave us with a teaser: what comes next?
Like any good madman, I’ll continue to obey the voices in my head. If more stories want to come out, then they’ll be written. As usual, however, I have nothing planned. In the meantime, I’ve written over 30 books in four years, a few of which are receiving the finishing touches as we speak. One of them is a children’s picture book called A MOONFLOWER GROWS BY THE ROADSIDE, which is illustrated by Christopher Mamone (aka Tourniquet Jones). He and I did one other book together called GREEDY GUTS, and he’s done a couple of book covers for me as well. MOONFLOWER is about two races of Elves, who collect animal remains from the side of the road, each for very different reasons, and the predicament they face when their territories shrink and they begin laying claim to the same remains. I’d like to do more school readings and less promotional events. The best time I ever had at any book event was reading GREEDY GUTS to 125 fifth graders at Judson Elementary School in Waterbury. The Q & A afterward was so interesting and entertaining; it really let me know how fulfilling writing can be, and in a way I never imagined.
With thanks to Anthony Paolucci for his generosity of time and thought.