The Author Visits Presents Anika Arrington
Calendar of Events
Sunday, October 12: Author Introduction; Introduce Trailer; Kick-off Giveaway
Monday, October 13: Interview with Anika
Tuesday, October 14: Guest Blog by Anika
Wednesday, October 15: Excerpt from The Accidental Apprentice
Thursday, October 16: Review of The Accidental Apprentice
Friday, October 17: What’s Next for Anika
Saturday, October 18: Announce Winner of Giveaway
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What’s Next for Anika
Ah yes, the ever present question, “what’s next?” This year has been such a crazy ride emotionally for me with moving, being pregnant, and completing the book that I am going to take a little break, at least through the end of the year.
My son is being baptized and having a birthday right around Halloween. I’m going to catch up on all the reading I didn’t get to do. I have a birthday to celebrate myself, and Thanksgiving to make it through (there will be pumpkin caramel cheesecake if it kills me!). I’m going to plan and create Christmas awesomeness for my family. I’m going to put myself through some writing calisthenics to hone my craft without the pressure of completing anything. You know, like Spring Training. I am totally going to see a bunch of movies!(Seriously, I am eagerly looking forward to Mockingjay, Book of the Dead, The Hobbit, The Theory of Everything, and I have yet to see Box Trolls or When the Game Stands Tall.) And of course, I will be talking about The Accidental Apprentice to anyone who will listen for two seconds together. So just a bunch of normal family chaos and good times.
But I know that Havensgate won’t wait for long. Tommy is particularly eager to take his part in the telling of the tale. So I’ll probably start work on the sequel, The Ideal Apprentice, in the early days of 2015, and if things permit I have a contemporary YA that has been prancing around my brain as well.
I will be at the Chandler Author Walk in Chandler, Arizona November 21st signing copies of The Accidental Apprentice and meeting marvelous people. In February I will be headed to Steamathon in Vegas with the Xchyler Publishing team. Apparently I only do deserts at the moment. And I will certainly be at the American Night Writer’s Association’s Writers’ Conference, Time Out for Writers, in Mesa, AZ on February 19-21. And who knows what else I might get up to in the meantime. The place to keep abreast of where I am at and what’s going on is my website.
Excerpt – The Accidental Apprentice
Chapter Two – Rezdin
The baron only had one size requirement. I honed my skills for years to suit the most discerning tastes, the highest expectations, but that pompous buffoon had no imagination.
“Lady Beauxmont’s is at least three times as large. They say it covers half a wall!”
The offending object, a flattery mirror, accepted our scrutiny without comment. Never mind that I had enhanced the well-being aura to treat self-doubt; never mind that the glass was blown from imported dream sand; and never mind that it had a diminishing trigger in case the baron ever wanted to tote it around to show the ladies at court. No.
“It’s got to be bigger.”
Baron Erik von Dappenshien gave me the look, the one that meant he was waiting for me to wiggle my fingers and make it so. His lack of imagination, surpassed only by his ignorance, frustrated me more than any of my Academy pupils ever did. Magik didn’t work that way. You didn’t spend a decade of study to learn how to properly wiggle your fingers. Well, that’s certainly not all you learned, anyway.
“I’ll see what I can do before tonight, my lord,” I assured him.
“I’ll take my supper in my study after I’ve bathed,” the baron instructed. The steward, following in his wake, bobbed his head and mumbled his compliance. I shook my head in disgust before I could stop myself. I had hoped the baron would just go inside to his dinner, but my movement drew his critical military eye.
“Rezdin,” he barked, “how’s that commission coming along?”
“You can inspect it in the morning, after you’ve rested, my lord.” And after I’ve finished it, I thought. “I think you’ll be quite pleased.”
“We’ll see about that,” he gruffed.
I fixed the most benign expression possible onto my face. The baron went in, the servants filing in after him, leaving me alone in the gathering gloom.
The former street urchin in me wanted to spit at the baron’s feet. The educated magician wanted to shrink him until he understood just how small he made others feel. But on the whole, I didn’t fancy prison, so I let the temptations slip away.
“What did you take, boy?” I tried to keep the laughter out of my voice and sound firm as I had when disciplining unruly pupils at the Academy.
“A s-s-spoon, Master.” The waif’s hands, and likely his knees, shook.
“Master? You afraid of magicians, then?”
The boy only nodded.
“Then why in the name of Alchemus would you steal a spoon from a noble household?” My curiosity was piqued. No starving orphan from the streets of Havensgate braved danger, perceived and real, for a spoon.
“It’s a fine manor.” The whelp swallowed. “Manors use real silver. I thought no one would miss a spoon, but it would buy Lottie a new blanket and hot food for us both for two days, and there would be plenty of pence to go round after.”
Impressed despite myself, I peered at the boy more closely. His coat was tattered, to be sure, but the two remaining buttons were brass. And the buckle on his belt had the look of unpolished silver. “What’s your name?”
“Two-pence, if it please the Master,” he said, ducking his head in a kind of bow.
“Your real name would please me better.” I gave him my sternest expression.
“Tommy, sir. Tommy Penceworth.” He lowered his head, as though oddly ashamed to have a proper name, and not a bad one at that. There were several Penceworths at the Academy. I searched for any resemblance in Tommy’s features, but between the dirt and rapidly fading light, I couldn’t tell one way or the other.
“Very well, Tommy. You give me back the spoon, and I will pay you two silver farthings.” Surprise splashed over the vagrant’s face, followed immediately by suspicion. I pulled the coins from the green leather pouch at my side. I could have pulled anything from it, but for the moment farthings would do.
Tommy pulled the pilfered cutlery from a pocket that didn’t look as though it could successfully contain anything, and held it up while extending the other hand expectantly. A simple bit of levitation on my part and the spoon was in my hand, the money in his.
He spun and started running up the beach, but I turned him about with the same trick of the wind that had saved his skull only a few minutes before.
“If I ever catch you stealing from this household again, Tommy Penceworth, I will turn you over to the butler’s justice.” Tommy swallowed. “Understand?”
He nodded and turned to go again, then stopped and glanced back.
“Thank you . . .” he paused, looking at his clenched fist, “for everything.” Then he fled up the beach towards the cold Havensgate streets and Lottie and whoever else was counting on him.
Anika’s Post – The Link Between Observation and Creation
No author can escape the dreaded question, “Where do you get your ideas?” We roll our eyes heavenwards knowing that there is just no way to explain to someone that asks that question how our brain works, how one observation leads to the next, or a question posed in one context gets applied to another, and then the old noggin takes off in an unanticipated direction. We sigh, and shrug, mutter something noncommittal, rather than shrieking, “I just pay attention!”
I think the workings of the story teller’s mind can best be encapsulated in Joss Whedon’s description of how he came up with his hit series Firefly, “I was doing a lot of reading about the Civil War, and of course that got me thinking about the Millenium Falcon.”
That is quite simply how it works. I see something, I read something, I hear something. And immediately I am barraged by thoughts of other places and things, contexts that don’t obviously apply. My friends in high school called it the 75 mile per hour turn. We would be talking about something and suddenly I would off on another track. They could follow how I got there, but it’s not where they would have gone.
For The Accidental Apprentice it was a foster parenting class. My husband and I had taken in three little girls from the foster system and were in the process of getting certified with the state. One night after our classes I found myself ruminating on how orphans are portrayed in fiction. There is such a dearth of realistic portrayal of what traumatized children are really like in literature. This got me thinking about Harry Potter and magic and then suddenly there was Rezdin. I could hear him clear as day telling me about the boy who became his apprentice. How working with him was a nightmare at times, how combatting his anger was nearly as much of a challenge as teaching him spell craft, and how the emotional strain of helping the boy cope nearly broke Rezdin himself from time to time. I pulled out my notebook (which every creative type carries with them for those moments of sudden brilliance) and started scribbling furiously. And in the 45 minute drive back home, a story was born.
Of course that story changed and evolved in the writing, characters came and went throughout the process, but all it takes a moment of observation and allowing that to carry you somewhere completely different. Ideas come from everywhere. They are all around us for the taking. Most writers I know have more story ideas than they will ever be able to pursue in their lifetimes. The only difference between them and the individual that says, “I have a great idea for a book, I just don’t know how to write,” is that the writer sits down and writes it out. We learn, we practice, we study, we try and fail and try again.
I think beyond this post, I will never give the question, “where do you get your ideas?” a serious answer, because it is such a silly question. Where does anyone get an idea? Where do the entrepreneurs, the inventors, the artists, the designers and engineers get their ideas? Where does the grandma who sews unique gifts for her grandkids? We simply let life move us. We stay open and alert to what is all around us. It is how a stool becomes a rocking chair, a harness becomes a saddle, a lump of clay becomes a meat pie. It is how magic happens.
Interview with Anika
After a whirlwind week with the release and blog tour for her debut novel, The Accidental Apprentice, Anika Arrington takes time out of her busy schedule to sit down with me and talk about her book, writing and how she does it all. Enjoy my interview with Anika!
Veena: Welcome to The Author Visits Anika!
Anika: Thank you for having me!
Veena: Shall we get started? I have a lot of questions for you!
Anika: Absolutely! Let’s do this!
Veena: How did you come up with the concept for The Accidental Apprentice?
Anika: I had recently watched Howl’s Moving Castle (which is stellar, of course) and so I kind of had magic on the mind. And at the time my husband and I were taking foster parenting certification classes to get certified with the state since we had already taken in the three darling girls who would become our daughters. Parenting/working with children who have experienced trauma is so different than anyone who hasn’t done it thinks it is. And I realized that all of the orphans one comes across in fiction are way too well adjusted. As these notions merged the characters of Rezdin and Tommy took shape over a car ride back from one of these classes. As their story grew I had to ask myself questions about what kind of world would result in the degree of isolation that would cause their story to come about. Everything just grew from there.
Veena: What inspired the magical elements in the book?
Anika: Science! Oh, I love science. I wish my brain could navigate scientific thought with the agility it displays in words and literature. I have taken physics, astronomy, chemistry, and geology classes at the collegiate level. It just seems to me that if we could form an intuitive connection with the energy, electricity, and elements around us then the results would be nothing short of magical.
Veena: Is the setting of the book based on any real life setting or location?
Anika: Yes and no. I see the continent on which Havensgate is located being very European in style and size. The city itself is loosely based on the seaside towns of Portugal and Spain. There are of course differences in the topography and geography, but the cultural blending I think is very similar to what one sees in Spanish culture with the Moorish, Arabian, Greek, and Roman cultures all contributing and mingling to create an eclectic whole.
Veena: How much research went into world-building? Did you build your world first then write The Accidental Apprentice or the other way around?
Anika: As far as research goes I pretty much made stuff up until I had readers who found either the aristocracy or some other details so errant that they got pulled out of the story. As far as the world building goes, my books always start with a character or a question. In Accidental Apprentice’s case it was both, the character of Rezdin and the question what would happen if he took a truly traumatized child under his wing? The world simply had to grow up around him.
Veena: What is your writing process like? Do you have any rituals?
Anika: Ha, ha. Having rituals would imply some form of consistency. I catch writing time when I can, where I can. Often by hand in a notebook while waiting in a car to pick up a child, or in frantic bursts while they are sleeping. I do like to have a beverage or two on hand and sometimes a snack if the time of day is right (and when is it not?). And I am a “by the seat of the pants” kind of writer; I like to just let the story unfold rather than plan it all out.
Veena: What do you do for downtime from writing?
Anika: Sleep, feed and take care of my kids, watch movies, spend time with my sisters, listen to baseball games on the radio during the season, and when I am really desperate to procrastinate I clean my house.
Veena: Is The Accidental Apprentice a part of a larger series? If so, how many books?
Anika: Yes, absolutely. There are too many threads left untied, and so many characters clamoring for more page time. There will be at least three books possibly four, it depends on how much space it takes to finish the story.
Veena: What are some of your favorite genres and who are some of your favorite authors?
Anika: I have always liked many Middle Grade and YA books, because it takes a really good story teller to keep a story simple without making it boring. As a child I liked mysteries by John Bellairs and Barbara Brooks Wallace. I’ve always loved fantasy and sci-fi. Recent favorites there are J. Scott Savage’s Farworld series, Erin Morgenstern’s “The Night Circus,” and Patrick Ruthfuss’s King Killer Chronicles series.
Veena: Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?
Anika: As a kid I would write stories, I won elementary school awards for essays and poems, and during one of my darkest periods in college the only class I went to consistently was Creative Writing 201- poetry. They kept telling me my poetry was too prose-y. You would think I would have caught on to my calling by then. But I didn’t take it seriously until after my oldest child was born. I think all the new mommy-hood and working full-time I felt my creative self screaming a little not to be forgotten. That was 7 years ago.
Veena: How do you juggle being a new mom and a published author while still managing to write? How many hours / words do you aim for in a day?
Anika: Oh gosh. I don’t aim for word counts (that just makes me crazy), I aim for writing the next scene. And I try not to juggle. Jugglers occasionally drop things, and trying to keep everything in the air all the time is exhausting. So when I am in the midst of mommy-ing that’s all I am consciously thinking about, the sub-conscious can work on plenty while I’m not paying attention. And then when I am writing, I am writing. So those are usually times when everyone is asleep, or the hubby is home, or I have a babysitter for a bit so I can get out of the house (and go find something delicious while I work) and focus for an hour or two. And really an hour or two a day—which nearly anyone can make happen— is all it takes.
Veena: Describe The Accidental Apprentice in 140 words or less.
Anika: What happens when a wizard loses his way? He finds some new friends and a whole new outlook.
Veena: Why should readers pick-up The Accidental Apprentice?
Anika: Because it is fun and funny! It is also clean and not drawn out. I hate books that go on forever and don’t need to. Everything you need for the story is there, without a bunch of fluff that you don’t.
Veena: And on to the fun part of the interview:
a. Favorite band: Mumford and Sons right now, Beatles forever
b. Favorite snack: sweet = brownies (chocolate good, nom nom nom); savory = quesadillas
c. What’s on your nightstand? A lamp, a box of tissues, clock radio/ipod charger, three highlighters, a hand towel (because I would never want to go anywhere without my wonderful towel), a hair tie, a book mark, and a lidded tumbler of water.
d. Favorite gadget: Currently I am loving on my husband’s SodaSteam. I got it for him for his birthday, and quite frankly the luxury of making a fresh ginger ale or cherry cola whenever I want is freaking great.
e. A place you’d like to visit? I would love to tour the Rhine River is Germany. The castles alone look amazing.
f. #1 on your bucket list? Well, it was publish a novel. Now I think it is drive the Pacific Coast Highway from Cali to Washington on a 7-10 day trip with my husband. That one will probably have to wait until the kids are much older.
g. Favorite quote? “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” Socrates
h. Advice to aspiring writers? Read! Learn about writing from books, conferences, workshops, classes, online webinars. And then practice what you learn. And then learn some more. And then put yourself and your stuff out there. There is a huge learning curve that happens after something you have written “goes live.” And then repeat.
I hope you had a blast getting to know Anika. Leave a comment and let us know if you have any questions or comments for the author!
Trailer for The Accidental Apprentice
About The Accidental Apprentice