Watch out world, Emily VanderBent’s debut book, Crimson Time will be coming your way in July! Emily and I were suite-mates in college and I couldn’t be any more proud of all her hard work! While she hasn’t released to much information about what to expect, I know that Emily has a great and creative mind so this book will be good! Emily has a love for history, reading, and writing, I know she has poured her heart into this book! Make sure to checkout her socials for giveaways and updates on her book! In our meet the author we will be talking about Emily’s writing habits, favorite books, and more!
Q: What books have influenced your writing?
A: Every book I have read has influenced my writing in one way or another, even if the influence can’t be directly seen in my work, but if I had to pick one, I would say Cassandra Clare’s books have influenced my writing the most. I actually keep a copy of at least one of her books next to my desk so I can reference it as I write. Everything from her descriptions and pacing to her complex characters and overall plots are everything I want my writing to be and more. The way she writes is truly an art form.
Q: What inspired Crimson Time?
A: The earliest inspiration for Crimson Time came from a chapter I wrote senior year of high school for a creative writing class. That chapter was ROUGH! The only thing I kept was the main concept and the character of Charlie, Adelaide’s best friend. It wasn’t much, but I was able to build on top of the main concept as other influences helped shape the story, like some other writing and history classes I took in college and the TV show Timeless. There was a major influence that helped me shape the overall plot of the series, but unfortunately, I can’t tell you what it is because it would be a pretty big spoiler.
Q: What does literary success mean to you?
A: I think literary success is kind of a subjective thing. I think it’s entirely possible for a book to be popular and not be a success depending on what the author’s goals were for the book. For me, personally, I would consider my own book a success if it acted as a catalyst for positive change in someone’s life. If a little girl picks up her paintbrush or a college student changes her major, each daring to pursue her dreams because my words helped convince her she could, I would consider that a major success.
Q: What kind of research do you do and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
A: Crimson Time is a little different because I was in undergrad when I wrote a good portion of it. My research for some of my history classes actually informed my writing. One class in particular helped me shape the time period Adelaide finds herself in in book one. I did take a few library days to do research on the main figures many of my characters are descended from though. I do some research as I write as well when I find things I need some more information on.
Q: How many hours a day do you write?
A: It depends on the day and what my week looks like, but I tend to write a couple of hours a day during the week. Sometimes I will write or revise on the weekend, but I generally like to use that time on other things so I can get a little break and start again with fresh eyes on Monday.
Q: What inspired you to write?
A: My love of writing probably came from my love of reading. I’ve always loved words and the way writers could wield 26 little letters like a paintbrush. So I guess what truly inspired me to write was other writers. They were brave enough to put pen to paper and made me brave enough to believe I could too.
Q: When did you start writing?
A: I’ve been writing in general for a long time. I’ve got scraps of poems, chapters, and other bits all over.
Q: What comes first the plot or the characters?
A: The fun thing about writing is that anything can start as the foundation of a book, from a character or a plot to a setting or an event. For Crimson Time, the main concept of a secret society made up of the descendants of historical figures, came first. From there, the plot and characters developed alongside each other.
Q: Describe your writing space.
A: I love to write at coffee shops and libraries, but I do also have a desk set up at home. It’s in front of a window so I get some natural light. I like to crack it open when the weather is nice and let the sound and breeze in. I have a salt lamp plugged in and often run a diffuser or light a candle while I write. I’ve got a few knickknacks on and around my desk including a small globe and letter board. I also have a small file cabinet with an organizer on top that I keep various books to reference as I write.
Q: Is there a time of day that you tend to write the most?
A: I normally just write when I can fit it in. Usually it is in the afternoon/evening or early morning.
Q: Who is your favorite author and why?
A: This is so hard, but probably Cassandra Clare. The world she created is so rich and her stories so immersive. The way she describes things is so beautiful and specific. It draws you in immediately. She does a great job of making her stories funny and intriguing, while also dealing with hot button issues in a tasteful way. She is also the queen of quippy one liners and impactful quotes. I have yet to read a book by her I don’t like.
Q: What is your favorite quote?
A: Also such a hard question! I have two that sort of speak to the same thing. One is from the Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare: “One must always be careful of books and what is inside of them, for words have the power to change us.” The other is from Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling: “Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic.” These two quotes remind me of the power I hold as a writer and storyteller. What I write matters and can make a difference, even if that is in the life of a single individual. It keeps me mindful of what I write and how to portray things knowing my words will last longer than I do.
Q: Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym? If so, what was it?
A: I never had a name picked out, but I did consider it briefly.
Q: What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?
A: Definitely battling imposter syndrome. I’ll often feel like people won’t want to hear what I have to say through my writing or that I’m not qualified to say it. Most of the time when I have writer’s block, it is actually imposter syndrome telling me my art doesn’t matter or I could never do it as well as (fill in the blank). I’m a young author and a new author, so it is easy to feel intimidated when you play the comparison game, but at the end of the day, the story we have on our hearts to tell can only be told by us.
Q: What are the ethics of writing about historical figures?
A: I would say it depends on what you are writing. I’m not just a writer, I’m also a historian, so I’m always going to support representing the past as authentically as possible. This is especially important when it comes to writing any form of nonfiction. If you write nonfiction, read and read wide about your subject, not just the sources that support your position. Since history, itself, is layered and complicated, the more you read and the wider you read, the better chance you have of representing it authentically. Historical fiction also needs to represent the past authentically, but because it is fiction, has a little wiggle room to play with in order to tell the story the author is trying to communicate. Crimson Time is a little different in that it is mixed genre. It is a YA Fiction novel, I’ve also been calling the genre Historical-Scify because of the way it blends history with time travel/science. I’ve approached the history in Crimson Time two different ways. Whenever Adelaide time travels, I have tried to capture the time period, people, and events as people living through it would have experienced it. This includes not just the sights, but the sounds, smells, etc. With the overall plot and some other elements of Crimson Time and the series as a whole, I have used history as a structure, but broken or changed it. In these spots, the decision was intention because of the message I wish to convey to readers. In the case of my novel/series, I think the messages come across stronger through my use of broken history because of the way it jars the reader.
Q: What are your top 3 favorite books?
A: These will often change, but in general, they are Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling, Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare, and The Lost Girls of Paris by Pam Jenoff.
Q: What is your favorite genre to read?
A: I tend to oscillate between different genres, but generally I like YA Fiction, Historical Fiction, Historical Non-fiction (that reads like fiction), and Poetry.
Q: What is your favorite under-appreciated book?
A: Pictures of Hollis Woods by Patricia Reilly Giff. It is the book that got me into reading when I was in 1st or 2nd grade. I still do a reread of it every so often. It is beautifully well written. The main character, Hollis Woods, is a 12 year old foster child who loves to draw. Giff uses this in the book to tell Hollis’ story through her present day experiences and her past. Every other chapter flips from present day to a picture Hollis drew that talks about her past. I also grew up on the Dear America books (and the Dear America Royal Diaries). I really appreciate the way they bring history to young readers and engage them with the past in a person way. Each book is written in diary form as if a child who lived in the past during the time period of the book was writing it. One Eye Laughing, the Other Weeping still sticks with me specifically. It is told from the POV of a young Jewish girl in Vienna. It is the first book I remember reading that made me realize history is less about dates, events, and significant figures, and more about individual people and their stories.
Q: What is your best piece of advice for other authors?
A: If you’ve got a story, tell it. There will always be a reason not to, from fear to inexperience and everything in between. But I’m a firm believer that if a story is on your heart to tell, it’s there for a reason. It might not make you the next J.K. Rowling, but it might be the exact story someone out there needs to hear. Your story has a purpose and your art matters. I believe writers, and artists of any kind, are meant to create works that act as catalysts in the life of others. We’re meant to be vulnerable in a manuscript or on a canvas so others can find the strength to be too.